|Date(s):||July 25, 1852|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
Four months before the presidential election of 1852, Thomas J. McClellan wrote to his friend Patrick Ragland, informing him of his views on the state of the Whig Party and the upcoming election. McClellan emphatically told Ragland that he intended to support the Whig nominee, General Winfield Scott, and the platform upon which he would run for the presidency. McClellan also expressed feelings of utter disgust with Ragland for even having asked him in his last letter if he would consider voting for Scott's opponent, Franklin Pierce of the Democratic Party. He even went so far as to inquire whether Ragland was deranged for asking such a question. McClellan proclaimed that, in order for him to leave the Whig Party, there would have to be reasons much more enticing than the candidacy of Franklin Pierce. He then went on to belittle the resume of Pierce and satirize him by saying how he small of a man he would appear if he were to wear the uniform of an esteemed General as Winfield Scott.
From the contents of his letter, it can be inferred that McClellan was a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Whig Party. Although Pierce had served as a member of Congress and fought in the Mexican-American War, in McClellan's eyes, he was an inadequate candidate and was unworthy to even challenge such a man as Winfield Scott. While it appears that McClellan would have voted for the Whig ticket regardless of the candidate, his letter to Ragland implies that others may not have felt the same way. When asked about the views of the Whig Party in general with regard to Scott's nomination, he replied that although most Whigs were in favor of his candidacy, others were afraid that the advocacy of some of Scott's claims would hinder their future political aspirations. He also spoke of how Alabama congressman James Abercrombie left the Whig party altogether on account of Scott's nomination.
This letter is telling of the strife that occurred within the Party on the eve of the 1852 presidential election. At this time, two factions, one Northern and one Southern, had formed within the Whig Party. The opposition between these two groups was on account of the abolitionist sentiments of the Northern Whigs. At the time of the nominating convention, the Southern Whigs heavily favored the candidacy of incumbent president, Millard Fillmore, to best protect their interests. Therefore, for many Southern Whigs, the nomination of Scott was not a favorable occurrence. According to historian Lewy Dorman, the election results of 1852 reflected the shift in allegiance of many Alabama Whigs to the Democratic Party whom they felt could better serve their interests. This goes to show that not all Southern Whigs were as devoted to their party as Thomas McClellan. In the Election of 1852, many Alabamians cast aside long held party allegiances in favor of their own best interests. This event marked both the decline of the Whig Party and the rise of sectionalism in the United States.