To some extent, the Whigs were the natural successors of the Federalist Party of John Adams, second President of the United States. They favored commerce and manufacture over agriculture, believed in a more centralized system of government, and harbored a deep distrust of unchecked democracy, which they saw as potentially leading to tyranny.
Whigs tended to represent the political and economic interests of the social elite, especially those on the East coast who saw themselves as the natural leaders of society. But they also established a firm base of support among the emerging middle-class, who were becoming an increasingly important segment of society both politically and economically.
All of these characteristics set the Whigs apart from the Democrats. Under Andrew Jackson, the Democrats became the champions of a form of agrarian populism, which sought to protect the little guy and his interests from bankers and plutocrats, who were frequently demonized in Democratic propaganda as using their wealth and power to crush small farmers and tradesmen.
Democrats were also staunch supporters of states' rights, which went down well with their Southern base, who were constantly worried about threats to slavery posed by Northern abolitionists. Although the Whigs' position on slavery was always rather ambiguous, there were certainly enough Whigs, especially in New England, to make the Democrats decidedly nervous about their intentions.