Why were the Whigs successful in capturing the presidency in 1840? Aside from tapping a war hero, were there other factors?    

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The superficiality of the election has been pointed out by both previous posters. The campaign's romanticizing Harrison and his "cider" penchants and his depiction as being of the common man was ripped from Jacksonian Democracy.  The real issue which allowed the Whigs to mobilize nearly a million new voters into...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The superficiality of the election has been pointed out by both previous posters. The campaign's romanticizing Harrison and his "cider" penchants and his depiction as being of the common man was ripped from Jacksonian Democracy.  The real issue which allowed the Whigs to mobilize nearly a million new voters into the process was the anger felt at economic disenfranchisement.  In the new industrial conception of America, very few were being made extremely wealthy at the cost of many more.  There was a level of palpable rage at this economic state of affairs, and the Whigs were able to tap into this anger as they depicted Van Buren as out of touch and unwilling or unable to assist.  As the economic trouble mounted, the incumbent Democrats were drawn up to be completely insufficiently equipped to handle the challenge, provoking the need for change and new leadership.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would say that other than having a war hero, the Whigs profited from what we would now call the populist vote.  They were lucky to be able to cast themselves as the party of the little guy against the Democratic elites.

What happened was that a Democratic newspaper said something about Harrison wanting to spend his time drinking cider on the porch of his log cabin.  From this, the Whigs were able to play up Harrison as a man of the people who had a log cabin and liked "hard cider."  They made this a major campaign slogan, implying that Harrison was just a regular guy even though he was from a rich Virginia family.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team