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The Whig Party Congressional Disaster of 1842
Posted November 10, 2007 at 08:20pm by Chronicler

In the midterm elections of 1842-1844, the Whig Party hoped to chastise President Tyler for departing from the principles of the 1840 landslide, but instead the voters severely punished the Whig leadership. Complicating the matter was that Congress reduced the size of the House for the redistricting of 1841; the decision of how many seats each state had was made late in the session, requiring the postponing of many state elections. To complicate matters for the Whigs, many states gaining seats were controlled by the Democrats. The following is a chronology illustrating the Whig debacle in the congressional elections.

When the elections began, the Whigs had a 136-104 margin in the U.S. House over the Democrats.

8/1/1842 - Missouri was the first state to vote. It gained three seats in the House. The Democrats won all five seats in the state for a gain of three.
-----Pre-election Status: D 2
-----Election Result: D 5
-----Elected Thus Far Nationally: D 5
-----Status if no further seats change hands: W 136, D 107

10/3/1842 - Arkansas and Georgia. The latter state lost one seat. The Democrats swept all seats available.
-----Status: Arkansas - D 1; Georgia - W 6, D 3
-----Result: Arkansas - D 1; Georgia - D 8
-----Elected thus far: D 14
-----US Status: W 130, D 112

11/8/1842 - Delaware and New York. The latter state lost six seats. The Democrats gained three seats there, and the Whigs lost nine seats.
-----Status: Delaware - W 1; New York - D 21, W 19
-----Result: Delaware - W 1; New York - D 24, W 10
-----Elected thus far: D 38, W 11
-----US Status: W 121, D 115

11/14/1842 - Massachusetts. The state lost one seat. With a majority needed to win each district, only four of the 10 seats made a choice.
-----Status: W 9, D 2
-----Result: W 3, D 1, no choice 6
-----Elected thus far: D 39, D 14
-----US Status: W 115, D 114, No choice 6

2/13/1843 - Massachusetts Second Trial. One additional seat decided.
-----Result: D 1, No Choice 5
-----Elected thus far: D 40, W 14
-----US Status: W 115, D 115, No choice 5

2/20 to 21/1843 - South Carolina. The state lost one seat. The Democrats retained all seats.
-----Status: D 8
-----Result: D 7
-----Elected thus far: D 47, W 14
-----US Status: W 115, D 114, No choice 5

3/3/1843 - New Hampshire voted on the last day of the 27th Congress. The state lost one seat in the House. The Democrats retained all seats.
-----Status: D 5
-----Result: D 4
-----Elected thus far: D 51, W 14
-----US Status: W 115, D 113, No choice 5

4/3/1843 - Connecticut; Massachusetts Third Trial. The former state lost two seats. The Democrats swept out all Whigs in CT; the Whigs won one seat in MA. With this election, the Democrats assumed the lead in seats for the next House.
-----Status: CT - W 6
-----Result: CT - D 4; MA - W 1, No choice 4
-----Elected thus far: D 55, W 15
-----US Status: W 110, D 117, No choice 4

4/27/1843 - Virginia. The state lost seven seats. Its legislature drew the districts so that the Democrats gained one seat and the Whigs lost seven.
-----Status: D 11, W 10, I 1
-----Result: D 12, W 3
-----Elected thus far: D 67, W 18
-----US Status: D 118, W 103, No Choice 4

6/5/1843 - Massachusetts Fourth Trial. Again, only one seat was decided.
-----Result: W 1, No choice 3
-----Elected thus far: D 67, W 19
-----US Status: D 118, W 104, No Choice 3

7/3 to 5/1843 - Louisiana. The state gained one seat. The Democrats swept out the Whigs and gained the new seat.
-----Status: W 2, D 1
-----Result: D 4
-----Elected thus far: D 71, W 19
-----US Status: D 121, W 102, No choice 3

8/3/1843 - Tennessee. The state lost two seats. The Democrats gained a majority of the new delegation.
-----Status: W 8, D 5
-----Result: D 6, W 5
-----Elected thus far: D 77, W 24
-----US Status: D 122, W 99, No choice 3

8/7/1843 - Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Alabama gained two seats, one of which the Whigs won. Illinois gained four seats, all won by Democrats. Indiana gained two seats, and Kentucky lost three seats; the Democrats made great gains in both states.
-----Status: AL - D 5; IL - D 2, W 1; IN - W 6, D 1; KY - W 11, D 2 (total W-18, D-10)
-----Result: AL - D 6, W 1; IL - D 6, W 1; IN - D 8, W 2; KY - D 5, W 5 (total D-25, W-9)
-----Elected thus far: D 102, W 33
-----US Status: D 137, W 90, No choice 3

8/10/1843 - North Carolina. The state lost four seats. The legislature drew new districts to help the Democrats move to a majority of the delegation.
-----Status: W 8, D 5
-----Result: D 5, W 4
-----Elected thus far: D 107, W 37
-----US Status: D 137, W 86, No choice 3

8/29/1843 - Rhode Island. The two Whig seats were won by the "Law & Order" candidates, defeating Democratic challengers. For this study, they are considered to be Whigs.
-----Status: W 2
-----Result: W (L&O) 2
-----Elected thus far: D 107, W 39
-----US Status: D 137, W 86, No choice 3

9/5/1843 - Vermont. The state lost one seat. The Democrats gained one seat, and one district was not decided.
-----Status: W 5
-----Result: W 2, D 1, No choice 1
-----Elected thus far: D 108, W 41
-----US Status: D 138, W 83, No choice 4

9/11/1843 - Maine. The state lost one seat. In a surprise, the Whigs failed to win any seat. The Democrats won three seats, and four were not decided.
-----Status: W 4, D 4
-----Result: D 3, No choice 4
-----Elected thus far: D 111, W 41
-----US Status: D 137, W 79, No choice 8

10/8/1843 - New Jersey. The state lost one seat. The solid Whig delegation was nearly obliterated.
-----Status: W 6
-----Result: D 4, W 1
-----Elected thus far: D 115, W 42
-----US Status: D 141, W 74, No choice 8

10/10/1843 - Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohio gained two seats, and Pennsylvania lost four seats. Of the major states, Pennsylvania gave the Whigs a rare victory in this cycle. The Democrats made big gains in Ohio.
-----Status: OH - W 12, D 7; PA - D 15, W 13 (total W-25, D-22)
-----Result: OH - D 12, W 9; PA - W 12, D 11, I 1 (total D-23, W-21, I-1)
-----Elected thus far: D 138, W 63, I 1
-----US Status: D 142, W 70, I 1, No choice 8

11/2/1843 - Vermont second trials. The Whigs won the seat.
-----Result: W 1
-----Elected thus far: D 138, W 64, I 1
-----US Status: D 142, W 71, I 1, No choice 7

11/6 to 7/1843 - Mississippi. The state won two additional seats, and the Democrats won both seats.
-----Status: D 2
-----Result: D 4
-----Elected thus far: D 142, W 64, I 1
-----US Status: D 144, W 71, I 1, No choice 7

11/8/1843 - Michigan. The state gained two seats; the Democrats swept all seats.
-----Status: W 1
-----Result: D 3
-----Elected thus far: D 145, W 64, I 1
-----US Status: D 147, W 70, I 1, No choice 7

11/13/1843 - Maine second trial and Massachusetts fifth trial. Of the seven seats available, the Whigs won two in Maine.
-----Result: W 2, No choice 5
-----Elected thus far: D 145, W 66, I 1
-----US Status: D 147, W 72, I 1, No choice 5

When the U.S. House assembled, the Democrats held a remarkable 145-66 margin. Maryland had not held its election yet; it formerly had six Whigs and two Democrats.

Note that unlike the 1800-1801 elections, there is no clear breakdown of when the Whigs began to slip - they fared poorly throughout the entire election season. Eight states gained additional seats; the new seats broke for the Democrats by a 17-1 margin, and the Democrats won an additional 10 seats in these states. Fourteen states lost seats in the House; in these states, the Democrats changed a 105-81 deficit into a 96-50 majority.

The Democrats gained in all sections of the Union. Prior to the election, the Whigs held the majority of seats in New England (26-11), the remainder of the North (58-46), in the Southwest (21-18), and in the seaboard South (31-29). After the elections, the Democrats held the majority in all regions: in New England 14-12 (no choice in 5), the remainder of the North 68-35, the seaboard South 32-8 (with Maryland not yet chosen), and in the southwest 31-11.

Given the deep Whig losses, it is remarkable that the Whigs entered the 1844 presidential election confident of the election of Henry Clay. Much of the rejection of the Whigs in 1842-1843 must be laid at his feet as the architect of the party policy regarding President Tyler.

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