Whig (British Political Party)
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule. The Whigs played a central role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and were the standing enemies of the Stuart kings and pretenders, who were Roman Catholic. The Whigs took full control of the government in 1715, and remained totally dominant until King George III, coming to the throne in 1760, allowed Tories back in. The "Whig Supremacy" (1715–60) was enabled by the Hanoverian succession of George I in 1714 and the failed Jacobite rising of 1715 by Tory rebels. The Whigs thoroughly purged the Tories from all major positions in government, the army, the Church of England, the legal profession and local officials. The leader of the Whigs was Robert Walpole, who maintained control of the government in the period 1721–1742; his protégé was Henry Pelham (1743–54).
Both parties began as loose groupings or tendencies, but became quite formal by 1784, with the ascension of Charles James Fox as the leader of a reconstituted "Whig" party ranged against the governing party of the new "Tories" under William Pitt the Younger. Both parties were founded on rich politicians, more than on popular votes; there were elections to the House of Commons, but a small number of men controlled most of the voters.
The Whig party slowly evolved during the 18th century. The Whig tendency supported the great aristocratic families, the Protestant Hanoverian succession, and toleration for nonconformist Protestants (the "dissenters," such as Presbyterians), while some Tories supported the exiled Stuart royal family's claim to the throne (Jacobitism), and virtually all Tories supported the established Church of England and the gentry. Later on, the Whigs drew support from the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories drew support from the landed interests and the royal family. By the first half of the 19th century, however, the Whig political programme came to encompass not only the supremacy of parliament over the monarch and support for free trade, but Catholic emancipation, the abolition of slavery and expansion of the franchise (suffrage).
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