Whig vs Tory

Especially in the south and western areas of the American Revolution away from the organized Continental Army and the red coat British Army, the combat was often called Whigs versus Tories. The Whigs were called patriots by the Americans and called rebels by the British. The Tories were Americans loyal to the British king.

The Whiggamore movement began in the Scottish highlands primarily among dominant Presbyterians. They campaigned for local control to replace the barons and sheriffs appointed by the King of England. They wanted to appoint or elect their own clan elders or candidates for judges and other officials. In 1648 they marched on Edinburg. Over time their name was shortened and became synonymous with “country bumpkin.” The Whigs were opposed not only to the Catholic church and the pope’s appointees, but also the Anglican church and the appointees of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They saw the Anglicans as a duplicate of the Catholics formed in adultery.

In the 1760s, the Tories were also one of several British political parties which chose the conservative position of living within the current structures. They opposed any radical change. One exception was their acceptaance of the Anglican church over the Catholic church. Likewise in the United States, the tories, as individuals, supported the British colonial government establishment. They did not have a formal political organization. Tory became synonymous with loyalist.

Many Scottish Whigs migrated to Ulster, northern Ireland in the 1600s. King James offered them attractive rents for land in Northern Ireland. He wanted to balance the Irish population with protestants among the dominant Irish Catholics. Over time, the Scots Irish built up some productive farms only to be slapped with higher rents by the king’s barons. Many came to America in the 1700s so that the fruits of their labors could benefit themselves instead of the royal treasury.

Whig vs. Tory in the 1770s and 1780s were the opposite sides during the revolution. Both had militia organizations and county officals in different locations.

On the Tory side at Kings Mountain, about 125 were paid provincial soldiers and about 1000 were loyalist militia recruits on their way to join Cornwallis’ army. They would become paid soldiers and their officers had a better chance to be appointed to royal positions in their counties. The Tories fought for fame, fortune, and influence.

The Whigs at Kings Mountain were not fighting for money. They expected little if any pay and little reimbursement for losses. Retaliation against Ferguson’s threat was the urgent and immediate
cause for mobilization. Freedom was their cause.

Whig principles came to govern the states and counties of the new republic. They were woven into the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. At first, they had no national political party. They began to organize to oppose Andrew Jackson’s Democrat Party. William Henry Harrison became the first Whig president to win office. The Whigs were self castrating on both sides of the fence in the slavery issue. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House before the Civil War, was the last prominent Whig national office holder.