Zachary Taylor in Office: Clay, the Whig Party, and the Sectional Crisis
Book Summary: A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents presents a series of original essays exploring our historical understanding of the role and legacy of the eight U.S. presidents who served in the significant period between 1837 and the start of the Civil War in 1861.
Chapter Summary: Zachary Taylor's sixteen-month presidency was dominated by three related challenges: patronage, partisanship, and sectional differences over territorial expansion. Doling out patronage to satisfy Whig Party activists long starved of it would have vexed any president. For a president inclined to build a broad coalition rather than enhance "ultra" Whiggism, the patronage issue would present special difficulties. Factionalism in states like New York and Ohio complicated Taylor's labors. But nothing vexed the hero of Buena Vista like the issue of slavery in the territories recently won in the Mexican War. Even before Taylor formally weighed in on this subject, storm clouds were forming over the question of California's admission to the Union. How Taylor faced that challenge is readily explicated. Whether his words and deeds represented effective leadership continues to generate debate. [excerpt]
Birkner, Michael J. "Zachary Taylor in Office: Clay, the Whig Party, and the Sectional Crisis." A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents 1837-1861. (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2014), 291-308.