1844 Whig National Convention

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1844 Whig National Convention
1844 presidential election
HC1844.png TF1844.png
Clay and Frelinghuysen
Date(s)May 1, 1844[1]
CityBaltimore, Maryland[1]
Presidential nomineeHenry Clay of Kentucky
Vice Presidential nomineeTheodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey
Total delegates275
Votes needed for nomination138
‹ 1839  ·  1848 ›

The 1844 Whig National Convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland to nominate the Whig Party's candidates for President and Vice President. Ambrose Spencer was Chairman.

President John Tyler had been expelled from the party and the delegates searched for a new nominee. They did not have to look far; the delegates nominated party elder Henry Clay of Kentucky for President, by acclamation.[1] Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey was nominated for Vice President.[2] The pair would lose to Democrats James Polk and George M. Dallas.[2]

Former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, effectively the leader of the Whig Party since its inception in 1834[3] was selected as the Whig presidential nominee at the party's convention in Baltimore, Maryland on May 1, 1844.[4][5] Clay, a slaveholder, presided over a party in which its Southern wing was sufficiently committed to the national platform to put partisan loyalties above slavery expansionist proposals that might undermine its North-South alliance.[6][7] Whigs felt confident that Clay could duplicate Harrison's landslide victory of 1840 against any opposition candidate.[8][9]

Southern Whigs feared that the acquisition of Texas's fertile lands would produce a huge market for slave labor, inflating the price of slaves and deflating land values in their home states.[10] Northern Whigs feared that Texas statehood would initiate the opening of a vast "Empire for Slavery".[11]

Two weeks before the Whig convention in Baltimore, in reaction to Calhoun's Packenham Letter, Clay issued a document known as the Raleigh Letter (issued April 17, 1844)[12] presenting his views on Texas to his fellow southern Whigs.[13] In it, he flatly denounced the Tyler annexation bill and predicted that its passage would provoke a war with Mexico, whose government had never recognized Texas independence.[14] Clay underlined his position, warning that even with Mexico's consent, he would block annexation in the event that substantial sectional opposition existed anywhere in the United States.[15]

The Whig party leadership was acutely aware that any proslavery legislation advanced by its southern wing would alienate its anti-slavery northern wing and cripple the party in the general election.[16] In order to preserve their party, Whigs would need to stand squarely against acquiring a new slave state. As such, Whigs were content to restrict their 1844 campaign platform to less divisive issues such as internal improvements and national finance.[17][18][19]

Whigs picked Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey – "the Christian Statesman" – as Clay's running mate. An advocate of colonization of emancipated slaves, he was acceptable to southern Whigs as an opponent of the abolitionists.[20] His pious reputation balanced Clay's image as a slave-holding, hard-drinking duelist.[21][22] Their party slogan was the bland "Hurray, Hurray, the Country's Risin' – Vote for Clay and Frelinghuysen!"[23]

The Balloting[edit]

Convention vote
Presidential vote 1 Vice Presidential vote 1 2 3
Henry Clay 275 Theodore Frelinghuysen 101 116 154
John Davis 83 75 79
Millard Fillmore 53 51 40
John Sergeant 38 33 0
Abstaining 0 0 2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Perkins, Dexter; Van Deusen, Glyndon (1962). The United States of America: A History. 1. New York: Macmillan. p. 543. Retrieved 9 April 2015 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  2. ^ a b Kane, Joseph (1959). Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Data. New York: H W Wilson. p. 79. Retrieved 9 April 2015 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  3. ^ Holt, 2005, p. 10: "Clay had engineered the formation of the Whig Party in 1834..."
  4. ^ Wilentz, 2008, p. 569: The Whig convention "unanimously approved Clay's nomination"..."a thoroughly joyous and exciting affair."
  5. ^ Wilentz, 2008 ,p. 569: The Whig convention [of 1844] in Baltimore, which assembled on May 1..."
  6. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 18: "In Congress, the Whigs had blocked Texas annexation, with southern Whigs joining their northern colleagues...who opposed Texas annexation because of slavery."
  7. ^ Wilentz, 2008, p. 569: The Whig platform "did not even mention Texas..."
  8. ^ Finkelmn, 2011, p. 21: Whigs regarded the election as a "cakewalk", believing Clay would swamp Polk.
  9. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 360:"...Southern Whigs used the same electioneering hoopla in 1844..." as in 1840.
  10. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 18: "In the South, Whigs argued that annexation would harm slavery because a large migration to Texas would raise the price of slaves and lower price of land in the rest of the South."
  11. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 18: "Northern Whigs, joined by some northern Democrats, saw Texas as a great "Empire for Slavery".
  12. ^ Freeling, 1991, p. 427: The "so-called Raleigh letter of April 17, 1844."
  13. ^ Holt, 2005, p 10: Clay declared Texas annexation "fraught with danger to the nation" and would "erode national comity" and "produce a war with Mexico."
  14. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 427: "While Clay concurred with Van Buren on opposing the Calhoun-Tyler [Texas] treaty, the two opponents differed on post-treaty annexation policy."
    Finkelman, 2011, p. 26: "When the 1844 campaign began, Henry Clay was unalterably opposed to annexation."
  15. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 427: "Clay...would halt annexation unless Mexico assented. He would also deny Texas entrance in the Union, no matter whether Mexico agreed, should 'a considerable and respectable portion' of the American people "express 'decided opposition'"
  16. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 426-427: "Southern Whigs thus had to weigh the possibility that Texas might be abolitionized [by Great Britain] against the certainty that campaigning for [Texas] annexation would split their party."
  17. ^ Wilentz, 2008, p. 568-569: "The Texas issue struck [Clay] as a giant distraction from the real issues...internal improvements, the tariff and the rest of the American System..." and "ratified a four-part unity platform" based on the "American System."
  18. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 353, p. 355, p. 436
  19. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 22: "The Whigs wanted to talk about the tariff and currency, which were no longer exciting issues."
  20. ^ Finkelman, 2008, p. 21: "...as an avid colonizationist [Freylinghuysen's] conservative views on slavery made him acceptable to southerners, and at the convention, almost all southern delegates voted for him." And p. 19-20: "...he was clearly an opponest of the abolitionists."
  21. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 17, p. 21: Freylinghuysen "the perfect northerner to balance the somewhat sordid reputation of the slaveowning, dueling, hard-drinking Clay."
  22. ^ Wilentz, 2008, p. 569: Freylinghuysen served to "offset Clay's reputation for moral laxity..."
  23. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 22: The "less than snappy slogan..."