1844 Whig National Convention

The 1844 Whig National Convention was a presidential nominating convention held on May 1 in Baltimore, Maryland. It nominated the Whig Party's candidates for president and vice president in the 1844 election. The convention selected former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky for president and former Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey for vice president.

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 ›

While the Whigs had won the 1840 presidential election, the party needed a new ticket as President William Henry Harrison had died in April 1841 while his successor, John Tyler, had been expelled from the party in September 1841 for vetoing bills passed by the Whig-controlled Congress. The convention unanimously nominated Clay, a long-time party leader, for president. Frelinghuysen won the vice presidential nomination on the third ballot, defeating former Governor John Davis of Massachusetts and two other candidates. The Whig ticket went on to lose the 1844 general election to the Democratic ticket of James K. Polk and George M. Dallas.

Convention chairmanEdit

Ambrose Spencer served as chairman of the convention.

Presidential nominationEdit

President John Tyler had been expelled from the party and the delegates searched for a new nominee.[2] President Tyler's break with the Whig Party, combined with Daniel Webster's decision to serve in the Tyler administration, positioned Clay as the leading contender for the Whig nomination in the 1844 presidential election.[3] At the convention, Clay was nominated unanimously.[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] 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.[8] 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.[9][10][11] Clay himself had previously stated that he was opposed to the annexation of Texas.[12]

Vice presidential nominationEdit

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.[13] His pious reputation balanced Clay's image as a slave-holding, hard-drinking duelist.[14][15] Their party slogan was the bland "Hurray, Hurray, the Country's Risin' – Vote for Clay and Frelinghuysen!"[16]

The BallotingEdit

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Perkins, Dexter; Van Deusen, Glyndon (1962). The United States of America: A History. 1. New York: Macmillan. p. 543. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06.[ISBN missing]
  2. ^ Kane, Joseph (1959). Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Data. New York: H W Wilson. p. 79. Archived from the original on 2015-09-09.[ISBN missing]
  3. ^ Heidler, David S.; Heidler, Jeanne T. (2010). Henry Clay: The Essential American. Random House. pp. 358-359. ISBN 978-1-58836-995-6.
  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. ^ 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."
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ Freehling, 1991, p. 353, p. 355, p. 436
  11. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 22: "The Whigs wanted to talk about the tariff and currency, which were no longer exciting issues."
  12. ^ 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'"
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 17, p. 21: Freylinghuysen "the perfect northerner to balance the somewhat sordid reputation of the slaveowning, dueling, hard-drinking Clay."
  15. ^ Wilentz, 2008, p. 569: Freylinghuysen served to "offset Clay's reputation for moral laxity..."
  16. ^ Finkelman. 2011, p. 22: The "less than snappy slogan..."

Further readingEdit

  • Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (1999)

Primary sourcesEdit

  • Chester, Edward W A guide to political platforms (1977) online
  • Porter, Kirk H. and Donald Bruce Johnson, eds. National party platforms, 1840-1964 (1965) online 1840-1956