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1844 presidential election|
Clay and Frelinghuysen
|Date(s)||May 1, 1844|
|Presidential nominee||Henry Clay of Kentucky|
|Vice Presidential nominee||Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey|
|Votes needed for nomination||138|
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. Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey was nominated for Vice President. The pair would lose to Democrats James Polk and George M. Dallas.
Former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, effectively the leader of the Whig Party since its inception in 1834 was selected as the Whig presidential nominee at the party's convention in Baltimore, Maryland on May 1, 1844. 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. Whigs felt confident that Clay could duplicate Harrison's landslide victory of 1840 against any opposition candidate.
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. Northern Whigs feared that Texas statehood would initiate the opening of a vast "Empire for Slavery".
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) presenting his views on Texas to his fellow southern Whigs. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. His pious reputation balanced Clay's image as a slave-holding, hard-drinking duelist. Their party slogan was the bland "Hurray, Hurray, the Country's Risin' – Vote for Clay and Frelinghuysen!"
|Presidential vote||1||Vice Presidential vote||1||2||3|
|Henry Clay||275||Theodore Frelinghuysen||101||116||154|