"Hurray, Hurray, the Country's Risin' – Vote for Clay and Frelinghuysen!"
One of the largest political assemblies in the history of New Jersey took place in the tiny Hillsborough Township hamlet of Millstone the first week of August, 1844. The occasion was the annual convention of the New Jersey Whig Party, and the wholehearted endorsement of the Whigs' 1844 presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
|Whig Party national campaign banner, 1844|
|New York Tribune, August 9, 1844|
|Frelinghuysen campaign poster, 1844|
Hillsborough Township was well represented at the event, with both J. Wykoff and P. Beekman being appointed as vice presidents of the state party. Alas, it seems the two national candidates were not present that day, but there were many speeches given by distinguished Whigs, most denouncing utterly the ambitions of the "Loco-Focos" - the radical Democrats of the day.
|Democrat Party national campaign banner, 1844|
The primary issue of the 1844 election was slavery and the potential annexation of Texas. The Whigs were against annexation of Texas, wishing to keep the delicate balance between free and slave states. The Loco-Focos were for annexation. James K. Polk emerged as the unlikely Democratic flag-bearer - America's first "dark horse" candidate. He received no votes on the first seven ballots at the convention, in contrast to Henry Clay, who the Whigs chose unanimously on the first ballot.
Clay and Frelinghuysen ended up losing the popular vote by 38,000 - out of 2.7 million votes cast, and lost the electoral college 170-105. Third Party anti-slavery candidate James G. Birney collected more than 2% of the popular vote and may have cost the Whigs the election. His 15,000 votes in New York, where Clay and Polk were separated by only 5,000 votes, probably tipped those 36 electoral votes to the Democrats, depriving Hillsborough of its very own home-grown vice president!