Theodore Frelinghuysen

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For other people named Theodore Frelinghuysen, see Theodore Frelinghuysen (disambiguation).
Theodore Frelinghuysen
Theodore Frelinghuysen - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1835
Preceded by Mahlon Dickerson
Succeeded by Garret D. Wall
12th Attorney General of New Jersey
In office
Governor Isaac Halstead Williamson
Preceded by Aaron Woodruff
Succeeded by Samuel L. Southard
Personal details
Born (1787-03-28)March 28, 1787
Franklin Township, New Jersey
Died April 12, 1862(1862-04-12) (aged 75)
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Political party National Republican, Whig
Spouse(s) Charlotte Mercer Frelinghuysen
Harriet Pumpelly Frelinghuysen
Parents Frederick Frelinghuysen
Profession Politician, Lawyer, University President

Theodore Frelinghuysen (March 28, 1787 – April 12, 1862) was an American politician, serving as New Jersey Attorney General, United States Senator, and Mayor of Newark, New Jersey before running as a candidate for Vice President with Henry Clay on the Whig ticket in the election of 1844. Upon its incorporation in 1848, Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey was named after him.[1]


He was born in 1787 in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, to Frederick Frelinghuysen and Gertrude Schenck.[2] His siblings include: Catharine Frelinghuysen; John Frelinghuysen (1776–1833) the General who married Louisa Mercer and after her death married Elizabeth Mercereau Van Vechten; Maria Frelinghuysen (1778-?); and Frederick Frelinghuysen (1788-1820) the lawyer who married Jane Dumont. His great-grandfather, Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, was a minister and theologian of the Dutch Reformed Church, influential in the founding of Queen's College, now Rutgers University, and one of four key leaders of the First Great Awakening in Colonial America. Theodore was the uncle of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen and great-great-grandfather of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represents New Jersey's 11th congressional district, is a descendant.

Theodore Frelinghuysen campaign poster

Frelinghuysen married Charlotte Mercer (c. 1790 – 1854) in 1809. They had no children together, but when Theodore's brother, Frederick Frelinghuysen (1788-1820) died, Theodore adopted his son, Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (1817–1885), who would later become Secretary of State. Theodore Frelinghuysen remarried in 1857 to Harriet Pumpelly.

He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1804 and studied law under his brother John Frelinghuysen, and later, Richard Stockton. He was admitted to the bar as an attorney in 1808 and as a counselor in 1811, and set up a law practice in Newark during this time period. In the War of 1812, he was a captain of a company of volunteers.[3]

Political office[edit]

He became Attorney General of New Jersey in 1817, turned down an appointment to the New Jersey Supreme Court and became a United States Senator in 1829, serving in that capacity until 1835.

As a Senator, he led the opposition to the Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830.[4] His six-hour speech against the Removal Act was delivered over the course of three days, and warned of the supposed dire consequences of the policy:

Let us beware how, by oppressive encroachments upon the sacred privileges of our Indian neighbors, we minister to the agonies of future remorse.

Frelinghuysen was chided for mixing his evangelical Christianity with politics, and the Removal Act was passed.1

He was Mayor of Newark, New Jersey from 1837 until 1838.

At the 1844 Whig National Convention, competing with Millard Fillmore, John Davis and John Sergeant, he was selected as the Whig vice-presidential candidate. He took the lead on the first ballot and never lost it, eventually being chosen by acclamation. The Whig presidential candidate, Henry Clay, was not present at the convention and expressed surprise upon hearing the news. Frelinghuysen's rectitude might have been intended to correct for Clay's reputation for moral laxity, but his opposition to Indian removal may have put off those southern voters who had suffered from their raids (William Lloyd Garrison praised his speech opposing removal in the rather windily-named poem "To the Honorable Theodore Freylinghusen, on reading his eloquent speech in defence of Indian Rights"[5] ). Frelinghuysen was also unpopular with Catholics as groups of which he was a member, such as the Protestant American Bible Society promulgated the idea that Catholics should convert to Protestantism. The two went down to defeat in the 1844 election.

Other roles[edit]

He was the second President of New York University between 1839 and 1850 and seventh President of Rutgers College between 1850 and 1862.

He was President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1841 – c. 1857), President of the American Bible Society (1846–1862), President of the American Tract Society (1842–1846), Vice President of the American Sunday School Union (1826–1861), and Vice President of the American Colonization Society. He believed in temperance and actively opposed slavery. His moniker was the "Christian Statesman."


He died in New Brunswick, New Jersey on April 12, 1862 and he was buried there at the First Reformed Church Cemetery.[6]


  • ^1 Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), pp. 68–9, and Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians, Volume I (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), pp. 204–5.


  1. ^ Brief History of Frelinghuysen Township, Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey. Accessed August 15, 2007.
  2. ^ Atkinson, Joseph. The History of Newark, New Jersey: Being a Narrative of Its Rise and Progress, from the Settlement in May, 1666, by Emigrants from Connecticut to the Present Time, Including a Sketch of the Press of Newark, from 1791 to 1878, W.B. Guild, 1878. Accessed February 2, 2015. "THEODORE FRELINGHUYSEN, though not 'native here and to the manner born,' was to the extent of the best and busiest years of his life, essentially a Newarker. He was born in Franklin Township, Somerset County, N.J., March 28th, 1787, of an ancestry distinguished for its piety and learning."
  3. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 481. 
  4. ^ Jon Meacham. American Lion. p. 142. 
  5. ^ "The American Commonplace Book of Poetry" (1832), Rev. George B. Cheever, ed., pg. 201
  6. ^ "Death of Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen". New York Times. April 13, 1862. Retrieved 2007-07-21. Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen died at 2 o'clock to-day, at his residence, in New-Brunswick, New-Jersey. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Aaron Woodruff
Attorney General of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Samuel L. Southard
United States Senate
Preceded by
Mahlon Dickerson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1835
Served alongside: Mahlon Dickerson and Samuel L. Southard
Succeeded by
Garret D. Wall
Political offices
Preceded by
William Halsey
Mayor of Newark, New Jersey
Succeeded by
James Miller
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Tyler
Whig nominee for
Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Millard Fillmore
Academic offices
Preceded by
James M. Mathews
President of New York University
Succeeded by
Isaac Ferris
Preceded by
Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck
President of Rutgers University
Succeeded by
William Henry Campbell

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.