1844 Federal Election

Date: From 1844-11-01 to 1844-12-04

The primary issue of the 1844 presidential election was the annexation of Texas and its impact on slavery and national unity. Incumbent John Tyler pushed annexation during the final year of his presidency in hopes of securing a second term. Whigs opposed annexation in order to preserve sectional harmony and nominated Henry Clay on that platform. Democrats, conversely, favored immediate annexation and further expansion. Martin Van Buren was the presumptive front-runner going into the Democratic National Convention, but Democrats instead selected James K. Polk because he adhered more closely to their expansionist aims. Tyler, having alienated himself from both parties, did not run for reelection. Polk defeated Clay by a large margin in the Electoral College but only a narrow advantage in the popular vote. The Liberty Party ran the only other significant campaign, led by James Birney, but only garnered a small portion of the vote.

In the accompanying congressional elections, the Democrats lost only six seats in the House of Representatives, retaining their large majority.

Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 162-207.