Frederick Frelinghuysen


 

 

Let us now praise (once) famous men. Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen was one of Nineteenth century New Jersey's most successful and enduring politicians. Born to wealth and eminence, Frederick Frelinghuysen kept up his family's tradition of financial success in the law, and then public service, serving as United States Senator and United States Secretary of State.

 

The first Frelinghuysen to come to America had been Theodorus Jacobus Freilinghausen, a Dutch Reformed minister, who came to these shores in 1720 to lead the Dutch Reformed Congregation at Raritan, now called New Brunswick. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghausen distinguished himself greatly here, doing much to inspire the Great Awakening in the Middle colonies.

The five sons of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, whose name was soon changed spelled "Freilinghausen," also became ministers. The two daughters married ministers as well.

The Frederick Frelinghuysen who concerns this Newark statue was born on August 4th, 1817 in Millstone, New Jersey. His father and grandfather were also named Frederick. The grandfather Frederick had represented New Jersey at the Second Continental Congress and had opposed all compromise with the Crown. Frederick I fought at the Battle of Princeton and later in life became a United States Senator and the second mayor of Newark.

Frelinghuysen's father was a lawyer who died when Frederick III was three years old, so Frederick went to live with the childless Theodore Frelinghuysen in Newark. Theodore Frelinghuysen, another son of the Revolutionary War hero, was at that time the attorney-general of New Jersey. From 1829 to 1835, Theodore Frelinghuysen was a United States Senator. In 1844 Theodore Frelinghuysen was the Whig nominee for vice president.

Young Frederick Frelinghuysen attended Newark Academy and was admitted as a sophomore to Rutgers College. An education from the College of New Jersey, Yale, or Harvard not being necessary for gentleman's sons those days. Frelinghuysen graduated in 1836 at age nineteen, an impressive feat, though not as unusual then as it would be today. Academically, Frederick was only average, though he distinguished himself in oratory.

Law school being a non-existent concept as well in the mid-19th century, Frelinghuysen became a lawyer after an apprenticeship with his uncle/adoptive father Theodore, whose practice he inherited in 1839 at age twenty-two.

After becoming a successful attorney representing the biggest businesses of the day, including the Jersey Central Railroad and the Morris Canal & Banking Company. Frelinghuysen became active in politics, getting a seat on the Newark Common Council and becoming city prosecutor.

Frederick Frelinghuysen was always anti-slavery, but he hesitated about joining the new Republican Party.

Propelled by his powerful family and own abilities, Frelinghuysen's big political break came in 1861. In early 1861 Frederick Frelinghuysen was the New Jersey delegate to the Washington Peace Conference (aka, the "Old Gentleman's Convention").

The conference was of course a failure, but Frederick continued his political rise. In 1861 Frelinghuysen took over his uncle's old post as New Jersey attorney General. In 1866 Governor Marcus Ward appointed to fill an unexpired term in the United States Senate. In the Senate, Frelinghuysen joined the Radical Republicans, favoring rights for blacks and voting to impeach and remove from office President Andrew Johnson.

By 1869 the Democrats were back in charge of the New Jersey legislature and Frelinghuysen was not reelected to the United States Senate. President Grant offered to make Frelinghuysen Ambassador to Great Britain, but Frelinghuysen declined the post, choosing to stay in New Jersey so that he could eventually return to the Senate.

After the Republicans recaptured the New Jersey legislature in 1871 Frelinghuysen was indeed reelected to the Senate. In his second term in the Senate, Frelinghuysen again worked for civil rights for blacks. Less nobly, Frelinghuysen served on the electoral commission that designated Rutherford B. Hayes president in 1876.

Frelinghuysen's ambition to be reelected to the Senate was frustrated by the Democrats again taking over the New Jersey legislature, so in 1877 Frelinghuysen became a lawyer once again. In December 1881 Frelinghuysen became Chester Alan Arthur's Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Frelinghuysen negotiated trade treatries with Spain and the Dominican Republic, but both were scuttled by Senate. Frelinghuysen also negotiated a trade treaty with Mexico which did pass the Senate, only to die as a result of being blocked in the House of Representatives. Only Frelinghuysen's Hawaii treaty ever became law. Frelinghuysen also negotiated a canal treaty with Nicaragua, but, like his trade treaties, it was rejected by the Senate.

Frederick Frelinghuysen died on May 20th 1885, only three months after the end of the Arthur administration. He is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

Frelinghuysen had lived near Military Park. This statue was unveiled in August 1894 before a crowd of 1,000. Theodore Runyan, a Newark Democrat, then serving as minister to Germany, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony, "True men are the crown jewels of the Republic. The very names of the distinguished dead are a continual inspiration and an abiding lesson."

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