Theodore Frelinghuysen, Class of 1804

Attributed to James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889), Theodore Frelinghuysen, 1787-1862, ca. 1844. Oil on canvas. Graphic Arts collection, PP 183. Gift of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen.
In his Memoir of Theodore Frelinghuysen, Talbot Chambers wrote, “Our country has produced some greater men, but certainly no better one than Theodore Frelinghuysen.” After graduating from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1804, Frelinghuysen served as Mayor of Newark, Attorney General of New Jersey and then, in 1828, was elected as an Anti-Jacksonian to the United States Senate. When the presidential ticket of Clay and Frelinghuysen was defeated by Polk and Dallas, he accepted the Chancellorship of New York University, and then, Presidency of Rutgers’s College.

During his six-year term as Senator, Frelinghuysen lobbied hard for the rights of Native Americans and against the Removal Act of 1830, which relocated eastern Indian tribes to land west of the Mississippi. He gave a six hour speech during the congressional debate on the bill, saying “Some matters, by universal consent, are taken as granted, without any explicit recognition. Under the influence of this rule of common fairness, how can we ever dispute the sovereign right of the Cherokees to remain east of the Mississippi, when it was in relation to that very location that we promised our patronage, aid, and good neighborhood?” Unfortunately, the bill was passed anyway.


This portrait has been attributed to the artist James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889), who painted many of our American presidents. According to Donald Egbert in Princeton Portraits, “This is presumably the portrait known to have been presented in 1866 by Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, [1817-1875]. The attribution to Lambdin, who established himself in Philadelphia in 1838, was tentatively made by William Sawitzky on the basis of a photograph … it seems probable that the portrait was painted about [1844].”