Isaiah D. Clawson: A Salem County Politician in a Time of Transformation


  • Bruce A. Bendler



Isaiah D. Clawson was a physician and politician from Salem County in the antebellum era. He first affiliated with the Whig Party. When that party disintegrated in the mid-1850s, Clawson sought the support of the American (Know-Nothing) Party before affiliating with the more enduring Republican Party. Clawson's political maneuvers when he ran for, and was elected to, the U.S. House of Representatives in 1854 and 1856 revealed the political options open to Whigs as their party faded from the political scene. In the context of New Jersey politics, where the American Party endured longer than elsewhere, political figures such as Clawson had to gain and hold on to support from both Americans and Republicans to unify the opposition to the Democrats. Although Clawson's political positions were more in line with Republican thinking on slavery and internal improvements, political realities of the time compelled him to rely on a united opposition to win and retain his seat in the House of Representatives.