The 1839 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was won by Marcus Morton. Under Massachusetts law at the time, a majority of the votes cast was required to win. Despite the presence of some irregularities, incumbent Whig Governor Edward Everett refused to contest the results once a legislative committee dominated by his party accepted a report giving Morton 51,034 votes out of 102,066 cast.
In the 19th century Massachusetts held annual elections for its statewide elective offices. From 1825 to 1838 a succession of National Republican and then Whig politicians won the governor's seat, at first by wide margins, and only later in the 1830s by narrower margins. The principal opponent of the Whigs was Democratic candidate Marcus Morton, who ran for governor each year from 1828 to 1843. The Democratic Party in the state was not particularly powerful, and third parties such as the Anti-Masonic Party and the Liberty Party generally took more votes from Democratic candidates than they did from Whigs.
The Whigs were seen as representatives of the monied interests in the state: merchants, bankers, and industrialists. They were derided by their opponents as "aristocratic" and condescending to the common folk. The Democratic support base consisted of rural voters, laborers, and wealthier interests that were supportive of the policies of President Andrew Jackson.
Abolitionism became a significant political force in the mid-1830s in Massachusetts, even though both Whig and Democratic politicians sought to avoid the issue in pursuit of other political objectives. Abolitionist activists attempted to force attention on the issue, demanding that candidates for office answer questionnaires on the subject. Marcus Morton was known to be personally opposed to slavery, but he did not often let the matter affect his politics, and expressed concern over abolitionist tactics. His Whig opponent since 1835 was Edward Everett, who once gave a speech expressing sympathy for the property rights of slaveholders and was not seen as sympathetic to the abolitionist cause. In the elections of 1837 and 1838 abolitionist support increased Morton's vote counts, but he was never able to achieve the majority of votes needed to win election in the state.