United States Senate special elections in New York, 1881

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The 1881 United States Senate special election in New York was held from May 31 to July 22, 1881, by the New York State Legislature to elect two U.S. Senators (Class 1 and Class 3) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

Background[edit]

The Republican boss, and leader of the Stalwart faction, Roscoe Conkling had been elected to a third term (Class 3) in January 1879. Thomas C. Platt had been elected on Conkling's advice in January 1881, and had just taken his seat (Class 1) on March 4.

On May 16, 1881, both U.S. Senators from New York resigned in protest against the distribution of federal patronage in New York by President James A. Garfield, a Half-Breed, without being consulted. The confrontation between the Stalwart and the Half-Breed (in the press now usually referred to as the "Administration men") factions of the Republican Party arose when the leader of the New Yorker Half-Breeds, President pro tempore of the State Senate William H. Robertson, was appointed Collector of the Port of New York, the highest paying federal office in New York. Conkling preferred that Collector Edwin Merritt continue on the post until his term would expire in 1882, and then give it to one of his Stalwart friends, but Garfield was set on showing his gratitude to Robertson who had been instrumental in Garfield's nomination at the 1880 Republican National Convention. On March 28, Conkling, Platt, Vice President Chester A. Arthur and Postmaster General Thomas L. James sent a letter to Garfield urging him to withdraw the nomination. Garfield resented this intrusion and did not budge. Conkling and Platt took exception to the fact that Robertson and the New York delegates to the National Convention had been pledged by the State Convention to vote for the re-nomination of President Ulysses S. Grant, but had broken his pledge and orchestrated the nomination of another candidate.

Conkling and Platt then stood for re-election thus trying to rebuke the President and be vindicated by the State Legislature.

At the State election in November 1879, 25 Republicans and 7 Democrats were elected for a two-year term (1880–1881) in the State Senate. At the State election in November 1880, 81 Republicans and 47 Democrats were elected for the session of 1881 to the Assembly. The 104th New York State Legislature met from January 4 to July 23, 1881, at Albany, New York.

Nominations[edit]

Republican caucus[edit]

When the first surprise about the resignations subsided, a majority of the Republican State legislators were determined to be rid of Conkling. Intense canvassing followed, many names were speculated about as candidates, but it proved difficult to call a caucus, since no majority of legislators or of the caucus committee agreed.

A caucus of Republican State legislators was finally called by Speaker of the Assembly George H. Sharpe for May 30. Assemblyman Andrew S. Draper presided, and secretaries were appointed. Only 8 State senators and 27 assemblymen were present, and the caucus adjourned for lack of quorum until the next day, but nobody was nominated.

Democratic caucus[edit]

The caucus of the Democratic State legislators met on May 30, Assemblyman Michael C. Murphy, of New York City, presided. They nominated Ex-U.S. Senator Francis Kernan and State Senator John C. Jacobs, both on the first ballot.

May 1881 Democratic caucus for United States Senator result
Office Candidate First ballot Office Candidate First ballot
U.S. Senator (Class 1) Francis Kernan 34 U.S. Senator (Class 3) John C. Jacobs 39
Clarkson N. Potter 7 Abram S. Hewitt 8
Rufus W. Peckham 5 Horatio Seymour 4
Erastus Corning[1] 3 Clarkson N. Potter 1
Horatio Seymour 1

Election[edit]

On May 31, the legally prescribed day for the election, the Assembly and the State Senate took a ballot, but no candidate received a majority. On June 1, both Houses met in joint session, compared the result of the ballot, and finding that nobody had received a majority in either House, proceeded to a joint ballot[2] in which nobody received a majority either. Afterwards, Stalwarts and Administration men met in separate conferences. The Stalwarts hung on to Conkling and Platt. At the Administration men's conference 61 State legislators were present and Chauncey M. Depew was the frontrunner for the long term (Class 1), but the anti-Conkling men were split into a handful of factions, unable to compromise. From June 2 on, joint ballots were taken every day, Monday through Saturday at noon.

After almost three weeks of deadlock, it was believed that Governor Cornell would consider the votes cast for State Senator Jacobs as void,[3] and to accept as elected any Republican candidate who would receive a simple majority of a quorum, meaning that if at least 81 votes were cast for all candidates except Jacobs, the frontrunner would be elected with 42. On this day, 155 legislators present, and 52 voting for Jacobs, somebody could claim to be elected with a vote of 52, and get his credentials issued by the governor. Thus, when Ex-Vice President Wheeler had received 50 votes in the 23rd ballot, State Senator Charles A. Fowler (Dem., 14th D.) withdrew Jacobs's name before the end of the roll call, and the Democratic members who had voted already (the roll was called in alphabetical order of surnames, first Senate, then Assembly) asked to change their votes, which was granted by Lt. Gov. George G. Hoskins.

After Jacobs's withdrawal during the 23rd ballot, a Democratic caucus was held in the afternoon of June 22, Assemblyman Michael C. Murphy presided. Ex-Congressman Clarkson N. Potter was nominated after an informal ballot, in which votes were scattered about 11 candidates, and a formal ballot in which Potter received a majority.

After a month of deadlock and 31 ballots, Thomas C. Platt withdrew from the contest on July 1, and most of the Platt men then switched to Richard Crowley. On the morning of the next day, President Garfield was shot and the news arrived in Albany just before the State Legislature met for the 33rd ballot.

On July 6, after the 37th ballot, the Anti-Conkling men met in conference. 59 legislators attended, and State Senator Dennis McCarthy presided. No agreement was reached, and a call was issued for a new conference to be held the next day. On July 7, after the 39th ballot, the Anti-Conkling conference was attended by 65 legislators, and a call for a regular Republican caucus was signed by 59 of them. On July 8, after the 41st ballot, a regular Republican caucus finally met. 64 legislators answered to the first roll call, and Thomas G. Alvord was chosen Chairman. Since the Stalwarts were not attending, it was agreed that nominations were to be made with a minimum vote of 54, a majority of the total 106 Republican legislators. The frontrunner to succeed Platt (Class 1 seat), Chauncey M. Depew, withdrew from the contest for the sake of party unity, and the caucus instead nominated Congressman Warner Miller on the fifth ballot (First ballot: Miller 27, William A. Wheeler 22, Sherman S. Rogers 9, Noah Davis 2, Alonzo B. Cornell 2, William M. Evarts 2, Richard Crowley 1, Roscoe Conkling 1, Henry E. Temain 1; Second ballot: Miller 28, Wheeler 28, Rogers 10; Third ballot: similar to second; Fourth ballot: Miller 32 then withdrawal of Rogers, then many changes, then withdrawal of Wheeler; Fifth ballot: Miller unanimously). Then they nominated on the second ballot Congressman Elbridge G. Lapham to succeed Conkling (First ballot: Lapham 38, Cornell 12, Tremain 10, Crowley 5, James W. Wadsworth 1; Second ballot: Most votes for Lapham, then some changes, then a re-call of the roll, and finally unanimously). The Conkling men however refused to accept the caucus nominations and continued to vote for Conkling, and now for Wheeler instead of Crowley to succeed Platt. On July 11, after the 43rd ballot, the Stalwarts demanded a new caucus but the Chairman of the State Senate Caucus Committee Dennis McCarthy refused to issue a call.

On July 16, after seven weeks of deadlock, Warner Miller was elected on the 48th ballot to succeed Platt. Conkling held out for another week. On July 22, after the 55th ballot, the Republican legislators met in conference. 76 legislators attended, State Senator Dennis McCarthy presided, and this conference issued the call for a caucus to meet at 3 p.m. The caucus was attended by Stalwarts and Administration men, all Republican legislators who had voted on the previous ballot being present. They nominated Elbridge G. Lapham on the first ballot (vote: Lapham 61, Conkling 28, Stewart L. Woodford 1, William M. Evarts 1), and the nomination was then "made unanimous." At 5 p.m. another ballot, the 56th and last, was taken by the State Legislature, and Lapham was elected to succeed Conkling.

Result, Class 1[edit]

1881 United States Senator (Class 1) special election result
Candidate Party Senate
May 31
Assembly
May 31
Joint
ballot

June 1
2nd
joint
ballot
June 2
3rd
joint
ballot
June 2
4th
joint
ballot
June 3
5th
joint
ballot
June 4
6th
joint
ballot
June 6
7th
joint
ballot
June 7
8th
joint
ballot
June 8
9th
joint
ballot
June 9
Francis Kernan Democrat 7 47 53 53 53 51 31 26 46 51 50
Thomas C. Platt Republican 8 21 29 28 28 30 26 23 28 29 29
Chauncey M. Depew Republican 7 14 25 28 30 30 23 21 42 51 53
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 12 11 11 13 13 8 9 14 10 8
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 2 6 8 8 9 2 2 4 4 4 3
Charles J. Folger Republican 6 5 3 4 3 3 3 4 4 4
Warner Miller Republican 2 3 8 8 1 10 8 9
William M. Evarts Republican 5 3 1
Richard Crowley Republican 3 4 4 4 3 3 3 4 4 5
Noah Davis Republican 2 2
James W. Wadsworth Republican 2 2 2 2
Henry E. Tremain[4] Republican 2 1 1 3 3 2 1 1
Levi P. Morton Republican 2 1
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 1 1 1 1
Joseph H. Choate Republican 1 1
William A. Wheeler Republican 1 1 1 1
George H. Sharpe Republican 1
John M. Francis Republican 1
Theodore M. Pomeroy Republican 1
Hamilton Ward, Sr. Republican 3 3 4 2
Silas B. Dutcher Republican 2 2 2 2 2
Joshua M. Van Cott Republican 1 1 1 1 1
David Rumsey Republican 1 1
George B. Sloan Republican 1
David Wilber Republican 1
Reuben E. Fenton Republican 1 1 1
Benjamin F. Tracy Republican 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 1) special election result
Candidate Party 10th
joint
ballot
June 10
11th
joint
ballot
June 10
12th
joint
ballot
June 11
13th
joint
ballot
June 13
14th
joint
ballot
June 14
15th
joint
ballot
June 15
16th
joint
ballot
June 16
17th
joint
ballot
June 17
18th
joint
ballot
June 18
19th
joint
ballot
June 20
Chauncey M. Depew Republican 54 54 38 36 55 54 54 53 44 37
Francis Kernan Democrat 48 48 29 27 51 50 52 48 34 25
Thomas C. Platt Republican 28 28 22 21 26 27 27 23 17 21
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 9 9 7 6 10 10 12 10 5 6
Richard Crowley Republican 4 4 2 3 4 3 5 5 3 3
Charles J. Folger Republican 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 1
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
Benjamin F. Tracy Republican 1 1
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 1
William A. Wheeler Republican 1 2 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 1) special election result
Candidate Party 20th
joint
ballot
June 21
21st
joint
ballot
June 21
22nd
joint
ballot
June 22
23rd
joint
ballot
June 22
24th
joint
ballot
June 23
25th
joint
ballot
June 23
26th
joint
ballot
June 24
27th
joint
ballot
June 25
28th
joint
ballot
June 27
29th
joint
ballot
June 28
Chauncey M. Depew Republican 52 50 52 50 53 52 45 34 35 50
Francis Kernan Democrat 51 51 53 53 53 53 45 31 32 49
Thomas C. Platt Republican 27 27 26 25 27 27 27 20 21 27
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 11 9 8 8 8 7 7 5 4 9
Richard Crowley Republican 6 5 7 8 8 6 5 4 5 6
William A. Wheeler Republican 3 4 3 2 1 1
Henry E. Tremain Republican 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1
William B. Bliss[5] Republican 1 1 1 1
Charles J. Folger Republican 1 1
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 1 3 4 4 3 3 2 1 3
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 1
George G. Hoskins Republican 5 4 3 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 1) special election result
Candidate Party 30th
joint
ballot
June 29
31st
joint
ballot
June 30
32nd
joint
ballot
July 1
33rd
joint
ballot
July 2
34th
joint
ballot
July 4
35th
joint
ballot
July 5
36th
joint
ballot
July 5
37th
joint
ballot
July 6
38th
joint
ballot
July 7
39th
joint
ballot
July 7
40th
joint
ballot
July 8
41st
joint
ballot
July 8
Francis Kernan Democrat 52 53 48 31 24 47 47 53 51 52 50 50
Chauncey M. Depew Republican 50 51 48 35 32 48 48 53 51 49 51 51
Thomas C. Platt Republican 28 28 2 1 1 1 1
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 9 11 15 10 11 15 15 18 18 17 20 19
Richard Crowley Republican 7 7 20 9 10 19 19 19 18 18 18 18
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 2 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
William A. Wheeler Republican 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1 1
Henry E. Tremain Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Orlow W. Chapman Republican 4 1 3 3 4 4 4 4 4
Charles North[6] Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Charles H. Adams Republican 1 1
Charles Daniels Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
James Talcott[7] Republican 2 1
Hamilton Fish Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Joshua M. Van Cott Republican 1
William M. Evarts Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 1) special election result
Candidate Party 42nd
joint
ballot
July 9
43rd
joint
ballot
July 11
44th
joint
ballot
July 12
45th
joint
ballot
July 13
46th
joint
ballot
July 14
47th
joint
ballot
July 15
48th
joint
ballot
July 16
Warner Miller Republican 68 61 70 71 73 74 76
Francis Kernan Democrat 50 48 52 51 54 53 47
William A. Wheeler Republican 19 18 21 23 12 7 4
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 4 3
Charles H. Adams Republican 3 2 2 1 2 2 1
Orlow W. Chapman Republican 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
John H. Starin Republican 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
William B. Bliss Republican 1 1 1 1 1
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 1
Hamilton Fish Republican 2 2 2 7 11 9
William M. Evarts Republican 1 1 1 2 1
Charles Daniels Republican 3 2 3 3 1
Asa W. Tenney Republican 1 1
James Talcott Republican 1

Result, Class 3[edit]

1881 United States Senator (Class 3) special election result
Candidate Party Senate
May 31
Assembly
May 31
Joint
ballot

June 1
2nd
joint
ballot
June 2
3rd
joint
ballot
June 2
4th
joint
ballot
June 3
5th
joint
ballot
June 4
6th
joint
ballot
June 6
7th
joint
ballot
June 7
8th
joint
ballot
June 8
9th
joint
ballot
June 9
John C. Jacobs Democrat 6 47 52 52 52 49 30 25 45 50 49
Roscoe Conkling Republican 9 26 35 34 33 34 30 26 34 34 34
William A. Wheeler Republican 4 15 22 19 17 17 13 14 22 21 23
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 5 8 15 14 14 14 13 13 15 15 14
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 3 6 10 21 23 19 18 16 15 19 16
Richard Crowley Republican 5 3 2 2 3 2 1 1
Charles J. Folger Republican 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Theodore M. Pomeroy Republican 2 1 3 1
Henry E. Tremain Republican 2 3 3 2 1 4 2 3
William M. Evarts Republican 2 2
Thomas G. Alvord Republican 2 2
James W. Wadsworth Republican 2 1
Andrew D. White Republican 2 1
Reuben E. Fenton Republican 1 3 2 4 2
Samuel S. Edick Republican 1 1 1 2
George B. Bradley Democrat 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Hamilton Fish Republican 1 1 1 1
Orlow W. Chapman Republican 1 1 1
Silas B. Dutcher Republican 1 1 1 1 1
Hamilton Ward, Sr. Republican 1
Warner Miller Republican 1
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 1 1 7 4 3 8 9 9
Henry Ward Beecher 1
William B. Woodin Republican 1
Hamilton Harris Republican 1 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 3) special election result
Candidate Party 10th
joint
ballot
June 10
11th
joint
ballot
June 10
12th
joint
ballot
June 11
13th
joint
ballot
June 13
14th
joint
ballot
June 14
15th
joint
ballot
June 15
16th
joint
ballot
June 16
17th
joint
ballot
June 17
18th
joint
ballot
June 18
19th
joint
ballot
June 20
John C. Jacobs Democrat 47 47 29 26 50 49 51 47 34 24
Roscoe Conkling Republican 33 33 23 24 31 31 32 27 20 23
William A. Wheeler Republican 20 21 19 16 23 25 38 36 29 24
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 15 12 8 8 9 10 11 8 5 3
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 18 16 14 12 21 18 1
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 8 11 7 6 8 10 12 16 13 16
Henry E. Tremain Republican 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 1
Charles J. Folger Republican 2 2 1 2 2 2 3 3 1 1
George B. Bradley Democrat 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Hamilton Harris Republican 1 1
James M. Marvin Republican 2
Richard Crowley Republican 1 2 4 1 2 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 3) special election result
Candidate Party 20th
joint
ballot
June 21
21st
joint
ballot
June 21
22nd
joint
ballot
June 22
23rd
joint
ballot
June 22
24th
joint
ballot
June 23
25th
joint
ballot
June 23
26th
joint
ballot
June 24
27th
joint
ballot
June 25
28th
joint
ballot
June 27
29th
joint
ballot
June 28
John C. Jacobs Democrat 50 50 52 12
William A. Wheeler Republican 38 35 40 50 50 50 45 32 32 42
Roscoe Conkling Republican 33 32 32 32 32 32 30 22 24 31
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 25 25 26 16 17 17 13 10 8 17
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 3 1 2 2 1 1 1 2 3
Charles J. Folger Republican 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1
Richard Crowley Republican 1 3 1 2
George B. Bradley Democrat 1 1 1 3
Henry E. Tremain Republican 1
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 1 1
Clarkson N. Potter Democrat 7 53 53 44 34 31 49
Rufus W. Peckham Democrat 4
Abram S. Hewitt Democrat 3
John Kelly Democrat 3
Horatio Seymour Democrat 3
Amasa J. Parker Democrat 2
Archibald M. Bliss Democrat 2
Samuel S. Cox Democrat 2
Erastus Corning Democrat 2
Charles Daniels Republican 1
Samuel J. Tilden Democrat 1
John T. Hoffman Democrat 1
Henry W. Slocum Democrat 1
William R. Grace Democrat 1
Theodoric R. Westbrook Democrat 1
Jonathan Scoville Democrat 1
Miles Beach Democrat 1
H. O. Thompson Democrat 1
William C. Kingsley Democrat 1
Samuel D. Babcock Democrat 1
George G. Hoskins Republican 1 2 2 2
John Roach Republican 1 1 1 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 3) special election result
Candidate Party 30th
joint
ballot
June 29
31st
joint
ballot
June 30
32nd
joint
ballot
July 1
33rd
joint
ballot
July 2
34th
joint
ballot
July 4
35th
joint
ballot
July 5
36th
joint
ballot
July 5
37th
joint
ballot
July 6
38th
joint
ballot
July 7
39th
joint
ballot
July 7
40th
joint
ballot
July 8
41st
joint
ballot
July 8
42nd
joint
ballot
July 9
Clarkson N. Potter Democrat 52 53 48 31 27 47 47 53 51 52 50 50 50
William A. Wheeler Republican 41 43 38 26 22 36 36 42 43 43 38 42 1
Roscoe Conkling Republican 32 32 28 20 16 31 31 32 31 30 32 32 31
Elbridge G. Lapham Republican 18 17 13 7 6 9 9 11 11 11 12 12 67
Alonzo B. Cornell Republican 3 2 6 5 6 8 8 6 5 3 8 5
Sherman S. Rogers Republican 1 4 4 1 3 3 4 5 5 6 6
Charles J. Folger Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
George G. Hoskins Republican 1 1 1
Richard Crowley Republican 1 2 3 4 6 6 6 4 4 3 2
Orlow W. Chapman Republican 1 1
Edwin W. Stoughton Republican 1
1881 United States Senator (Class 3) special election result
Candidate Party 43rd
joint
ballot
July 11
44th
joint
ballot
July 12
45th
joint
ballot
July 13
46th
joint
ballot
July 14
47th
joint
ballot
July 15
48th
joint
ballot
July 16
49th
joint
ballot
July 18
50th
joint
ballot
July 18
51st
joint
ballot
July 19
52nd
joint
ballot
July 20
53rd
joint
ballot
July 20
54th
joint
ballot
July 21
55th
joint
ballot
July 22
56th
joint
ballot
July 22
Lapham Republican 60 68 69 70 70 68 54 54 68 72 72 67 63 92
Potter Democrat 48 52 52 54 53 47 34 34 45 49 49 45 40 42
Conkling Republican 28 32 32 32 32 29 27 27 28 28 28 28 28
Fish Republican 1 1 1
Cornell Republican 1
Woodford Republican 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Evarts Republican 1 1 1 1 1

Aftermath[edit]

Lapham and Miller took their seats on October 11, 1881, and served single terms. Lapham remained in office until March 3, 1885; Miller until March 3, 1887. Conkling's political career effectively ended after this episode, the second longest deadlock in New York State legislative history.[8] Platt returned to the U.S. Senate in 1897, and then served two terms until 1909.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Erastus Corning (1827-1897), of Albany, son of Erastus Corning (1794-1872)
  2. ^ The U.S. Constitution, referring to the Senate elections, had been amended since the last time when no candidate had a majority in either House, in 1839; previously in case of no choice by either House no joint ballot could be taken.
  3. ^ The eligibility of members of the State Legislature was still controversial, although State Senator Nathaniel P. Tallmadge was elected in 1833, and Lt. Gov. Henry R. Selden had ruled in 1857 that the ineligibility clause of the New York State Constitution was not in accordance with the dispositions of the United States Constitution when votes were cast for State Senator Daniel E. Sickles.
  4. ^ Gen. Henry Edwin Tremain (1840-1910), lawyer, Columbia Law School graduate 1867
  5. ^ William B. Bliss, of Rome, Oneida County judge 1875-80, Oneida County Surrogate 1884-1889
  6. ^ Charles North, Mayor of Oswego 1868, assemblyman 1878
  7. ^ James Talcott (1835-1916), of New York City, merchant and philanthropist, Obit in NYT on August 22, 1916
  8. ^ The deadlock lasted 53 days (Lapham) and 47 days (Miller). In 1911 it took 74 days and 63 joint ballots to elect a U.S. Senator.

Sources[edit]