1788 and 1789 United States House of Representatives elections
All 59 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives[a]
30 seats needed for a majority
Elections to the United States House of Representatives for the 1st Congress were held in 1788 and 1789, coinciding with the election of George Washington as first President of the United States. The dates and methods of election were set by the states. Actual political parties did not yet exist, but new members of Congress were informally categorized as either "pro-Administration" (i.e., pro-Washington and pro-Hamilton) or "anti-Administration".
The first session of the first House of Representatives came to order in Federal Hall, New York City on March 4, 1789, with only thirteen members present. The requisite quorum (thirty members out of fifty-nine) was not present until April 1, 1789. The first order of business was the election of a Speaker of the House. On the first ballot, Frederick Muhlenberg was elected Speaker by a majority of votes. The business of the first session was largely devoted to legislative procedure rather than policy.
- 1 Election summaries
- 2 House composition
- 3 Special election
- 4 Connecticut
- 5 Delaware
- 6 Georgia
- 7 Maryland
- 8 Massachusetts
- 9 New Hampshire
- 10 New Jersey
- 11 New York
- 12 North Carolina
- 13 Pennsylvania
- 14 Rhode Island
- 15 South Carolina
- 16 Virginia
- 17 See also
- 18 Notes
- 19 References
- 20 Bibliography
- 21 External links
In the 18th and much of the 19th century, each state set its own date for elections. In many years, elections were even held after the legal start of the Congress, although typically before the start of the first session. In the elections for the 1st Congress, five states held elections in 1788, electing a total of 29 Representatives, and six held elections in 1789, electing a total of 30 Representatives. Two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, did not ratify the Constitution until November 21, 1789 and May 29, 1790 respectively, well after the Congress had met for the first time, and, consequently, elected representatives late, in 1790, leaving North Carolina unrepresented in the 1st session and Rhode Island in the 1st and 2nd sessions of a total of 3 sessions.
|South Carolina||Districts||November 24–25, 1788||5||2||3|
|Pennsylvania||At-large||November 26, 1788||8||6||2|
|New Hampshire||At-large||December 15, 1788[c]||3||2||1|
|Massachusetts||Districts||December 18, 1788[d]||8||6||2|
|Connecticut||At-large||December 22, 1788||5||5||0|
|Delaware||At-large||January 7, 1789||1||1||0|
|Maryland||At-large / Districts[e]||January 7–11, 1789||6||2||4|
|Virginia||Districts||February 2, 1789||10||3||7|
|Georgia||At-large / Districts[f]||February 9, 1789||3||0||3|
|New Jersey||At-large||February 11, 1789||4||4||0|
|New York||Districts||March 3–5, 1789||6||3||3|
|North Carolina||Districts||February 1790||5||3||2|
|Rhode Island||At-large||August 31, 1790||1||1||0|
Beginning of the 1st Congress
End of the 1st Congress (1791)
Six seats were filled late because North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution late. One pro-Administration representative resigned and the seat remained open at the end of the Congress.
This was the first special election to the United States House of Representatives.
|District||Incumbent||Party||First elected||Results ↑||Candidates|
|New Hampshire at-large||Benjamin West||Pro-Administration||1788/89||Representative-elect chose not to serve.
New member elected June 22, 1789.
5 seats on a general ticket
Delaware had a single representative. The election was held January 7, 1789. Under the law at the time, each voter cast two votes for representative, at least one of whom had to be from a different county.
|Delaware at-large||Pro-Administration win.|
Georgia had a mixed at-large/district system for the 1st Congress. Representatives were elected at-large, but for three district-based seats.
Maryland had a mixed district/at-large system similar to Georgia's. Under Maryland law, "candidates were elected at-large but had to be residents of a specific district with the statewide vote determining winners from each district."
|Maryland 1||Anti-Administration win|
|Maryland 2||Anti-Administration win|
|Maryland 3||Anti-Administration win|
|Maryland 4||Anti-Administration win|
|Maryland 5||Pro-Administration win|
|Maryland 6||Pro-Administration win|
Massachusetts required a majority vote, necessitating additional votes if no one won a majority. This was necessary in 4 of the districts.
In the fourth district,
The first election in the district was in part a reflection of the rivalry between Hampshire and Berkshire counties. Berkshire was the less populous county, but four of the six candidates who received the most votes - Theodore Sedgwick, William Whiting, Thompson J. Skinner, and William Williams - were residents of the county. The two Hampshire candidates were Samuel Lyman and John Worthington. The first election did not reflect the fact that the two counties were centers of agrarian discontent and of support for Shays's Rebellion. Nor did it reflect the fact that in the state Convention the Hampshire delegates voted 32 to 19 and the Berkshire delegates voted 16 to 6 against ratification of the Constitution. Only Whiting was regarded as a Shaysite and an Anti-Federalist, while the other five men were Federalists - and two of these - Worthington and Williams - had been virtual if not actual Loyalists during the Revolution. The issue of amendments to the Constitution was not raised during the first election in the district, but it became so important in the ensuing elections that Theodore Sedgwick, who opposed amendments, publicly promised to support them before the fifth election, which he won.— The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections: 1788-1790. I. p. 603.
In the fifth district,
The only problem was whether Partridge could retain his post of sheriff of Plymouth County and accept a seat in Congress, as he had done in 1779-1782 and 1783-1785. He received a certificate from Governor Hancock on 10 January notifying him of his election. Partridge wrote three letters to the Governor. In the first, which he apparently did not send, he refused the appointment. He accepted in the two following letters but explained that he would not take the seat if he had to give up his post as sheriff (12, 20 January, 23 February). The issue of whether or not a state officeholder could retain a state post and still serve in Congress had been and would be raised in other states. On 12 February Governor Hancock asked his Council for advice about Partridge and about George Leonard, judge of probate in Bristol County, who had been elected to Congress from the Bristol-Dukes-Nantucket District. The Council replied in writing the same day that it was 'inexpedient' for a man to hold the office of judge of probate and a seat in Congress, but that it did not find anything in the state constitution which prevented a sheriff from also being a member of Congress. The Council advised, however, that it would be inexpedient to introduce the practice of sheriffs being absent for long periods although Partridge 'may at present be indulged' and take a seat in Congress 'consistently with the safety of that county' (Council Proceedings, Thursday 12 February, M-Ar). The next day Governor Hancock sent the Council's written reply to the legislature and asked for its advice (13 February, Miscellaneous Legislative Documents, House Files, M-Ar). The two houses appointed a joint committee which wrote a report that was approved and sent to the Governor on Monday, 16 February. The legislature declared that if George Leonard continued to hold the office of judge of probate and also took a seat on Congress, any future legislature would address the Governor authorizing him and the Council to appoint another person judge of probate in Bristol County. But the legislature refused to give advice about George Partridge. It pointed out that sheriffs served during the pleasure of the governor, and (with the advice of his Council) were removable by him at any time. Sheriffs were not removable in any other way except through impeachment by the House and a trial before and conviction by the Senate. Therefore the House and Senate declared that intervention by the legislature was 'neither necessary or proper; and from the conduct and advice of your Council, they see no reason to doubt the wisdom of that constitutional provision' (House and Senate Proceedings, 13, 14, 16 February).— The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections: 1788-1790. I. p. 575-76.
In the eighth district,
It was evident before the elections were completed in Worcester District that a candidate who did not support amendments to the Constitution had no chance of winning. The three leading candidates in the three Worcester District elections were Jonathan Grout, Timothy Paine, and Artemas Ward. Grout, a local leader during the Revolution, had voted against ratification of the Constitution and in 1788 was a member of the legislature. Paine, a prominent officeholder in the county for two decades before the Revolution, had been appointed to the Royal Council in 1774. Unlike most 'mandamus councillors,' he did not become a Loyalist. By 1788 he had regained much of his influence in the town of Worcester. Ward had been appointed commanding general of Massachusetts troops after Lexington and Concord, he remained in charge until George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in July 1775. The popular Ward resigned his commission in April 1776 and returned to state politics. The past records of these three men did not become a public issue until shortly before the third and final election.
AS in the two previous election, the two Worcester newspapers, with one exception, printed nothing until their last issues before the election on 2 March. The exception consisted of two items (one of which supported Timothy Paine) in the Massachusetts Spy on 19 February. Then on 26 February the Massachusetts Spy published five articles. Two of them supported Jonathan Grout, one supported Artemas Ward, one backed Timothy Paine, and the fifth did not mention any names. On the same day the American Herald published four items. One supported Grout, one opposed Paine because he had been a mandamus councillor, and the other two items urged that he be elected. The issue of Paine's appointment as a mandamus councillor by the British government in 1774 had been brought up for the first time by the Boston Independent Chronicle, 12 February, and not by the Worcester newspapers. Despite the ambivalence of the newspapers, there was a considerable increase of interest, for the vote almost doubled over the first election on 18 December 1788: from 1,886 to 3,484. Grout was elected Representative by a decisive majority. Artemas Ward, who ran a poor third in each of the three elections, finally defeated Grout in the election to the second Congress in 1791. Paine was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1789.— The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections: 1788-1790. I. p. 601, 676.
|Massachusetts 1||Pro-Administration win|
|Massachusetts 2||Pro-Administration win||First ballot (December 18, 1788):|
Second ballot (January 29, 1789):
|Massachusetts 3||Anti-Administration win||First ballot (December 18, 1788):|
Second ballot (January 29, 1789):
|Massachusetts 4||Pro-Administration win||First ballot (December 18, 1788):|
Second ballot (January 29, 1789):
Third ballot: (March 2, 1789)
Fourth ballot (March 30, 1789):
Fifth ballot (May 11, 1789):
|Massachusetts 5||Pro-Administration win|
|Massachusetts 6||Pro-Administration win|
|Massachusetts 7||Pro-Administration win|
|Massachusetts 8||Anti-Administration win||First ballot (December 18, 1788):|
Second ballot (January 29, 1789):
Third ballot (March 2, 1789):
New Hampshire law required a winning candidate to receive votes from a majority of voters (16.7% of votes). No candidate won such a majority on the first ballot, so a second ballot was held February 2, 1789.
|New Hampshire at-large
3 seats on a general ticket
First place winner chose not to serve before the start of the Congress.
A special election was held June 22, 1789, see above.
|First ballot (December 15, 1788):|
Second ballot (February 2, 1789):
|New Jersey at-large
4 seats on a general ticket
|Pro-Administration win||nowrap | |
The election of all four representatives was contested, but the records that explained the precise grounds on which the election was contested have been lost due to the burning of Washington in the War of 1812. It is known to have related to questions of regularity and procedure. All four representatives' elections were ruled valid.
New York held elections to the 1st Congress on March 3 and 4, 1789. At the time, districts were unnumbered. They are retroactively numbered in this section.
|New York 1||Anti-Administration win|
|New York 2||Pro-Administration win|
|New York 3||Pro-Administration win|
|New York 4||Anti-Administration win|
|New York 5||Pro-Administration win|
|New York 6||Anti-Administration win|
North Carolina ratified the Constitution late and thus elected representatives to the 1st Congress in 1790.
Pennsylvania held elections to the 1st Congress on November 26, 1788. For this first election (and again in 1792 election for the 3rd Congress), Pennsylvania chose to elect all of its representatives on a single statewide general ticket, an attempt by the pro-Administration-majority legislature to prevent anti-Administration candidates from winning seats.
8 seats on a general ticket
|Pro-Administration win||nowrap | |
Rhode Island ratified the Constitution late and thus elected representatives to the 1st Congress in 1790.
|South Carolina 1
Also known as the Charleston Division
|South Carolina 2
Also known as the Beaufort Division
|South Carolina 3
Also known as the Georgetown Division
|South Carolina 4
Also known as the Camden Division
|South Carolina 5
Also known as the Ninety-Six Division
In the 1st district, William L. Smith (Pro-Administration)'s election was contested by David Ramsay (Pro-Administration) who claimed that Smith had not been a citizen for the required 7 years at the time of his election, the House Committee on Elections ruled in Smith's favor 
|Virginia 1||Pro-Administration win|
|Virginia 2||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 3||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 4||Pro-Administration win|
|Virginia 5||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 6||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 7||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 8||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 9||Anti-Administration win|
|Virginia 10||Pro-Administration win|
- 1788–89 United States elections
- 1st United States Congress
- Not including the six seats were added by North Carolina and Rhode Island after the start of this Congress.
- Includes late elections: North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the United States Constitution after the 1st Congress had started to meet, and did not hold their elections for U.S. Representatives until February and August 1790, respectively.
- New Hampshire had a majority vote requirement for election. No representatives were elected in the general election and three were returned at a subsequent trial held February 2, 1789.
- Massachusetts had a majority vote requirement for election. Four representatives were elected in the general election and four in subsequent trials, a total of 5 trials had to be held between January 29, 1789 and May 11, 1789.
- Maryland had six representatives elected by the whole state electorate, who had to choose one candidate from each district.
- Georgia had three representatives elected by the whole state electorate, who had to choose one candidate from each district.
- Party affiliation not available
- Source does not give numbers of votes.
- Only candidates with at least 1% of the vote listed.
- "Our Campaigns - NH At-Large - Special Race - Jun 22, 1789". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
- "A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825 - Delaware 1789 U.S. House of Representatives". Tufts Digital Library, Tufts University. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825 - Maryland 1789 U.S. House of Representatives". Tufts Digital Library, Tufts University. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "First Congress March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1791 [membership roster]" (PDF). artandhistory.house.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 5, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- DenBoer, Gordon, ed. (1986). The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790. III. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 512.
- "1st Congress 1789-1791 At Large Election" (PDF). Wilkes University Elections Statistics Project. January 16, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825". Tufts Digital Library, Tufts University. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- Dubin, Michael J. (March 1, 1998). United States Congressional Elections, 1788-1997: The Official Results of the Elections of the 1st Through 105th Congresses. McFarland and Company. ISBN 978-0786402830.
- Martis, Kenneth C. (January 1, 1989). The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0029201701.
- "Party Divisions of the House of Representatives* 1789–Present". Office of the Historian, United States House of Representatives. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Office of the Historian (Office of Art & Archives, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives)