79th New York State Legislature

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79th New York State Legislature
Old State Capitol at Albany NY.jpg
The Old State Capitol (1879)

Duration: January 1 – December 31, 1856

President of the State Senate: Lt. Gov. Henry J. Raymond (W)
Temporary President of the State Senate: Alonzo S. Upham (R), from January 29
Speaker of the State Assembly: Orville Robinson (D)
Members: 32 Senators
128 Assemblymen
Senate Majority: Republican plurality (16-12-4)
Assembly Majority: Democratic plurality (47-44-35-2)

1st: January 1 – April 9, 1856
<78th 80th>

The 79th New York State Legislature, consisting of the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, met from January 1 to April 9, 1856, during the second year of Myron H. Clark's governorship, in Albany.


Under the provisions of the New York Constitution of 1846, 32 Senators were elected in single-seat senatorial districts for a two-year term, the whole Senate being renewed biennially. The senatorial districts (except those in New York City) were made up of entire counties. 128 Assemblymen were elected in single-seat districts to a one-year term, the whole Assembly being renewed annually. The Assembly districts were made up of entire towns, or city wards, forming a contiguous area, all in the same county. The City and County of New York was divided into four senatorial districts, and 16 Assembly districts.

At this time there the Democratic Party was split into two factions: the Hard-Shells (or Hards) and the Soft-Shells (or Softs). In 1848, the Democratic Party had been split into Barnburners and Hunkers. The Barnburners left the party, and ran as the Free Soil Party, with presidential candidate Martin Van Buren. Afterwards the larger part of the Free Soilers re-joined the Democratic Party. During the following years, the Hunkers split over the question of reconciliation with the Barnburners. The Hards were against it, denying the Barnburners to gain influence in the Party. The Softs favored reconciliation with the intention of maintaining enough strength to win the elections. Both Hards and Softs favored a compromise on the slavery question: to maintain the status quo and to leave the decision to the local population in new Territories or States if they want slavery or not, as expressed in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

The anti-slavery faction of the Whig Party, the "Free Democrats" (former Barnburners and Free Soilers), and the short-lived Anti-Nebraska Party merged into the Republican Party.

Most of the Whigs which favored a compromise, or preferred to sidestep the issue, joined with parts of the Democratic factions the Know Nothing movement which ran in the election as the "American Party."


The New York state election, 1855 was held on November 6. Due to the re-alignment of political parties, the whole American Party ticket of State officers was elected. The approximate party strength at this election, as expressed by the vote on Secretary of State was: American 148,000; Republican 137,000; Soft 91,000; and Hard 59,000.


The Legislature met for the regular session at the Old State Capitol in Albany on January 1, 1856; and adjourned on April 9.

On January 16, after two weeks of deadlock, Orville Robinson (D) was elected Speaker on the 49th ballot.

1856 Speaker election result
Ballot Date Lyman Odell
Henry A. Prendergast
Benjamin Bailey
Timothy Hoyle
Orville Robinson
also ran
1st Jan. 1 41 35 27 7 3 Scott 3, Fowler 2, J. B. Clark, Lafever
2nd Jan. 1 40 35 28 6 5 Scott 3, Fowler 2, J. B. Clark, Lafever, Spraker
3rd Jan. 1 40 35 30 6 3 Scott 3, Fowler 2, J. B. Clark, Lafever, Spraker
4th Jan. 2 40 35 27 9 4 Scott 3, Fowler 2, Gray, Lafever
5th Jan. 2 41 34 28 9 4 Scott 3, Fowler, Gray, Lafever
6th Jan. 2 41 34 27 9 4 Scott 3, Fowler 2, Lafever, Van Santvoord
7th Jan. 2 41 34 27 9 4 Fowler 2, Scott 2, Gray, Lafever, Van Santvoord
8th Jan. 2 41 35 27 9 4 Scott 3, Fowler 2, Gray, Lafever, Van Santvoord
9th Jan. 3 39 35 27 8 5 Scott 4, Fowler 3, Gray, Lafever
10th Jan. 3 40 35 28 9 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
11th Jan. 3 41 35 28 9 5 Scott 4, Fowler 3, Lafever
12th Jan. 3 41 34 26 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 3, Lafever
13th Jan. 4 41 35 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
14th Jan. 4 40 34 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
15th Jan. 4 40 35 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
16th Jan. 4 39 35 25 10 5 Scott 5, Fowler 2, Lafever
17th Jan. 4 39 35 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever, Wakeman
18th Jan. 4 39 35 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
19th Jan. 4 40 34 25 10 5 Scott 4, Fowler 2, Lafever
20th Jan. 8 36 34 26 8 5 Fowler 2, Lafever, Scott
21st Jan. 8 38 34 27 8 5 Fowler 2, Lafever, Scott
22nd Jan. 8 38 34 27 8 5 Fowler 2, Scott 2, Lafever
23rd Jan. 8 38 34 27 8 5 Fowler 2, Scott 2, Lafever
24th Jan. 8 38 34 26 8 5 Fowler 2, Scott 2, Lafever
25th Jan. 9 40 35 27 7 5 Fowler 2, Scott 2, Lafever
26th Jan. 9 43 35 27 8 5 Lafever, Fowler, Scott
27th Jan. 9 43 34 27 6 5 Lafever, Fowler, Scott
28th Jan. 9 43 35 26 7 6 Fowler 2, Lafever, Scott
29th Jan. 9 43 31 26 7 6 Fowler 2, Lafever, Scott
30th Jan. 9 43 35 28 7 5 Fowler, Lafever, Scott
31st Jan. 9 43 34 28 7 5 Fowler, Lafever, Scott
32nd Jan. 9 43 35 26 7 5 Fowler, Lafever, Scott
33rd Jan. 10 43 35 28 7 5 Lafever, Scott
34th Jan. 10 44 35 29 7 5 Scott
35th Jan. 10 45 35 29 6 6 Lafever, Scott
36th Jan. 10 44 35 29 6 5 Scott 2, Lafever
37th Jan. 10 44 34 28 6 5 Lafever, Scott
38th Jan. 11 42 35 26 6 5 Fowler, Lafever, Scott
39th Jan. 11 44 34 26 6 5 Scott 3, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
40th Jan. 11 43 35 22 4 3 Scott 3, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
41st Jan. 11 43 35 25 6 5 Scott 2, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
42nd Jan. 11 44 35 25 7 4 Scott 3, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
43rd Jan. 11 44 35 25 6 4 Scott 3, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
44th Jan. 11 45 34 25 6 4 Scott 3, Fowler, Lafever, Van Santvoord
45th Jan. 12 45 34 27 5 5 Scott 3, Lafever, Van Santvoord
46th Jan. 16 44 35 1 24 Glover 11, Bradner 4, Anthon, Fowler, Lafever, Hayes, Van Santvoord
47th Jan. 16 45 35 1 30 Glover 8, Bradner, Fowler, Hayes, Lafever
48th Jan. 16 46 1 1 59 Glover 10, Foot 3, Fowler, Hayes, Lafever, Squire
49th Jan. 16 45 1 63 Glover 9, Foot 4, Deshler 2, Squire

On January 29, Alonzo S. Upham (R) was elected President pro tempore of the State Senate.

State Senate[edit]


Note: There are now 62 counties in the State of New York. The counties which are not mentioned in this list had not yet been established, or sufficiently organized, the area being included in one or more of the abovementioned counties.


The asterisk (*) denotes members of the previous Legislature who continued in office as members of this Legislature. Mark Spencer, Erastus Brooks, Zenas Clark and George W. Bradford were re-elected. James Rider, Joseph H. Petty, John W. Ferdon, Justin A. Smith and Joseph H. Ramsey changed from the Assembly to the Senate.

Party affiliations follow the vote on Senate and State officers.

District Senator Party Notes
1st James Rider* Republican
2nd Cyrus P. Smith American
3rd Daniel E. Sickles Dem.-Soft contested by Thomas J. Barr (Dem.-Hard);[1]
on November 4, 1856, elected to the 35th U.S. Congress
4th Joseph H. Petty* American
5th Mark Spencer* Dem.-Soft
6th Erastus Brooks* American
7th John W. Ferdon* American unsuccessfully contested by Benjamin Brandreth (Dem.)
8th William Kelly Democrat
9th Edward M. Madden Republican
10th George S. Nichols American
11th John W. Harcourt American
12th Amos Briggs American
13th Justin A. Smith* American
14th William Hotchkiss American
15th Zenas Clark* Republican
16th Frederick P. Bellinger Republican
17th Joseph H. Ramsey* Republican
18th Addison M. Smith American
19th Eaton J. Richardson Republican
20th M. Lindley Lee Republican
21st Gardner Towne Republican
22nd James Noxon Republican
23rd George W. Bradford* Republican
24th Samuel C. Cuyler Republican
25th James Huntington Republican
26th John K. Hale American
27th John E. Paterson Republican
28th Alonzo S. Upham Republican on January 29, elected President pro tempore
29th Sidney Sweet American
30th John B. Halsted Republican
31st James Wadsworth Democrat
32nd Roderick White Republican died on May 26, 1856


  • Clerk: Samuel P. Allen
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: Samuel R. Tuell
  • Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms: George W. Bedell
  • Doorkeeper: William Coppernall
  • Assistant Doorkeeper: Henry W. Shipman
  • Second Assistant Doorkeeper: Victor M. Dearborn

State Assembly[edit]


The asterisk (*) denotes members of the previous Legislature who continued as members of this Legislature.

Party affiliations follow the vote on Speaker.[2]

District Assemblymen Party Notes
Albany 1st Isaac Witbeck Democrat
2nd Jackson King American
3rd Henry Jenkins American
4th James Brady Democrat
Allegany 1st Isaac Hampton Republican
2nd Alexander H. Main Republican
Broome Walter L. Peck Republican
Cattaraugus 1st Lorenzo D. Cobb Republican
2nd Daniel Bucklin American
Cayuga 1st Sardis Dudley American
2nd Leonard Simons American
3rd Tolbert Powers Republican
Chautauqua 1st Henry A. Prendergast Republican
2nd Smith Berry American
Chemung Jefferson B. Clark Democrat
Chenango 1st Tompkins H. Matteson Democrat
2nd Frederick Juliand Republican
Clinton Timothy Hoyle Democrat
Columbia 1st Samuel Ten Broeck American
2nd Adam A. Hoysradt American
Cortland George I. Kingman Republican
Delaware 1st John Mead Republican
2nd John Haxtun American
Dutchess 1st John H. Ketcham Republican
2nd Daniel O. Ward Democrat
3rd Jacob B. Carpenter Republican
Erie 1st John G. Deshler American
2nd Daniel Devening Jr.* Democrat
3rd John Clark American
4th Benjamin Maltby Republican
Essex John A. Lee American
Franklin Albert Hobbs American
Fulton and Hamilton Isaac Lafever Whig
Genesee 1st Seth Wakeman Republican
2nd David Mallory* Republican
Greene 1st Buel Maben American
2nd Manly B. Mattice American
Herkimer 1st Samuel Green Republican
2nd Amos H. Prescott American
Jefferson 1st Hart Massey Republican
2nd Franklin Parker Democrat
3rd Isaac Wells Democrat died on April 8, 1856
Kings 1st John Hanford Democrat
2nd Francis B. Spinola Democrat
3rd Edward T. Wood American
Lewis David Algur Republican
Livingston 1st Lyman Odell* American
2nd Alonzo Bradner Democrat
Madison 1st Samuel White Democrat
2nd John Snow Republican
Monroe 1st Benjamin Smith* Republican
2nd Eliphaz Trimmer Democrat
3rd Joseph Dewey Republican
Montgomery 1st John Van Derveer Republican
2nd Joseph Spraker Democrat
New York 1st Daniel Mahen Democrat
2nd Benjamin Ray Democrat
3rd James Hayes Democrat
4th John D. Dixon* Democrat
5th John J. Reilly Democrat
6th Augustine J. H. Duganne American
7th Samuel Brevoort American
8th James A. Dolan American
9th Erastus W. Glover Democrat
10th John M. Reed American
11th Charles T. Mills American
12th Peter Dawson Democrat
13th William A. Guest American
14th Henry Wiltse Democrat
15th Arthur Woods Democrat
16th John H. Anthon Democrat
Niagara 1st William S. Fenn American
2nd John Gould Republican
Oneida 1st George F. Fowler Whig
2nd James J. Hanchett Democrat
3rd Thomas D. Penfield Democrat
4th Caleb Goodrich Democrat
Onondaga 1st Irvin Williams Republican
2nd James Longstreet Republican
3rd Burr Burton Republican
4th Jabez Lewis American
Ontario 1st Samuel A. Foot Republican
2nd Oliver Case* American
Orange 1st Isaac Wood American
2nd William W. Reeve Democrat
3rd Andrew J. Mills Democrat
Orleans Dan H. Cole Republican
Oswego 1st Orville Robinson Democrat elected Speaker
2nd Andrew S. Warner* Republican
Otsego 1st Timothy D. Bailey American
2nd Brown Dimock Democrat
3rd Elihu C. Wright Democrat
Putnam Benjamin Bailey Democrat
Queens Seaman N. Snedeker American
Rensselaer 1st George Van Santvoord Democrat
2nd Augustus Johnson American
3rd Sanford A. Tracy American
Richmond William J. Shea Democrat
Rockland Edward Whritenour American
St. Lawrence 1st Emory W. Abbott Republican
2nd Benjamin Squire Republican
3rd Daniel P. Rose Jr. Republican
Saratoga 1st George G. Scott Democrat
2nd Joseph Baucus Democrat
Schenectady James Rodgers American
Schoharie 1st John Lovett Democrat
2nd Charles Holmes Democrat
Seneca James B. Thomas American
Steuben 1st Goldsmith Denniston American
2nd Albert C. Morgan Democrat
3rd Harlow Hakes American
Suffolk 1st David G. Floyd Democrat
2nd William Sidney Smith Democrat
Sullivan William H. Buckley* American
Tioga Abram H. Miller Democrat
Tompkins 1st William C. Coon American
2nd Robert H. S. Hyde American
Ulster 1st George A. Dudley American
2nd Daniel Schoonmaker American
Warren Thomas S. Gray Democrat
Washington 1st John S. Crocker American
2nd Henry B. Northup American
Wayne 1st Harlow Hyde Republican
2nd Thomas Barnes Republican
Westchester 1st Abraham R. Strang Democrat
2nd Eli Curtis Democrat
Wyoming John C. Paine* Republican
Yates Henry H. Gage Republican


  • Clerk: Richard U. Sherman
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: George B. Woolbridge
  • Doorkeeper: Sherman McLean
  • First Assistant Doorkeeper: John Davies
  • Second Assistant Doorkeeper: Henry White


  1. ^ The decision on the contested seat was postponed until the next session.
  2. ^ see Assembly Journal; Fowler and Lafever are described as Whigs in the New York Times (see: FROM ALBANY; The First Day's Proceedings in the Senate and Assembly in NYT on January 4, 1856). Surprisingly, Lyman Odell, the American candidate for Speaker, voted on several ballots for Fowler.