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1856 and 1857 United States House of Representatives elections

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1856 and 1857 United States House of Representatives elections

← 1854 / 55 August 4, 1856 – November 4, 1857[Note 1] 1858 / 59 →

All 237 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
118 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
James Lawrence Orr - Brady-Handy.jpg
Leader James Orr Galusha Grow
Party Democratic Republican
Leader's seat South Carolina-5th Pennsylvania-14th
Last election 83 seats 37 seats
Seats won 133[Note 2] 90
Seat change Increase 50 Increase 53

  Third party
Leader Henry Winter Davis
Party Know Nothing
Leader's seat Maryland-4th
Last election 51 seats
Seats won 14
Seat change Decrease 37

Speaker before election

Nathaniel Banks

Elected Speaker

James Orr

Elections to the United States House of Representatives for the 35th Congress were held at various dates in different states from August 1856 to November 1857.

The elections briefly returned a semblance of normalcy to the Democratic Party, restoring its House majority amid election of Democratic President James Buchanan. However, victory masked severe, ultimately irretrievable divisions over the slavery issue. Voters next would return a Democratic House majority only in 1874.

Party realignments continued. In 1856, the Whig Party disbanded while the Know Nothing movement declined and its vehicle, the American Party, began to collapse. Many former Northern Whig and American Party Representatives joined the Republican Party, which contended for the Presidency in 1856 and was rapidly consolidating. Though it did not yet demand abolition, its attitude toward slavery was stridently negative. Making no effort to win Southern voter support, it was openly sectional, opposed to fugitive slave laws and slavery in the territories, and for the first time offered a mainstream platform to outspoken abolitionists.

In March 1857, after almost all Northern states had voted, the Supreme Court issued the infamous Dred Scott decision, amplifying tensions and hardening voter attitudes. Remaining elections, scheduled after the decision, were concentrated in the South. Southern voters widely drove the American Party from office, rallying to the Democrats in firm opposition to the Republicans.

In this election cycle, the pending state of Minnesota elected its first Representatives, to be seated by the 35th Congress. Between the admissions of Vermont in 1791 and Wisconsin in 1848, Congress had admitted new states roughly in pairs: one slave, one free. California had been admitted alone as a free state in 1850 only as part of a comprehensive compromise that included significant concessions to slave state interests. Admission of Minnesota in May 1858, also alone but with no such deal, helped expose the declining influence of the South, extinguishing the formerly binding concept that slave and free state power in Congress was best kept in balance while reinforcing a growing sense that public opinion would exclude slavery from the West.

Special elections

There were special elections in 1858 and 1859 during the 34th United States Congress and 35th United States Congress.

34th Congress

35th Congress

Election summaries

Two seats were added for the new state of Minnesota,[1] which was unrepresented for part of the 1st session.

133 14 90
Democratic AKN Republican
State Type Date Total
Democratic Republican Know-Nothing
Seats Change Seats Change[Note 3] Seats Change
Arkansas District August 4, 1856 2 2 Steady 0 Steady 0 Steady
Iowa District August 4, 1856 2 0 Decrease1 2 Increase1 0 Steady
Missouri District August 4, 1856 7 5[Note 4] Increase4 0 Decrease6 2 Increase2
Vermont District September 2, 1856 3 0 Steady 3 Steady 0 Steady
Maine District September 8, 1856 6 0 Decrease1 6 Increase1 0 Steady
Florida At-large October 6, 1856 1 1 Steady 0 Steady 0 Steady
South Carolina District October 13–14, 1856 6 6 Steady 0 Steady 0 Steady
Indiana District October 14, 1856 11 6 Increase4 5 Decrease4 0 Steady
Ohio District October 14, 1856 21 9 Increase9 12 Decrease9 0 Steady
Pennsylvania District October 14, 1856 25 15 Increase8 10 Decrease7 0 Decrease1
California At-large November 4, 1856
(Election Day)[Note 5]
2 2 Steady 0 Steady 0 Steady
Delaware At-large 1 1 Increase1 0 Steady 0 Decrease1
Illinois District 9 5 Steady 4 Steady 0 Steady
Massachusetts District 11 0 Steady 11 Increase11 0 Decrease11
Michigan District 4 0 Decrease1 4 Increase1 0 Steady
New Jersey District 5 3 Increase2 2 Decrease2 0 Steady
New York District 33 12 Increase7 21 Decrease4 0 Decrease3
Wisconsin District 3 0 Decrease1 3 Increase1 0 Steady
New Hampshire District March 10, 1857 3 0 Steady 3 Increase3 0 Decrease3
Rhode Island District April 1, 1857 2 0 Steady 2 Increase2 0 Decrease2
Connecticut District April 6, 1857 4 2 Increase2 2 Increase2 0 Decrease4
Virginia District May 28, 1857 13 13 Increase1 0 Steady 0 Decrease1
Alabama District August 3, 1857 7 7 Increase2 0 Steady 0 Decrease2
Kentucky District August 3, 1857 10 8 Increase4 0 Steady 2 Decrease4
Texas District August 3, 1857 2 2 Increase1 0 Steady 0 Decrease1
North Carolina District August 6, 1857 8 7 Increase2 0 Steady 1 Decrease2
Tennessee District August 6, 1857 10 7 Increase2 0 Steady 3 Decrease2
Georgia District October 5, 1857 8 6 Steady 0 Steady 2 Steady
Mississippi District October 5–6, 1857 5 5 Increase1 0 Steady 0 Decrease1
Minnesota At-large October 13, 1857[Note 6] 2 2 Increase2 0 Steady 0 Steady
Louisiana District November 3, 1857 4 3 Steady 0 Steady 1 Steady
Maryland District November 4, 1857 6 3 Increase1 0 Steady 3 Decrease1
Total 236 133[Note 2]
Increase50[Note 2] 90
Decrease10[Note 3] 14
House seats


District Incumbent Party First
Result Candidates
California at-large
2 seats on a general ticket
James W. Denver Democratic 1854 Incumbent retired.
New member elected.
Democratic hold.
Charles L. Scott (Democratic) 29.9%
Joseph C. McKibbin (Democratic) 21%
A. B. Dibble (Know Nothing) 20.7%
Ira P. Rankin (Independent) 13%
J. N. Turner (Republican) 12.5%
Philemon T. Herbert Democratic 1854 Incumbent retired after manslaughter acquittal.
New member elected.
Democratic hold.


District Incumbent Party First
Result Candidates
Florida at-large Augustus Maxwell Democratic 1852 Incumbent retired.
New member elected.
Democratic hold.
George S. Hawkins (Democratic) 53.1%
James McNair Baker (Know Nothing) 46.9%


Minnesota Territory elected three members in advance of Minnesota's 1848 statehood. "Although three men won this election, which was held before Minnesota was actually a state, only two representatives from Minnesota were allowed in the congressional bill creating the state in 1858. George L. Becker lost in the drawing of lots to decide who would present their credentials, therefore he did not serve in Congress."[2]

District Vacator Reason for Vacancy Candidates
Representative Party First elected
Minnesota at-large
Two seats on a general ticket
None. New state would be admitted May 11, 1858.
New member elected October 13, 1857.
Democratic gain.
None. New state would be admitted May 11, 1858.
New member elected October 13, 1857.
Democratic gain.

Non-voting delegates

District Incumbent This race
Delegate Party First elected Results Candidates
Minnesota Territory Henry Mower Rice Democratic 1852 Incumbent retired.
New delegate elected.
Democratic hold.
District eliminated in 1858 upon Minnesota's statehood.

See also


  1. ^ Excludes states admitted during this Congress
  2. ^ a b c Includes one Independent Democrat or "Benton" Democrat: Francis Preston Blair Jr. of Missouri. Also includes the Representative from the pending state of Oregon, elected June 7, 1858 and seated February 14, 1859 with less than three weeks remaining in the last session of the 35th Congress.
  3. ^ a b Compared to the 100 Opposition Party members in previous election of 1854.
  4. ^ Includes one Independent Democrat (a.k.a. a "Benton Democrat"): Francis Preston Blair Jr. of MO-01. Note that while Martis (p. 110) and Dubin (p. 176) list him as an "Independent Democrat" or "Benton Democrat", others sources (e.g. the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress) list Blair as a "Republican".
  5. ^ In 1845, Congress passed a law providing for a uniform date for choosing presidential electors (see: Statutes at Large, 28th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 721). Congressional elections were unaffected by this law, but the date was gradually adopted by the states for Congressional elections as well.
  6. ^ New state. Representatives seated May 11, 1858, during the 1st session.



  • 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.
  • Moore, John L., ed. (1994). Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections (Third ed.). Congressional Quarterly Inc. ISBN 978-0871879967.
  • "Party Divisions of the House of Representatives* 1789–Present". Office of the Historian, House of United States House of Representatives. Retrieved January 21, 2015.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 March 2020, at 04:15
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