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1877 United States Senate election in Massachusetts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1877 United States Senate election in Massachusetts
← 1873 (special) January 16–19, 1877 1883 →

Majority of legislature needed to win
George Frisbie Hoar - Brady-Handy.jpg
Josiah Gardner Abbott - Brady-Handy.jpg
Nominee George Frisbie Hoar Josiah Abbott
Party Republican Democratic
Electoral vote 146 62
Percentage 52.52% 22.30%

George Boutwell, Brady-Handy photo portrait, ca1870-1880.jpg
Nominee George S. Boutwell Alexander H. Rice
Party Republican Republican
Electoral vote 47 19
Percentage 16.91% 6.83%

Senator before election

George S. Boutwell

Elected Senator

George Frisbie Hoar

The 1877 United States Senate election in Massachusetts was held in January 1877. Incumbent Republican Senator George S. Boutwell, who had won a special election for the remainder of Henry Wilson's term, was defeated by reformist U.S. Representative George Frisbie Hoar.

At the time, Massachusetts elected United States Senators by a resolution of the Massachusetts General Court.


State legislature

At the time, the Massachusetts legislature was dominated the Republican Party. The Senate was composed of 30 Republicans and 10 Democrats,[1] and the House had 178 Republicans and 62 Democrats.[2] However, if a split within the Republican Party emerged, Democrats could hold the balance and decide the election.

1876 presidential election

The election took place against the backdrop of the contested 1876 presidential election. Several potential or actual candidates were involved in the Compromise of 1877 and the ongoing controversy may have affected the result.



General Benjamin Butler, an eccentric and prominent figure in Massachusetts politics and a key supporter of Senator Boutwell.
General Benjamin Butler, an eccentric and prominent figure in Massachusetts politics and a key supporter of Senator Boutwell.

George Boutwell, the former Governor and incumbent interim Senator, was backed by Benjamin F. Butler and the patronage wing of the Republican Party. He was challenged by U.S. Representative George Frisbie Hoar, a reformist who had supported Benjamin Bristow at the 1876 Republican National Convention.


The following candidates were mentioned as potential candidates or received votes, but did not openly declare their willingness or desire to be elected.

Other candidates mentioned included Governor Alexander H. Rice (who had the backing of prohibitionists on the basis that his election would elevate prohibitionist Republican Horatio G. Knight to the Governor's office), Judge Charles Devens, and U.S. Representative Julius Hawley Seelye.[3] Rice was also rumored to have the support of Butler in the event Boutwell became non-viable, as this would clear the nomination for 1877, and Butler greatly coveted the office of Governor.[3]

Democrats, under the direction of Frank Bird,[5] were expected to cast a ceremonial vote for Josiah Abbott[3] or William Gaston before throwing their support to a competitive candidate, possibly former Republican Governor Alexander Bullock, who was aligned with Bird.[5] Democrats were expected to oppose Hoar as an alternative to Boutwell.[3]


January 16

On January 16, the General Court convened and began to cast votes in each house, separately.

The first day of balloting was seen as a victory for Hoar, as Boutwell's support was much lower than his supporters claimed.[7][8] Democrats voted in a caucus to continue to support Abbott.[8]

After the first day, it was conceded the Boutwell could not be elected, and the question became whether Republicans would rally to Hoar or try to find a third candidate.[8]

January 17

On the second day of balloting, the two houses of the General Court met in joint convention, rather than separately.[9]

After the first ballot, Senator Brimball and Ginnodo changed their votes from Boutwell to Hoar. Abbott gained a voted after Representative Glynn voted, having missed the first ballot.

January 18

On the third day of balloting, Senator James G. Blaine was in attendance.[10] Secretary of the Treasury Justin Morrill sent a letter endorsing Boutwell and imploring his re-election, but it did not appear to have any effect on the vote.[10]

January 19

During the fifth and final ballot on January 19, many Boutwell men changed their votes to Hoar after realizing he would win.

Summary of results

Balloting by Round
Candidate S1[7][8] S2[7][8] H1[7][8] H2[7][8] J1[9] J2[9] J3[11] J4[11] J5[11]
George Frisbie Hoar 12 12 76 77 93 95 100 104 146
George S. Boutwell 17 17 78 79 95 93 88 83 47
Josiah Abbott 7 7 55 55 61 62 62 62 62
Alexander H. Rice 4 4 15 15 17 17 17 17 19
Alexander Bullock 4 4 4 4 4 4 2
Julius Hawley Seelye 4 4 4 4 3 4 1
Charles Francis Adams Jr. 1
Henry L. Pierce 1
John E. Sanford 1 1 1 1
Paul A. Chadbourne 1
Total 40 40 235 235 275 276 274 274 278


Hoar would remain in the Senate until his death in 1905.

Boutwell was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to codify the Revised Statutes of the United States and later served as United States counsel before the French and American Claims Commission. He later left the Republican Party over imperialism, which both he and Hoar opposed.


  1. ^ "Composition of the Massachusetts State Senate", Resources on Massachusetts Political Figures in the State Library,, archived from the original on June 6, 2020
  2. ^ "Composition of the State of Massachusetts House of Representatives", Resources on Massachusetts Political Figures in the State Library,, archived from the original on June 6, 2020
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Massachusetts: United States Senator". Chicago Daily Tribune. 10 Jan 1877. p. 2.
  4. ^ "The Massachusetts Senatorship: The Contest Between Messrs. Boutwell, Hoar, and Seelye". The New York Tribune. 11 Jan 1877. p. 5.
  5. ^ a b c "Give the Young Men a Chance". Boston Daily Globe. 12 Jan 1877. p. 4.
  6. ^ "The Senatorial Scramble in Massachusetts". The New York Tribune. 13 Jan 1877. p. 6.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Senatorial Election — The Ballots". Chicago Daily Tribune. 17 Jan 1877. p. 2.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Boutwell and Hoar Divide the Republican Vote of Massachusetts". Philadelphia Inquirer. 17 Jan 1877. p. 1.
  9. ^ a b c "Hoar Leads". Boston Daily Globe. 18 Jan 1877. p. 1.
  10. ^ a b "Mr. Hoar Decidedly Ahead". New York Tribune. 19 Jan 1877. p. 1.
  11. ^ a b c "Senator Hoar". Boston Daily Globe. 20 Jan 1877. p. 1.
This page was last edited on 30 January 2022, at 21:09
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