1855 United States Senate special election in Massachusetts

The 1855 United States Senate special election in Massachusetts was held during January 1855. Henry Wilson was elected to fill the remainder of the term left vacant by the resignation of Edward Everett.

1855 United States Senate special election in Massachusetts

← 1853 January 23 and 31, 1855 1859 →

40 members of the Massachusetts Senate
396 members of the Massachusetts House
Majority vote of both houses needed to win
Nominee Henry Wilson
Party Know Nothing
Senate 21
Percentage 52.5%
House 234
Percentage 57.8%

U.S. senator before election

Julius Rockwell

Elected U.S. senator

Henry Wilson
Know Nothing

Everett had resigned in 1854 over poor health and protest following his failure to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Prior to the election, Julius Rockwell had been appointed to the seat on an interim basis.[1]

At the time, Massachusetts elected United States senators by a majority vote of each separate house of the Massachusetts General Court, the House and the Senate.

Background edit

In 1854, the anti-immigration, anti-slavery American Party (better known as Know-Nothings) swept the Massachusetts elections, taking nearly every seat in the legislature.

American Party caucus edit

Henry Wilson was nominated as the American Party candidate in a legislative caucus on January 13. Most of the House participated; none of the Senators did.[2][1]

First informal American Party caucus[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Know Nothing Henry Wilson 178 50.42%
Know Nothing Alfred H. Ely 50 14.16%
Know Nothing Julius Rockwell (incumbent) 45 12.75%
Know Nothing Alexander Bullock 22 6.23%
Know Nothing Nahum F. Bryant 16 4.53%
Know Nothing Nathaniel P. Banks 14 3.97%
Know Nothing Charles Woodward Stearns 8 2.27%
Others Scattering 20 5.67%
Total votes 353 100.00%
Second formal American Party caucus[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Know Nothing Henry Wilson 200 57.80%
Know Nothing Alfred B. Ely 57 16.47%
Know Nothing Alexander Bullock 30 8.67%
Know Nothing Julius Rockwell (incumbent) 27 7.80%
Know Nothing Nahum F. Bryant 12 3.47%
Know Nothing Nathaniel P. Banks 4 1.16%
Others Scattering 16 4.62%
Total votes 346 100.00%

Opposition to Wilson edit

Following Wilson's endorsement by the caucus, public opposition was aroused against his election. On January 15, a printed circular called for a caucus of "all members in the House who believe in the freedom of debate, who refuse to sanction a high-handed course of political action, and who are opposed to the election of Hon. Henry Wilson to the United States Senate." The opposition caucus met and endorsed Alexander Bullock for Senator.[3]

Election in the House edit

Much of the debate in the House surrounded Wilson's loyalty to the American Party, or his lack thereof.[2] Wilson had been the Free Soil Party candidate for governor in 1854 but aligned himself with the nativist Know Nothing movement after their sweeping victory, in an effort to strengthen the party's emphasis on opposition to slavery. (The Free Soil Party had been dissolved into the new Republican Party.)

On January 23, the House convened and elected Wilson on the first ballot. His candidacy was then sent to the Senate for ratification.

1855 U.S. Senate special election in the House[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Know Nothing Henry Wilson 234 57.80%
Know Nothing Nahum F. Bryant 85 23.35%
Whig Julius Rockwell (incumbent) 18 7.80%
Unknown Alfred B. Ely 9 2.47%
Know Nothing Charles A. Phelps 3 2.27%
Unknown Jonathan Pierce 3 0.09%
Republican John G. Palfrey 3 0.09%
Democratic George S. Boutwell 2 0.06%
Know Nothing Nathaniel P. Banks 1 0.03%
Unknown S. M. Copeland 1 0.03%
Republican Samuel Hoar 1 0.03%
Whig Ephraim M. Wright 1 0.03%
Democratic Henry W. Bishop 1 0.03%
Republican Richard Henry Dana Jr. 1 0.03%
Unknown Mr. Luscom 1 0.03%
Total votes 364 100.00%

Election in the Senate edit

On January 31, the State Senate convened and ratified the House's choice of Wilson.

1855 U.S. Senate election in the Senate[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Know Nothing Henry Wilson 21 55.26%
Whig Ephraim M. Wright 14 36.84%
Scattering Others 4 10.53%
Total votes 38 100.00%

Aftermath edit

Wilson joined Samuel Hoar's new anti-slavery Republican Party upon entering the Senate.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d "United States Senate". The Boston Herald. January 13, 1855.
  2. ^ a b "LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS IN MASSACHUSETTS". The Richmond Daily Dispatch. January 22, 1855.
  3. ^ "Massachusetts Politics". New York Daily Times. January 16, 1855. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Massachusetts Legislature". The Boston Herald. January 23, 1855. p. 4.
  5. ^ "Henry Wilson Elected United States Senator from Massachusetts". New York Daily Times. February 1, 1855.