78th New York State Legislature

The 78th New York State Legislature, consisting of the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, met from January 2 to April 14, 1855, during the first year of Myron H. Clark's governorship, in Albany.

78th New York State Legislature
77th 79th
Old State Capitol at Albany NY.jpg
The Old State Capitol (1879)
Legislative bodyNew York State Legislature
JurisdictionNew York, United States
TermJanuary 1 – December 31, 1855
PresidentLt. Gov. Henry J. Raymond (W)
Temporary PresidentJosiah B. Williams (W), from January 22
Party controlWhig (18-10-4)
SpeakerDeWitt C. Littlejohn (W)
Party controlWhig
1stJanuary 2 – April 14, 1855


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 were two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the Whig Party.

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 Barnburners were against the permission of slavery in new Territories or States, but were now the minority in the party. The small faction of the Free Soil Party which advocated abolition of slavery, now known as the "Free Democratic Party", endorsed the Whig nominees Clark and Raymnond.

The Whig Party was in the process of disintegrating. The radical anti-slavery Whigs formed the Anti-Nebraska Party, the moderate anti-slavery wing became the Republican Party in other States, but still retained the Whig label in New York. Most of the Whigs which favored a compromise, or preferred to sidestep the issue, joined the Know Nothing movement which ran as the American Party.

About this time the Temperance movement began to enter politics to advocate legal and/or political measures to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages, and endorsed candidates of the major parties who favored prohibition. At this election, they endorsed the Whig nominees Clark and Raymond.


The New York state election, 1854 was held on November 7. Due to the Democratic split, the whole Whig ticket was elected. State Senator Myron H. Clark and New York Times publisher Henry J. Raymond were elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Clark defeated the incumbent Gov. Horatio Seymour (Soft) by a plurality of only 309 votes. The approximate party strength at this election, as expressed by the vote on Governor was: Whig/Anti-Nebraska/Temperance/Free Democratic/Anti-Rent fusion 156,800; Soft 156,500; American 122,000, and Hard 34,000.


The Legislature met for the regular session at the Old State Capitol in Albany on January 2, 1855; and adjourned on April 14.

DeWitt C. Littlejohn (W) was elected Speaker.

On January 22, Josiah B. Williams (W) was elected president pro tempore of the State Senate.

On February 6, the Legislature re-elected U.S. Senator William H. Seward (W) to a second six-year term, beginning on March 4, 1855.

On March 2, Richard M. Blatchford (W) was elected Speaker pro tempore of the Assembly.

On April 9, the Legislature passed "An Act for the prevention of Intemperance, Pauperism and Crime", thus enacting Prohibition.[1] The law was declared unconstitutional in March 1856 by the New York Court of Appeals, thus repealing Prohibition.

State SenateEdit


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.

Party affiliations follow the vote on U.S. Senator.[2]

District Senator Party Notes
1st Hugh Halsey* Dem.-Hard
2nd James H. Hutchins* Dem.-Hard
3rd Thomas J. Barr* Dem.-Hard
4th Thomas R. Whitney* American on November 7, 1854, elected to the 34th U.S. Congress
5th Mark Spencer* Dem.-Soft
6th Erastus Brooks* American
7th William H. Robertson* Whig
8th Robert A. Barnard* Whig
9th John D. Watkins* Dem.-Hard
10th Eliakim Sherrill* Whig
11th Clarkson F. Crosby* Whig
12th Elisha N. Pratt* Whig
13th James C. Hopkins* Whig also Postmaster of Granville
14th George Richards* Whig
15th Zenas Clark* Dem.-Soft
16th George Yost* Whig
17th Peter S. Danforth* Dem.-Hard
18th Adam Storing* Democrat
19th Daniel G. Dorrance* Whig
20th Simon C. Hitchcock* Democrat
21st Robert Lansing* Democrat
22nd James Munroe* Whig
23rd George W. Bradford* Whig
24th William Clark* Whig
25th Josiah B. Williams* Whig on January 22, elected president pro tempore
26th Andrew B. Dickinson* Whig
27th William S. Bishop* Whig
28th Ben Field* Whig
29th William H. Goodwin American elected to fill vacancy, in place of Myron H. Clark:
took his seat on February 5
30th Martin Butts* Whig
31st James O. Putnam* American
32nd Alvah H. Walker* Whig


  • Clerk: Hugh J. Hastings
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: Joseph Garlinghouse
  • Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms: Hiram M. Eaton
  • Doorkeeper: Samuel R. Tuell
  • Assistant Doorkeeper: Almond Becker

State AssemblyEdit


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

Party affiliations follow the vote on U.S. Senator.[3]

District Assemblymen Party Notes
Albany 1st Pryse Campbell
2nd Martin J. Blessing American
3rd Alexander Davidson Whig
4th James B. Van Etten American previously a member from Chemung Co.[4]
Allegany 1st Lucien B. Johnson Whig
2nd Lucius S. May* Whig
Broome Charles McKinney Whig
Cattaraugus 1st Alexander Storrs Dem.-Hard
2nd James Kirkland* Whig
Cayuga 1st Moore Conger Dem.-Soft
2nd David L. Dodge Democrat
3rd William B. Woodin Whig
Chautauqua 1st Samuel S. Whallon American voted for Dix;
on November 6, 1855, elected a Canal Commissioner
2nd Francis W. Palmer* American
Chemung Orrin Robinson Whig
Chenango 1st Daniel Palmer Whig
2nd Lewis Fairchild Whig
Clinton Josiah T. Everest Whig
Columbia 1st David Rhoda Whig
2nd Elisha W. Bushnell Whig
Cortland John H. Knapp Whig
Delaware 1st William B. Smith Dem.-Soft
2nd Ezekiel Miller Whig
Dutchess 1st Albert Emans American
2nd Joseph E. Allen Dem.-Hard
3rd Ambrose Wager Dem.-Soft
Erie 1st William W. Weed* American
2nd Daniel Devening Jr. Dem.-Soft
3rd Lorenzo D. Covey Dem.-Hard
4th Seth W. Goddard American
Essex Nathaniel C. Boynton Whig
Franklin Edward Fitch Whig
Fulton and Hamilton Wesley Gleason* Whig
Genesee 1st Ambrose Stevens Dem.-Hard
2nd David Mallory Whig
Greene 1st Martin L. Rickerson Whig
2nd John C. Palmer Free Dem.
Herkimer 1st Edmund G. Chapin Free Dem.
2nd William Bridenbecker Dem.-Soft
Jefferson 1st Calvin Littlefield* Whig
2nd Moses Eames Whig
3rd Joshua Main Whig
Kings 1st Augustus H. Ivans Dem.-Hard unsuccessfully contested by David S. Mills[5]
2nd George A. Searing Dem.-Hard
3rd John H. Rhodes American
Lewis Aaron Parsons Dem.-Soft
Livingston 1st Lyman Odell Dem.-Hard
2nd McNiel Seymour Dem.-Hard
Madison 1st Gilbert Tompkins Whig
2nd Aaron B. Brush Whig
Monroe 1st Benjamin Smith Whig
2nd John W. Stebbins Whig
3rd Nehemiah P. Stanton Jr. Free Dem.
Montgomery 1st Aaron W. Hull* Whig
2nd Hezekiah Baker* Whig
New York 1st David O'Keefe Dem.-Soft
2nd Robert B. Coleman Whig
3rd Patrick H. Maguire* Dem.-Hard voted for Seward
4th John D. Dixon Dem.-Hard
5th Edwin L. Smith Dem.-Soft
6th William B. Aitken* Dem.-Hard
7th Charles C. Leigh* Dem.-Soft voted for Seward
8th Theodore Stuyvesant Whig
9th Robert J. Jimmerson Whig
10th Nicholas Seagrist Dem.-Soft
11th Joseph H. Petty American
12th William G. McLaughlin Dem.-Soft
13th Richard M. Blatchford Whig on March 2, elected Speaker pro tempore
14th Thomas J. Munday Dem.-Hard
15th Aras G. Williams American
16th John S. Cocks American
Niagara 1st Linus Jones Peck American
2nd Ira Tompkins Whig
Oneida 1st George D. Williams Whig
2nd Levi Blakeslee Whig
3rd Hezekiah H. Beecher Whig
4th Daniel Walker Whig
Onondaga 1st James M. Munro* Free Dem. voted for Seward
2nd William J. Machan Whig
3rd Dudley P. Phelps Whig
4th Joshua V. H. Clark Whig
Ontario 1st William H. Lamport American
2nd Oliver Case Democrat
Orange 1st Joel T. Headley American/Temp. on November 6, 1855, elected Secretary of State of New York
2nd Samuel Beyea Whig
3rd James Bennett Whig
Orleans Elisha S. Whalen American Assemblyman-elect Alexis Ward died on November 28, 1854;[6]
Whalen elected to fill the vacancy on December 26, 1854
Oswego 1st DeWitt C. Littlejohn* Whig elected Speaker
2nd Jacob M. Selden Free Dem. contested, vacated on March 8[7]
Andrew S. Warner seated on March 8
Otsego 1st Henry H. Davy Dem.-Soft
2nd Alonzo Churchill Whig
3rd William Comstock Whig
Putnam James J. Smalley* Dem.-Hard
Queens James Rider Free Dem.
Rensselaer 1st Jonathan Edwards* Whig
2nd Nicholas M. Masters Democrat
3rd Edmond Cole Whig
Richmond John F. Raymond Whig
Rockland John W. Ferdon American
St. Lawrence 1st Asaph Green Free Dem.
2nd Silas Baldwin* Whig
3rd Levi Miller* Dem.-Soft
Saratoga 1st Cornelius Schuyler Whig
2nd John Terhune Whig
Schenectady James Donnan Whig
Schoharie 1st Wilkinson Wilsey Whig
2nd Joseph H. Ramsey Whig
Seneca Daniel S. Kendig American
Steuben 1st Seth B. Cole Whig
2nd Sylvester Smith Whig
3rd Peter C. Ward Dem.-Soft
Suffolk 1st John E. Chester American
2nd David Platt Whig
Sullivan William H. Buckley Dem.-Hard
Tioga Carlisle P. Johnson Whig
Tompkins 1st Frederick S. Dumont Whig
2nd Justus P. Pennoyer Whig
Ulster 1st Theodore B. Gates American
2nd Asa S. Wygant American
Warren Reuben Wells Whig
Washington 1st James I. Lourie Whig
2nd Justin A. Smith Democrat
Wayne 1st James T. Wisner Whig
2nd John P. Bennett* Whig
Westchester 1st Daniel Hunt Whig
2nd Frederick W. Waterbury American voted for Dickinson
Wyoming John C. Paine Whig
Yates Jacob B. Van Osdol Whig


  • Clerk: Richard U. Sherman
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: Byron Ellsworth
  • Doorkeeper: Harmon Groesbeck
  • First Assistant Doorkeeper: Samuel Hall
  • Second Assistant Doorkeeper: William Buttro


  1. ^ see full text in Laws of the State of New York (78th Session) (1855; Chap. 231, pg. 340–356)
  2. ^ The Whigs voted for Seward. Of the Democratic Senators, five voted for the Hard leader Daniel S. Dickinson; Spencer and Z. Clark voted for known Soft politicians; Hitchcock and Lansing voted for Supreme Court Justice William F. Allen; and Storing was absent; see STATE AFFAIRS; Election of a U.S. Senator in NYT on February 7, 1855
  3. ^ The Whigs voted for Seward, the Hards for Dickinson, the Softs for Ex-Gov. Horatio Seymour. The remaining Assemblymen considered themselves independent. Those who voted for Dix were the Anti-Slavery Democrats, formerly known as Free Soilers. Those who voted for Ex-Gov. Washington Hunt and Ex-U.S. Pres. Millard Fillmore were at this time Know Nothings, although Hunt presided over a "Whig" convention in 1856 which endorsed the Know Nothing candidate Fillmore for the presidency.
  4. ^ James B. Van Etten, died December 19, 1856, aged 41 years; see The Annals of Albany by Joel Munsell (pg. 357)
  5. ^ Mills claimed that the name of the assemblyman was "August Ivins", and that votes given for "Augustus H. Ivans" (a large majority over Mills) should be disqualified, but the Committee on Elections refused to consider this argument; see A Compilation of Cases of Contested Elections to Seats in the Assembly of the State of New York (1871; pg. 293f)
  6. ^ see Bio of Alexis Ward at New York Roots
  7. ^ see A Compilation of Cases of Contested Elections to Seats in the Assembly of the State of New York (1871; pg. 279–292)