1856 United States House of Representatives elections

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 a 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.

1856 United States House of Representatives elections

August 4, 1856 – November 4, 1857[Note 1]

All 237 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
118 seats needed for a majority
  James Lawrence Orr - Brady-Handy GalushaAaron
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

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

Special elections

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

35th Congress

District Vacator Reason for Vacancy Candidates
Representative Party First elected
Minnesota at-large
(Seat A)
New state Minnesota was admitted May 11, 1858.
New member elected October 13, 1857.
Democratic gain.
William Wallace Phelps (Democratic) 17.31% (Seat A)
James Michael Cavanaugh (Democratic) 17.17% (Seat B)
George Loomis Becker (Democratic) 17.12%
Henry Adoniram Swift (Republican) 16.19%
Cyrus Aldrich (Republican) 16.11%
Morton S. Wilkinson (Republican) 16.10%
Minnesota at-large
(Seat B)
New state Minnesota was admitted May 11, 1858.
New member elected October 13, 1857.
Democratic gain.

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%

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.


  1. ^ 11 Stat. 166


  • 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

1856 United States House of Representatives election in Florida

The election to the United States House of Representatives in Florida for the 35th Congress was held October 6, 1856, at the same time as the election for Governor.

1856 United States elections

The 1856 United States elections elected the members of the 35th United States Congress. The election took place during a major national debate over slavery, with the issue of "Bleeding Kansas" taking center stage. Along with the 1854 election, this election saw the start of the Third Party System, as the Republican Party absorbed the Northern anti-slavery representatives who had been elected in 1854 under the "Opposition Party" ticket (consisting largely of former Whigs) as the second most powerful party in Congress. Minnesota and Oregon joined the union before the next election, and elected their respective Congressional delegations to the 35th Congress.

In the Presidential election, Democratic former Secretary of State James Buchanan defeated Republican General John Fremont and the American Party candidate, former President Millard Fillmore. Buchanan swept the South and split the North with Fremont, while Fillmore won Maryland. Buchanan had defeated incumbent President Franklin Pierce (the first elected president to lose his party's presidential nomination) and Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois on the 17th ballot at the 1856 Democratic National Convention. Fremont defeated Supreme Court Justice John McLean at the 1856 Republican National Convention to take the Republican nomination. Fillmore's third party candidacy took over twenty percent of the popular vote, the best popular vote showing by a third party until Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 candidacy.

In the House, Democrats won several seats to take the plurality, but narrowly missed taking the majority. The Republican Party established itself as the second largest party in the House, replacing the Opposition Party. The American Party lost numerous seats, but continued to maintain a presence in the House. Democrat James Lawrence Orr won election as Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, Democrats won minor gains, maintaining their commanding majority. The Republican Party replaced the Opposition Party as the second largest party, while the American Party picked up a small number of seats.

1856 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1856 was the 18th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 1856. In a three-way election, Democrat James Buchanan defeated Republican nominee John C. Frémont and American Party nominee Millard Fillmore.

This was the only time in U.S. history in which a political party denied renomination to the incumbent President and won. Incumbent Democratic President Franklin Pierce was widely unpopular due to the ongoing civil war in Kansas Territory, and Buchanan defeated Pierce at the 1856 Democratic National Convention. Buchanan, a former Secretary of State, had avoided the divisive debates over the Kansas–Nebraska Act by virtue of his service as the Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Slavery, though not its abolition, was the main issue. Opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories drove the rise of the nascent Republican Party. The Republicans and the nativist Know Nothings (known formally as the American Party) competed to replace the moribund Whig Party as the primary opposition to the Democrats. The 1856 Republican National Convention nominated a ticket led by Frémont, an explorer and military officer who had served in the Mexican–American War. The Know Nothings, who ignored slavery and instead emphasized anti-immigration and anti-Catholic policies, nominated a ticket led by former Whig President Millard Fillmore. His political allies controlled the American Party and he welcomed the nomination, but Fillmore had not sought it and was in Europe during the nominating convention. The fact that two of the three nominees, Buchanan and Fillmore, appealed specifically in part because of their recent time abroad reflects severe domestic political turmoil.

The Democrats endorsed popular sovereignty as the method to determine slavery's legality for newly admitted states. Frémont decried the expansion of slavery, while Buchanan warned that the Republicans were extremists whose victory would lead to civil war. The Know Nothings attempted to present themselves as the one party capable of bridging the sectional divides. All three major parties found support in the North, but the Republicans had virtually no backing in the South.

Buchanan won a plurality of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral vote, taking all but one slave state and five free states. His popular vote margin of 12.2% was the greatest margin between 1836 and 1904. However, the election was closer than it appears. A shift of a few thousand votes to Fillmore in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky would have transferred the election of the President to the incumbent House of Representatives, controlled by a new coalition of inchoate parties united in opposing the Democrats.

Frémont won a majority of electoral votes from free states and finished second in the nationwide popular vote, while Fillmore took 21.5% of the popular vote and carried Maryland. The Know Nothings soon collapsed as a national party, as most of its anti-slavery members joined the Republican Party after the Supreme Court's disastrous 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. 1856 also proved to be the last Democratic presidential victory until 1884, as Republicans emerged as the dominant party during and after the Civil War.

1856 and 1857 United States Senate elections

The United States Senate elections of 1856 and 1857 were elections which had the young Republican Party assume its position as one of the United States's two main political parties. The Whigs and Free Soilers were gone by the time the next Congress began.

As this election was prior to ratification of the seventeenth amendment, Senators were chosen by State legislatures.

1856 elections

1856 election may refer to:

Chilean presidential election, 1856

United States presidential election, 1856

United States House of Representatives elections, 1856

California's at-large congressional district

After statehood was achieved September 9, 1850 until 1865, California elected its representatives statewide at-large — two representatives from September 11, 1850 to 1861, and 3 representatives from 1861 to 1865.

Also, from 1883 to 1885, California elected two of its six representatives to the United States House of Representatives statewide at-large.

List of elections in 1856

The following elections occurred in the year 1856.

List of elections in Massachusetts

This is an incomplete list of recent Elections in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sorted both by offices sought and by years held.

Elections are administered by the individual municipalities. There is some oversight by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Individual elections are listed with the winner.


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