78th New York State Legislature Information
|78th New York State Legislature|
The Old State Capitol (1879)
|Jurisdiction||New York, United States|
|Term||January 1 – December 31, 1855|
|President||Lt. Gov. Henry J. Raymond (W)|
|Temporary President||Josiah B. Williams (W), from January 22|
|Party control||Whig (18-10-4)|
|Speaker||DeWitt C. Littlejohn (W)|
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.
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.
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.
On January 22, Josiah B. Williams (W) was elected President pro tempore of the State Senate.
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.  The law was declared unconstitutional in March 1856 by the New York Court of Appeals, thus repealing Prohibition.
- 1st District: Queens, Richmond and Suffolk counties
- 2nd District: Kings County
- 3rd District: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th wards of New York City
- 4th District: 7th, 10th, 13th and 17th wards of New York City
- 5th District: 8th, 9th and 14th wards of New York City
- 6th District: 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd wards of New York City
- 7th District: Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties
- 8th District: Columbia and Dutchess counties
- 9th District: Orange and Sullivan counties
- 10th District: Greene and Ulster counties
- 11th District: Albany and Schenectady counties
- 12th District: Rensselaer County
- 13th District: Saratoga and Washington counties
- 14th District: Clinton, Essex and Warren counties
- 15th District: Franklin and St. Lawrence counties
- 16th District: Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer and Montgomery counties
- 17th District: Delaware and Schoharie counties
- 18th District: Chenango and Otsego counties
- 19th District: Oneida County
- 20th District: Madison and Oswego counties
- 21st District: Jefferson and Lewis counties
- 22nd District: Onondaga County
- 23rd District: Broome, Cortland and Tioga counties
- 24th District: Cayuga and Wayne counties
- 25th District: Seneca, Tompkins and Yates counties
- 26th District: Chemung and Steuben counties
- 27th District: Monroe County
- 28th District: Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties
- 29th District: Livingston and Ontario counties
- 30th District: Allegany and Wyoming counties
- 31st District: Erie County
- 32nd District: Cattaraugus and Chautauqua 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. 
|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|
|7th||William H. Robertson*||Whig|
|8th||Robert A. Barnard*||Whig|
|9th||John D. Watkins*||Dem.-Hard|
|11th||Clarkson F. Crosby*||Whig|
|12th||Elisha N. Pratt*||Whig|
|13th||James C. Hopkins*||Whig||also Postmaster of Granville|
|17th||Peter S. Danforth*||Dem.-Hard|
|19th||Daniel G. Dorrance*||Whig|
|20th||Simon C. Hitchcock*||Democrat|
|23rd||George W. Bradford*||Whig|
|25th||Josiah B. Williams*||Whig||on January 22, elected President pro tempore|
|26th||Andrew B. Dickinson*||Whig|
|27th||William S. Bishop*||Whig|
|29th||William H. Goodwin||American||elected to fill vacancy, in place of
Myron H. Clark: |
took his seat on February 5
|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
The asterisk (*) denotes members of the previous Legislature who continued as members of this Legislature.
Party affiliations follow the vote on U.S. Senator. 
- Clerk: Richard U. Sherman
- Sergeant-at-Arms: Byron Ellsworth
- Doorkeeper: Harmon Groesbeck
- First Assistant Doorkeeper: Samuel Hall
- Second Assistant Doorkeeper: William Buttro
- see full text in Laws of the State of New York (78th Session) (1855; Chap. 231, pg. 340–356)
- 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
- 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.
- James B. Van Etten, died December 19, 1856, aged 41 years; see The Annals of Albany by Joel Munsell (pg. 357)
- 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)
- see Bio of Alexis Ward at New York Roots
- see A Compilation of Cases of Contested Elections to Seats in the Assembly of the State of New York (1871; pg. 279–292)
- The New York Civil List compiled by Franklin Benjamin Hough (Weed, Parsons and Co., 1858) [pg. 109 for Senate districts; pg. 137 for senators; pg. 148–157 for Assembly districts; pg. 248ff for assemblymen]
- Journal of the Senate (78th Session) (1855)
- Journal of the Assembly (78th Session) (1855; Vol. 2)