Factors affecting the 1868 NJ Legislature

In 1868 the new majority in the NJ Legislature was Democratic and they were highly incensed that one of their US Senators (John P. Stockton, Democrat of Mercer County), had been dismissed by the US Senate in early 1866.

In 1865 the term of US Senator John Conover Ten Eyck (Union-Republican from NJ) was expiring and the NJ Legislature was responsible for electing his successor (the US Constitution did not call for popular senatorial elections until the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913). The 1865 NJ Legislature was closely divided: The Senate was Democratic, 13-8, but the Assembly was split 30-30.

John Potter Stockton was elected on March 15th, 1865, and began serving when the US Senate next convened, in December 1865. Stockton had received 40 of the 81 votes in the Joint Meeting of the NJ Assembly and Senate. Ten Eyck received 37, and four other candidates each received one vote (Peter DeVroom, Frederick T. Frelighuysen, Henry S. Little, and Henry R. Kennedy).

Because Stockton did not receive a true majority of the votes, the Union-Republican party leadership drafted a protest which was delivered to the US Senate when it convened in December 1865. Stockton was not unseated until March 27, 1866 in a 23-21 vote. (On the day before, he had survived a vote, but he had also participated in that vote, which drew an objection from Senator Sumner of Massachusetts).

President Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 on the same day that Stockton was unseated. Ten days later, on April 6, 1866, the US Senate overrode Johnson's veto, 33-15. The NJ Democrats were convinced that Stockton's dismissal only occurred because the Republicans were worried about achieving the two-thirds required to override Johnson's veto.

When a Democratic majority re-took the NJ Congress in 1868, they passed a resolution to WITHDRAW the earlier ratification of Amendment 14 (in the Senate, 11-9, on March 5, 1868, and in the Assembly, 45-13, on March 24, 1868). Ohio also withdrew its ratification but the US Congress never recognized either of the withdrawals. Nonetheless, the proclamation of complete ratification was not made by the Secretary of State until two additional States beyond the required three-fourths had ratified.

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Last updated: 2006 First Month, 7th.