Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Effingham Lawrence of Louisiana successfully contested the election of Jacob Hale Sypher to win a seat in the 43rd Congress.
On this date, Louisiana Representatives George Sheridan
and Effingham Lawrence
were sworn in to the House on the last day of the 43rd Congress
(1873–1875). Sheridan, a Liberal Republican, and Lawrence, a Democrat, had both contested the elections of their Republican opponents after the 1872 elections, and in both cases the House took two years to determine a victor. Sheridan had competed for a vacant At-Large seat against Pinckney Pinchback, the former governor of Louisiana, while Lawrence had sought to unseat four-term Congressman J. Hale Sypher
. The unusual nature of their contested elections resulted from blatant fraud during the 1872 Louisiana elections, followed by a chaotic period of disputed government there. Both Democrats and Republicans claimed victory in Louisiana’s elections, and each party set up competing state governments. Rival elections boards responsible for counting and verifying each ballot also emerged during this time, with Republicans on one side and a fusion party of Democrats and Liberal Republicans on the other. With both elections boards claiming legitimacy, the fusionists declared Sheridan and Lawrence the winners of the congressional races, while the Republicans backed Sypher and Pinchback. After an extensive investigation in the U.S. House, the Committee on Elections determined in February that both fusion candidates received the most votes. The full House—busy with other pending legislation—did not take up the committee’s report until the final day of the Congress. Sheridan and Lawrence took the Oath of Office on the morning of March 3, and their congressional careers lasted for just a few hours. Despite their short service, Lawrence and Sheridan each received a standard two-year congressional salary. Neither Member proposed any legislation or made remarks on the floor.