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United States House of Representatives elections, 1862: Wikis


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The U.S. House election, 1862 was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1862 that occurred in the middle of President Abraham Lincoln's first term. Union defeats in the Civil War, as well as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, took a toll on Lincoln's popularity, and the opposition Democratic Party made substantial gains in seats held from his Republican Party.

The Republicans lost a substantial amount of their influence, dropping 22 seats, while the Democrats picked up 28, for a net swing of 50 seats (or 27%) out of a total House membership of 185. A Democrat (one of Lincoln's former law partners, John T. Stuart) defeated even the Republican incumbent in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Yet, the Republicans retained control of the House due to their alliance with the Unionist Party of pro-war disaffected Democrats (25 seats), in spite of losing an overall majority.

The political career Francis W. Hughes built in Pennsylvania reached its zenith in 1862 with his selection as chairman of the state's Democratic convention. During the ensuing state and Congressional elections, Hughes criticized the Republican administration's handling of the war, especially the issues of suppressing civil liberties and Lincoln's policies toward freeing the slaves. He warned that freed slaves would flood Pennsylvania.

Republicans responded by publicizing the fact that Hughes had supported John C. Breckinridge in 1860 and held disunionist sympathies. Investigations into his family and financial background revealed Hughes had Southern interests, but he replied that Lincoln himself had brothers-in-law in the Confederate army. Evidence of treason was vague. Although Hughes was able to defend his loyalty to the Union causes, Democratic leaders felt that the controversy impinged on his political effectiveness and injured the Party. Hughes fell from Democratic Party leadership and never regained prominence. [Shankman, 1971]


Overall results

Party Total seats (change) Seat percentage
Republican Party 86 -22 46.4%
Democratic Party 72 +28 38.9%
Unionist Party 25 -5 13.5%
Independents 2 +1 1.0%
Totals 185 +2 100.0%


Note: From statehood to 1864, California's representatives were elected at-large, with the top two vote-getters winning election from 1849 to 1858; in 1860 when California gained a seat in the House the top three vote-getters were elected.

District Opponent
California AL Cornelius Cole (R) 20%
William Higby (R) 19.9%
Thomas B. Shannon (R) 19.9%

John Bigler (I) 13.4%
John B. Weller (I) 13.4%
Ninian E. Whiteside (D) 13.4%


  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: vol 6. War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863 (1960)
  • Shankman, Arnold. "Francis W. Hughes and the 1862 Pennsylvania Election." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 1971 95(3): 383-393. Issn: 0031-4587
  • Tap, Bruce. "Race, Rhetoric, and Emancipation: the Election of 1862 in Illinois." Civil War History 1993 39(2): 101-125. Issn: 0009-8078

See also



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