1857 Election Cycle

This election was conducted approximately seven months prior to statehood on May 11, 1858.

Democrats swept all statewide offices at the ballot box: Governor (Henry Sibley), Lieutenant Governor (William Holcombe), Secretary of State (Francis Baasen), Auditor (William Dunbar), Attorney General (Charles Berry), Treasurer (George Armstrong), Clerk of the Supreme Court (Jacob Noah), and both at-large U.S. House seats (W.W. Phelps and James Cavanaugh). Democrats would not win another statewide election until 1873 (Treasurer Edwin Dyke) and only two others before the turn of the century (Auditor Adolph Biermann on the Democratic-Alliance ticket in 1890 and Governor John Lind in 1898 on the Democratic-People's ticket).

At this point in state history, elections for the Supreme Court were nonpartisan with a Chief Justice (Lafayette Emmett) and two Associate Justices (Isaac Atwater and Charles Flandrau). Until the early 1880s, elections for Auditor and Supreme Court clerk would be held every three years with elections for other constitutional offices held every two (odd-numbered) years.

In December 1857 the state legisalture elected Henry Rice and James Shields to the U.S. Senate.

There were 26 districts drawn for the First Legislature totaling 37 Senate seats and 80 House seats. The number of senators in a district ranged from one to three and the number of representatives from one to six.

Elections

Date Office Stage Winners Details
12/19/1857 U.S. Senate General Henry M. Rice (Democrat) won with 66 votes (28.45%) and a winning margin of +5.17
James Shields (Democrat) won with 61 votes (26.29%) and a winning margin of +3.02
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Henry M. Rice Man Democrat 66 28.45
James Shields Man Democrat 61 26.29
Henry D. Huff Man Republican 54 23.28
David Cooper Man Republican 50 21.55
Alexander Ramsey Man Republican 1 0.43

Elected by the state legislature in a joint convention. Drawing lots, Shields won election to the Class II seat expiring March 3, 1859 and Rice to the Class I seat expiring March 3, 1863.

Rice was nominated by the Democrats on December 15, 1857 receiving a majority of 56 of 61 votes on the first ballot. Shields was nominated on the fourth ballot outlasting three other Democrats: Frank Steele, Willis A. Gorman, and Joseph R. Brown.

Rice was a two-term Democratic U.S. Delegate (1853-1857). Shields was a former Governor of Oregon Territory (1848-1849) and U.S. Senator from Illinois (1849-1855).

Huff was an organizer of Winona County and founder of the Winona Express.

Cooper was a former Associate Justice of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court (1849-1853).

Ramsey was a former Whig U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (CD 14, 1843-1847), Minnesota Territorial Governor (1849-1853), and Mayor of St. Paul (1855).

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10/13/1857 Clerk of the Supreme Court General Jacob J. Noah (Democrat) won with 18,136 votes (51.59%) and a winning margin of +3.19
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Jacob J. Noah Man Democrat 18,136 51.59
A.B. Russell Man Republican 17,015 48.41

While most constitutional officers were elected to two-year terms, Clerk of the Supreme Court and Auditor were elected to three-year terms until the 1880s.

Noah was an attorney from Mendota.

Russell was editor and publisher of the Shakopee Republican Advocate.

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10/13/1857 Supreme Court Associate Justice General Isaac (I.) Atwater (Nonpartisan) won with 18,199 votes (25.86%) and a winning margin of +1.63
Charles E. Flandrau (Nonpartisan) won with 18,110 votes (25.73%) and a winning margin of +1.50
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Isaac (I.) Atwater Man Nonpartisan 18,199 25.86
Charles E. Flandrau Man Nonpartisan 18,110 25.73
John M. (J.M.) Berry Man Nonpartisan 17,052 24.23
Harrison Billings Man Nonpartisan 17,026 24.19

Two associate justices were elected in this race.

Atwater was an attorney, newspaper publisher, and member of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota from Saint Anthony. Atwater resigned effective July 1, 1864 to move to the Nevada Territory. Governor Stephen Miller appointed Third Judicial District Judge Thomas Wilson of Winona to fill the vacancy.

Flandrau was an attorney from Traverse des Sioux, former territorial Representative (HD 10, 1856-1857), and sitting appointed judge on the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court (1857-1858); Flandrau resigned effective July 1, 1864 to move to the Nevada Territory. Governor Stephen Miller appointed First Judicial District Judge Samuel McMillan of St. Paul to fill the vacancy.

Berry was an attorney from Faribault, Territorial Representative (HD 08, 1857), eventual state Senator (SD 08, 1863-1865) and state Supreme Court Associate Justice (1865-1887).

Billings was a member of the Minnesota constitutional convention and attorney from Spring Valley who would later serve as the Fillmore County Clerk of Court.

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10/13/1857 Supreme Court Chief Justice General Lafayette Emmett (Nonpartisan) won with 18,169 votes (51.41%) and a winning margin of +2.82
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Lafayette Emmett Man Nonpartisan 18,169 51.41
Horace Bigelow Man Nonpartisan 17,173 48.59

This initial election remains the most narrowly decided contest for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Minnesota history. Only five such elections have been decided by less than 10 points (1857, 1869, 1912, 1924, 1950).

Emmett was a former prosecuting attorney in Knox County, Ohio and Minnesota Territorial Attorney General (1853-1858) from St. Paul.

Bigelow was an attorney from St. Paul.

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10/13/1857 Governor General Henry Hastings (H.H.) Sibley (Democrat) won with 17,790 votes (50.34%) and a winning margin of +0.68
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Henry Hastings (H.H.) Sibley Man Democrat 17,790 50.34
Alexander Ramsey Man Republican 17,550 49.66

This would stand as the most narrowly decided election until 1962 and remains the third most competitive in state history.

Sibley was a Wisconsin U.S. House territorial delegate (1848-1849), a Minnesota U.S. House territorial delegate (1849-1853), a member of the Minnesota Territorial House (HD 06, 1855), and member and president of the 1857 Minnesota Constitutional Convention.

Ramsey was a former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (1843-1847), Territorial Governor of Minnesota (1849-1853), and Mayor of St. Paul (1855).

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