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The Election Case of John E. Addicks v. Richard R. Kenney of Delaware (1897)

Richard Kenney

Petition received: Jan. 21, 1897
Referred to committee: Jan. 21, 1897
No Senate action

Result: Kenney seated


When the Senate refused to seat Henry A. du Pont (R) in May 1896, the legislature failed to elect a replacement and the Delaware Senate seat remained vacant. While the Committee on Privileges and Elections was still considering the appeal filed by du Pont in January 1897, asking the Senate to reconsider its action, credentials arrived for two new contestants for the same seat.

Starting in 1889, John E. Addicks (R), a successful gas company entrepreneur, had carried on a colorful campaign to win a Senate seat from Delaware. Moving from Boston, where he had been living, he established residence in Dover and spent the next seventeen years trying to persuade the Delaware legislature to elect him U.S. senator. His machinations gained him national notoriety; several times he came close to winning, and on other occasions he managed to prevent the legislature from electing any candidate.

Statement of the Case
On January 21, 1897, the U.S. Senate received a document signed by the speaker and clerk of the Delaware senate and the speaker and clerk of the state house, stating that the legislature on January 20 had elected John E. Addicks to the U.S. Senate for the term that had begun on March 4, 1895. The Senate referred this document to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. On February 5, after the committee had refused to reconsider its action on Henry du Pont's claim to the seat, credentials signed by the Delaware governor were presented for Richard R. Kenney (D), elected by the legislature on January 19 to fill the same term.

Response of the Senate
George F. Hoar (R-MA), acting chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, announced on the Senate floor that, because the committee had decided not to reopen du Pont's case, a vacancy did in fact exist for the term that began March 4, 1895. As Richard Kenney's credentials were in the proper form, Hoar believed he had a prima facie claim to the seat, subject to later reexamination if necessary. Kenney then took the oath of office.

On March 19, a petition was submitted on behalf of John E. Addicks, who claimed to have been legally elected by the legislature and contested the right of Richard Kenney to his seat. The Senate referred the petition to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, but the committee issued no report and the Senate took no further action on the matter.

Once again, the Senate accepted credentials that appeared correct on their face, even though there was also a contestant with irregular credentials.

In February 1901, near the end of Richard Kenney's term, the Senate granted him $488 in reimbursement for his expenses in defending his seat. After failing to be reelected, Kenney resumed the practice of law in Dover, where he also held a number of state offices. He died in 1931.

Addicks continued his flamboyant but unsuccessful efforts to be elected to the Senate until 1906, when Delaware's Republican party reunited to elect Henry A. du Pont. Soon after, Addicks lost his fortune and spent his final years in poverty. He died in 1919.


Source: Adapted from Anne M. Butler and Wendy Wolff. United States Senate Election, Expulsion, and Censure Cases, 1793-1990. S. Doc. 103-33. Washington, GPO, 1995.

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