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The Election Case of Jospeh W. Ady v. John Martin of Kansas (1895)

Challenge to legislature's authority to elect (rival legislatures); Senate ruled on point of order.

Memorial received: April 3, 1893
Referred to committee: April 3, 1893
No Senate action (floor debate Feb. 28, 1895)

Result: Martin retained seat

Kansas politics remained in turmoil long after the state's admission to the Union. Counties viciously competed with each other to attract settlers, and rival railroads openly connived for control of politicians, especially during unsettled political periods like Reconstruction or the Populist agitation of the 1890s. Thus, the predictable clashes erupted over the selection of a replacement for Republican Senator Preston B. Plumb, who died on December 20, 1891. Gubernatorial appointee Bishop W. Perkins (Republican) filled the seat for a year until the Kansas legislature, on January 25, 1893, finally managed to elect Democrat John Martin to the vacancy. Martin entered the Senate at the beginning of the Fifty-third Congress when the body was under Democratic control for the first time since 1881.

Statement of the Case
On March 4, 1893, John Martin presented credentials for the two years remaining in Plumb's term. Since his papers were in order, the Senate admitted him without objection, although George F. Hoar (Republican-MA) raised the possibility of a contest when he noted, "If there be any question as to his title upon the merits, the Senate can deal with it afterwards." On April 3, a memorial from Joseph W. Ady, claiming to be the duly elected senator, arrived and was referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. A few weeks later, seventy-seven members of the Kansas legislature filed a memorial that alleged the use of illegal procedures in John Martin's election and asserted that Joseph W. Ady was the correctly chosen candidate. The Senate directed the Committee on Privileges and Elections to investigate the charges.

Response of the Senate

The committee did not consider the Martin matter either during the brief special session of the Senate or during the extraordinary session of Congress that President Grover Cleveland called in the summer of 1893 to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. By March 1894, both Martin and Ady had provided the committee with records and other materials supporting their claims, but action was further delayed by the prolonged illness and death in April of Committee Chairman Zebulon B. Vance (Democrat-NC), followed by a lengthy Senate adjournment from August to December. When the committee finally did consider the matter on January 29, 1895, the majority voted to postpone the case indefinitely. Infuriated by the extensive delay, and with only five weeks remaining in the disputed term, William E. Chandler (Republican-NH) on January 31 attempted to jar the matter loose. In the midst of Senate debate on an appropriation bill, he offered a privileged resolution that declared Kansas had no properly organized legislature at the time of Martin's election. When a point of order was raised, Vice President Adlai E. Stevenson ruled that the motion was not privileged and thus could not interrupt the business at hand; and the Senate sustained the decision.

On February 28, 1895, Chandler again raised the issue, chronicling the complicated events that surrounded the 1893 Kansas senatorial vote. When the Kansas legislature convened in January 1893, he explained, it consisted of a legal senate and two competing houses of representatives. Both the state senate and the governor recognized one of the houses, which joined with the senate in voting for Martin. In order to achieve a quorum, however, the presiding officer permitted two members of the rump house to vote but refused to accept the votes of the remaining members of that house. Out of this hodge-podge assemblage, John Martin received an undisputed majority of ballots. The rump house then held its own session and voted for Ady. Subsequently, the state supreme court ruled that the rump house was actually the legal one, and the other house disbanded. Chandler argued that these circumstances clearly indicated that Kansas had not had a properly organized legislature at the time of the election for U.S. senator.

In his intensely partisan speech, Chandler complained that the original Democratic Senate majority at the beginning of the Fifty-third Congress had been achieved by fraud and trickery. Again, objection was raised to Chandler's resolution as not being a privileged matter, but the Senate agreed to allow John Martin to respond and enter into the Congressional Record evidence in defense of his election. The angry Martin, however, used such bitterly intemperate language about the New Hampshire senator—saying that "he ought to be in the penitentiary" and calling him a "buzzard" who "vomited forth his filth on every occasion"—that the Senate had to cut short his remarks and formally call him to order.

There the matter rested. The Committee on Privileges and Elections produced no report on the question; the issue did not come to a floor vote; and John Martin retained his seat for the few days remaining in the term. The Senate did agree that Joseph Ady should receive $2,000 and John Martin $1,000 for their expenses in the contest.

Considerable partisanship was evident both here and in the simultaneous effort to unseat William N. Roach (Democrat-ND) for actions before he entered the Senate, for the narrow Democratic margin in the Senate appeared vulnerable. By the time of Chandler's February 1895 speech, deaths and other changes had brought enough Republicans into the chamber that unseating both Martin and Roach could have tipped the party balance. At that point, however, such machinations were hardly necessary, since the 1894 election had returned the Republicans to power in the new Senate that would convene on March 4, 1895.

John Martin, who chaired the Committee on Railroads during his brief Senate service, returned to Kansas and became clerk of the state supreme court. He died in 1913.

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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