The 104th New York State Legislature, consisting of the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, met from January 4 to July 23, 1881, during the second year of Alonzo B. Cornell's governorship, in Albany.
Under the provisions of the New York Constitution of 1846, 32 Senators and 128 assemblymen were elected in single-seat districts; senators for a two-year term, assemblymen for a one-year term. The senatorial districts were made up of entire counties, except New York County (seven districts) and Kings County (three districts). The Assembly districts were made up of entire towns, or city wards, forming a contiguous area, all within the same county.
At this time there were two major political parties: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Republicans were split into two factions: the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds. The Greenback Party also nominated a ticket.
The New York state election, 1880 was held on November 2. The only statewide elective office up for election was carried by a Republican. The approximate party strength at this election, as expressed by the vote for Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, was: Republican 563,000; Democratic 518,000; and Greenback 13,000.
The Legislature met for the regular session at the State Capitol in Albany on January 4, 1881; and adjourned on July 23.
George H. Sharpe (R) was re-elected Speaker, with 80 votes against 45 for Erastus Brooks (D).
On January 18, the Legislature elected Thomas C. Platt (R) to succeed Francis Kernan (D) as U.S. Senator from New York, for a term beginning on March 4, 1881.
On March 24, President James A. Garfield (Half-Breed) nominated President pro tempore of the State Senate William H. Robertson (Half-Breed) for the office of Collector of the Port of New York. The two U.S. Senators from New York, Roscoe Conkling and Platt (both Stalwarts) openly opposed the nomination, causing deadlock in the Senate which was evenly divided with 37 Republicans, 37 Democrats and two Independents. The office of Collector of the Port of New York was the most profitable federal office in the United States, and Conkling insisted in having a Stalwart appointed, but Garfield did not budge.
On May 16, Conkling and Platt resigned in protest, leaving the Republicans in the minority in the U.S. Senate. Conkling believed that they would be re-elected by the New York State Legislature and would thus show Garfield that they were in a balance of power position.
On May 18, Robertson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Collector.
On May 31, the Legislature began the special elections to fill the two vacant seats in the U.S. Senate.
On July 16, Congressman Warner Miller was elected on the 48th ballot to succeed Platt.
On July 22, Congressman Elbridge G. Lapham was elected on the 56th ballot to succeed Conkling, thus ending 53 days of deadlock, the second longest in the history of the New York Legislature. After the election, Robertson resigned his seat in the State Senate, to accept the office of Collector, and Dennis McCarthy was elected President pro tempore.
Note: There are now 62 counties in the State of New York. The counties which are not mentioned in this list had not yet been established, or sufficiently organized, the area being included in one or more of the abovementioned counties.
The asterisk (*) denotes members of the previous Legislature who continued in office as members of this Legislature.Clerk: John W. Vrooman
Sergeant-at-Arms: John W. Corning
Doorkeeper: James G. Caw
Stenographer: Hudson C. Tanner
The asterisk (*) denotes members of the previous Legislature who continued as members of this Legislature.Clerk: Edward M. Johnson
Sergeant-at-Arms: Sidney M. Robinson
Doorkeeper: Henry Wheeler
First Assistant Doorkeeper: Michael Maher
Second Assistant Doorkeeper: John W. Wheeler
Stenographer: Worden E. Payne