The 1881 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 18, 1881, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 1) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.
Democrat Francis Kernan had been elected in January 1875 to this seat, and his term would expire on March 3, 1881.
At the State election in November 1879, 25 Republicans and 7 Democrats were elected for a two-year term (1880-1881) in the State Senate. At the State election in November 1880, 81 Republicans and 47 Democrats were elected for the session of 1881 to the Assembly. The 104th State Legislature met from January 4, 1881, on at Albany, New York.
The caucus of Republican State legislators met on January 13, State Senator Dennis McCarthy presided. All but one of the legislators were present, only State Senator Edward M. Madden (13th D.) was absent. The caucus nominated Ex-Congressman Thomas C. Platt for the U.S. Senate. Platt was a friend of the other U.S. Senator from New York, Roscoe Conkling, and belonged to the Stalwart faction. The opposing Half-Breeds (in the press sometimes referred to as the "anti-machine men") at first wanted to nominate Chauncey M. Depew, but he withdrew before balloting. The majority of the Half-Breeds, led by President pro tempore of the State Senate William H. Robertson, then supported Platt, a minority voted for Sherman S. Rogers, the defeated Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1876. Congressman Richard Crowley was supported by a faction led by Speaker of the State Assembly George H. Sharpe, allied with Governor Alonzo B. Cornell. U.S. Vice President William A. Wheeler, and Congressmen Elbridge G. Lapham and Levi P. Morton also received votes.
|U.S. Senator||Thomas C. Platt||54|
|Sherman S. Rogers||10|
|William A. Wheeler||10|
|Elbridge G. Lapham||4|
|Levi P. Morton||1|
Thomas C. Platt was the choice of both the State Senate and the Assembly, and was declared elected.
|U.S. Senator||State Senate
|Thomas C. Platt||25||Francis Kernan||6|
|Thomas C. Platt||79||Francis Kernan||44|
Platt remained in office for only ten weeks, until May 16, 1881, when he resigned together with his boss Roscoe Conkling in protest against the distribution of federal patronage in New York by President James A. Garfield, a Half-Breed, without being consulted, what Conkling said was a breach of a pledge given by Garfield. The confrontation between the Stalwart and the Half-Breed factions of the Republican party arose when the leader of the Half-Breeds William H. Robertson was appointed Collector of the Port of New York, the highest paying federal office in New York, a position Conkling wanted to give to one of his Stalwart friends. Conkling and Platt then tried to show their power by standing for re-election, but Elbridge G. Lapham and Warner Miller were elected instead to fill the vacancies. This effectively ended Conkling's political career, and severely harmed Platt's. However, 16 years later, in 1897, Platt was re-elected to the U.S. Senate, and served two terms.