The 1888 race for Connecticut's governor was the last one in which the winner was chosen by the Legislature. No candidate was selected in 1890 and from 1892 until 1901 (when the 50% election law was changed) the winning candidate received over 50% of the popular vote cast in November. The long suffering Luzon Morris, who had won more votes than his opponent in 1888 and 1890, finally won the governor's office outright in 1892. Yet, this Democratic victory marked the end to the gubernatorial balance of power in Connecticut's politics. In the previous 25 years the Republican candidates had been able to win the popular vote ~ three times (1869, 1872, and 1880), but they actually served in office 15 of those years to only 10 for the Democrats. The 50' rule and the Republican's control of the Legislature permitted them to overturn the will of the people as to who would serve as governor. However, after Morris left office in January of 1895 the Democrats would only serve as governor in four of the next thirty-six years. The Democratic candidates rarely came close to the totals that the Republicans received. The era of the Republican Party in Connecticut had fully emerged.
Morris became a lawyer in 1856, two years before he would graduate from Yale. His finances were such that he had to work as a blacksmith and in a factory to raise money to complete his college degree. The same year that he became a lawyer Morris married Eugenia L. Tuttle and they had six children. It was also in 1856 that he served his first term in the General Assembly. Morris was elected to both the House and the Senate in the years leading to 1881.
In 1888 Morris ran as the Democratic candidate for governor and while he defeated Morgan Bulkeley by over 1,400 votes, he lacked 50% of the total and the Legislature chose Bulkeley. In 1890 he outpolled Samuel Merwin by some 3,700 votes in November only to have no one declared a winner when the Legislature met in January. Morris faced Merwin again in 1892 and this time his 6,000-vote margin was more than the 50% requirement and at last he became governor of Connecticut. An economic downturn caused him to lose support with the electorate and helped lead to the later successes at the polls by the Republicans. Morris did attempt to change the election laws that had denied him the office in the past, but he was not successful. In 1893 he represented the state at Connecticut Day at the Chicago World's Fair.
When his term ended in January of 1895 Morris returned to his law practice and business interests. This included his work as an officer in the Connecticut Savings Bank. However, he died eight months later and is buried in New Haven's Evergreen Cemetery.
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45” x 52” in its frame, painted in 1894 by Harry I. Thompson at his New Haven studio.
Originally prepared by David O. White, Museum of Connecticut History, Connecticut State Library.