The family emigrated to New York City when Michael was still an infant. he began to work when eight years old, first in a crockery factory, then in a sugar refinery. At age 16, he became a mess boy aboard the steamer Atlantic of the Collins Line. After six trips across the Atlantic Ocean, he abandoned the maritime service, and became a cooper instead.
He fought in the American Civil War as a captain of volunteers from May to November 1861, when he resigned his commission to take care of the family after his father's death. He was an Alderman of New York (3rd D.) from 1865 to 1870.
He was a Democratic member of the New York State Senate (5th D.) from 1868 to 1871, sitting in the 91st, 92nd, 93rd and 94th New York State Legislatures. He was a member of the Tweed Ring, and was admitted to the bar without studying law. During his second senatorial term, he left the Ring and joined the Young Democracy (an Anti-Tweed faction of Tammany Hall. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 5th D.) in 1873.
- The New York Civil List compiled by Franklin Benjamin Hough, Stephen C. Hutchins and Edgar Albert Werner (1870; pg. 444)
- Life Sketches of the State Officers, Senators, and Members of the Assembly of the State of New York in 1868 by S. R. Harlow & S. C. Hutchins (pg. 123ff)
- Manual of the Corporation of New York by Joseph Shannon (1869; pg. 618)
- MICHAEL NORTON DEAD in NYT on April 24, 1889
|New York State Senate|
Charles G. Cornell
| New York State Senate
Erastus C. Benedict
|New York Assembly|
David S. Paige
| New York State Assembly
New York County, 5th District