William L. Dayton

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William Dayton
William L. Dayton.jpg
Dayton circa 1856
United States Minister to France
In office
May 19, 1861 – December 1, 1864
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by Charles J. Faulkner
Succeeded by John Bigelow
21st Attorney General of New Jersey
In office
January 20, 1857 – March 18, 1861
Governor William A. Newell
Charles Smith Olden
Preceded by Richard Thompson
Succeeded by Frederick Frelinghuysen
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
July 2, 1842 – March 3, 1851
Preceded by Samuel L. Southard
Succeeded by Robert F. Stockton
Personal details
Born William Lewis Dayton
(1807-02-17)February 17, 1807
Basking Ridge, New Jersey, U.S.
Died December 1, 1864(1864-12-01) (aged 57)
Paris, France
Political party Whig (Before 1854)
Republican (1854–1864)
Spouse(s) Margaret Dayton
Education Princeton University (BA)

William Lewis Dayton (February 17, 1807 – December 1, 1864) was an American politician, active first in the Whig Party and later in the Republican Party. In the 1856 presidential election, he became the first Republican vice-presidential nominee when nominated alongside John C. Frémont. The Republican Party lost that campaign. During the American Civil War, Dayton served as the United States Ambassador to France, a position in which he worked to prevent French recognition of the Confederacy.

Early life[edit]

Dayton was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to farmer Joel Dayton (1776–1833) and Nancy (Lewis) Dayton (1787–1866). His father worked as a farmer and mechanic, and was not well off, but the extended Dayton family was long prominent in New Jersey. William L. Dayton was the grand-nephew of Elias Dayton and second cousin of Jonathan Dayton. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1825. He then studied law with Peter Dumont Vroom, was admitted to the bar in 1830, and became an attorney in Freehold.

Political career[edit]

In 1837, Dayton was elected to the New Jersey Legislative Council, and he became an associate judge of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1838. Following the death of U.S. Senator Samuel L. Southard, he was appointed to the United States Senate starting July 2, 1842, and elected to finish the term ending in 1845. He was re-elected by the New Jersey Legislature as a Whig in 1845 but lost in 1851, ending his service on March 3, 1851.

In 1856, Dayton was selected by the nascent Republican Party as their first nominee for Vice President of the United States over Abraham Lincoln at the Philadelphia Convention. He and his running mate, John C. Fremont, lost to the Democratic ticket of James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge. Afterwards, he served as New Jersey Attorney General until 1861, when President Lincoln appointed him Minister to France. He served from May 1861 until his death in December 1864. His service spanned most of the American Civil War.

Ambassador[edit]

In France, Dayton was part of a successful lobbying campaign to prevent the government of Napoleon III from recognizing the independence of the Confederacy or allowing Confederate use of French ports.

Dayton died in Paris and was buried in Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, New Jersey.[1]

Legacy[edit]

His son, William Lewis Dayton, Jr. (1839–1897), graduated from Princeton in 1858 and served as President Chester A. Arthur's Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1882–1885.

Later, the town of Dayton, New Jersey, was named in his honor.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ James, George. "He's Looked at Life From Both Sides Now", The New York Times, "Buried here too is William Lewis Dayton, the first Republican vice presidential candidate who defeated Lincoln for the position in 1856 but lost the presidential nomination to him in 1860." February 20, 2000. Accessed December 29, 2007.
  2. ^ "South Brunswick Township History". Retrieved 2012-11-09. In 1866, the name was changed from Cross Roads to Dayton, in honor of William L. Dayton, an attorney for the Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad. ...

Further reading[edit]

  • Republican Campaign Edition for the Million. Containing the Republican Platform, the Lives of Fremont and Dayton, with Beautiful Steel Portraits of Each, 1856 (Boston: John P. Jewett), via Illinois Historical Digitization Projects of the Northern Illinois University Libraries

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Samuel L. Southard
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
1842–1851
Served alongside: Jacob W. Miller
Succeeded by
Robert F. Stockton
Preceded by
John Leeds Kerr
Chair of the Senate Public Buildings Committee
1842–1845
Succeeded by
Simon Cameron
Party political offices
New political party Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States
1856
Succeeded by
Hannibal Hamlin
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Thompson
Attorney General of New Jersey
1857–1861
Succeeded by
Frederick Frelinghuysen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles J. Faulkner
United States Minister to France
1861–1864
Succeeded by
John Bigelow