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Samuel Dexter

In office
January 1, 1801 – May 13, 1801
President John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
Preceded by Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
Succeeded by Albert Gallatin

In office
May 13, 1800 – January 31, 1801
President John Adams
Preceded by James McHenry
Succeeded by Henry Dearborn

In office
March 4, 1799 – May 30, 1800
Preceded by Theodore Sedgwick
Succeeded by Dwight Foster

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1795
Preceded by Fisher Ames
Succeeded by Theodore Sedgwick

Born May 14, 1761
Boston, Massachusetts
Died May 4, 1816 (aged 54)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Federalist
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Law

Samuel Dexter (May 14, 1761 – May 4, 1816) was an early American statesman who served both in Congress and in the Presidential Cabinet.


Born in Boston, Massachusetts, to the Rev. Samuel Dexter, the 4th minister of Dedham, he graduated from Harvard University in 1781 and then studied law at Worcester under Levi Lincoln, Sr., the future Attorney General of the United States. After he passed the bar in 1784, he began practicing in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served 1788 to 1790. He was elected to the 3rd Congress by way of the United States House of Representatives and then elected as Federalist to the United States Senate. In December 1799, he memorably wrote the memorial eulogy to George Washington upon the first president's death. His house in Dedham stands to today.

He served for less than a year as he was appointed United States Secretary of War by President John Adams in 1800. During his time at this station he urged congressional action to permit appointment and compensation of field officers for general staff duty.

Upon Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr.'s resignation in December 1800, Adams appointed Dexter as interim Secretary. He then briefly conducted the affairs of the War Office. He administered the oath of office to Chief Justice John Marshall, and later declined the ambassadorship to Spain.

He returned to Boston in 1805 and resumed the practice of law. He left the Federalist party to espouse Republican views on the War of 1812, and he was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 1814 and 1815. He was an ardent supporter of the temperance movement and presided over its first formal organization in Massachusetts.

He died on May 4, 1816 shortly before his 55th birthday and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Simon Newton Dexter was his nephew.

Samuel W. Dexter, founder of Dexter, Michigan, was his son.


The USRC Dexter (1830) was named in his honor.

External links

An article in the
History of Dedham
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Fisher Ames
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district

1793 – 1795
alongside: Fisher Ames, Benjamin Goodhue, Samuel Holten on a General ticket
Succeeded by
Theodore Sedgwick
United States Senate
Preceded by
Theodore Sedgwick
United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
1799 – 1800
Served alongside: Benjamin Goodhue
Succeeded by
Dwight Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
James McHenry
United States Secretary of War
1800 - 1801
Succeeded by
Henry Dearborn
Preceded by
Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson

Succeeded by
Albert Gallatin

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