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William Lewis Dayton

In office
July 2, 1842 – March 3, 1851
Preceded by Samuel L. Southard
Succeeded by Robert F. Stockton

Born February 17, 1807(1807-02-17)
Basking Ridge, New Jersey, U.S.
Died December 1, 1864 (aged 57)
Paris, France
Political party Whig, Republican
Spouse(s) Margaret E. Dayton
Profession Politician, Lawyer

William Lewis Dayton (February 17, 1807 – December 1, 1864) was an American politician.

A distant relation of U.S. House Speaker and U.S. Constitution signatory Jonathan Dayton, he was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey to farmer Joel Dayton and his wife. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1825 and worked as a lawyer in Freehold Borough.

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

In 1856, he 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, serving in that role from 1861–1864 throughout most of the American Civil War. There, Dayton successfully lobbied the government of Napoleon III not to recognize the independence of the Confederacy or allow it the use of French ports. Dayton died in Paris in 1864 while serving in that capacity. He was buried in Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, New Jersey.[1]

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


  1. ^ James, George. "IN PERSON; He's Looked at Life From Both Sides Now", The New York Times, February 20, 2000. Accessed December 29, 2007.


  • 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

United States Senate
Preceded by
Samuel L. Southard
United States Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
1842 – 1851
Served alongside: Jacob W. Miller
Succeeded by
Robert F. Stockton
Party political offices
New political party Republican Party vice presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Hannibal Hamlin
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard P. Thompson
New Jersey Attorney General
1857 – 1861
Succeeded by
Frederick T. Frelinghuysen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles J. Faulkner
United States Minister to France
1861 – 1864
Succeeded by
John Bigelow


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