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William L. Dayton

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Title: William L. Dayton  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: United States presidential election, 1856, 1860 Republican National Convention, 1856 Republican National Convention, Robert F. Stockton, United States presidential election, 1860
Collection: 1807 Births, 1864 Deaths, 19Th-Century American Diplomats, Ambassadors of the United States to France, Members of the New Jersey Legislative Council, New Jersey Attorneys General, New Jersey Lawyers, New Jersey Republicans, New Jersey Whigs, People from Freehold Township, New Jersey, People of New Jersey in the American Civil War, Republican Party (United States) Vice Presidential Nominees, Smithsonian Institution Archives Related, United States Senators from New Jersey, United States Vice-Presidential Candidates, 1856, Whig Party United States Senators
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

William L. Dayton

William L. Dayton
United States Minister to France
In office
May 19, 1861 – December 1, 1864
Appointed by Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by Charles J. Faulkner
Succeeded by John Bigelow
21st Attorney General of New Jersey
In office
Preceded by Richard P. Thompson
Succeeded by Frederick T. Frelinghuysen
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
July 2, 1842 – March 4, 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
Died December 1, 1864(1864-12-01) (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, active first in the Whig Party and later in the Republican Party. In 1856, he was the first Republican vice-presidential candidate. During the American Civil War, Dayton served as the United States Ambassador to France.


  • Life and career 1
  • Legacy 2
  • References 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

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 College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1825 and worked as a lawyer in Freehold.

In 1837, he was elected to the New Jersey Legislative Council, 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 4.

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 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 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.

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


  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. ... 


  • 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

  • Biographical Dictionary of the U.S. Congress
  • Photograph of William Lewis Dayton at
  • William L. Dayton Papers at the Princeton University Library
United States Senate
Preceded by
Samuel L. Southard
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Jacob W. Miller
Succeeded by
Robert F. Stockton
Party political offices
New political party Republican vice presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Hannibal Hamlin
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard P. Thompson
New Jersey Attorney General
Succeeded by
Frederick T. Frelinghuysen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles J. Faulkner
United States Minister to France
Succeeded by
John Bigelow
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