William L. Dayton, U.S. Senator, Minister to France

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William Lewis Dayton

Birthdate: (57)
Birthplace: Basking Ridge, NJ, USA
Death: Died in Paris, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Joel Dayton and Nancy Dayton
Husband of Margaret Elmendorf Dayton
Father of William Lewis Dayton, Jr.

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William L. Dayton, U.S. Senator, Minister to France


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.

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 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.

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.


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William L. Dayton, U.S. Senator, Minister to France's Timeline

February 17, 1807
Basking Ridge, NJ, USA
April 13, 1839
Age 32
December 1, 1864
Age 57
Paris, France