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William Lewis Dayton (American National Biography)

Scholarship

Norman B. Ferris, "Dayton, William Lewis," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00305.html.

Reelected by the New Jersey legislature in 1845 for a full six-year term, Dayton was a senator until March 1851. His contributions to the legislation of this era were few, partly because his party was out of power much of the time and partly because of his cautious, self-effacing nature and his insistence on remaining politically independent, refusing to act against his personal convictions under pressure from leaders of the legislature, to which he was beholden for his Senate seat. Eschewing notoriety, he was esteemed more for his quiet common sense than for oratorical eloquence or vision.

On one issue Dayton stood out among his fellow senators. At a time when it would have been politically expedient in New Jersey, the northern state most sympathetic to the South's "peculiar institution," to refrain from antislavery pronouncements, Dayton voted against making war on Mexico as a way of expanding slave territory, supported the Wilmont Proviso excluding slavery from the lands acquired from Mexico, opposed the admission of Texas as a slave state, and spoke vehemently against the Compromise of 1850 as enhancing the power of slavery.

How to Cite This Page: "William Lewis Dayton (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/20204.