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Dayton, William L.

Born: 1807-02-17 Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Died: 1864-12-01 Paris, France

William L. Dayton graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1825. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1830. He married Margaret Elmendorf Van Der Veer in 1833, with whom he had seven children. Dayton won election to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1837 as a Whig but soon left the position to serve as an associate judge of the New Jersey supreme court. He resigned in 1841 to return to his law practice but was appointed to the U.S. Senate the following year and remained there until 1851. He opposed the Mexican War and supported the Wilmot Proviso. With the loss of his senate seat, Dayton again returned to his law practice. He joined the Republican Party and emerged from the 1856 National Convention as the vice presidential nominee under John C. Fremont, beating Abraham Lincoln for the nomination. After the failed campaign, Dayton became the New Jersey attorney general and remained in that office until 1861, when President Lincoln appointed him ambassador to France. Although he did not speak French, Dayton effectively pressured Napoleon III to refrain from intervening in the Civil War.

Norman B. Ferris, "Dayton, William Lewis," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 6:280-81.