Mahlon Dickerson

Mahlon Dickerson

Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Death 5 Oct 1853 (aged 83)
Succasunna, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Succasunna, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Memorial ID 7079592 · View Source
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New Jersey Governor, US Senator, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. Born in Hanover Township, Morris County, New Jersey five years before the Revolutionary War, he graduated from Princeton University in 1789, and after reading law he was admitted to the New Jersey State Bar Association in 1793. During the 1791 to 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, he served as a Private in a New Jersey militia cavalry regiment, and saw no action, but the experience solidified in him the Jeffersonian belief against a standing professional military in favor of citizen-soldier militias in time of need. In 1797 he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would serve as a Court Judge and a member of the city’s Common Council. He rose in the political ranks of the state, serving as Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General from 1805 to 1808 and as it’s Attorney General from 1808 to 1809. When his father died in 1810 he returned to his family home in New Jersey to manage the family’s iron mining business, which he then built into one of the most successful in the country, providing ore to over one hundred forges across the state. He became a Court Judge in 1811, and served several terms in the New Jersey State Legislature. The negative effect of the subsequent War of 1812 on the mining and iron industry in the United States convinced him of the necessity of protective high tariffs, which was another belief he advocated for the rest of this political career. In 1815 he was elected as the 7th Governor of New Jersey, succeeding interim Governor William Kennedy. His two years in office were marked by internal infrastructure improvements in the state, the creation of a fund that eventually was used to establish a public school system, and his advocacy on behalf of the mining and iron industry and for a transportation canal across the state (which eventually became the Delaware and Raritan Canal). It was also marked by his refusal to use government relief to help New Jerseyans distressed by failed crops and severe droughts caused by unusually cold weather in 1816, justifying the inaction due to his Jeffersonian belief of minimal government activity. In 1817 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican Senator to the United States Senate, resigning is Governorship in February of that year. He would serve the next sixteen years in the Senate, where, as the chairman of the Chairman of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures (and later the Committee of Manufactures) he was one of the leading voices for the protective tariffs he strongly believed in. In 1832 he was one of the contenders for the office of Vice President during President Andrew Jackson’s second election campaign, but he was politically outmaneuvered by Martin Van Buren for the spot on the ticket. He left the United States Senate after his last term expired in 1833, and was then re-elected to the New Jersey State Legislature. As a reward though for his staunch support of President Jackson in 1834 he was offered the post of Secretary of the Navy, which he accepted. Wholly unfamiliar and inexperienced with the Naval arm of the United States military, he tenure as Secretary, which extended into President Martin Van Buren’s term, was marked by his strong resistance to reforms, advancements and expenditures advocated by those in the Navy and outside to modernize it and keep it competitive with the other navies of the world. His hostility towards proposed advancements led to great delays in what became known as the 1838 to 1842 South Seas Exploring Expedition, a scientific endeavor authorized by Congress in 1836 (when it did finally go it was much altered due to Secretary Dickerson’s obstruction). The controversy surrounding the Expedition was such that Mahlon Dickerson resigned in June 1838 rather than face a Congressional inquiry about the matter. In 1840 he was appointed and confirmed as Judge of the United States District Court of New Jersey, serving a year in the office. His last political activity was to serve as a delegate to the 1844 New Jersey Constitution Convention, after which he retired to his home in Succasunna, New Jersey, where he passed away at age 83 in 1853. His younger brother, Philemon Dickerson, served as New Jersey’s 12th Governor, and as a United States Congressman. A United States Navy destroyer, the “USS Dickerson” (DD-157) was named in his honor.

Bio by: RPD2

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BORN APRIL 17 1770
DIED OCT 5 1853



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bree
  • Added: 12 Jan 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7079592
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mahlon Dickerson (17 Apr 1770–5 Oct 1853), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7079592, citing First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Succasunna, Morris County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .