Jonathan Dayton Sits At The Big Boys' Table

Jonathan Dayton Sits At The Big Boys' Table

Jonathan Dayton was still a boy when he joined the Continental Army in the days before America declared independence.

He participated in the creation of the United States for the next 30 years, serving well into the Jefferson Administration.

Young Jonathan Dayton

Jonathan Dayton had just begun attending Princeton when the American Revolutionary War broke out.  He left Princeton (then known as the College of New Jersey) to join his countrymen in battle.

He was 15 years old.

Jonathan joined the 3rd New Jersey Regiment of his colony’s militia where he served under his father, Elias Dayton.  He was soon promoted to Lieutenant, serving in the New Jersey Campaign and wintering at Valley Forge.

Continental Soldier

Dayton participated in the Sullivan Expedition which traveled through Upstate New York, burning Native American villages and farmland.  

Not long after, he was captured by Loyalists and spent the winter of 1780-81 as a prisoner. However, he was released the following spring.

Dayton rejoined the Continental Army and was present for the American Victory at Yorktown.

Constitutional Convention

After the War, Jonathan Dayton finished his studies and opened a law firm.

Soon after he was called to serve the public when he was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly.

The Assembly chose this young man to represent them as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.  Dayton supported the new government. On September 17, 1787, Jonathan Dayton was the youngest person to sign the United States Constitution.

Congressman

Dayton, still in his 20’s, was elected to the First Session of the United States House of Representatives.  He did not attend Congress, however, until he was elected to a second term.

Jonathan ended up serving throughout the 1790’s, spending four years as Speaker of the House.  In this position, he led the majority party and, therefore, the debates of Congress.

Senator

Before his 40th birthday, Dayton was elected to the United States Senate.

Unfortunately, his Senate career (as well as his political reputation) would take a severe downturn.  He loaned money to his friend, Vice President Aaron Burr, for his adventures to Louisiana. Burr may or may not (he did) have planned to invade Spanish controlled Mexico with the goal of setting up a new nation.

Burr’s plan did not work out...well...as planned, and he was tried for treason.

While Dayton probably did not know the full extent of Burr’s campaign, he did invest in it. Dayton was also accused of treason and put on trial. Jonathan was cleared of all charges, but, the court of public opinion found him guilty.

Dayton retired from his political career and he lived a full and, by all accounts, happy life.

Conclusion

Jonathan Dayton was one of the youngest officers to serve in the American Revolution.  

He spent his formative years at war and became dedicated to public service.

Dayton is forever ingrained in United States history as the youngest signer of the Constitution and, though his political ambitions ended sourly, he played a prominent role in the creation of the House of Representatives.  

What did you find interesting about Jonathan Dayton?  Let me know in the comments!

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