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Jonathan Dayton - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Monday, December 23, 2019

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Birth: October 16, 1760
Death: October 9, 1824 (age 63)
Colony: New Jersey
Occupation: Soldier, Politician
Significance: Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 26); served as United States Congressman (1791-1799); served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1795-1799); and served as United States Senator from New Jersey (1799-1805)

Jonathan Dayton Statue (Center) in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

Jonathan Dayton was born in New Jersey, and he was the son of a prominent merchant. Dayton attended college at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Dayton's studies were interrupted when the Revolutionary War began, which led to Dayton leaving college and joining the Continental Army at the age of just 15. Dayton served under George Washington, and he participated in significant combat including at the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown. Dayton also was part of the Winter Encampment with Washington's Army at Valley Forge.

After the Revolutionary War, Dayton became involved in politics, and he served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1786-1787. Dayton was named as a representative of New Jersey to serve as a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in Philadelphia during the Summer of 1787. At the Constitutional Convention, Dayton was the youngest member and helped to debate, draft and sign the Constitution of the United States.

After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Dayton was elected as a Congressman and represented his district in New Jersey. While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dayton rose to role of Speaker of the House and held the role until he was elected to the United States Senate representing New Jersey in 1799. Dayton served as one of New Jersey's U.S. Senators until 1805 when his associations and business dealings with Aaron Burr were called into question. Although Dayton was cleared of wrongdoing, his national political career was ended by the scandal. However, Dayton remained popular in New Jersey and worked within the New Jersey State Legislature off and on until his death in 1824 at the age of 63.

Jonathan Dayton in Philadelphia

Dayton actually fought in the present day City of Philadelphia since the Battle of Germantown took place in what is today a neighborhood in Philadelphia. Dayton first lived in Philadelphia when he helped to write the United States Constitution as a member of the Constitutional Convention, which met at Independence Hall in 1787. Dayton also worked in Congress Hall first as a U.S. Congressman and then as a U.S. Senator from 1791-1799 while Philadelphia was the Capital city of the United States. Today, you can also see a statue commemorating Dayton for his role in the creation of the United States Constitution in the Signers' Hall exhibit of the National Constitution Center. Signers' Garden pays tribute to the Founding Fathers, including those such as Dayton who signed the Constitution of the United States. The National Constitution Center, Congress Hall, Signers' Garden and Independence Hall are all visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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