Mahlon Dickerson

Mahlon Dickerson
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
In office
July 23, 1840  February 16, 1841
Appointed by Martin Van Buren
Preceded by William Rossell
Succeeded by Philemon Dickerson
10th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
July 1, 1834  June 30, 1838
President Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
Preceded by Levi Woodbury
Succeeded by James K. Paulding
7th Governor of New Jersey
In office
October 26, 1815  February 1, 1817
Preceded by William Kennedy
as Acting Governor
Succeeded by Isaac Halstead Williamson
United States Senator from New Jersey (Class 2)
In office
March 4, 1817  January 30, 1829
Preceded by John Condit
Succeeded by Theodore Frelinghuysen
United States Senator from New Jersey (Class 1)
In office
January 30, 1829  March 4, 1833
Preceded by Ephraim Bateman
Succeeded by Samuel L. Southard
Pennsylvania Attorney General
In office
July 22, 1808  January 9, 1809
Preceded by Joseph B. McKean
Succeeded by Walter Franklin
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1770-04-17)April 17, 1770
Hanover Township, New Jersey
Died October 5, 1853(1853-10-05) (aged 83)
Succasunna, New Jersey
Political party Democratic-Republican, Democrat
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Judge
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch New Jersey Detached Militia
Rank Private
Battles/wars Whiskey Rebellion

Mahlon Dickerson (April 17, 1770  October 5, 1853) was an American judge and politician. He was elected Governor of New Jersey as well as United States Senator from that state. He was twice appointed Secretary of the Navy - under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren. He was the elder brother of New Jersey Governor Philemon Dickerson.


Born in Hanover Township, New Jersey, he was educated by private tutors and graduated with an A.B. from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1789. He then studied the law to be admitted to the bar in 1793.

During the Whiskey Rebellion, he served as a private in the Second Regiment Cavalry, New Jersey Detached Militia.


After his militia service, he settled in Philadelphia, and began practicing in Pennsylvania courts in 1797. He served as a Judge of the Mayor's Court, and as a member of the Philadelphia Common Council in 1799. He was named state commissioner of bankruptcy in 1802, served as adjutant general of Pennsylvania from 1805 to 1808, attorney general of Pennsylvania from 1808 to 1809, and as Philadelphia city recorder from 1808 to 1810.

He returned to New Jersey, settling in Morris County in 1810. Elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1811, he served one term. He was law reporter for the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1813 to 1814, and a justice of the same from 1813 to 1815. He was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1815 and served until 1817, having been elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate in 1816.

Dickerson served in the Senate from March 4, 1817 to January 30, 1829, when he resigned, but he was immediately reelected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Ephraim Bateman and served from January 30, 1829, to March 4, 1833, for a total of 16 years of service. Dickerson served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Library during the 15th Congress, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce and Manufactures for the 16th through 18th Congresses and the U.S. Senate Committee on Manufactures from the 19th through 22nd Congresses.

In 1833, upon leaving the Senate, he was elected Member of the New Jersey Legislative Council for Morris County and served as Vice President for that term. In 1834 he declined appointment as Minister to Russia. In June of that year, he was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Andrew Jackson and was reappointed by President Martin Van Buren, serving until June 1838. The destroyer USS Dickerson was named in his honor.

On July 14, 1840, Dickerson was nominated by President Martin Van Buren to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey vacated by William Rossell. Dickerson was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 21, 1840, and received his commission on July 23, 1840. However, Dickerson was appointed as a place holder so his brother Philemon wouldn't have to give up his seat in the closely divided House of Representatives until very near the end of the Congress and the Van Buren Administration, so he served less than one year, resigning on February 16, 1841. He was also a delegate to the New Jersey constitutional convention of 1844.


During the 1820s, Dickerson was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions.[1]

Later life

Dickerson died in 1853 in Succasunna, New Jersey and is interred at Presbyterian Cemetery, Succasunna.


Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Morris County is named after him.


  1. Rathbun, Richard. The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917. Retrieved 2010-06-20.


Political offices
Preceded by
William Kennedy
Acting Governor
Governor of New Jersey
October 26, 1815 February 1, 1817
Succeeded by
Isaac Halstead Williamson
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Condit
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
March 4, 1817 January 30, 1829
Served alongside: James J. Wilson, Samuel L. Southard, Joseph McIlvaine, Ephraim Bateman
Succeeded by
Theodore Frelinghuysen
Preceded by
Ephraim Bateman
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
January 30, 1829 March 4, 1833
Served alongside: Theodore Frelinghuysen
Succeeded by
Samuel L. Southard
Government offices
Preceded by
Levi Woodbury
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
James K. Paulding
Legal offices
Preceded by
Joseph B. McKean
Pennsylvania Attorney General
Succeeded by
Walter Franklin
Preceded by
William Rossell
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Philemon Dickerson
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