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Samuel Dexter (1801) - Secretary of the Treasury

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Samuel Dexter was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 14, 1761, and graduated from Harvard University. Dexter, a lawyer by profession, began his career in public service as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1788-1790).Three years later, he gained a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (1793 -1795) as a member of the Massachusetts delegation; he would later hold a seat for two years in the U.S. Senate (1799-1800).In 1800, Dexter accepted an offer from President John Adams to join his cabinet as secretary of war. By the end of the year, Dexter found himself fulfilling the duties of treasury secretary and secretary of state as well, a convenient solution for the final months of the Adams presidency.

With the arrival of the Jefferson administration in 1801, Dexter retired from politics and resumed the career in law he had first practiced as a young man from 1784 to 1788. After turning down numerous offers to serve the United States as a foreign minister during the presidency of James Madison, Samuel Dexter died in Athens, New York, on May 3, 1816.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Peter Onuf

Professor Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia. His writings include:

Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (University Press of Virginia, 2001)

Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance (Indiana University Press, 1987)

Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States, 1775–1787 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983)