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Samuel Lewis Southard
7th United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
September 16, 1823 – March 4, 1829
Preceded by Smith Thompson
Succeeded by John Branch
10th Governor of New Jersey

In office
October 26, 1832 – February 27, 1833
Preceded by Peter Dumont Vroom
Succeeded by Elias P. Seeley
United States Senator
from New Jersey

In office
January 26, 1821 – March 4, 1823
Preceded by James J. Wilson
Succeeded by Joseph McIlvaine

In office
March 4, 1833 – June 26, 1842
Preceded by Mahlon Dickerson
Succeeded by William L. Dayton
Personal details
Born (1787-06-09)June 9, 1787
Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Died June 26, 1842(1842-06-26) (aged 55)
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Political party Democratic-Republican, National Republican, Whig
Spouse(s) Rebecca Harrow Southard
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Teacher
Religion Presbyterian

Samuel Lewis Southard (June 9, 1787 – June 26, 1842) was a prominent U.S. statesman of the early 19th century, serving as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, and the tenth Governor of New Jersey.


The son of Henry Southard and brother of Isaac Southard, he was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, attended the Brick Academy classical school and graduated from Princeton University in 1804. He is descended from one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam, Anthony Janszoon van Salee.

Early career

After teaching school in New Jersey, he worked for several years as a tutor in Virginia and studied law there. Upon being admitted to the bar, he returned to New Jersey, where he was appointed law reporter by the New Jersey Legislature in 1814. Elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1815, Southard was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court to succeed Mahlon Dickerson shortly thereafter, and in 1820 served as a presidential elector. He was elected to a seat in the United States Senate over James J. Wilson [1] and was appointed to the remainder of Wilson's term when he resigned, and served in office from January 26, 1821, to March 4, 1823 when Southard himself resigned. During this time, he was a member of the committee that produced the Missouri Compromise.

Navy career

President James Monroe selected Senator Southard to be Secretary of the Navy in September 1823, and he remained in office under President John Quincy Adams. During these years, he also served briefly as ad interim Secretary of the Treasury (1825) and Secretary of War (1828). Southard proved to be one of the most effective of the Navy's early Secretaries. He endeavored to enlarge the Navy and improve its administration, purchased land for the first Naval Hospitals, began construction of the first Navy dry docks, undertook surveys of U.S. coastal waters and promoted exploration in the Pacific Ocean. Responding to actions by influential officers, including David Porter, he reinforced the American tradition of civilian control over the military establishment. Also on Southard's watch, the Navy grew by some 50% in personnel and expenditures and expanded its reach into waters that had not previously seen an American man-of-war.

Political life

In 1829, after leaving his Navy post, Samuel Southard became New Jersey Attorney General following Theodore Frelinghuysen in that post. Elected Governor over Peter D. Vroom by a vote of 40 to 24 by the joint session of the Legislature in 1832, he re-entered the U.S. Senate in the following year. During the next decade, he was a leader of the Whig Party and a figure of national political importance. As President pro tempore of the Senate, he became Acting Vice President from April 4, 1841 to May 31, 1842 after the death of William Henry Harrison and the Vice President John Tyler becoming President. Failing health forced his resignation from the Senate in 1842. Samuel Southard died in Fredericksburg, Virginia on June 26 of that year. He was interred in the Congressional Cemetery.


During the 1820s, Southard 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]


The destroyer USS Southard (DD-207), (later DMS-10), 1919–1946, was named in his honor. There is also a public park in Basking Ridge, New Jersey named after him.



  •  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Naval History & Heritage Command.
  • Dictionary of American Biography.
  • Birkner, Michael. Samuel L. Southard: Jeffersonian Whig. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984.
  • Ershkowitz, Herbert. Samuel L. Southard: A Case Study of Whig Leadership in the Age of Jackson. New Jersey History 88 (Spring 1970): 5-24.
  • Samuel L. Southard Papers (1783-1893),(bulk 1802-1846), Finding Aid C0250, consisting of 170 boxes and 73.6 lineal feet of original documents of financial and personal affairs, including correspondence from Charles Muir Campbell of Princeton, NJ. Most boxes are organized by year and subject. Access to these documents is Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Manuscripts Division.

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
James J. Wilson
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
January 26, 1821 – March 4, 1823
Served alongside: Mahlon Dickerson
Succeeded by
Joseph McIlvaine
Preceded by
Mahlon Dickerson
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
March 4, 1833 – June 26, 1842
Served alongside: Theodore Frelinghuysen, Garret D. Wall, Jacob W. Miller
Succeeded by
William L. Dayton
Government offices
Preceded by
Smith Thompson
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
John Branch
Legal offices
Preceded by
Theodore Frelinghuysen
New Jersey Attorney General
Succeeded by
John Moore White
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Dumont Vroom
Governor of New Jersey
October 26, 1832 – February 27, 1833
Succeeded by
Elias P. Seeley
Honorary titles
Preceded by
William R. King
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
March 11, 1841 – May 31, 1842
Succeeded by
Willie Person Mangum

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