Jonathan Dayton (October 16 1760 October 9 1824) was an American politician from the U.S. state of New Jersey. He was the youngest person to sign the United States Constitution and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as the third Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and later the U.S. Senate. Dayton was arrested in 1807 for treason in connection with Aaron Burr's conspiracy, he was never tried, but his national political career never recovered.
Dayton was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) in New Jersey. He was the son of Elias Dayton, a merchant who was prominent in local politics. He graduated in 1776 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). During the Revolutionary War Dayton served under his father in the 3rd New Jersey Regiment and attained the rank of captain by the age of 19.
After the war, Dayton studied law and established a practice, dividing his time between land speculation, law, and politics. After serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (of which he was the youngest member, at the age of 26), he became a prominent Federalist legislator. He was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1786-1787, and again in 1790, and served in the New Jersey State Council (now the New Jersey Senate) in 1790.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1789, he did not take his seat, but was elected and took his seat in 1791. He served as speaker for the Fourth and Fifth Congress. Like most Federalists, he supported the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton, and suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. He supported the Louisiana Purchase and opposed the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801.
Dayton met with Aaron Burr in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and became involved in a "conspiracy" in which Burr later had been accused of intending to conquer parts of what is now the western United States. (This was never proven.) An illness prevented Dayton from accompanying Burr's aborted 1806 expedition, but in 1807 Dayton was arrested for treason. He was released and never brought to trial but his national political career never recovered.
He married Susan Williamson and had two daughters but their marriage date is unknown.
After resuming his political career in New Jersey, he died in 1824 in his hometown and was interred in a vault in St. John's Episcopal Churchyard in Elizabeth.