|3rd United States Secretary of the Treasury|
January 1, 1801 – May 13, 1801
|Preceded by||Oliver Wolcott|
|Succeeded by||Albert Gallatin|
|4th United States Secretary of War|
June 1, 1800 – January 31, 1801
|Preceded by||James McHenry|
|Succeeded by||Henry Dearborn|
|United States Senator|
March 4, 1799 – May 30, 1800
|Preceded by||Theodore Sedgwick|
|Succeeded by||Dwight Foster|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 1st district
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1795
|Preceded by||Fisher Ames|
|Succeeded by||Theodore Sedgwick|
|Born||May 14, 1761|
Boston, Massachusetts, British America
|Died||May 4, 1816 (aged 54)|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (BA)|
Samuel Dexter (May 14, 1761 – May 4, 1816) was an early American statesman who served both in Congress and in the Presidential Cabinets of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Born in Boston in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to Samuel Dexter, a Massachusetts politician, he was the grandson of Samuel Dexter, the fourth minister of Dedham. He graduated from Harvard University in 1781 and then studied law at Worcester under Levi Lincoln Sr., the future Attorney General of the United States. After he passed the bar in 1784, he began practicing in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.
He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served from 1788 to 1790. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Federalist, serving in the 3rd Congress. He served in the United States Senate from March 4, 1799, to May 30, 1800 (the 6th Congress).
During a House discussion on a Naturalization Bill in 1795, Virginia Representative William Branch Giles controversially suggested that all immigrants be forced to take an oath renouncing any titles of nobility they previously held. Dexter responded by questioning why Catholics were not required to denounce allegiance to the Pope, because priestcraft had initiated more problems throughout history than aristocracy. Dexter's points caused an infuriated James Madison to defend American Catholics, many of whom, such as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, had been good citizens during the American Revolution, and to point out that hereditary titles were barred under the Constitution in any event.
In December 1799, he wrote the Senate eulogy for George Washington. Dexter served in the Senate for less than a year, and resigned in order to accept his appointment as United States Secretary of War in the administration of President John Adams.
During his time at the War Department he urged congressional action to permit appointment and compensation of field officers for general staff duty.
When Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott Jr. resigned in December 1800, Adams appointed Dexter as interim secretary, and Dexter served from January to May 1801. With incoming President Thomas Jefferson wanting to delay his choice for Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, for a recess appointment in May, Dexter agreed to retain his duties as Secretary of the Treasury for the first two months of Jefferson's term. In a letter to his wife on March 5, 1801, Gallatin said that Dexter had behaved "with great civility."
He returned to Boston in 1805 and resumed the practice of law. He left the Federalists and became a Democratic-Republican because he supported the War of 1812. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 1814, 1815 and 1816.
Dexter was an ardent supporter of the temperance movement and presided over its first formal organization in Massachusetts. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1800.
Dexter died on May 4, 1816, shortly before his 55th birthday and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Simon Newton Dexter and Andrew Dexter Jr. were his nephews.
Samuel W. Dexter, founder of Dexter, Michigan, was his son.
Samuel Dexter is the namesake of Dexter, Maine. The USRC Dexter (1830) was named in his honor.