GEORGE MAXWELL ROBESON was a lawyer by trade. He served as a Union general during the Civil War, and then as Secretary of the Navy during the Grant administration.
George M. Robeson was born in Oxford Furnace in Warren County NJ on March 16, 1829. He pursued an academic course and was graduated from Princeton College in 1847; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1850 and practiced in Newark and subsequently in Camden; appointed prosecuting attorney for Camden County in 1858; was active in organizing the State troops for service in the Civil War and was commissioned brigadier general by New Jersey Governor Parker.
After the war, he was appointed New Jersey state attorney general, serving from 1867 to his resignation June 22, 1869, when, on June 25, 1869 he was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Ulysses S. Grant, replacing Adolph E. Borie who served only a few months. He held the position until the end of Grant's second term, serving from June 26, 1869 until March 4, 1877. After leaving the Cabinet, George M. Robeson ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from New Jersey in 1877. In 1879 he was elected U.S. Representative from New Jersey's 1st Congressional District, serving until 1883. While a member of the House of Representatives he made another attempt, in 1881 at a Senate seat, this too was unsuccessful. During the 47th Congress, (1881-1883), he was chairman of Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy.
Defeated in his bid for re-election in 1883, George M. Robeson Robeson returned to his law practice and worked there until his death in Trenton, Mercer County, NJ, on September 27, 1897. He is buried at Belvidere Cemetery, Belvidere, N.J.
George M. Robeson lived at 214 North Third Street. After his passing, his home was bought by Elizaberth Carlin, who lived there until 1940.
NEW JERSEY SOCIETY, SONS OF THE REVOLUTION
First among the societies of this character to be formed in Trenton was apparently the New Jersey Society, Sons of the Revolution. Although this is a State society of a national organization, it was formed by Trenton men, descendants of Revolutionary ancestors. From that time to this Trentonians have been conspicuous in the New Jersey Society of the Sons, many of them holding high office in that organization.
Judge Garret D. W. Vroom, a distinguished jurist of this city, always greatly interested in America's early history, Colonel S. Meredith Dickinson, descendant of one of the most gallant officers of the Revolution, and former Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson were three of those who signed the call for the meeting January 6, 1891, at which the New Jersey Society was formed.
It was at a meeting March 3, 1891, that the formal organization took place, and Colonel Dickinson was elected to the presidency. Clement H. Sinnickson, of Salem, was elected as vice-president; John A. Campbell, secretary; General Thomas S. Chambers, treasurer; Foster C. Griffith, registrar; Morris H. Stratton, of Salem, historian; and General George M. Robeson, Judge Vroom, General S. Duncan Oliphant, H. H. Hamill and Dr. William Elmer, all of this city, Bayard Stockton, of Princeton, C. A. Bergen, Peter L. Voorhees and William John Potts of Camden, members of the board of managers.
From Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872
MAXWELL ROBESON was, until his appointment to the Secretaryship of the
Navy, a resident of Camden, New Jersey, where as a lawyer, he had
attained eminence, both in professional and social life. He is a son
of William P. Robeson, a native of Philadelphia, who was an Associate
judge of the Philadelphia county court. He comes from a family that
have been long distinguished in both law and politics. His maternal
uncle, J. P. Maxwell, and his grandfather, George C. Maxwell, were
members of Congress from New Jersey.
Robeson was born in the town of Belvidere, Warren County, New Jersey,
in the year 1829. At an early age be matriculated at Princeton
College, and, when under eighteen years of age, graduated with
distinguished honors. Subsequently he began the study of law, at
Newark, New Jersey, in the office of Chief Justice Hornblower, and
although his learning and abilities fitted him to discharge the duties
of his profession before he arrived at a legal age, he was obliged to
wait that period under the rules of the court, before being admitted
his professional duties at Newark, he subsequently removed to Jersey
City, were the larger commercial and manufacturing interests and
population afforded a wider field for his abilities.
1855 Governor Newell appointed Mr. Robeson Prosecutor of the Pleas of
Camden county, and he became a resident of Camden, holding his office
of public prosecutor until 1860.
from that office he became a law partner of Alden C. Scovel, Esq., but
in the year 1865, when Mr. Theodore F. Frelinghuysen, then Attorney
General of New Jersey, was elected Senator, he recommended Mr. Robeson
to the vacant Attorney. Generalship, to which position Governor Ward
Robeson has always taken an active part in polities, and was one of
the most ardent and able supporters of the war policy of the
Government through all our late troubles.
was a member of the Sanitary Commission, and was from the first
associated with the Union League of Philadelphia. In 1862 he was
appointed by Governor Olden a Brigadier-General, and commanded a camp
of volunteers at Woodbury, New Jersey for the organization of troops.
Mr. Robeson is in the prime of life, and is universally esteemed for
his abilities and his agreeable social character.
nomination as Secretary of the Navy, June 25th, 1869, though somewhat
surprising, since he had not been known in political circles outside
of his own State, was not, on the whole, injudicious. He had had no
special training in naval matters, nor any particular acquaintance
with marine affairs, but in these matters he was probably as well
informed as many of his predecessors, better, perhaps, than some of
them; and having spent most of his life in the vicinity of large
seaports, he would naturally have been attracted to the interests of
both our commercial and national marine.
His administration of the Department has been, in general, very creditable to him. Charges were brought against him by a New York editor of corruption, fraud and malfeasance in office; but on a careful and thorough investigation by a committee of the House of Representatives, they were proved to have been unfounded, and the only instance in which there was ground for any semblance of blame was in his payment of the Secor (Jersey City) claim, after it had been once decided adversely by Congress and by an official Board of Examination. The claim was not, perhaps, unjust, and it was reasonable that the contractors, if wronged, should have some means of redress; but it was a somewhat dangerous stretch of official authority for the head of a department to order a large payment made to them on his own motion, after it had been adjudicated by the only competent authority that they had been paid in full. It is due to him to say, however, that in this case there was no just imputation in regard to his honesty and integrity, but that his action was only an error of judgment in regard to the scope of his official powers.
Robeson unquestionably possesses a high order of talent, and may be
regarded as one of the ablest administrative officers of the
genial temper, graceful address and fascinating manners, render him
deservedly popular in private life.
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