Outline of Major Historical Events Robert Stockton

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Robert's Bio





by: Martha Alderson, M.A.


Robert Stockton took part in almost every major political event in his lifetime and, thus, makes a perfect study of early American history.


  • Robert Stockton born 8/20/1795
  • Princeton, New Jersey
  • Lived on the family estate of Morven amid peach and apple orchards
  • Second son of Richard Stockton, a judge and politician
  • Ten brothers and sisters

U.S. History

Nineteen years before Robert was born, thirteen rag-tag colonies in the Northern Hemisphere along the Atlantic coast united to create the United States of America.

The Thirteen Original States were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Robert’s father’s father signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey.

Robert’s Grandmother wrote and received poetry from George Washington.

The Revolutionary War ~~ 1775-1783

 Robert is born 4 years after the Bill of Rights guaranteed every American:

a)     Life

b)    Liberty

c)     Pursuit of happiness



  • At 13 years old, Robert enters College of New Jersey, known today as Princeton

U.S. History

United States government ended slave trade from Africa to US



  • Robert joins US Navy as midshipman
  • One year left of college
  • 16 years old



  • Robert is the youngest Midshipman-Acting Master’s Mate
  • On-board Commodore Rodger’s flagship—USS President.

U.S. History

The United States declares war on England. At the time, what we know as the War of 1812 was called 2nd War of Independence because the first one hadn’t made a deep enough impression on England.

The United States went to war again Great Britain in 1812 for three primary reasons:

a)     England’s illegal practice of abducting United States sailors for service under the crown

b)    England’s violation of the sovereignty of America’s territorial waters

c)     England’s part in inciting Indian warfare along America’s borders



  • At the end of war, Robert is described as over six feet tall, with a build notable muscular with a magnificent voice that demands attention
  • 20 years old
  • Promoted to 1st Lieutenant
  • Sails to Mediterranean on the USS Spitfire as part of the Commodore Decatur’s squadron in the War with Algiers

U.S. History

During the War of 1812, the Barbary pirate states returned to their practice of attacking American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and holding their crews and officers

They declared war on the United States for failing to pay its required ransom.

On March 3, 1815, the US Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, and a force of ten ships was dispatched under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., veterans of the First Barbary War. Decatur’s squadron departed for the Mediterranean on May 20, 1815.

Shortly after departing Gibraltar en route to Algiers, Decatur’s squadron captured two Algerian ships. By the final week of June, the squadron reached Algiers.

The treaty guaranteed no further ransoms and granted the United States full shipping rights.



  •  Robert is commander of the USS Erie 
  • Serves as part of the American squadron in the Mediterranean
  • In Gibraltar, Robert hears a British officer call an American merchantman captain “a damned Yankee”
  • Robert believes the insult is against his entire country
  • He goes against direct orders and demands a duel

U.S. History

Dueling, a fight between two people over a point of honor, each with a matching deadly weapon—usually pistols, was not uncommon at this time

Missouri Compromise—set the line between the free states and slave states/splitting North/South forever (keep in mind New Jersey—Robert’s home state–is the southern most Northern state



  •  Robert is home at Morven after being reprimanded for duel
  • First leave from the U.S. Navy in 10 years
  • American Colonization Society asks him to find and negotiate for land in Africa for the freed slaves of America
  • Everyone before him had died from the West African yellow fever
  • Robert accepts the mission and negotiates for land known today as Liberia
  • On the way to the west coast of Africa, he arrests two slave ships—American ships flying the French flag
  • Robert is reprimanded even though slave trade is prohibited by American law, French law, and the Law of Nations

U.S. History

Americans are in the midst of persuading France to reduce tariffs on our goods and the ships, Robert captures are sent back to France

American Colonization is controversial

Southern slaveholders want somewhere other than the South to send freed slaves

Northern abolitionists want Liberia only as voluntary asylum for freed slaves with Congressional assistance to go



  • Lieutenant Stockton sails to Charleston South Carolina
  • He meets, falls in love with and marries the Southern belle Harriet Maria Potter
  • Robert takes a formal extended leave from the navy, but does not quit
  • Robert returns to Princeton, New Jersey with his new bride
  • Robert builds a house for his bride down the street from Morven
  • He begins a newspaper—Princeton Courier and gets involved in local politics
  • President of New Jersey Colonization Society Chapter—he believes the great object of colonization is the gradual abolition of slavery

U.S. History

1817 – 1825 is known as the Era of Good Feelings. There was little need for a navy

Population of North outnumbers South by over a million people

Of 5 million people in North, 125,000 are black

Of 4 million people in South, more than 2 million are black



  • Robert’s older brother dies in a duel
  • Several months later, Robert’s father dies
  • Unexpectedly, Robert inherits the entire estate: Morven, orchards, all the family wealth
  • He is 32 years old and has two sons

U.S. History

Congress imposes tariffs that benefit the North and hurt the South

Nat Turner leads an uprising of slaves in Virginia

William Lloyd Garrison begins an anti-slavery newspaper



  • Robert invest $1/2 million (a fortune in those days) in Delaware and Raritan Canal stock to connect New York to Philadelphia through New Jersey
  • Robert and his father-in-law, Mister Potter, hold ½ the stock and unite with the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company

U.S. History

The Erie Canal that connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean was completed five years before and to great success



  • Delaware and Raritan Canal opens
  • With the canal and railroad, Robert controlled transportation in the state of New Jersey
  • Robert is 35 years old and has a little girl and third son



  • Robert is in England raising money for the canal
  • He meets the famous Swedish inventor—Captain John Ericsson, who had built the prototype of and iron tugboat driven by steam power applied to an underwater screw-propeller, a revolutionary concept
  • Robert buys the experimental craft and has it sailed to America
  • He hopes the iron hull will cut through the winter ice which paralyzes the canal for months
  • It works
  • Robert begins plans with Ericsson for the first underwater screw propeller rather than side or rear paddle wheel which were vulnerable to enemy fire
  • He believes whoever rules the sea, rules the world
  • Robert presents the idea to the US Naval Commission
  • Permission denied

U.S. History

Texas becomes an independent nation

The United States is in a financial depression and small banks are failing. Hundreds of people’s savings were wiped out



  • Robert returns to politics and campaigns for War of 1812 hero Major General William Henry Harrison—Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” campaign



  • Harrison elected and dies
  • The new President Tyler offers Stockton the position of Secretary of the Navy
  • Robert declines but gets approval to build the screw-propelled battleship for the United Sates Navy—The Princeton
  • The Princeton’s main battery will consist of two twelve-inch muzzle guns each weighing ten tons each—the Oregon-built in England—and the Peacemaker—the construction of which Robert personally supervises in American using American iron—largest one ever built



U.S. History

1st great wagon train is organized



  • Robert’s ship is finished
  • Robert sails up the Potomac with 400 guests including President Tyler, members of the Cabinet, senators and dignitaries
  • Secretary of the Navy asks for the Peacemaker to be fired again.
  • The Peacemaker explodes, killing the Secretary of State and Navy, a servant and two sailors
  • Robert is burned and temporarily blinded



  • Robert, now a commodore, ails to Texas with secret orders from newly elected President Polk
  • Robert unable to convince the President of Texas—President Jones—to go in for success
  • According to the secret orders from Polk, Robert proceeds to the Pacific to relieve Commodore Sloat as supreme commander of the U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific and, once war with Mexico is declared, take possession of California and establish a government un the American flag
  • Robert is 50 years old (average age in those days was 42 years old)
  • Nine children
  • Famously wealthy
  • Incredibly powerful
  • Robert wanted to redeem himself over the explosion of the cannon he built on the Princeton. He personally knew the men of power who died

U.S. History

President Polk elected

Polk is an unabashed expansionist—wants entire Northern Hemisphere under American rule

Polk tries to buy California from Mexico—Mexico won’t sell

A declaration of war by President Polk would not be viewed favorably in Europe

Texas is a nation and wants to be annexed into the Untied Sates.

Many opposed annexation because Texas will be added as slave state and throw off the delicate balance between free sates and slave states—tension in the country is building

Polk wants Robert to help Texas place itself in an attitude of active hostilities towards Mexico over the Rio Grande boarder.

Polk wants Texas to bring war with Mexico upon annexation into the Union

Polk sends Robert to California by sea, John C. Fremont overland the northern route, and Kearny overland the southern route, all with the same secret orders—take California for the U.S.



  • After five months at sea, Robert arrives in Monterey, California on July 15, 1846
  • Assumes command of the fleet from Commodore Sloat
  • Receives word of war with Mexico
  • Robert declares CA a territory of the US and proceeds to organize a civil government
  • Robert enrolls the Bear Flag battalion of John C. Fremont as volunteers in the American Army
  • Robert sails south to take LA.
  • All is calm. Raises the American flag and the deed is done
  • Robert sends the famous Kit Carson to WA to inform President Polk mission accomplished
  • Robert sails to Yerba Buena (SF) and travels inland to SJ where he buys land hat today is the San Jose Airport

U.S. History

September, Mexican forces surround Los Angeles, Former Governor Pico, General Flores and 500 men retake Los Angles, Santa Barbara, San Diego and issue their won proclamation to “drive insolent invaders from CA soil”

Polk has also sent Kearny to California with orders appointing him as Governor of the American territory of California

Kearny is attacked by Mexican forces at San Pacaul and critically wounded



  • Robert coverts his sailors and marines into land forces and reoccupies Los Angeles
  • Robert ignores Kearny and appoints himself 1st US Governor of California and is later hailed by biographer as “conqueror of the whole of California”
  • Robert makes Fremont governor and commander-in-chief if CA and returns east overland across the Rockies



  • Robert ordered to face court marital for his refusal to recognize Kearny’s authority
  • Robert resigns from the Navy.
  • He is 55 years old

U.S. History

California asks to be admitted into the Union. No one expected this so quickly—the number of people who rushed to California for the Gold Rush qualifies them for statehood

California wants in as a freed sate—a deadlock in Congress ensures and it seems a disruption of the Union must be the outcome

The country his grandfather fought and died for cannot be destroyed. He forgets about this legacy and works incessantly to keep negations open between the North and South



  • Robert elected to U.S. Senate as the youngest member
  • He introduces a bill abolishing flogging in the entire U. S. Navy, which passes into law

U.S. History

The same year women abolitionists see the irony of fighting for blacks what they themselves didn’t have and feminism gets its start.

A new fugitive slave law requires Northerners to return runaway slaves to South—the law is immensely unpopular in North.

Missouri Compromise repealed as unconstitutional—North outraged

Tensions between he North and the South are incredible



  • Robert member of Peace Convention in Washing. His belief= Constitution does not give the federal government the power to interfere with state’s rights
  • Robert stands with South so long as it does not destroy the country or dissolve the Union
  • Southern states start to secede from the Union. Robert takes a public stand for the Union and for the first time turns his back on eh south.

U.S. History

Lincolns elected President with the promise not to touch slavery in states where it exists, but to stop the spread



  • Robert’s wife dies
  • Robert sells his land in CA and retires from public life
  • Robert is 68 yeas old



U.S. History

Lee surrenders to Grant, ending the war

The 13th amendment=neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in U.S.



  • Oct 1st, Robert dies
  • Robert is 71 years old
  • He dies knowing the war is over, but not at all sure Union will survive.


130 years go his biographer writes: “Some will say Robert lived for glory and in the end failed. Yet the glory which he worshiped was glory of doing right, the glory of performing his whole duty. This he did and in so doing his life must be seen as an overwhelming success.”

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