John Middleton Clayton, an American statesman, born in Sussex co., Delaware, July 24, 1796, died at Dover, Nov. 9, 1850. He graduated at Yale college in 1815, and soon after began the practice of law in his native state, where he rapidly gained distinction. He was elected to the state legislature in 1824, and subsequently became secretary of state. In 1829 he was elected to the United States senate, and two years afterward was a member of the convention to revise the constitution of Delaware. He was reelected to the senate as a whig in 1835, but resigned his seat in 1837 to accept the appointment of chief justice of Delaware, which office he held for three years. He again served as United States senator from 1845 to 1849, when he became secretary of state in the cabinet of President Taylor, and held that post until the death of the president in July, 1850, when he was succeeded by Daniel Webster. Mr. Clayton was again elected to the senate in 1851, and continued a senator until his death. In the senate he early distinguished himself by a speech during the famous debate on Foote's resolution, which, thoiigh relating merely to the survey of the public lands, brought into discussion the whole subject of nullification, He also made an impressive argument in favor of paying the claims for French spoliations.
One of his most remarkable speeches was delivered in 1855 against the message of President Pierce vetoing the act ceding public lands for an insane asylum. While secretary of state, he negotiated in 1850 the celebrated treaty with England, known as the Olayton-Bulwer treaty, guaranteeing the neutrality of and encouragement to lines of interoceanic communication across Nicaragua or elsewhere. In 1851 he zealously defended that treaty in the senate, and vindicated Taylors administration, and his own character as a statesman.