Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George M. Robeson (1869–1877): Secretary of the Navy

George Maxwell Robeson was born in 1829 in Oxford Furnace, New Jersey. He graduated with honors from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1847, studied the law, was admitted to the state bar in 1850, and by 1859 was serving as prosecutor for Camden County.

During the Civil War, New Jersey’s governor appointed Robeson a brigadier general, but Robeson saw no military action. He was named state attorney general in 1867; two years later, he became President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of the Navy, a post he held until the end of the Grant administration in 1877.

Though he had been the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in 1876, Robeson’s candidacy was jeopardized by allegations of corruption. Robeson lost the race and headed to Camden, New Jersey, where he opened a law practice. In 1878, he won his race for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, where he served until 1883. George Maxwell Robeson then returned to his Camden law practice and worked there until he died in 1897.