DIX, JOHN ADAMS (1798–1879), American soldier and political leader, was born at Boscawen, New Hampshire, on the 24th of July 1798. He studied at Phillips Exeter Academy in 1810–1811 and at the College of Montreal in 1811–1812, and as a boy took part in the War of 1812, becoming a second lieutenant in March 1814. In July 1828, having attained the rank of captain, he resigned from the army, and for two years practised law at Cooperstown, New York. In 1830–1833 he was adjutant-general of New York. He soon became prominent as one of the leaders of the Democratic party in the state, and for many years was a member of the so-called “Albany Regency,” a group of Democrats who between about 1820 and 1850 exercised a virtual control over their party in New York, dictating nominations and appointments and distributing patronage. From 1833 to 1839 he was secretary of state and superintendent of schools in New York, and in this capacity made valuable reports concerning the public schools of the state, and a report (1836) which led to the publication of the Natural History of the State of New York (1842–1866). In 1842 he was a member of the New York assembly. In 1841–1843 he was editor of The Northern Light, a literary and scientific journal published in Albany. From 1845 to 1849 he was a United States senator from New York; and as chairman of the committee on commerce was author of the warehouse bill passed by Congress in 1846 to relieve merchants from immediate payment of duties on imported goods. In 1848 he was nominated for governor of New York by the Free Soil party, but was defeated by Hamilton Fish. His acceptance of the nomination, however, earned him the enmity of the southern Democrats, who prevented his appointment by Pierce as secretary of state and as minister to France in 1853. In this year Dix was for a few weeks assistant U.S. treasurer in New York city. In May 1860 he became postmaster of New York city, and from January until March 1861 he was secretary of the treasury of the United States, in which capacity he issued (January 29, 1861) to a revenue officer at New Orleans a famous order containing the words, “if any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.” He rendered important services in hurrying forward troops in 1861, was appointed major-general of volunteers in June 1861, and during the Civil War commanded successively the department of Maryland (July 1861–May 1862), Fortress Monroe (May 1862–July 1863), and the department of the East (July 1863–July 1865). He was minister to France from 1866 to 1869, and in 1872 was elected by the Republicans governor of New York, but was defeated two years later. He had great energy and administrative ability, was for a time president of the Chicago & Rock Island and of the Mississippi & Missouri railways, first president of the Union Pacific in 1863–1868, and for a short time in 1872 president of the Erie. He died in New York city on the 21st of April 1879. Among his publications are A Winter in Madeira and a Summer in Spain and Florence (1850), and Speeches and Occasional Addresses (1864). He wrote excellent English versions of the Dies irae and the Stabat mater.
His son, Morgan Dix (1827–1908), graduated at Columbia in 1848 and at the General Theological Seminary in 1852, and was ordained deacon (1852) and priest (1853) in the Protestant Episcopalian church. In 1855–1859 he was assistant minister, and in 1859–1862 assistant rector, of Trinity Church, New York city, of which he was rector from 1862 until his death. He published sermons and lectures; A History of the Parish of Trinity Church, New York City (4 vols., 1898–1905); and a biography of his father. Memoirs of John Adams Dix (2 vols., New York, 1883).