Nathaniel Silsbee

Nathaniel Silsbee (January 14, 1773  July 14, 1850) was a ship master, merchant and American politician from Salem, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Silsbee
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
May 31, 1826  March 3, 1835
Preceded byJames Lloyd
Succeeded byJohn Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1817  March 3, 1821
Preceded byTimothy Pickering
Succeeded byGideon Barstow
President of the
Massachusetts State Senate
In office
Preceded byJohn Phillips
Succeeded byJohn Mills
Personal details
Born(1773-01-14)January 14, 1773
Salem, Massachusetts
DiedJuly 14, 1850(1850-07-14) (aged 77)
Salem, Massachusetts
Political partyFederalist, Whig
Spouse(s)Mary Crowninshield
RelationsJared Sparks, Son in law.[1]
ChildrenNathaniel Silsbee, Jr., b. Dec. 2 1804[1]
Mary Crowninshield Silsbee, b. April 10, 1809[1]
Georgina Silsbee,
b. January 27, 1824[1] d. January 25, 1901.[2]

Early career

Silsbee was the eldest child of Capt. Nathaniel and Sarah (Becket) Silsbee. At the age of fourteen, to support his family upon the financial failures of his father, he went to sea and learned navigation. His able seamanship won him, at the age of nineteen, command of Elias Hasket Derby's Sloop "Sally". Silsbee continued commanding Derby vessels and had many interesting adventures and exploits with privateers, French Consuls, and such.[3] [4] In 1795 he became part owner of the Schooner "Betsy" and continued to prosper and master his own vessels. In 1801 he placed his brothers, William and Zachariah, in charge of his ships. Nathaniel continued owning vessels in partnerships until the 1840s, but he actively retired from shipping when he commenced his political career.[5]

Nathaniel married Mary Crowninshield, the daughter of one of Salem's wealthiest merchants, on December 12, 1802. Their son Nathaniel (1804-1881) was mayor of Salem from 1849-1850 and 1858-1859.

Political career

United States House of Representatives

Silsbee was elected to the United States House of Representatives (March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1821). He was chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Military Pensions in the Twenty-first Congress. He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1820.

Massachusetts government

He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1821 and the Massachusetts Senate (1823–1825), serving as president. He was a presidential elector in 1824.

United States Senate

He was elected to the United States Senate in 1826 to fill the vacancy in the term ending March 3, 1829, caused by the resignation of James Lloyd. He was re-elected in 1829 and served from May 31, 1826 to March 3, 1835. He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce in the Twenty-third Congress. He was a Whig presidential elector in 1836.


Silsbee resumed mercantile pursuits in Salem, where he died; interment in The Burying Point, the second oldest cemetery in the US.


The town of Silsbee, Texas is named for him.
The Nathaniel Silsbee House is a historic building in Salem, MA maintained by the Knights of Columbus.


  1. Cooke, Harriet Ruth Waters (1889), The Driver family: a genealogical memoir of the descendants of Robert and Phebe Driver, Cambridge, MA: University Press, p. 474.
  2. Perkins Institute and the Massachusetts School for the Blind (1902), Seventieth Annual Report of the Trustees of the Perkins Institute and the Massachusetts School for the Blind for the year ending August 31, 1901, Boston, MA: Perkins Institute and the Massachusetts School for the Blind, p. 47.
  3. Curley, Jerome (2012-02-26). "From Teen Captain to the Knights of Columbus". Salem Patch. Salem, Ma. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  4. King, Caroline Howard (1937). When I lived in Salem, 1822-1866. Brattleboro, Vt.: Stephen Daye Press.
  5. "SILSBEE FAMILY PAPERS, 1637, 1754-1907" (PDF). Peabody Essex Museum. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Timothy Pickering
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1817 - March 3, 1821
Succeeded by
Gideon Barstow
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
James Lloyd
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
May 31, 1826 - March 3, 1835
Served alongside: Elijah H. Mills, Daniel Webster
Succeeded by
John Davis
Political offices
Preceded by
John Phillips
President of the Massachusetts Senate
1823 1826
Succeeded by
John Mills
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