Born on August 20, 1795, in Princeton, New Jersey, Stockton attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) for a short time. One of Stocktons chief interests was in a short-lived colonization movement to return freed slaves to Africa in 1821. He aided in the selection of the territory of Liberia, and he helped found the New Jersey Colonization Society, of which he was the first president.
Leaving the life of a country gentleman in 1838, Stockton assumed command of the Pacific squadron during the Mexican War. He occupied Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and installed John C. Fremont as governor of the newly organized civil government of California.
However, a heated dispute broke out between Stockton and Gen. Stephen W. Kearny as to who should have supreme authority. The issue was resolved in Kearnys favor by Washington.
Stockton resigned from the navy in 1850 but served a brief term in the U. S. Senate (March 1851-January 1853). He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on October 7, 1866.