Historical Highlights

Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire

November 21, 1729
Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Josiah Bartlett signed the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation, but did not attend the 1787 Federal Convention.
On this date Josiah Bartlett was born in 1729 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Bartlett was a physician in Kingston, New Hampshire, when he launched his political career under the rule of Great Britain in 1757. He began as a town selectman before being elected to the general court (the colonial legislature) in 1765. At the same time he also became a justice of the peace and an officer in the militia. As the relationship between the American colonies and the British crown worsened in the mid-1770s, Bartlett’s home burned down. In the aftermath of the fire he confined his activities to New Hampshire but it wasn’t long before he took on a national role. In 1774, Bartlett had helped establish the provincial congress but declined to serve in the Continental Congress, focusing instead on rebuilding his home. The next year, with his home rebuilt, Bartlett served in the Continental Congress where he supported America’s break with the crown and the start of the American Revolution. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence and later served in the state militia. He was appointed to Congress again in 1778, arriving in time to sign the Articles of Confederation before returning to New Hampshire to attend the state constitutional convention. Bartlett served on the executive council until 1782 when he accepted the position as a New Hampshire state judge. In 1787, he was elected to attend the Federal Convention meeting in Philadelphia that drafted the Constitution, but did not attend due to the fact that the state did not provide travel funds. Had he gone to Philadelphia, he would most certainly have joined Roger Sherman of Connecticut as the only people to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Bartlett did, however, later preside over the state ratification convention that approved America’s founding document. In 1790 he was elected governor for a one-year term and was reelected three times. He died in Kingston in 1795, a year after he retired as governor.

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