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Josiah Bartlett

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

JOSIAH BARTLETT was born November 21, 1729 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He received the rudiments of a classical education and when he was only sixteen he started studying medicine. He served as an apprentice for five years to a relative, Dr. Ordway, of Amesbury. In 1750, after gaining the experience he needed, young Bartlett moved to Kingston, New Hampshire, set up his practice, married a cousin, Mary Bartlett of Newton, New Hampshire, and was soon busy raising he first of his twelve children.

Dr. Bartlett's medical practice flourished, in part due to the fact that in 1752 when drained by a fever, he was cured by a treatment of his own after that of the local physicians had failed. He learned from this experience the value of freedom from inflexible rules in practice. During the prevalence of an alarming throat disease in 1754, he used Peruvian bark with great success, although other physicians opposed this treatment.

Dr. Bartlett's political career began in 1765 with his appointment as a provincial legislator, an office which he filled annually until the revolution. Here he frequently opposed the royal policy. Governor Wentworth, hoping to gain his support, appointed him a magistrate and later, in 1770, to the command of a militia regiment.   His staunch support of the cause of the Patriots led to his dismissal from the post of justice of the peace by the Royal Governor and presumably, to the burning of his house. In 1774, the loss of his house prevented his serving as delegate to the first continental congress, but he was reelected to the second and was present when the Declaration was adopted and signed. As the roll was called from north to south, it was Dr. Bartlett who cast the very first vote for independence on July 4, 1776 as the senior member representing New Hampshire.


In June 1776, Dr. Bartlett was appointed general naval agent, and resigned from congress sometime that fall. In 1777 he was with Stark at Bennington, engaged as agent of the state in providing New Hampshire troops with medical supplies. In March 1778, Dr. Bartlett was again elected to congress, and still again the following August. In October he obtained a leave of absence to attend to his private business, and from that time was prominent in state rather than national affairs. In 1789 the death of his wife caused him to suffer a great depression, and he declined an election to the United States Senate, pleading advanced age. He was, however, chosen president of New Hampshire in 1790 and served three successive years, and when the title was changed to Governor, he was the first man to bear it, an office he held until 1794.

Josiah Bartlett died May 19, 1795 in his sixty-sixth year.

Source: Centennial Book of Signers

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