Patriot Josiah Bartlett
In 1774, Josiah Bartlett’s house burned down. Although never proven, it was rumored the fire had been set by his political enemies. Bartlett was a Tory, a rebel, and Royal Governor John Wentworth was, of course, a Whig. Bartlett had joined the Colonel assembly in 1774 and became part of the Committee of Correspondence. It was then he began his work with the revolutionary leaders of the other 12 colonies. When his Royal Governor prorogued (dismissed without dissolving) the assembly, Bartlett was elected to its illegal successor, the Provincial Assembly. It was then his house was set ablaze.
Josiah Bartlett was born in the colonies, Massachusetts to be exact. He was the fifth child and the fourth son to Stephen and Hannah Bartlett A the age of seventeen he began studying medicine and after a time of apprenticeship moved to New Hampshire to start his practice at the age of 20. On January 15, 1754 he married his cousin Mary Bartlett and started a family. They had three sons and seven daughters, two of whom died in infancy.
Josiah Bartlett was appointed as delegates to the Continental Congress he declined. He needed to be with his family and rebuild his home. He did, however, stay active in local politics. Such pain he was, that the royal governor, in one of his last acts before he was kicked out New Hampshire in 1175, was to revoke Bartlett’s commissions. At that time Bartlett was a Justice, a militia Colonel and an assemblyman. In 1775, he was again selected to be a delegate to the Continental Congress and that time he attended. For a while he was the only delegate from New Hampshire. Since most of the work on the congress was done in committee form and the most important committees had to have a delegate from each state, meant that Bartlett served on the all. He was in the committee of Safety, Secrecy and Civil Government.
When the question of declaring independence from Great Britain was officially asked in 1776, Josiah Bartlett was the first one to be asked. He answered yes. He also became one of the 56 people
to sign the Declaration of Independence. Although he said he was tire d and declined to return to congress in 1777. He used his medical skill and joined John Stark’s forces at the Battle of Bennington in August of that year. He was reelected to congress in 1778 and served on the committee that drafted the Articles Confederation. However, after they were adopted he again went home. He never came back to federal service.
Though his federal career was over, Bartlett remained in public service in New Hampshire. He became a Judge serving in Court of Common Pleas. He was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1782. Bartlett was also a delegate to the New Hampshire committee for the Adoption of the Constitution. He argued in favor of ratification and on June 21, 1788, his arguments were successful. He was elected chief executive of the New Hampshire Medical Society. When the new State Constitution took effect, he served as governor in 1792 only to resign in 1784 due to failing health He died the next year true patriot.
Whittier (John Greenleaf Whittier was an American Quaker poet) was asked to write a poem for the unveiling of Joshua Bartlett’s commemorative statue . Here is that poem.
Written for the unveiling of the statue of Josiah Bartlett at Amesbury, Mass., July 4, 1888. Governor Bartlett, who was a native of the town, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Amesbury or Ambresbury, so called from the “anointed stones” of the great Druidical temple near it, was the seat of one of the earliest religious houses in Britain. The tradition that the guilty wife of King Arthur fled thither for protection forms one of the finest passages in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
O storied vale of Merrimac,
Rejoice through all they shade and shine,
And from his century’s sleep call back
A brave and honored son of thine.
Unveil his effigy between
The living and the dead to-day;
The fathers of the Old Thirteen
Shall witness bear as spirits may.
Be think henceforth a pride of place
Beyond thy namesake’s over-sea,
Where scarce a stone is left to trace
The Holy House of Amesbury.
A prouder memory lingers round
The birthplace of thy true man here
Than that which haunts the refuge found
By Arthur’s mythic Guinevere.
Not for their hearths and homes alone,
But for the world their work was done
On all the winds their thought has flown
Through all the circuit of the sun.
O hills that watched his boyhood’s home,
O earth and air that nursed him, give,
In this memorial semblance, room
To him who shall its bronze outlive!
And thou, O Land he loved, rejoice
That in the countless years to come,
Whenever Freedom needs a voice,
These sculptured lips shall not be dumb!