Josiah Bartlett Biography

Josiah Bartlett was a well-known 18th century American physician and politician who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence. This biography provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline

Josiah Bartlett
Quick Facts

Birthday: November 21, 1729

Nationality: American

Famous: Political Leaders American Men

Died At Age: 65

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Josiah Bartlett

Born in: Amesbury

Famous as: Former Governor of New Hampshire

political ideology: Democratic-Republican Party

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Mary Bartlett

father: Stephen

mother: Hannah Bartlett

children: Josiah Bartlett Jr.

Died on: May 19, 1795

place of death: Kingston

Founder/Co-Founder: New Hampshire Medical Society

More Facts

education: Harvard College Library

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Josiah Bartlett was an American physician and politician who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence on behalf of New Hampshire. As a physician, he was a daring person who never feared experimenting with new methods for curing diseases. He had the courage to question the traditional yet unscientific methods that were often employed in those days to treat certain diseases. In his career as a politician also, he displayed exemplary courage in speaking his mind on several political issues and never giving in to pressures from the Royal Governor. His intelligence and capabilities were apparent from a young age and he had an insatiable thirst for knowledge frequently visiting libraries to read books on various topics. He was a bright youngster who received high quality formal education and was well versed in Greek and Latin. He was sent to study medicine under Dr. James Ordway when he was only 16, and began practicing when he was only 21. He was fearless in trying new treatment methods—when he was down with a fever that almost claimed his life, he cured himself by drinking cider at regular intervals. The physician had active political interests and was elected to the Continental Congress as a representative of New Hampshire. On 2 August 1776, he formally affixed his signature on the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

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Josiah Bartlett
Childhood & Early Life
  • Josiah Bartlett was born as one of the seven children of Stephen Bartlett and Hannah Mary Webster. His father was a shoemaker who did well in his work and raised his large family comfortably.
  • He received formal education under the tutelage of an Amesbury school master and also learnt Latin and Greek.
  • He began to study medicine under Dr. James Ordway when he was only 16 years of age. He received practical instructions from the doctor and read books from the library to supplement his knowledge.
  • Along with medicine and science, he also had an interest in mathematics and history.
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Career
  • He moved to Kingston in 1750 to begin his career in medicine. He boarded with Rev. Joseph Seccombe who had the custody of an extensive library. Bartlett used this opportunity to acquire vast knowledge, both, from his interactions with Rev. Seccombe and through the use of his library.
  • He was only 21 at the time he began his practice, but soon became a well-known doctor due to his expertise. At that time, he was the only doctor in the small settlement of Kingston, and hundreds of families depended upon him for medical care.
  • In 1752, he had a raging fever which threatened to take his life. Going against the conventional practice of those days to keep a patient away from cool liquids, he insisted on drinking cool cider at regular intervals which ultimately cured him.
  • Kingston was struck by an epidemic of diphtheria, known as ‘throat distemper’ at that time, which killed over 100 people. Small children were especially susceptible to this disease. He used a new procedure, using Peruvian bark and other medicines to successfully treat the patients.
  • In 1757, he was made the town selectman and he earned the trust and respect of his fellowmen due to his concern for public welfare. He actively participated in public affairs and was known to be a man of high moral principles.
  • He was elected as a member of the New Hampshire Provincial Assembly to represent Kingston in 1765.
  • The Royal Governor, John Wentworth made him the justice of peace in 1767. He also became a colonel of his country’s seventh military regiment. The underlying motive behind Bartlett’s appointment by the Governor was to enlist his support for the Royalist cause.
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  • Bartlett was a patriot who supported colonial interests, and opposed the policies of the British government. This brought him in conflict with John Wentworth who had hoped to procure the doctor’s support for Royalist cause.
  • In 1774, he joined the Committee of Correspondence of the Provincial Assembly, which was at that time deemed illegal. There he came into correspondence with other patriots from different colonies, the most notable of them being Samuel Adams.
  • Some of his opponents burned down his house, but even that could not deter this fervent patriot from working for the cause he believed in. He shifted his family and rebuilt the house.
  • All the positions he held under the Royal government were cancelled by 1775.
  • He was selected as a delegate to the Continental congress in 1775 and again in 1776. Being the only delegate from New Hampshire, he served on all the committees including Safety, Munitions, Secrecy and Civil Government. Later on other delegates were added.
  • On 4 July 1776, Bartlett was the first to vote for independence, and on 2 August 1776, he was second person to sign the Declaration Independence, after John Hancock.
  • In 1777, he accompanied John Stark’s forces to the Battlle of Bennington as a physician to tend to injured and sick soldiers.
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  • Even though he was not a professional lawyer, he was made a judge of the common pleas in 1779. He served in this position till 1782 when he was appointed an associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
  • He was chosen as the Chief Justice of the state supreme court in 1788.
  • Due to advancing age and health problems, he was unwilling to take any more positions, but in 1790 he was elected as the Chief Executive of New Hampshire. After serving for four years he retired in 1794.
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Major Works
  • His major achievement as a physician was discovering an effective cure for diphtheria. The disease had claimed over a 100 lives in Kingston, New Hampshire during the 1750s when he found out that Peruvian bark was effective in treating the patients, thereby greatly reducing further causalities.
  • He was the first person to vote for the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the second to sign on the Declaration on 2 August 1776.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married his cousin, Mary Bartlett, in 1754. The couple had 12 children of whom four died in infancy. Mary was an intelligent and hardworking woman who supported her husband and raised the children well even in his absence.
  • He suffered from poor health during his later years and died in 1795 at the age of 65.
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Trivia
  • He was a tall, well built man who took care to dress impeccably.
  • As a doctor he was not afraid to experiment on himself or his children.
  • Three of his children and several grandchildren followed his legacy and became doctors.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- Josiah Bartlett Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/josiah-bartlett-3929.php
Last Updated
- November 13, 2017

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