Josiah Bartlett (1729-1795) physician, Revolutionary patriot, chief justice and governor of New Hampshire, was born in Amesbury, Mass. He was educated in the common schools, and studied medicine. He opened practice in 1750 in the town of Kingston in southern New Hampshire. He was married on Jan.15, 1754, to his cousin, Mary Bartlett of Newton, N. H.
They had twelve children. He was elected to the Provincial Assembly in 1765. In 1767 he was appointed by the royal governor, John Wentworth, a justice of the peace and soon after a colonel of a regiment of militia, but when he took the side of the patriots he was dismissed from these offices, in February 1775. Previously, in 1774 he was recognized as an active patriot by his appointment on the important Committee of Correspondence of the Provincial Assembly and by his election to that Assembly’s Revolutionary successor, the first Provincial Congress, which chose him as one of two delegates from New Hampshire to the first Continental Congress. Although he was unable to accept this election, because of the recent destruction of his house by fire, believed to have been set because of his activity in the popular cause, in 1775-76 he was again chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in the latter year was the first to vote in favor of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, to which his name was duly affixed.
In I778-79 he was the first to vote for the proposed Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union which took effect Mar. 1, 1781. In 1779 New Hampshire appointed him chief justice of its court of common pleas. In 1782 he was promoted to be associate justice of the superior court, and to chief justice in 1788. He ended his service on the bench in 1790.
Tradition and his own reported statement make it probable that his decisions, like those of other lay judges of that period, were based upon equity. Some of the ablest lawyers of that time declared that justice was never better administered in New Hampshire than when the judges knew very little law. In 1790 and each of the two following years he was elected to the highest office in the State, that of president. In June 1793, he was chosen as the first governor of the state. At the close of his term of office in 1794, because of ill health he withdrew from politics.
He died at his home in Kingston on May 19, 1795.