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Josiah Bartlett

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Bartlett, a physician turned judge, writes and signs a legal receipt

Josiah Bartlett, 1729–1795.  Signer of the Declaration of Independence; Governor of New Hampshire, 1790–1794.  Autograph Document Signed, Josiah Bartlett, 3¼” x 8¼”, Kingstown (now Kingston), [New Hampshire], March 2, 1789.

Following his career in the Continental Congress, Bartlett served as a judge of both the court of common pleas and then the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature (now the Supreme Court), the state’s highest court.  He was a trial judge from 1779 to 1782 before becoming an appellate judge from 1782 to 1790.  He served as Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature for two years, 1788–1790, before he became Governor of New Hampshire.  Although he was a physician by training, not a lawyer, he was highly regarded for the quality of justice that he dispensed.

It was during Bartlett’s service as Chief Justice that he wrote and witnessed this receipt:  “Kingstown March 2nd 1789  /  Then Received of my unkle [sic] Lieut Samuel Sanborn my late guardian in full of all demands I have against him as my guardian and on Every other amount whatever Recd by one” [signed] Israel Sanborn.  Bartlett has signed as one of the witnesses.  The other witness signing is likely Lt. Samuel Sanborn’s son-in-law, Ebenezer Long (ca. 1760–?), the husband of Samuel Sanborn’s daughter Hannah.

By 1774, Bartlett was an active patriot in communication with Samuel Adams and others in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  His home was burned because of his revolutionary activities.  When the Royalist governor of New Hampshire fled to the safety of a British warship following the battles at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775, however, the new New Hampshire provincial congress chose Bartlett as a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he supported independence from the time he arrived.  He was an active member of Congress, serving on  a number of committees, including those dealing with Safety, Secrecy, Munitions, Marine, and Civil Government.  It is said that when Congress voted on independence on July 2, 1776, Bartlett “made the rafters shake with the loudness of his approval.”  Two days later, Bartlett voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, and he was the second to sign it, behind John Hancock, when the delegates signed the engrossed document on August 2, 1776.

This is an exceptionally nice document, especially for its age.  The text and Bartlett’s signature are bold.  There are three vertical folds that have been flattened over the years and are not particularly noticeable unless the document is turned correctly in the light.  Pencil notes on back state that Bartlett has written and signed the piece.  Overall the document is in very fine condition and would be exceptional framed with a portrait of Bartlett.




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