Josiah Bartlett, “President” of New Hampshire and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

bartlett.jpgThe Bartlett family of Massachusetts traces its roots to William the Conqueror. The family’s records in Stopham show that Brian, a knight (described in ancient sources as Guido de Brionne), and his Esquire, Adam Barttelot, sailed over from the Liseux district of Normandy with William the Conqueror.  They fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and both are listed on the Battle Abbey Roll of participants.  After the Conquest Sir Brian assumed the name of Brian de Stopham and both he and Adam Barttelot received grants of land in Sussex that became the village of Stopham.  These lands had formerly been owned by a Saxon family by the name of Ford.  The name “Berthelot”, thought to be a variant of Barttelot, is still current in Normandy.

There is speculation that Adam Barttelot was a 7th generation descendant of Prince Berthelot, a nephew of Charlemagne.  On the Battle Abbey Role he is named “Berteulay”.  Afterwards it sometimes occurs as “Adam de Bertuilay” and “Adam de Bartelot.”

In the early 14th century Barttelot family members fought under King Edward III in his victories over the French at Crecy in 1348 and at Poitiers in 1356.

In the late 14th  century John Barttelot, the ninth generation in the Barttelot line, married the daughter and heiress of the Stophams and came into sole possession of the Stopham and Barttelot properties.  He captured the castle of Fontenay in France for which Edward the Black Prince gave him a castle for his crest.  He was appointed Lord of the Manor and Patron of the Rectory, M.P. for the Cinque Ports in 1392, and became treasurer of the Earl of Arundel and executor of his will in 1415.

John Barttelot’s son, also named John, fought in the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, and represented Sussex in the Parliament of 1434.

In the eleventh generation of Barttelots the lineage identifies an Edmund Barttelot of Stopham and Ernly who died in 1591, three years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  While this English connection to the American Bartlett families is contested by some, the evidence seems clear.  Professor Bartlett learned on his visit that two of Edmund’s four sons in the English Barttelot records have the same names as the two men—John and Richard—who settled in Newbury, Massachusetts.  He learned that these two sons “sold back” their lands to the then heir of the Stopham estates and thereby had “the pecuniary means” to come to America.  A third son, Thomas, has the same name in the Stopham records as the Thomas who settled in Watertown at about the same time.

John Bartlett and Richard Bartlett, Josiah Bartlett’s great-great-grandfather, came to Newbury in the ship “Mary and John” in 1634, and settled in Newbury in 1635 where Richard worked as a shoemaker.  Richard was an elder in the church, and brought the Breeches Bible with him inscribed with the birth dates of his family members.

2802_1022412631.jpgJosiah Bartlett, the youngest of seven children, where his parents ran a farm called “The Lion’s Mouth,” was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1729. Josiah’s father was also a shoemaker. When Josiah was young he started to study Latin, Greek, and mathematics. Bartlett was extremely bright, and was well adversed in his schooling from a young age. When he was 17, he started to study medicine and became a local doctor’s assistant at the same time. By the age of 21, Josiah Bartlett moved to Rockingham County, New Hampshire, and started his own private practice, beginning his career in 1750. Four years later, Bartlett married his first cousin, Mary, who already shared his surname; together they had 11 children. All of the couple’s surviving sons and grandsons became physicians like Josiah.

By 1765, Bartlett had become active in colonial politics, serving in the New Hampshire legislature from 1765 to 1775, when he became a member of the soon-to-be revolutionary Continental Congress. He was elected a member of the Colonial Legislature. He was noted as a principled legislator, not susceptible to pressure from the Royal Governor, and as an active advocate against British oppression. He was a member of a Committee of Safety, and served as commander of a militia regiment in 1775. In that year he was also elected to represent New Hampshire in the Continental Congress. As a matter of fact, for a few month Josiah was the only New Hampshire delegate. Finally, after Bartlett had pushed rather hard for help, William Whipple and Matthew Thornton  were also sent on behalf of New Hampshire.He voted for independence, and was the first to sign the Declaration, after John Hancock. He continued to serve in 1777 and participated in the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. 


In 1789, Bartlett both declined election as a member of the United States Senate and stepped down from his post as the chief justice of New Hampshire’s Supreme Court. The following year he was elected president of the state of New Hampshire. A subsequent convention, of which he was a member, changed his title to governor; he continued to serve in that role until 1794. He later filled the offices of Judge of Common Pleas and joined the federal Constitutional Convention in 1787. 

He died May 19, 1795. Over 200 years later, writer Aaron Sorkin resurrected the name Josiah Bartlet [sic] as a former New Hampshire governor and current Democratic president of the United States, played by Martin Sheen, in an award-winning television series, The West Wing.

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“Josiah Bartlett,” Find a Grave

“Josiah Bartlett,” Revolutionary War

“Josiah Bartlett,” The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence 

“Josiah Bartlett,” This Day in History

“Josiah Bartlett,” U. S. History

“Josiah Bartlett,” Wikipedia 


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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4 Responses to Josiah Bartlett, “President” of New Hampshire and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

  1. Would you believe I’ve just been watching an episode of The West Wing? Yes they’re running it again and again and agian, and I’m a watching it again etc. XD
    I love watching it , I have the disk-set which I play from time to time. Why? Because I love all the mistakes and inconsistances that goes on. it’s a complete mess and the BBC would never turn ut such stuff. 👿
    There does seem to be somewhat of a fall in stature and position, from Bill the Conks right hand man to a cobbler? WOW, that is a comedown!

    • I was never much of a fan of The West Wing. I watched it occasionally, but not with any consistency.
      When a man starts over, he starts over at the bottom, Brian.
      Perhaps, being a cobbler was his passion rather than an occupation.

  2. Pingback: July 4, 1776 – Meet the Signers of the Declaration of Independence | ReginaJeffers's Blog

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