American Medical Biographies/Bartlett, Josiah (1729–1795)

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Bartlett, Josiah (1729–1795)

Josiah Bartlett, signer of the declaration of independence, was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, November 21, 1729, the son of Stephen and Mary Webster Bartlett.

At sixteen he began to study medicine with his relative, Dr. Ordway, of his native town. He soon exhausted his preceptor's scanty library and resorted to other physicians for a supply.

In 1750, having completed his medical education, he began to practice at Kingston, New Hampshire.

In 1733 and again in 1735 a "distemper" originated in Kingston, which eluded all the powers of the physicians. This was called the "Throat Distemper or Angina Maligna." The disease spread rapidly, and among children was universally fatal.

The depleting and antiphlogistic course of practice was pursued, but when in 1754 the angina again appeared in Kingston, Dr. Bartlett gave up this method of treatment and used the then new remedy, Peruvian bark, and met with general success.

From his integrity and decision of character Josiah Bartlett was soon appointed a magistrate and in 1765 began his political career as a representative in the Legislature, an office he filled annually until the revolution.

In February, 1775, he was deprived of the commission he he had held as justice of the peace, and the command of the militia by Gov. Wentworth. In the September following, he was appointed by the provincial congress, of which Dr. Matthew Thornton was president, to command a regiment and was chosen a delegate to the continental congress. He accepted both and attended the congress, and when that memorable vote for American Independence was taken the medical colonel's name was first called as representing the most easterly province, and he was the second signer of the Declaration.

In 1779 Col. Bartlett was appointed chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas and in 1782 justice of the Superior Court; in 1788 chief justice of the State; an active member of the convention for adopting the Confederation in 1788 and was chosen a senator in Congress in 1789, a position he declined. In 1790 he occupied the position of president of the State of New Hampshire and in 1793 was unanimously elected the first governor of the State under the new form of government.

Although Dr. Bartlett was actively engaged in politics during these memorable years, he always displayed actively a zealous interest in the welfare of his profession.

He was not only the founder of the New Hampshire Medical Society in 1791, but attended its meetings, taking the time amid the onerous cares of public life. He was the first president of the medical society and was annually elected for three consecutive years, when he resigned.

He married Mary Bartlett, a distant relative, and had three sons, Levi, Josiah and Ezra.

On January 29, 1794, he resigned all public positions on account of increasing infirmities, and died quite suddenly of paralysis on the nineteenth of May, 1795, in his sixty-sixth year.

Biog. of the Signers to the Declar. of Independ., Phila., 1849.
Appleton's Cyclop. Amer. Biog., 1887, vol. i.