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but one of the fifty-six signers whose names are appended to it.
That one was Matthew Thornton, who, on taking his seat in November, asked and obtained the privilege of signing it. Several who signed it on the second of August, were absent when it was adopted on the fourth of July, but, approving of it, they thus signified their approbation.
The signing of that instrument was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism in those who committed it. It was treason against the home government, yet perfect allegiance to the law of right. It subjected those who signed it to the danger of an ignominious death, yet it entitled them to the profound reverence of a disenthralled people. But neither firmness nor patriotism was wanting in that august assembly. And their own sound judgment and discretion, their own purity of purpose and integrity of conduct, were fortified and strengthened by the voice of the people in popular assemblies, embodied in written instructions for the guidance of their representatives.
Such were the men unto whose keeping, as instruments of Providence, the destinies of America were for the time intrusted; and it has been well remarked, that men, other than such as these, an ignorant, untaught mass, like those who have formed the physical elements of other revolutionary movements, without sufficient intellect to guide and control them--could not have conceived, planned, and carried into execution, such a mighty movement, one so fraught with tangible marks of political wisdom, as the American Revolution. And it is a matter of just pride to
the American people, that not one of that noble band who periled life, fortune, and honor, in the cause of freedom, ever fell from his high estate into moral degradation, or dimmed, by word or deed, the brightness of that effulgence which halos the DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPEN
Their bodies now have all returned to their kindred dust in the grave, and their souls have gone to receive their reward in the Spirit Land.
Congress was assembled in Independence Hall, at Philadelphia, when the Declaration was adopted, and, connected with that event, the following touching incident is related. On the morning of the day of its adoption, the venerable bell-man ascended to the steeple, and a little boy was placed at the door of the Hall to give him notice when the vote should be concluded. The old man waited long at his post, saying, “ They will never do it, they will never do it."
Suddenly a loud shout came up from below, and there stood the blue-eyed boy, clapping his hands, and shouting, “Ring! Ring !!” Grasping the iron tongue of the bell, backward and forward he hurled it a hundred times, proclaiming “ Liberty to the land and to the inhabitants thereof."
HE ancestors of Josiah BARTLETT were from Normandy, whence they emigrated to England. The name conspicuous in English History at an early date. Toward the close of the seventeenth century a branch of the
family emigrated to America, and settled in the town of Beverley, in Massachusetts. Josiah was born in Amesbury, in Massachusetts, in November, 1729. His mother's maiden name was Webster, and
she was a relative of the family of the great statesman of that name of our time.
Young Bartlett lacked the advantage of a collegiate education, but he improved an opportunity for acquiring some knowledge of the Greek and Latin, which offered in the family of a relative, the Rev. Doctor Webster. He chose for a livelihood the practice of the medical profession, and commenced the study of the science when he was sixteen years old. His opportunities for acquiring knowledge from books were limited, but the active energies of his mind supplied the deficiency, in a measure, and he passed an examination with honor at the close of his studies. He commenced practice at Kingston, in New Hampshire, and proving skillful and successful, his business soon became lucrative, and he amassed a competency.
Mr. Bartlett was a stern, unbending republican in principle, yet, notwithstanding this, he was highly esteemed by Wentworth, the royal governor,* and received from him a magistrate's commission, and also the command of a regiment of militia. In 1765 he was elected a member of the provincial legislature of New Hampshire. It was at the time when the Stamp Actt was before the British Parliament, and Mr. Bartlett soon became a prominent leader of a party that opposed the various oppressive measures of the home government. Through Wentworth, magnificent bribes were offered him, but his patriotism was inflexible.
* As a general rule the royal governors looked with disfavor upon all demo. cratic movements, and withdrew and withheld their support from those who manifested decided republicanism in their sentiments. The obvious reason for this was, that the voice of republicanism sounded in their ears like the death knell of their power and place.
+ The Stamp Act required all legal instruments of writing, such as wills, deeds, mortgages, marriage certificates, &c., to be written upon paper stamped with the royal arms of Britain. An officer called a “Stamp Master" was appointed to sell them, and thus Great Britain indirectly taxed her American colonies without their consent.
In 1776 he was appointed a member of the Committee of Safety of his State. The governor was alarmed when this committee was appointed, and to prevent the transaction of other business of a like nature, he dissolved the Assembly. They re-assembled in spite of the governor, and Dr. Bartlett was at the head of this rebellious movement. He was soon after elected a member of the Continental Congress,* and in 1775, Governor Wentworth struck his name from the magistracy list, and deprived him of his military commission. Still he was active in the provincial assembly, and the governor, despairing of reconciliation, and becoming somewhat alarmed for his own safety, left the province. The provincial Congresst assumed the reins of government, and immediately re-appointed Dr. Bartlett colonel of militia.
In August, 1775, he was again chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was again re-elected in 1776. He was one of the committee appointed to devise a plan for the confederation of the States, as proposed
a June, by Dr. Franklin. He warmly supported the proposition for independence, and when, on the second of August, 1776, the members of Congress signed the Declaration, Dr. Bartlett was the first who affixed his signature, New Hampshire being the first State called.
In 1778, he obtained leave from Congress to visit his family and look after his private affairs, which had become mueh deranged. He did not resume his seat again in that body. In 1779 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas of New Hampshire, and the muster master of its troops. He was afterward raised to the bench of the Supreme Court. He took an active part * First convened at Philadel the fourth of September, 1774. † Before actual hostilities commenced, nearly all the colonies were acting independent of the royal governors and their councils, and provincial Congresses were organized, which performed all the duties of independent State legislatures. ,