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Nicholas Gilman

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Title: Nicholas Gilman  
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Subject: United States congressional delegations from New Hampshire, Francis Gardner, Dudley–Winthrop family, William Plumer, 13th United States Congress
Collection: 1755 Births, 1814 Deaths, American Congregationalists, American People of English Descent, American People of Welsh Descent, Continental Army Officers from New Hampshire, Continental Army Staff Officers, Continental Congressmen from New Hampshire, Democratic-Republican Party United States Senators, Dudley–winthrop Family, Federalist Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Gilman Family of New Hampshire, Members of the United States House of Representatives from New Hampshire, New Hampshire Democratic-Republicans, People from Exeter, New Hampshire, Signers of the United States Constitution, United States Senators from New Hampshire
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Nicholas Gilman

Nicholas Gilman, Jr.
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
March 4, 1805 – May 2, 1814
Preceded by Simeon Olcott
Succeeded by Thomas W. Thompson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1797
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Jonathan Freeman
Personal details
Born (1755-08-03)August 3, 1755
Exeter, New Hampshire
Died May 2, 1814(1814-05-02) (aged 58)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Resting place Exeter Cemetery, Exeter
Political party Democratic-Republican
Residence Exeter, New Hampshire
Occupation merchant, state treasurer, U.S. Representative At-large
Religion Congregationalist
Signature

Nicholas Gilman, Jr. (August 3, 1755 – May 2, 1814) was a soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and a signer of the U.S. Constitution, representing New Hampshire. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives during the first four Congresses, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1804 until his death in 1814.

His brother John Taylor Gilman was also very active in New Hampshire politics, serving as Governor of New Hampshire for 14 years, as well as a principal benefactor of Phillips Exeter Academy. Their childhood home in Exeter is now the American Independence Museum.

Family background and early life

Order by Nicholas Gilman, Treasurer of New Hampshire, Exeter, 1781

Gilman was the second son in a family of eight children. Born during the French and Indian War, he was soon aware of the military responsibilities that went with citizenship in a New England colony. After attending local public schools, he became a clerk in his father's trading house, but the growing rift between the colonies and Great Britain quickly thrust Gilman into the struggle for independence. New England merchants in particular resented Parliament's attempt to end its "salutary neglect" of the financial and political affairs of the colonies by instituting measures to raise and to enforce the raising of revenue-measures that many Americans considered violations of their rights as British citizens. Gilman's father, along with Nathaniel Folsom and Enoch Poor, emerged as a leader of the Patriot cause in Exeter.

He represented his community in the New Hampshire Provincial Congresses, which met just after hostilities broke out at Lexington and Concord in 1775 and which later drafted the one hundred and thirty eight state constitution. During the American Revolution he served as the state's treasurer. His oldest son, John, was a sergeant in Exeter's company of militia that marched to fight the Redcoats around Boston. Nicholas remained behind, but already an ardent supporter of the Patriot cause, he likely trained with the local militia regiment.

He was thirty-two at the constitutional convention. He represented New Hampshire.

Revolutionary War

In November 1776, a committee of the state legislature appointed young Nicholas Gilman to serve as adjutant, or administrative officer, of the Alexander Scammel. A superb combat officer, Scammell made good use of Gilman's administrative talents in the task of creating a potent fighting force out of the limited manpower resources at hand-a combination of raw recruits from around the state and ragged veterans of the Trenton-Princeton campaign. In time the 3rd New Hampshire would be recognized as one of the mainstays of General Washington's Continental Army.

Because New Hampshire lay along the major invasion route from Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain to participate in an attempt by American forces to halt the advance of a powerful army of British and German regulars and Indian auxiliaries under General John Burgoyne. Difficulties in coordinating the efforts of several different states turned Gilman's first military experience into one of defeat. The veteran British troops outflanked the fort, and only at the last minute did the garrison, including the 3d New Hampshire, escape capture by making a dangerous night .

Portrait miniature of Gilman painted by John Ramage, c. 1790. Winterthur Museum

The American retreat lasted through the early summer, until a combination of British transportation difficulties and delaying tactics employed by the continentals finally slowed the enemy advance. This delay allowed time for a mass mobilization of New England militia, including a New Hampshire Regiment of volunteers led by John Langdon and Gilman's father. It also provided Major General Horatio Gates with time to establish new positions near Saratoga, New York, to block Burgoyne's further advance, and then, once Gates had a numerical advantage, to cut off the British line of withdrawal to Canada. During this campaign Gilman was busily employed in supervising the training and readiness of Scammell's men. He participated with his unit in two important battles at Freeman's Farm, where Burgoyne's units were so pummeled that "Gentleman Johnny" was eventually forced to surrender his whole army.

Neither Gilman nor Scammell was granted a respite after this great victory. Less than a week after the British surrender, the 3rd New Hampshire set out to reinforce Washington's main army near Steuben, Knox, Greene, and others. He personally saw action in the remaining battles fought by Washington's main army, including Monmouth and Yorktown, while continuing to hold his captain's commission in the New Hampshire Line. The death of Colonel Scammell, however, during the preliminary skirmishing before Yorktown robbed him of much of the joy of that great victory. Following the death of his father in late 1783, he retired from military service and returned to Exeter to assume control of the family's business.

Statesman

Exeter, New Hampshire, home of Hon. Nicholas Gilman

Gilman's career as merchant proved short-lived. His career as statesman continued for decades. Gilman's service as a Continental Army officer had exposed him to many of the ideas of such prominent nationalists as Washington and Continental Congress. He was also selected in 1786 to represent the state at the Annapolis Convention. Although he was unable to attend, his selection recognized Gilman's emergence as a nationalist spokesman, since the convention had been called specifically to address the country's serious economic problems and the inability of the separate states or Congress to solve them.

The outbreak of unrest and latent insurrection in western Massachusetts in late 1786 further strengthened Gilman's commitment to changing the Articles of Confederation. That same year, he help to suppress the Paper Money Riot. He was pleased to serve his state as a representative at the Constitutional Convention that met in July 1787. Although he and fellow New Hampshire delegate John Langdon, his father's former commanding officer, reached Philadelphia after the proceedings were well under way, they both immediately joined in the debates and helped hammer out the compromises needed to produce a document that might win approval in every state and region.

General orders of Third New Hampshire Regiment as assistant to the adjutant general

During the subsequent struggle to secure New Hampshire's ratification of the Constitution, Gilman remained in New York as a member of the Continental Congress, but he kept in close touch with his brother, John, who was one of the leaders of the states ratification forces. Working in tandem, the brothers used all of their considerable political influence to engineer a narrow 57-47 margin of victory in the final vote.

When the First Congress of the new United States of America convened in New York in 1789, Gilman was in attendance as a member of the House of Representatives, a seat he filled for four terms. During this period the Gilman brothers became a feature of New Hampshire politics. John Gilman became governor, a post he would hold for fourteen terms, while a younger brother embarked on a career in the state legislature. After returning to Exeter, Nicholas Gilman resumed his own political career in 1800, serving a term as state senator.

During this time Gilman's political loyalties began to change. Ever a staunch nationalist, he had supported the Federalists while that party led the fight for a more binding union of the states. But once that concept was firmly established, Gilman became increasingly concerned with the need to protect the common man from abuses of power by government. As a consequence, he gave his support to the Democratic-Republican party that was beginning to form around Thomas Jefferson. In

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