Nicholas Gilman, New Hampshire

Nicholas Gilman, New Hampshire

The U.S. revolutionary war against Britons was fought in battlefields and ideologically along power corridors. One of the participants happened to be Nicholas Gilman Jr. who served in the Continental Army. With a life spanning between August 3, 1755 and May 2, 1814, Nicholas was amongst the delegates in the Continental Congress and a U.S. Constitution signatory who later represented New Hampshire as a legislator and a senator.

Nicholas' brother John Taylor Gilman served as New Hampshire's Governor for 14 years. His brother's responsibilities and the fact that Nicholas was born during the French-Indian battles, helped Nicholas, the second born in a family of eight, understand the value of patriotism. His political ideologies and military convictions were further shaped by his father's involvement in the fight for economic freedom against the British alongside Enoch Poor and Nathaniel Folsom.


Nicholas took to clerical stints in his father's trading house after his education in a local school. Aged 32, Nicholas, an ardent Federalist represented New Hampshire in the constitutional convention leading to his appointment in 1776 as the administrative officer in the 3rd New Hampshire Regimen. Under the command of Colonel Alexander Scammell, Nicholas was soon to be recognized for his administrative abilities. However, under General John Burgoyne Nicholas experienced his first military defeat owing to inefficient coordination between various states' troops. He kept going despite the defeat and supervised the recruitment and training of more soldiers and this led to victory at the Freeman's Farm battles.

Gilman became General Scammell's assistant and was in 1778 promoted to the rank of captain. The promotion gave him direct access to the Continental Army's top leaders. General Scammell's death however affected him greatly, coupled with his father's death in 1783. He retired from the army and took control of the family's business. His career as a businessman did not last. Having met people like Alexander Hamilton, Gilbert was exposed to various political ideologies and this led him to politics in 1786 following his appointment to Continental Congress by the New Hampshire legislator.

The 1786 Massachusetts unrests convinced Gilman of the need to review the Confederation Articles thus, leading to his role as New Hampshire's representative in the July 1787 Constitutional Convention. He joined John Langdon who was his father's former commander to shape the draft constitution that would win approval across the states. He stayed in New York as a Continental Congress member during the struggle to have New Hampshire's constitution ratified joining forces with his brother John who was a key figure in the top constitution ratification body. The draft passed, 57 to 47 votes.

In 1789 the Gilman brothers' political careers were elevated as John assumed the post of New Hampshire's Governor as Gilman became a member of the House of Representatives. Come 1800 Gilman was elected to the senate where he became concerned about political power abuses directed towards the peasantry. This led him to back Thomas Jefferson in the 1801 elections. In return Jefferson appointed him as a commissioner in the federal bankruptcy body. He made a return to the senate in 1804 as a Jeffersonian.

On his way home from Washington after the 1814 senate recess, Gilman died. Despite his switch from the Federalist Party to the Republican-Democrat's wing, Gilman commands respect as the New Hampshire's son with unmatched political prowess and a conscious thinking pattern embodied in his quotes. He for instance referred to the supreme law of the land as the best that could meet the needs of the States in Convention whether delivered through bargain or compromise, imperfections notwithstanding. This makes Gilman a Soldier-Statesman with accomplishments that have helped shape United States as a democratic and a resilient nation.

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