Nathaniel Gorham or Nathanial was born in Massachusetts in May of 1738. His father was a sea Captain and he had a sister named Elizabeth. Gorham's family was descended from one of the Pilgrims who had traveled to Massachusetts seeking religious freedom on The Mayflower. His ancestor was John Howland who helped to found Plymouth Colony.
Gorham married a widow named Rebecca Call during his mid-20's. Rebecca had nine children when she and Gorham married. She and Gorham had nine more after their marriage.
Gorham became active in politics at the start of the American Revolution. He remained active in politics even after the war had ended. Gorham was a member of the Continental Congress and became the President of the Continental Congress in June of 1786. He served as President until November of that same year.
He was active in local politics and served his home states as a member of the Massachusetts Legislature which was called the Massachusetts General Court at that time. He was also a delegate for the Provincial Congress for a year from 1774 to 1775.
Gorham also served on the Board of War until the board was disbanded in 1781. He also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783 and from 1785 to 1787.
In 1787, Gorham was one of the Massachusetts delegates sent to the Constitutional Convention. He was a chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Because of this, he often was in charge of convention sessions although George Washington was the official President of the Constitutional Convention at the time. Gorham was one of the signers of the Constitution. His work did not end after he signed the document however. After the convention was finished, Gorham campaigned to make sure that the Constitution was approved in Massachusetts.
Gorham and his friend Oliver Phelps purchased a piece of land near the Genesee River in the state of New York. This land had been given to Massachusetts under a 1786 treaty between New York and Massachusetts called the Treaty of Hartford.
The Phelps and Gorham Purchase was approved after Gorham and Phelps paid Massachusetts $1 million. Phelps and Gorham were given rights to the land and given authority to remove Indian settlers from the land. In a short while, they had surveyed the land and portioned it into parcels which they sold to settlers and others. Several years later, the duo was unable to make payments on the unsold portions of land. Robert Morris bought all the unsold parcels and promptly sold most of the land to two companies called The Pulteney Association and The Holland Company. Robert Morris did keep approximately a half a million acres of land. This land was called "The Morris Reserve".
Because Phelps and Gorham were unable to fulfill the obligations of their treaty with the state of Massachusetts, the land was eventually returned to the state.