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Nicholas Gilman (August 3, 1755 – May 2, 1814) was a soldier in the Continental Army and a delegate to the Continental Congress representing the state of New Hampshire. After attending the Constitutional Convention, he was a signer of the United States Constitution.
On August 3, 1755, Gilman was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in the Ladd-Gilman House. He was the second son of eight children; his older brother was John Taylor Gilman, a future Governor of New Hampshire. After attending local schools, he worked as a clerk in his father’s countinghouse.
In the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, Gilman was appointed adjutant of the Third New Hampshire Regiment. In this position, he played a critical role in rebuilding the regiment. In the spring of 1777, the 3d New Hampshire engaged the British army under the command of General John Burgoyne at Fort Ticonderoga. Burgoyne's forces were victorious, and the defending garrison was forced to retreat. Later that summer, Gilman's unit participated in two battles at Freeman's Farm, beating the British so soundly that Burgoyne was forced to surrender his entire army. Gilman's administrative skills eventually earned him a position as Colonel Scammell's assistant and a promotion to Captain when the Colonel was promoted to Adjutant General of the Continental Army.
Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention
Gilman served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1787-1789; during this time, he represented his state at the Constitutional Convention. Though he arrived late to the proceedings, he played an active role in helping to shape the document. The other member of the New Hampshire delegation to the Convention was John Langdon.
The day after the conclusion of the convention, Gilman wrote fondly of the newly formed Constitution and the necessity of its adoption. He said of it that it was: "the best that could meet the unanimous concurrence of the States in Convention; it was done by bargain and Compromise, yet, notwithstanding its imperfections, on the adoption of it depends (in my feeble judgment) whether we shall become a respectable nation, or a people torn to pieces by intestine commotions, and rendered contemptible for ages."
Later Political Service
Gilman served as a member of the House of Representatives in the First Congress, and remained in that position through the Second, Third, and Fourth Congresses. During this time, he wielded considerable influence, serving as the chairman of the Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business during the Fourth Cogress. Gradually, his loyalties shifted due to his concerns over growing government power; as a result, he threw his support behind Thomas Jefferson's Democratic Republican Party. In 1804, Gilman was elected to the United States Senate as a Democratic Republican, and remained in the Senate for the remainder of his life.
Gilman died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 2, 1814; he was buried in Exeter Cemetery in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was a strong believer in education, and in his will named Phillips Exeter Academy as a benefactor.
The Ladd-Gilman House was made a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
- The Native Ministry of New Hampshire
- LADD-GILMAN HOUSE (Cincinnati Memorial Hall) New Hampshire
- Historic homes of New England
- American Homes and Gardens, Volume 11, The Ladd-Gilman House
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- NICHOLAS GILMAN, New Hampshire
- The Gilman Family, Traced in the Line of Hon. John Gilman, of Exeter, N.H.: With an Account of Many Other Gilmans in England and America
- Familiar Sketches of the Phillips Exeter Academy and Surroundings