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Nathaniel Gorham - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Monday, December 23, 2019

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Birth: May 27, 1738
Death: June 11, 1796 (age 58)
Colony: Massachusetts
Occupation: Merchant, Politician
Significance: Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 49); and served as President of the Continental Congress (1786-1787)

Nathaniel Gorham Statue in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

Nathaniel Gorham was born in what is today Boston, Massachusetts to a family descended from Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower. Gorham was apprenticed to a merchant at the age of 15, and he found some success in the field before getting involved in politics. Gorham was elected to serve on the Massachusetts Provincial Congress starting in 1774. In 1778, Gorham was named to the Board of War, a precursor to the Department of Defense. In 1782, Gorham was elected to the Continental Congress (Congress of the Confederation) and during his time in Congress, Gorham was named President of the Congress of the Confederation from 1786 to 1787.  

Gorham was later also named as a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in Philadelphia in the Summer of 1787. At the Constitutional Convention, Gorham played a number of key roles since he sat on the Committee of the Whole which debated the Virginia Plan proposed by James Madison and the Committee of Detail which drafted the Constitution for final discussions.  Gorham was the one who proposed that Senators have staggered terms and that the President would appoint judges to be confirmed by the Senate. On September 17th, 1787, Gorham signed the United States Constitution

After the Constitutional Convention Gorham invested in an enormous tract of land in western New York state, but the investment was a disaster. Gorham ended up broke and died a few years later in 1796 at the age of 58.

Nathaniel Gorham in Philadelphia

Nathaniel Gorham first lived in Philadelphia when he elected as a member of the Second Continental Congress in 1782. While a member of the Second Continental Congress, Gorham worked at Independence Hall until the Capital City left Philadelphia due to the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783. Gorham once again worked in Independence Hall when he helped to write the Constitution of the United States as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Today, you can also see a statue commemorating Gorham for his role in the creation of the United States Constitution in the Signers' Hall exhibit of the National Constitution Center. Signers' Garden pays tribute to the Founding Fathers, including those such as Gorham who signed the Constitution of the United States. The National Constitution Center, Independence Hall and Signers' Garden are stops visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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