Paine Wingate

Paine Wingate (May 14, 1739 – March 7, 1838) was an American preacher, farmer, and statesman from Stratham, New Hampshire. He served New Hampshire in the Continental Congress and both the United States Senate and House of Representatives.[2]

Paine Wingate
Paine wingate.jpg
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793
Preceded byPosition Established
Succeeded bySamuel Livermore
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire's At-large district (Seat 4)
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1795
Preceded byPosition Established
Succeeded byAbiel Foster
Personal details
Born(1739-05-14)May 14, 1739
Amesbury, Province of Massachusetts Bay
DiedMarch 7, 1838(1838-03-07) (aged 98)
Stratham, New Hampshire
Resting placeStratham Cemetery
Political partyFederalist[1]
Alma materHarvard University
Order by Governor John Taylor Gilman for meeting to vote for member of Congress. Paine Wingate and Abiel Foster candidates

Early life, education, ministry, and farmingEdit

Wingate was born the sixth of twelve children, in Amesbury, Province of Massachusetts Bay, in 1739.[3] His father (also Paine) was a minister there. He graduated from Harvard College in 1759.

Wingate was ordained a minister of the Congregational Church in 1763. He became a pastor in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.[4] In 1776, Wingate gave up his ministry and moved to Stratham, where he took up farming.

Political careerEdit

Wingate was elected to several terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and was a delegate to their state constitutional convention in 1781.

In 1788, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. Despite his own background as a preacher, Wingate successfully proposed that the salaries for the two chaplains of the Continental Congress be cut by 25% probably due at least partly to the Confederation's untenable financial problems.[5] Wingate was a strong advocate for ratification of the United States Constitution, writing as follows in March 1788:[6]

[T]hose who are well-wishers to their country, and best know the situation we are in, are most sensible of the necessity of its adoption, and great pains are taken to obtain the end.

New Hampshire appointed him to the first United States Senate, in which he served from 4 March 1789 until 3 March 1793. He was then elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 4 March 1793 to 3 March 1795.

Between 1789 and 1794, the U.S. Senate's deliberations were conducted in secret, which Wingate supported: "How would all the little domestic transactions of even the best regulated family appear if exposed to the world; and may not this apply to a larger body?" He believed that secrecy promoted respect for the Senate: "to be a little more out of view would conduce to its respectability in the opinion of the country."[7]

While in the Senate, Wingate served on the committee that drafted the Judiciary Act of 1789, which set up the federal court system. He was disappointed that the bill "will not extend to a tenth part of the causes which might by the Constitution have come into the federal court". The remaining nine-tenths of cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States were left for the state courts to decide.[8] Wingate voted against the bill, but it passed.[9]

Judicial career, retirement, and longevityEdit

After his national service, he served as an associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1798 to 1808. Once he made up his mind, a change of mind was unlikely. According to Theophilus Parsons, "it was of great importance, that your Judge Wingate should form a correct opinion before he pronounces it—for after that, law, reason, and authority will be unavailing."[10]

With the death of James Madison in 1836, Wingate drew some attention for surviving so long.[11] Before he died at age 98 in 1838, Wingate was one of two surviving delegates to the Continental Congress (along with John Armstrong, Jr.), and the last surviving member of the first United States Congress. For several years he had been the oldest graduate of Harvard. Wingate's wife, Eunice, was the sister of United States Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, and she died in 1843, having passed the century mark.[12] The Wingates are buried in the Stratham Cemetery.[13]


  1. ^ Byrd, Robert and Hall, Mary. The Senate, 1789–1989, V. 1: Addresses on the History of the United States Senate, p. 22 (Government Printing Office 1988).
  2. ^ "A Patriot of Early New England", New York Times (December 20, 1931). This book review refers to Wingate as one of the "Fathers" of the United States, per the title of the book.
  3. ^ Bickford, Charlene et al. Debates in the House of Representatives: Third session, December 1790-March 1791, p. 654 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
  4. ^ Wingate, Charles. The Life and Letters of Paine Wingate. 2 vols., Medford, Mass.: Mercury Printing Co., 1930.
  5. ^ Olree, Andy. "James Madison and Legislative Chaplains", Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 102, No. 1, 2008.
  6. ^ Pickering, Octavius and Upham, Charles. Letter From Paine Wingate to Timothy Pickering (March 29, 1788), Life of Timothy Pickering, Volume 2, p. 376 (Kessinger Publishing 2006).
  7. ^ Swift, Elaine. The Making of an American Senate: Reconstitutive Change in Congress, 1787–1841, pp. 58–59 (U. Mich. Press 2002).
  8. ^ Marcus, Maeva. Origins of the federal judiciary: essays on the Judiciary Act of 1789, pp. 16, 31, 32 (Oxford Univ. Press 1992).
  9. ^ "The New Court Bill", American Law Review, Volume 10, p. 398 (Little Brown and Company 1876).
  10. ^ New Hampshire (Colony) Probate Court, Provincial and State Papers, Volume 21, p. 830 (1892).
  11. ^ The New Yorker, Volume I, p. 398 (September 10, 1836): "'The Last of the Romans' – This was said of Madison at the time of his decease, but there is one other person who seems to have some claims to this honorable distinction. Paine Wingate of Stratham, N.H. still survives."
  12. ^ Nathaniel Bouton, Provincial papers: Documents and records relating to the province of New-Hampshire, from the earliest period of its settlement: 1623–[1776], Volume 7, p. 107 (1873).
  13. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

External linksEdit

  • United States Congress. "Paine Wingate (id: W000633)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Find a grave: Paine Wingate
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Seat established
Member of the House of Representatives
from New Hampshire's At-large (Seat 4) congressional district

Succeeded by
Abiel Foster
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. senator (Class 2) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: John Langdon
Succeeded by
Samuel Livermore
Honorary titles
Preceded by
tied with 1st Senate
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

November 14, 1832 – March 7, 1838
Succeeded by
John Rutherfurd
Preceded by
Charles Carroll
Oldest living U.S. Senator
November 14, 1832 – March 7, 1838
Succeeded by
Samuel Smith