NILES, Nathaniel, Hon. [1741-1828] -- American lawyer, preacher, inventor (wire mill) and legislator
NILES, Nathaniel, representative, was born in South Kingston, R.I., April 3, 1741; son of Samuel Niles; grandson of the Rev. Samuel [qv] and Ann (Coddington) Niles of Braintree, Mass., and great-grandson of Nathaniel and Sarah (Sands) Niles of Block Island. He matriculated at Harvard college and was graduated from the College of New Jersey, A.B., 1766, A.M., 1769. He studied theology under the Rev. Dr. Joseph Bellamy, and also studied law and medicine in New York city, where he taught school. He preached in Norwich and Torrington, Conn.; resided in Norwich, where he invented a process for making wire from bar iron, and added to the wire mill, which was run by water, a woolen cord manufactory. He served as a soldier throughout the Revolution, and subsequently removed to Vermont, where he purchased a large tract of land, founded the town of West Fairlee and held religious services in his own house for nearly forty years. He was a representative in the Vermont legislature; speaker and agent to congress in 1784; judge of the supreme court, 1784-88; a member of the council of censors in 1785, 1787 and 1789, and a member of the constitutional convention of 1791. He was a representative from Vermont in the 2d and 3d congresses, 1791-95; was a representative in the state legislature, 1800-02 and 1812-14; a member of the governor's council, 1803-08; a presidential elector, 1805 and 1813, and a member of the constitutional convention of 1814. He led in formulating the demand of the state for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the importation of slaves; was opposed to the bank bill schemes of 1800, but in 1806 voted for the establishment of a state bank. He was twice married: first to a daughter of Rev. Dr. Lathtop of West Springfield, Mass., and secondly to Elizabeth, daughter of William Watson of Plymouth, Mass., and of his sons, Nathaniel was U.S. consul at Sardinia, acting plenipotentiary to Austria and secretary of legation at the court of St. James under U.S. Minister Case. The honorary degree of A.M. was conferred on him by Harvard in 1772, and by Dartmouth in 1791. He was trustee of Dartmouth college, 1793-1820. He is the author of: Four Discourses on Secret Prayer (1773); Two Discourses on Sin and Forgiveness (1773); Two Discourses upon Liberty; The Perfection of God (1777), and The Fountain of Good (1777). He also wrote an ode entitled The American Hero, which was inspired by the news of the battle of Bunker Hill, was set to music by the Rev. Sylvanus Ripley, and became the war song of the New England soldiers. He died at West Fairlee, Vt., Oct. 31, 1828.
[The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans]