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If fidelity to freedom and democracy is the code of our civic religion, then surely the code of our humanity is faithful service to that unwritten commandment that says “We shall give our children better than we ourselves had.”
—Governor and Presidential Candidate Josiah Bartlet at the Nashua VFW Hall, 1997[src]

Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet, Ph.D., D.H.L. (Hon.), is an American politician who served as the President of the United States from 1999 to 2007. Prior to this, he was the Governor of New Hampshire and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a very successful politician, having never lost an election. His career in politics spans 36 years, from 1971 to 2007.

Bartlet was born and raised in the state of New Hampshire. After attending the University of Notre Dame and the London School of Economics, he began his career as an economics professor. His political life began in 1971 when he was elected to the New Hampshire State House of Representatives.

In 1991, Bartlet was diagnosed with a case of relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis, a fact which he kept secret from most people from almost a decade until he made it public in the middle of his first term as president. Despite receiving heavy criticism from many politicians, his popularity with the American people remained high and he was re-elected in a landslide.

Bartlet was succeeded as president by Matthew Santos. He then returned to New Hampshire and oversaw the building of his presidential library.


Josiah Edward Bartlet, known to people close to him as “Jed”, was born in the early 1940s in New Hampshire, the elder of two sons. His great-great-great-great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlet, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.[3] While his father was Protestant, his mother was a devout Roman Catholic; he was brought up a Catholic and remained so for the rest of his life. As a child, his brother Jon locked him in a steamer trunk.[4]


He walked every morning from his house to his school, a short distance away, with a fresh handkerchief in his pocket and a spring in his step [5]. His father was the headmaster of a prestigious preparatory school. Dr. Bartlet used his headmaster position to allow his son to enter the school [6]. While attending it in 1960, he got in trouble with his father for a stunt he pulled on Loomis, the school’s Literature professor, co-writing with a group of friends an article condemning him for banning books such as “Fahrenheit 451,” and works by D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller. This was one of the many times Bartlet’s father slapped him [7]; their relationship would always be strained (or, as he later described it, "complicated").

Bartlet scored 1590 (ten points shy of a perfect 1600) on his SAT, retook the test, and again received 1590 [8]; many, including Leo McGarry and Stanley Keyworth, thought it strange that he took the test again after receiving a near-perfect score. After high school, Bartlet was accepted to Harvard University, Yale University, Williams College and the University of Notre Dame; he decided on the latter as he was considering entering the clergy [9]. According to Abbey, Bartlet speaks four languages (presumably including Latin and German); none of them, however, is French [10].

University of Notre Dame[]

Bartlet did his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame [11]. His consideration of becoming a priest ended when he met his future wife Abigail, and changed his studies [12]. Notre Dame, however, would have been an all-men school at the time; thus it is likely she attended Saint Mary's College, the sister institution across the street. Bartlet might have attempted to play baseball, but Toby Ziegler and Charlie Young noted years later he was a bad pitcher [13], and “hated America's pastime”. He graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame with a degree in American Studies, and minored in Theology [14].

London School of Economics[]

After Notre Dame, Bartlet was accepted to the prestigious London School of Economics [15]. When he was 26 years old, he wrote a paper supporting the deregulation of Far East trade barriers that created an uproar in his school, and he was “nearly thrown out” [16]. Regardless, he would go on to receive an MSc and eventually a doctorate from the school [17].

Economics Career[]

Bartlet became a tenured economics professor [18] at Dartmouth University, another major goal in his life [19]. While at Dartmouth he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters [20]. As a professor and researcher, Bartlet became world-famous, eventually winning the Nobel Prize in Economics [21]; he actually “tied” for that year with another economist from Japan, which always annoyed him. He also wrote the book Theory and Design of Macroeconomics in Developing Nations (which, judging from Toby Ziegler's reaction to the President’s less-than-serious suggestion to talk about it on live television, wasn’t a major page-turner) [22].

It is likely he won the Nobel Prize while he was a politician, as he references his daughter Ellie being in third grade at the time of his award (presumably the late 1970s), and he entered politics presumably in the early 1970s.

Political Career[]

By 1971, Josiah Bartlet had been elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives [23], where he started his political career and learned its basics [24]. In 1984 Bartlet ran against Republican Elliot Roush for United States House of Representatives and won [25], but seemed to harbor resentment towards Roush due to a perceived tendency to twist Scriptural teachings in order to support bigoted beliefs. Bartlet would go on to serve three terms in the House.[26] Because he served in the House, not the US Senate, he felt unaware of Senate rules.[27] During his first term he went on a congressional delegation to East Germany, during which time Ellie Bartlet ran out into the no-man's land in Checkpoint Charlie.[28] Believing that Congress would never create real campaign finance reform while having to face elections, he proposed legislation that would grandfather it in 30 years later. In 1987 he gave a floor speech about the civil war in El Salvador in which he called for a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention from the United States - he subsequently had it stricken from the congressional record, but it later became the outline for the Bartlet Doctrine he unveiled in his second inaugural speech as president.[29] As congressman he also cast a controversial vote against the New England Diary Farming Compact, citing his concern about child poverty ("I didn't want it to be harder for people to buy milk") - this harmed many farmers in his district, though he still went on to become governor of the state.[30]

MS Diagnosis[]

Sometime in the early 1990s, over a time of several months, Bartlet started to feel unwell and had a pain in his right leg, both of which eventually went away. However, the pain came back with numbness about two years later; he’d also feel dizzy and his vision blurred sometimes. An ophthalmologist detected abnormal pupil responses and ordered an MRI; a radiologist discovered plaques on Bartlet's spine and brain, leading the doctors and Bartlet himself to learn that he has a relapsing-remitting course of Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system. Prior to the series’ start, only a little over a dozen people knew, including himself as well as Abbey, their three daughters, his brother, the Vice-President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other doctors. Bartlet kept the diagnosis concealed from the rest of the world.

Governor of New Hampshire[]

Bartlet served two terms as Governor of New Hampshire[31], from 1991 to 1995, and then from 1995 to 1999[32].[33] As Governor, Bartlet was very popular with the people of New Hampshire and won his second term with 69% of the vote, a very impressive margin for a Democrat in the Libertarian Conservative-leaning state [34]; so popular in fact that, when he later decided to run for President of the United States, his staff urged him to all but ignore the New Hampshire primary, as he had no chance of losing it. Governor Bartlet was for strict state seatbelt laws but failed to act on it, which wasted time in the state legislature [35].

Bartlet also signed into state law the Historic Barn and Bridges Preservation Act, which he later regretted when it interfered with plans for his Presidential Library—it provided that certain barns, bridges, and other buildings over a century old were to be preserved [36]. As Governor, Bartlet had to deal with several state lawsuits [37]. One of his primary concerns as Governor was tourism; during his terms, he somewhat reluctantly approved the use of the slogan “New Hampshire, It’s what’s new” and efforts to encourage snowmobile and "fall foliage" tourism [38]. He appointed Robert Nolan to the New Hampshire State Medical Board, possibly because he was a colleague of his wife [39]. Early in his first term and on the advice of his parole board, he released a man named Wallace Turner, who later carried out a murder - this decision haunted Bartlet politically and personally years later.[40]

President of the United States[]

See United States Presidential Election (1998), the Bartlet Administration and “Bartlet for America (1998)” for more information.
Josiah Bartlet

It was at the end of his governorship that Bartlet’s good friend Leo McGarry suggested a run for the Presidency. Following the concession by one-time frontrunner Senator John Hoynes, Bartlet offered him the position of running mate. He won the 1998 election with 303 electoral votes, but only a plurality of the popular vote (48% of 100 million votes cast).

As President-Elect, Bartlet was angered that the outgoing Republican President seemed to stick him with military conflict in the Philippines; he remarked that he’d have to remember to “fire Fitzwallace”, but this never came to pass.

Bartlet was inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20th, 1999. His administration was a relative success in his first term. In May 2000, an attempt was made on the president's life while coming out of a town hall meeting in Rosslyn, Virginia; it was later revealed that he wasn’t the original target, and made a full recovery. In the spring of 2001, Bartlet disclosed that he suffered from a relapsing-remitting course of Multiple Sclerosis, which threatened his chances for reelection in 2002; still, he announced he’d seek a second term against his Republican opponent Robert Ritchie. After clearly coming on top in a presidential debate, he won reelection in a landslide victory. Bartlet’s second term began on January 20th, 2003.

In May 2003, Vice-President Hoynes resigned in the wake of a sex scandal. Later that same month, Bartlet's youngest daughter Zoey was kidnapped. Feeling that he couldn't perform his duties objectively while worrying about his daughter, he invoked the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, temporarily handing over presidential powers to the next in line of succession; as the administration had no vice president at the time, Republican Speaker of the House Glen Allen Walken was sworn in as Acting President. Zoey was eventually rescued, and Bartlet resumed power three days later.

In December 2005, while traveling aboard Air Force One to a summit in China, Bartlet was left working from a wheelchair after a major MS episode. He gradually regained feeling but was relegated to walking with a cane. When President-Elect Matthew Santos was inaugurated on January 20th, 2007, Bartlet returned to his farm just outside Manchester, New Hampshire to enjoy life in retirement. The Josiah Bartlet Presidential Library was opened at the beginning of 2010 in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Leo McGarry[]

Jed Bartlet's closest friend throughout the series is Leo McGarry who initially asked him to run for President. When giving advice to the designated survivor on the night of the State of the Union, Bartlet even tells him that in the event of a tragedy that puts him in the Oval Office, he should choose his best friend as his Chief of Staff as he is smarter than him and he'd trust him with his life. Leo is usually the only one other than Abbey who is able to call the President out though usually does it privately. The two do have some rough spots such as when Bartlet fires Leo after Leo disagrees with his handling of a situation. The shock and stress of this eventually puts Leo in the hospital. The two do make up though with Bartlet being deeply affected by Leo's sudden death on Election Night.

Josh Lyman[]

Bartlet and Josh began with a rocky start as Bartlet was displeased that Leo had fired all the people he knew from his first Presidential campaign, and hired a group of talented but unknown people. However, following Josh's father's death, Bartlet spoke to Josh at the airport, saying that he knew what Josh gave up to work for him. Josh has always believed in Bartlet, even leaving Hoynes' campaign to work for Bartlet's. This is considered a big move since Josh has said he could have gotten Hoynes elected and worked as the Chief of Staff in his White House. Bartlet and Josh's close relationship is first established in the first episode where Bartlet decides not to fire Josh, simply making him promise not to make such a comment on TV again. There are big moments where they are at odds such as when Josh yells at the President in the Oval Office during a PTSD attack. The two remain close though with Josh looking at Bartlet as a father figure. Bartlet returns the familial connection, calling Josh "his son" during his rant against God in Two Cathedrals.

Toby Ziegler[]

Bartlet and Toby are often at odds the most out of everyone in the staff mostly due to Toby's insistence on moral superiority. He often pushes the President a bit too much, making comments about the President's childhood and relationship with his father. This relationship is almost entirely severed when Toby leaks extremely sensitive information to the press in order to attempt to save several astronauts who were stuck on a space station. Bartlet fires Toby, calling him out for always thinking he was morally superior, and stating that while some people may believe Toby is a hero, he will not be one of them. While there is no big reconnection between the two, Bartlet does seem to forgive him, making his pardon of Toby his final act as President. Toby is also invited to the opening of the Bartlet Presidential Library in 2008.

C.J. Cregg[]

Bartlet and C.J. have the same sort of joking relationship that Bartlet has with most of his staff. When C.J. receives death threats in the mail, he is shown to be concerned, even making her sign a letter that will allow him to place a Secret Service agent on her. Their relationship becomes closer after Leo steps down from his position and C.J. is made Chief of Staff. The two work very closely together throughout the last year of Bartlet's Presidency.

Sam Seaborn[]

Bartlet and Sam have a similar bond to Bartlet and Josh as both younger men seem to think of Bartlet as a mentor. During Sam's campaign for the House of Representatives, Bartlet insisted Sam to do it right and not sacrifice his own campaign to prevent making the President look bad. Bartlet also knew that Sam would one day run for President, something he supported.

Charlie Young[]

Other than Leo, Bartlet is probably the closest to his Personal Aide, Charlie Young. While Bartlet


Jed Bartlet’s mother was a Roman Catholic, his father a religious Protestant; due to the poor relationship with him, Jed chose to follow the faith of his loving mother. To this day, Bartlet remains a devout Roman Catholic, attending church every Sunday.



  • Phillips Exeter Academy (1956-1960)
  • B.A. in American Studies (minor in Theology) - University of Notre Dame (graduated summa cum laude) (1960-1964)
  • Masters Degree - London School of Economics (1964-1966)
  • Ph.D. - London School of Economics (1966-1970)
  • Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters - Dartmouth University (1998)


  • Professor of Economics at Dartmouth University
  • 1985: Nobel Laureate in Economics
  • Author: Theory and Design of Macroeconomics in Developing Nations



“Jed” Bartlet was played by Martin Sheen and represents, in many ways, an “ideal liberal president” endowed with a fierce intellect, great if not infallible personal integrity and toughness, and tempered with essential compassion for the less fortunate and a sense of humor.

He wasn’t originally meant to be a key member of what was an ensemble cast, only to make occasional appearances, but he became the series’ main character. Alan Alda (who would play Senator Arnold Vinick), George C. Scott (the star of Patton) and Sidney Poitier were also considered for the role.

The MS scandal is based on Bill Clinton’s impeachment, with whom Bartlet shares several traits. He also has similarities to John F. Kennedy; like him, Bartlet is a New England Democrat that defeated a far more qualified competitor for the Democratic nomination who was a U.S. Senator from Texas and became Senate Democratic floor leader in a short period of time—in Kennedy’s case this was Lyndon Johnson; in Bartlet’s, John Hoynes. Like Kennedy, he hid a serious illness during the presidential campaign that could have prevented him from winning the Democratic primary. Also like Kennedy, after winning the nomination he had to beg his former rival to accept the Vice-Presidency to secure support from the South and win the general election.

People Who Knew[]

This is the list of people who originally knew Bartlet has MS prior to the start of the series, including himself.

This is the list of people who were told of Bartlet’s condition throughout the series:

Notes and references[]

  1. "Liberty is down!" from He Shall, from Time to Time...
  2. "Eagle's by." from Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
  3. “My great grandfather’s great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlett, who was the New Hampshire delegate to the Second Continental Congress”, from “What Kind of Day Has It Been?
  4. “Yes. I remember being locked in a steamer trunk. There were actual steamers in there with me, Charlie. I was in there with seafood”, from “Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail
  5. “I walked to school every morning in weather colder than this”, from “Inauguration: Over There (Part II)
  6. “You’re at the school because I’m the headmaster”, from “Two Cathedrals
  7. From a scene in “Two Cathedrals
  8. “I got 800/790. For the life of me I can’t imagine what I got wrong. Then I took them again, and got 800/790. I mean, is it possible there was some sort of number-two pencil anomaly that could’ve...?”, from “Holy Night
  9. “You were accepted at Harvard, Yale, and Williams”, from “The Portland Trip
  10. The Indians in the Lobby
  11. Bartlet is seen wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt in “Five Votes Down
  12. From a conversation with C.J. Cregg in “The Portland Trip
  13. From a conversation in “Memorial Day”, paraphrasing that the Notre Dame Athletic department would agree to make him wear a special pitching vest, instead of attempting pitching by himself.
  14. “For the record, the President graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with a major in American Studies and a minor in theology”, from “The U.S. Poet Laureate
  15. According to Stanley Keyworth in “Night Five
  16. “When I was 26, I wrote a paper supporting the deregulation of Far East trade barriers. Nearly got thrown out of the London School of Economics. I was young and stupid, and trying to make some noise”, from “The Short List
  17. “He received a Masters and a Doctorate at the London School of Economics”, from “The U.S. Poet Laureate
  18. “I am an economics professor...”, from “The Crackpots and These Women
  19. According to Stanley Keyworth in “Night Five
  20. “...a Doctorate at the London School of Economics and an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Dartmouth University where he was a tenured professor”, from “The U.S. Poet Laureate
  21. “Jed Bartlet, Nobel Laureate in Economics...”, from “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
  22. According to Josh Lyman in “The U.S. Poet Laureate
  23. “28 years ago, I come home from a very bad day at the State House”, from “Pilot
  24. “What about state legislature? It's the place to learn. The President started there...”, from Abu el Banat
  25. “I don't know who Elliot Roush is... I beat him in my first Congressional campaign”, from “The Midterms
  26. “Jed Bartlet, Nobel Laureate in Economics, three-term congressman...”, from “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
  27. The Stackhouse Filibuster
  28. The Wedding
  29. Inauguration: Part One
  30. In the Shadow of Two Gunmen
  31. “...three-term congressman, two-term Governor”, from “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
  32. “I remember a time in the Governor's mansion. It was about ten years ago...”, from “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I "Eight years as governor" - Evidence of Things Not Seen
  33. It is stated in the show that Bartlet was governor for eight years and two terms (i.e. two four-year terms), though in real life and in contrast to most US states, New Hampshire governors serve two-year terms
  34. “I was saying, what I don’t understand is you guys were such fans of the President, you loved him when he was governor”, from “Hartsfield's Landing
  35. “And I was for it then. Never did anything about it because nobody wanted it”, from “The Women of Qumar
  36. “What plaid flannel-wearing, cheese eating, yahoo of a milkman governor signed that idiot bill into state law?... It was me, wasn’t it?”, from “Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail
  37. “Have I ‘ever been party to a lawsuit’? I was governor of New Hampshire! Anybody who...”, from “Bad Moon Rising
  38. From a scene in “Bartlet for America
  39. “Yeah, they worked together for 20 years, and I was the governor who appointed him to the Board”, from “Dead Irish Writers
  40. The Benign Prerogative. Joshua Molina compared this to the Willie Horton scandal in real life from when Michael Dukakis was Massachusetts governor

New Hampshire
Englemann (D) | Gillis (R)
Bartlet (D) | Bartlet | Campbell (D)

Governor of New Hampshire
eventually Wilkins
President of the United States
1999 - 2007
Acting: Glen Allen Walken (2003)
Matthew Santos
Presidents of the United States
WashingtonJ. AdamsJeffersonMadisonJ.Q. AdamsJacksonW. HarrisonPolkPierceBuchananLincolnA. JohnsonGrantHayesB. HarrisonMcKinleyT. RooseveltTaftWilsonHardingCoolidgeHooverF. RooseveltTrumanEisenhowerKennedyL. JohnsonNixonNewmanLassiterBartlet (Walken) • Santos
See Also: MonroeFordCarterReaganG.H.W. BushClintonG.W. Bush