William Whipple was born in 1730 in the town of Kittery in what is presently the state of Maine. He attended local primary schools as a boy and later went to sea. He was a shipmaster by the time he was in his twenties, probably involved with the slave trade. He left his life at sea in 1760 though, and moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he opened his own mercantile firm.
Once Whipple’s finances were secure, he decided to devote himself to political work. In 1775 he attended the provincial assembly in Exeter as a representative from Portsmouth. He also served on New Hampshire’s council of safety. He began to attend the Continental Congress in 1776, and stayed on until 1779. He was deeply absorbed by military matters and advocated the use of military force over diplomacy. As a brigadier general in the New Hampshire militia, Whipple led four regiments to Northern New York State, and surrounded and attacked the British army at Saratoga.
Towards the end of his life, from 1780 to 1784, Whipple served as a state legislator and also, from 1782 until 1785, as associate justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court. He died in 1785 when he was fifty-five years old. His grave is in Portsmouth’s Union Cemetery.