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Jonathan Trumbull

Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.
Governor of the Connecticut Colony
In office
Governor of Connecticut
In office
Lieutenant Matthew Griswold
Succeeded by Matthew Griswold
Personal details
Born October 12, 1710
Lebanon, Connecticut
Died August 17, 1785(1785-08-17) (aged 74)
Lebanon, Connecticut
Political party None
Spouse(s) Faith Robinson
Children Joseph Trumbull
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr.
Faith Trumbull
Mary Trumbull
David Trumbull
John Trumbull
Alma mater Harvard University

Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. (October 12, 1710 – August 17, 1785) (the original spelling, "Trumble", was changed for an unknown reason) was one of the few Americans who served as governor in both a pre-Revolutionary colony and a post-Revolutionary state. He was the only colonial governor at the start of the Revolution to take up the rebel cause.[1]

Trumbull College at Yale, the town of Trumbull, Connecticut and Trumbull County, Ohio, once part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, are named after him. The mascot of The University of Connecticut is also named "Jonathan" in his honor.


  • Early life 1
  • Revolutionary War 2
  • Post-war 3
  • Notes 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Trumble (1678–1755) and his wife, Hannah Trumble (née Higley), the daughter of John Higley and Hannah Drake. The patriarch of the Trumble family was the immigrant John Trumble (1612-1687), from Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, who was Joseph's grandfather. Jonathan graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in 1727; three years after graduation, during which time he studied theology under the Rev. Solomon Williams at Lebanon, and was licensed to preach at Colchester, Connecticut, this became a Master of Arts degree. He became a merchant with his father in 1731, participating more fully in the business after the death of his brother at sea in 1732. From 1733-1740, he was a delegate to the general assembly, and, in 1739-40, was Speaker of the House. He was appointed lieutenant colonel in Connecticut's militia in 1739.

On December 9, 1735, he married Faith Robinson (1718–1780), daughter of Rev. John Robinson. They were the parents of six children including:

  • Joseph Trumbull (1737–1778), first commissary general of the Continental Army and an early member of the Board of War.
  • George Washington from 1781 to the end of the war; Governor of Connecticut 1798-1809
  • Faith Trumbull (1743–1775), who married General Jedidiah Huntington
  • Mary Trumbull (1745–1831), who married William Williams, signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • David Trumbull (1751–1822), commissary of the Colony of Connecticut, father of Joseph Trumbull
  • John Trumbull (1756–1843), "Painter of the American Revolution"; aide-de-camp of General George Washington for 19 days in 1775.

He served as deputy-governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1766–1769, and, on the death of Governor William Pitkin, became Governor of Connecticut in 1769, serving in that capacity until 1784.

Revolutionary War

British General Thomas Gage arrived in Boston, a city with a history of violent protests against British policies, on May 13, 1774. Given the problems he was inheriting from Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson, within a week of arriving Gage contacted Trumbull and expressed a "readiness to cooperate" with him "for the good of his Majesty's service."[2] When Gage sent Trumbull a request for assistance after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Trumbull refused and made clear his choice to side with the Patriots. He replied that Gage's troops would "disgrace even barbarians," and he accused Gage of "a most unprovoked attack upon the lives and the property of his Majesty's subjects."[3]

On July 6, 1775, along with other officers, the governor of Connecticut commissioned Nathan Hale as a first lieutenant in the newly raised Seventh Regiment.[4]

Trumbull was a friend and advisor of General Washington throughout the revolutionary period, dedicating the resources of Connecticut to the fight for independence. Washington declared him "the first of the patriots."[5] When Washington was desperate for men or food during the war, he could turn to "Brother Jonathan."[6] He also served as the Continental Army's Paymaster General (Northern Department) in the spring of 1778, until the untimely death of his mother forced him to resign his post. As part of his resignation, he requested that the remainder of his back pay be distributed to the soldiers of the Northern Department.[7]


He was one of only two colonial governors to continue in office after independence (the other was Rhode Island's Nicholas Cooke, who assumed office early in the war).

In 1782, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[8] He received an honorary LL.D. from Yale University in 1775 and from the University of Edinburgh in 1787.

Governor Trumbull died in Lebanon, Connecticut and is buried at the Old Cemetery there. His home in Lebanon, the Jonathan Trumbull House, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.


  1. ^ Lewis, Charles H. (2009). Cut Off: Colonel Jedediah Huntington's 17th Continental (Conn.) Regiment at the Battle of Long Island August 27, 1776. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books. p. 7.  ,
  2. ^ Phelps, Page 48.
  3. ^ Eddlem, Thomas R. 25-AUG-03 The New American
  4. ^ Rose, Page 8.
  5. ^ Phelps, Page 59.
  6. ^ Lefkowitz, Page 232.
  7. ^ Misc Letters to Congress 1775-1789
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter T" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 


  • Baker, Mark Allen (2014). Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut, From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. The History Press.
  • Baker, Mark Allen (2014). Connecticut Families of the Revolution, American Forebears from Burr to Wolcott. The History Press.
  • Phelps, M. William (2008). Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy, St. Martin's Press.
  • Lefkowitz, Arthur S.(2003). George Washington's Indispensable Men: The 32 Aides-de-Camp Who Helped Win the Revolution, Stackpole Books.
  • Rose, Alexander (2006). Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, Bantam Books.

External links

  • Biography, genealogy, chronology and bibliography
  • Governor Jonathan Trumbull House and Wadsworth Stable
  • Connecticut State Library
  • The USGenWeb Project, Fairfield County
Political offices
Preceded by
William Pitkin
Governor of the Connecticut Colony
Succeeded by
as Governor of Connecticut
Preceded by
as Governor of the Connecticut Colony
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Matthew Griswold
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