Jonathan Trumbull: the Sixteenth “Pope” of Connecticut

Autobiography and Biography

March 8, 2022
by Scott M. Smith Also by this Author


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In 1817, as popular sentiment finally forced Connecticut to adopt a new constitution separating church and state, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams: “I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood [Connecticut] is at length broken up, and that a Protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character.”[1] Jonathan Trumbull (1710-1785) ascended to this “popedom” in 1769, becoming Connecticut’s sixteenth governor.

As the only colonial chief executive to assume office prior to the Revolution and remain in power past its conclusion, Trumbull mobilized his fellow Connecticuters to deliver more than half of all the Continental Army’s critical supplies and munitions over the course of the war.[2] The governor’s unwavering support of a central, national authority, first George Washington himself and later the Congress, contributed significantly both to the patriot victory and the formation of a national government; it also earned Trumbull the ire of his constituents, prompting his retirement in 1784.

Puritans migrating from Massachusetts founded the Connecticut colony in 1635. The Puritan (soon to become Congregationalist) ethic preached individual conformity but also community independence. After fleeing persecution in England, the founders were not about to submit meekly to the rule of the Crown in their new home in the wilderness. Of course, the Puritans were perfectly comfortable discriminating against other religious groups, driving Indigenous Peoples from their homelands, and enslaving Blacks.

To ensure its freedoms, Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders” in 1639, possibly the world’s first written constitution. On the surface, the document established a democracy but in reality it outlined a theocracy: “there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God . . . to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches.”[3] Only landholding churchgoing males over twenty-one years of age, roughly 10 to 20 percent of the total population, could vote.[4]

In 1661, fearful that Charles II, just ascended to the English throne, would quash the Fundamental Orders, Connecticut’s governor, John Winthrop, sailed to London to negotiate a “Royal Charter.” In 1662, King Charles agreed, establishing Connecticut as the only colony in North America where voters (as defined above) could elect their own governor, deputy governor and twelve “assistants.” In return, the Crown was entitled to 20 percent of all gold and silver mined in the colony. Amazingly, this 1662 charter also gave Connecticut the right to all lands stretching from Narragansett Bay to the Pacific Ocean.[5] (Connecticut sold its western claim to speculators in 1795 for $1.2 million, establishing a School Fund, but that’s another story.[6])

Through a grassroots organization encompassing assemblymen, judges, sheriffs, school administrators, parish agents, and deacons, as well as rigged election rules, the Puritan elite maintained a stranglehold on state politics for the next 150 years.[7] In 1769, at the relatively advanced age of fifty-nine, Jonathan Trumbull took the reins of this “machine” after a long and distinguished career in public service that stood in stark contrast to his tarnished ledger as a businessman.

Trumbull’s Puritan lineage traced back to his great grandfather who emigrated to Massachusetts from Newcastle, England in the mid-seventeenth century. Jonathan’s father Joseph was one of the early settlers of Lebanon, Connecticut, considered a frontier town in 1705 when he first arrived. Joseph raised cattle for market (owning at least two enslaved people)[8]and did well enough to send Jonathan to Harvard in 1723 to study for the ministry. Of note, Jonathan was ranked thirty-fourth out of thirty-seven boys in his class, based on family standing. When Jonathan’s older brother was lost at sea in 1731, Jonathan scuttled plans for the pulpit and joined his father in the meat trade, taking over completely in 1735.[9]

Jonathan expanded the family business, eventually becoming the largest meatpacker in the colony. From his storefront in Lebanon, Trumbull sold livestock, produce, fish oils, and furs while purchasing sugar and household goods such as coats, caps, clogs, crockery, cutlery, arms, and chocolate colored cloths for distribution through a rural retail network.[10] Trumbull had his own ships on the water trading with British, Dutch, and Germans up and down the coast and the Caribbean. Although Trumbull did not traffic in slaves directly, he (as well as virtually every merchant in New England) played at least an indirect role in the “Triangle Trade” importing enslaved Blacks from Africa.

Trumbull also owned enslaved people himself, purchasing a woman, Flora, in 1736 as well as inheriting his father’s enslaved people after Joseph’s death in 1755. However, there is no record that Trumbull owned any enslaved people during his governorship and might have, in fact, freed his family’s enslaved people during that interim since one of his inherited enslaved women, Grace, worked as a free servant in the Trumbull household from 1760-74.[11]

In 1735, Trumbull gilded his standing in the Puritan community by marrying seventeen-year-old Faith Robinson, a direct descendant of John Robinson, the beloved pastor of the original Pilgrims in Holland and a recognized founder of the Congregational church. She bore six children, all of whom served their country with distinction either personally or through marriage. Their first two sons, Joseph and Jonathan Jr, followed their father’s footsteps to Harvard where they were ranked third and first, respectively, in their classes, a glittering testament to the family’s climb up the ladder of Connecticut society.[12]

While growing his family and his business, Trumbull also embarked upon political and military careers. From 1733 to 1763 he held assorted elected offices including assemblyman, speaker, assistant and judge.[13] He was appointed lieutenant in the county cavalry in 1735 and lieutenant colonel in 12th Connecticut (militia) regiment in 1739 but never actually served on a battlefield. During the French and Indian War, Trumbull was heavily involved in raising Connecticut’s quota of troops and provisioning them, capitalizing on his mercantile expertise and contacts.

By 1765 the Trumbulls demonstrated all the outward trappings of success, but their financial foundation was tottering. For thirty years Trumbull had generously extended credit to his local customers, perhaps to curry votes, while also running up a tab with his London suppliers. He tried several approaches to diversify, including owning stock in the Susquehanna Company which financed Westmoreland, an apt name for a Connecticut settlement in western Pennsylvania, but none proved fruitful. In a high stakes gamble Trumbull, in partnership with his eldest son, built four whaling ships but they all had sunk by 1766. The family debts now totaled over ten thousand pounds (more than $2 million today).[14] Trumbull faced public humiliation, if not prison.

Fortunately, Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act created an uproar throughout the thirteen colonies. Trumbull capitalized on the mayhem to ascend to the highest office in Connecticut, providing much-needed insulation from his creditors for the next two decades. Trumbull launched his “campaign” on November 1, 1765 when he and six other assistants stomped out of the colony’s council chamber rather than join Gov. Thomas Fitch in taking an oath, demanded by Parliament, to enforce the Stamp Act.

Fitch hailed from the town of Norwalk west of the Connecticut River. Over the one hundred and thirty years since Connecticut’s founding, its more adventurous, and less religious, settlers had moved steadily into that region. “Westerners,” especially those who lived closest to the cosmopolitan port of New York City, generally chafed at traditional Puritan dogmas and were as likely to be Anglican as Congregational.Although not enamored of new British taxes, they certainly were not going to revolt over them.“Easterners,” like Trumbull, were incensed at the violation of their rights, allying with the burgeoning Sons of Liberty movement to protest.

In 1766, based on a platform combining anti-tax sentiment with the almost primordial fear of the ordination of an Anglican bishop in Connecticut, the Sons rallied voters to toss Fitch from office.William Pitkin led their ticket as the new governor, while Trumbull served as his lieutenant. When Pitkin passed away in 1769, Trumbull stepped up to the governor’s chair.

Initially Trumbull had to manage his own supporters, the Sons of Liberty, who along with their radical brethren in Massachusetts were pushing the colonies ever closer to the precipice of outright rebellion, a position several years ahead of its time. Personally Trumbull was in a vise as well. A unanimous declaration of independence by all thirteen colonies might enable him to repudiate his London debts; anything less might spark his London creditors to lose faith in him and call in their chits, resulting in his ruin.

Why had the staid colony of Connecticut even elected a profligate debtor as its governor? It is hard to believe Trumbull’s financial plight was a secret, so one can only conclude that the voters chose to overlook it in favor of Trumbull’s resume of public service and his prominent position in the Congregational aristocracy. Of course many citizens, at least in eastern Connecticut, were in debt to Trumbull, so they might fall if he fell. To his credit, Trumbull acknowledged his financial situation and pledged repayment (at least in private correspondence to London), although at home he blamed his troubles on British trade and currency restrictions which aggrieved all his constituents, rather than his own misjudgments.[15]

Accordingly, Trumbull had to tread a fine line between dissent and revolt. In a 1768 letter to William Johnson, Connecticut’s business agent in London, Trumbull warned,“there is an ardent desire and diffusive love of liberty in these colonies and everything that appears an infringement of it is and ever will be grievous.” He followed up a year later: “[Parliament] must soon find that their plan of sending troops into America to overawe and intimidate the people has entirely failed . . . notwithstanding . . . we still retain a degree of fondness for Great Britain . . . and would rejoice to remain united on just and equal terms.” As late as March 1775 Trumbull wrote to Lord Dartmouth, ”the good people of this colony are unfeignedly loyal and firmly attached to His Majesty’s person, family and government.”[16]

Since no British creditor ever took him to court and he was reelected as Connecticut’s governor annually (until 1784 in fact), Trumbull’s balancing act obviously worked; however, as tensions with England mounted, culminating in the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 and the retaliatory Intolerable Acts in 1774, Trumbull raised his true flag by actively supporting the Sons of Liberty in their efforts to expel Tories from his colony.In a speech to the Connecticut legislature, delivered the same month as his letter to Lord Dartmouth, Trumbull proclaimed “[Tories are] depraved, malignant, avaricious and haughty [and called for] manly action against those who . . . seek your ruin and destruction.”[17]

Trumbull concluded his final stint on the “balance beam” in the days following the shots fired at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. After receiving word of the battles, he immediately dispatched Connecticut troops to Boston, provisioning them himself from his storefront in Lebanon. At the same time, he corresponded with both Joseph Warren, the president of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, and Thomas Gage, the British commander-in-chief, to confirm the facts on the ground and make one final attempt at reconciliation: “is there no alternative but absolute submission or the desolation of war?”[18]

Warren’s concern over Connecticut’s commitment to the fight, and the disastrous consequences that might have for Massachusetts, is clear in his May 2 letter to Trumbull: “We fear that our brethren of Connecticut are not even yet convinced of the cruel designs of [the British] Administration against America, nor thoroughly sensible of the miseries to which General Gage’s army have reduced this wretched Colony.”[19] Trumbull’s reply quelled Warren’s anxiety: “[You] need not fear our firmness, deliberation, and unanimity to pursue the measures which appear best for our common defense and safety, and to act in union and concert with our sister Colonies.”[20] Casting aside his own conflicts like a true Puritan, Trumbull ensured that Connecticut was “all in” for the remainder of the Revolution.

One way to measure Trumbull’s importance to the war effort is to analyze his correspondence with George Washington. The governor, sixty-five years old by the start of the war, primarily held court at his home in Lebanon, but also shuttled thirty miles to Hartford, the capital. He met with his Council of Safety 900 times from 1775 through 1783;[21] fast riders carried his messages up and down the coast. From Washington’s appointment as commander-in-chief in June 1775 until he left Boston in April 1776, concluding the New England campaign, Washington wrote thirty-six letters to Trumbull, second only to the fifty-four missives he sent to John Hancock, then president of the Continental Congress. From his initial appointment until he dismissed the troops in November 1783, Washington wrote to Trumbull 190 times, more than any other man who was not one of his generals or president of Congress for at least part of that period.[22]


George Washinton’s letters: June 15, 1775 – November 2, 1783

William Heath 434
John Hancock 376
George Clinton 221
Samuel Huntington 221
Nathaniel Greene 214
Board of War 201
Alexander McDougall 194
John Sullivan 193
Jonathan Trumbull 190
Horatio Gates 186


During the miserable winter at Valley Forge in 1778 Washington penned only three letters to Trumbull but they were all that was needed to motivate the governor to rally his colony to deliver much needed cattle to the starving soldiers.[23]

Since Connecticut was not exactly overflowing with livestock and produce (witness the western migration of its settlers), Trumbull’s success was attributable to his family’s mercantile experience, particularly in the meat business, as well as the Puritan discipline embedded in the upper class elite of the colony. Washington was so impressed with the provisioning of Connecticut’s troops outside Boston in 1775 that he asked Congress to appoint Joseph Trumbull as the commissary general of the entire army. Since Gen. Philip Schuyler, commander of the Northern Army, wanted to install his nephew in that role, he brought charges of corruption against Joseph (a political tactic employed against Benedict Arnold as well), which were subsequently rejected by a court martial.

In June 1776 Washington noted, “few Armies, if any, have been better supplied than the Troops under Mr. Trumbull’s care.”[24] As the war effort foundered in 1777, Washington wanted to pay Joseph Trumbull a commission to retain him but Congress declined, cutting his responsibilities instead, resulting in Joseph’s resignation.Mismanagement of the commissary department after Joseph’s departure, as well as Congress’s decisions to cap the price paid for beef, and then temporarily suspend purchases altogether, contributed to the famine at Valley Forge.[25] In a classic example of “backside-covering,” Congress appointed Joseph to the prestigious war board shortly after forcing his resignation.

Joseph served on the board for less than a year before retiring due to ill health. He died in July 1778, the second of three family tragedies Governor Trumbull suffered during the Revolution (his daughter, Faith, died in November 1775, likely a suicide, and his wife passed away in 1780).

To deliver sorely needed supplies both to Connecticut’s militia units as well as the Continental Army, Trumbull resorted to an assortment of strong-arm measures. He established quotas for each town, implemented an embargo on the export of food and military materials, and raised taxes several times. These measures, piled on top of the inherent conflicts between men serving their own families (by working their fields or otherwise) and serving in the military, wore heavily on the citizenry.

This conflict manifested itself most negatively in smuggling, particularly in the sale of goods to the British. Trumbull cracked down as best he could but the Connecticut coast stretched for one hundred miles: “Many evil and pernicious practices having been for some time past carried on by some of the people of this State with the enemy at New York and on Long Island, by which the enemy have drawn from us large supplies of provisions and refreshments, to the great detriment of our own support—to prevent as much as possible such wicked and illicit communications, measures are now put into execution by this State to watch and intercept all intercourse whatever with the enemy from our shores and borders.”[26]

One of the few areas where harmony existed between personal and national needs was in munitions production, a Connecticut strength. Concerning one of the state’s manufactories, Washington noted, “The business . . . is of so much importance, that I could wish if possible it might meet with no interruption. I am therefore induced to request the favor of your Excellency to grant an exemption to such of the militia as are engaged in this factory.”[27]

While Washington needed Connecticut’s supplies, he could not spare the soldiers to protect the colony from British aggression. William Tryon, the Royal governor of New York, led his first foray into Connecticut in 1777, attacking the depot at Danbury. He returned in February 1779, leading 1,500 troops against the salt works in Horseneck (present day Greenwich). When these efforts did little to slow Connecticut’s production Tryon grew more belligerent, preaching the concept of “desolation warfare” against the civilian population.[28] Learning of these threats, Trumbull beseeched Washington for more support: “the present situation and movements of the enemy strongly indicate invasion or frequent eruptions . . . it is one object of their rage and depredations. This occasions my application and request, that one or two regiments of Continental troops may be stationed at New Haven and New London.”[29]

Washington tried to help but acted too little too late. At first, thinking the British were shifting their entire force from Rhode Island to attack Connecticut, he requested Gen. Horatio Gates to counter in kind; but, upon learning that the attack would only be implemented by an expeditionary force sailing from New York, he reduced the request to a single regiment which arrived after the damage was done.

Tryon landed at New Haven on July 5 with three regiments of regulars plus marines. Facing primarily militia resistance, the British laid waste to the town as well as Fairfield and Norwalk. Never one to apologize for his actions, Washington did try to explain to Trumbull, “It gives me pain that I have it not in my power to afford more effectual succor to the country; but the smallness of our force obliges me to confine my attention so entirely to one essential point [the Hudson River], that I can do little more than lament the depredations of the enemy at a distance.”[30]

Fortunately for Connecticut, Tryon returned to New York on July 14 where he was chastised for his brutality and removed from further commands.In fact, Connecticut was never occupied or heavily foraged by either the British or the Continental army, enabling Trumbull to direct his state’s resources rather than have them confiscated by roving soldiers.In 1781, its coast was ravaged again as Benedict Arnold, now a British general, returned home leading a raiding party that torched the port of New London.

Connecticut’s Puritan elite had much greater impact on the war effort marshaling materials than men. With a population of 200,000, 10 percent of the total population of the thirteen colonies, Connecticut troops accounted for roughly 10 percent of the troops serving the Glorious Cause in late 1776.[31] This ratio remained fairly steady over the course of the war: the colony sent 40,000 men into military service,[32] while 231,000 altogether served in the Continental Army (though never more than 48,000 at any one time, and never more than 13,000 at any one place) and another 145,000 comprised the muster rolls of state militias.[33]

Sadly, Connecticut’s soldiers deserted in droves. A few weeks before the first wave of enlistments were due to expire in December 1775, Washington wrote to Trumbull, “The reason of my giving you the trouble of this, is the late extraordinary and reprehensible conduct of some of the Connecticut Troops . . . [they] were made acquainted, and ordered and requested, to remain here, [until] they would be relieved—Notwithstanding this, yesterday morning several of them resolved to leave the Camp;—Many were taken and brought back. I . . . submit it to your judgment, whether some example should not be made of them.”[34] Washington had to place pickets (sentries) around General Putnam’s Connecticut regiment to keep men from trying to desert. Generals Schuyler and Sullivan also noted the propensity of Connecticut men to “melt away.” After the defeat in Brooklyn the next summer, an estimated 6,000 of 8,000 Connecticut troops deserted.[35] Perhaps this sorry record propelled Nathan Hale to stand up and volunteer for his ill-fated espionage mission in September 1776.

Rather than severely punish the deserters, Trumbull applied the same leniency which he had applied to his retail customers decades earlier. He allowed them to slip back into Connecticut life, albeit with a black mark against their names that could only be removed by a return to military service. The Connecticut assembly did try to boost recruitment by raising pay, but here Washington objected: “It is seldom that I interfere in the determinations of any public body . . . [but] a more mistaken policy could not have been adopted . . . jealousy, impatience and mutiny will immediately take place and occasion desertions, if not a total dissolution of the Army . . . Troops embarked in the same cause and doing the same duties will not long act together with harmony, for deficient pays must be obvious to everyone.”[36] Trumbull immediately complied with the commander-in-chief’s wishes, a path he would follow throughout the war and its aftermath.

While Trumbull might have treated deserters softly, he avoided the “easy” money policies that essentially bankrupted the Continental Congress. Over the course of the war, Connecticut only issued $1.2 million of paper money to pay its war debts compared to the $13 million printed by neighboring Massachusetts[37] and the staggering $240 million printed by Congress. By 1780, Continental dollars traded for less than 3 cents.[38] The resulting inflation hammered Connecticut’s farmers who were forced to sell their goods to the Army for the worthless currency. Fortunately, the French forces harbored in nearby Rhode Island paid in gold; little wonder they ate so heartily. Connecticuters also continued to sell to the British, sailing across the Long Island Sound to reach Loyalist strongholds, prompting Washington to write, “every day’s experience convinces me . . . that nothing short of Laws making the supply of the enemy with provisions or stores, or holding any kind of illicit intercourse with them, Felony of Death, will check the evil.”[39]

To be fair, Trumbull’s monetary policies hurt him as well since he might have been able to pay his debts in devalued bills. Nevertheless, Trumbull’s popularity steadily eroded, particularly among the agrarian community who increasingly viewed him as a “merchant” who profited from the war while they suffered. In 1781, an insidious rumor even surfaced that the governor himself traded with the British, forcing him to submit to an embarrassing investigation which ultimately cleared him. In 1780, 1781, and 1783, Trumbull failed to win an electoral majority and only remained in office by a vote of the state’s General Assembly.[40]

Connecticut’s farmers also soured on Trumbull because he supported a national pension program for Continental Army officers. Responding to strident complaints from the officer corps who had not been paid in years, Congress voted in 1780 to guarantee full back pay for time served plus half pay for life after the war. Many citizens throughout the thirteen states objected both on grounds that the “national” government had no right to assess the taxes required to pay the pensions and that the pensions themselves would create an aristocratic class. By the war’s conclusion in 1783, Congress still had not delivered the funds, prompting a near mutiny by the officers. As a compromise, Congress voted to “commute” the pension to full pay but only for five years. Still the populace roiled, unwilling to recognize the debt owed to the men who had served and starved for eight years.

Unsurprisingly, Trumbull’s ardent belief in a strong national government surpassed any faith he might once have had in the will of the people. In 1782, he lectured the General Assembly: “in the State of Nature all men are born equal, but they cannot continue this equality [and] there is danger of running into extreme equality, when each citizen would fain be upon a level with those he has chosen to govern him.”[41] Even when announcing his retirement in the fall of 1783, he harped: “the existence of a Congress vested with powers competent to the great national purposes . . .is essential to our national security, establishment, and independence.”[42] His exasperation was obvious in a 1784 letter to George Washington: “The Jealousies, the Prejudices & Turbulence of the People . . . almost occasion me to think that they will shew themselves unworthy of the noble prize for which we have contended.”[43]

Regardless of the polarized political climate, Trumbull’s last day in office, Friday, May 21,1784, was marked with all the pomp due to a man who had served his colony, state and country so long and so well. The general assembly presented the retiring governor, now seventy-four years old, with a warm farewell address and Trumbull responded in kind: “Slowly and painfully—through paths that have beencrowded withperils—the sun oft hidden entirely from our view—and wading, alas, at timesthrough pools of human gore—we have ascended the steep and toilsome hill of Liberty andIndependence, and now stand with exultation on its summit.”[44] With his carriage flanked by the High Sheriff of Hartford and his gubernatorial guards, Jonathan Trumbull rumbled off into the sunset.

While Trumbull faded from the political scene, his fellow “easterners” rallied, enabling Connecticut to lend its full support to the formation of the national government, culminating in the 1788 Constitutional convention. In 1808 John Adams wrote, “The state of Connecticut has always been governed by an aristocracy more decisively than the empire of Great Britain.”[45] While eleven of the thirteen colonies drafted new constitutions by 1786, Connecticut remained governed by its Royal Charter until 1818 when it finally extended the voting privilege to all white males who paid taxes or served in the militia. The “popedom” was effectively dead.

In his golden years, Trumbull’s relationship with Washington glowed with mutual admiration. Upon receiving a copy of the governor’s truculent November 1783 retirement announcement from his son, Jonathan Jr, Washington, now joyfully ensconced [albeit temporarily] at Mount Vernon, replied:

The Sentiments contained in it are such as would do honor to a Patriot of any Age or Nation! at least they are too coincident with my own, not to meet my warmest approbation. Be so good as to present my most cordial respects to the Governor and let him know that it is my wish the mutual friendship & esteem which have been planted & fostered in the tumult of public life, may not wither and die in the serenity of retirement: tell him we should rather amuse our evening hours of life, in cultivating the tender plants & bringing them to perfection before they are transplanted to a happier clime.[46]

As an aside, looking back over the years of correspondence between Washington and Trumbull, several omissions are worth noting. Although traditions relate the commander-in-chief warmly referring to the governor as “Brother Jonathan,” there is no documentation of this accolade. In fact, the British originally utilized the term “Jonathans” (possibly an anti-semitic biblical reference to King Saul’s eldest son) to insult Puritans, alluding to them as sly ruffians, tricksters, and country hicks. It later morphed into a derogatory for all American rebels.[47] After the Revolution New Englanders adopted the nickname with pride, focusing on the cunning, tenacity, and irreverence which helped them defeat the pompous British aristocracy.

Washington also failed to inform Trumbull of the execution of Nathan Hale, a favorite son of eastern Connecticut, or reply to the governor’s missive detailing the destruction wrought by Benedict Arnold’s raid.[48] In both cases, Washington likely chose to avoid any apology (he had sent Hale on his suicide mission without any logistical support or tradecraft, had not captured Arnold after discovering his treachery, and had again refused to send troops to defend the Connecticut coast), tacitly expecting Trumbull to accept that a commander-in-chief’s decisions resulting in collateral death and devastation were inevitable in war time. The governor’s continued unswerving support would indicate that he did not bear any noticeable ill will for these omissions.

Jonathan Trumbull’s retirement did not last long; he passed away on August 17, 1785. While he again paid lip service to his debts, he was never able to repay them. Fortunately, his balance sheet did not weigh down his descendants. Both a son and grandson became governors of Connecticut, while another son, John, left a lasting legacy in his paintings of Revolutionary war heroism.

How would Jonathan Trumbull have reacted to Adams and Jefferson’s barbed comments? As a true Puritan, he would, of course, have blanched at the reference to a Catholic pope; however, he would have looked to victory in the Revolution and the establishment of a durable, national government as signs that God was in fact on his side.


[1]Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, May 5, 1817,

[2]“Jonathan Trumbull,” Museum of Connecticut History,

[3]“Fundamental Orders of 1639,”

[4]“Voting and Elections in Early America,”

[5]“Charter of 1662,”

[6]“West of Eden: Ohio Land Speculation Benefits Connecticut Public Schools,”

[7]Richard Purcell, Connecticut in Transition: 1775-1818 (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1918).

[8]Elizabeth Pratt Fox and Alicia Wayland, “The Trumbull Dynasty,” Connecticut Explored Vol 8 No. 2 (Fall 2010).

[9]I.W. Stuart,Life of Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut (Hartford, CT: Belknap and Warfield, 1859), 32.

[10]Ibid., 66.

[11]Fox and Wayland, “The Trumbull Dynasty.”

[12]David M. Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor: Jonathan Trumbull (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2017), 11, 14.

[13]Ibid., 64.

[14]Ibid., 13.

[15]Stuart, Life of Jonathan Trumbull, 124.

[16]Ibid., 81, 96, 170.

[17]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 33.

[18]Jonathan Trumbull to Thomas Gage, April 28, 1775, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Vol X- Fifth Series (The Trumbull Papers), 1885, 288.

[19]Joseph Warren to Trumbull, May 2, 1775, ibid.

[20]Trumbull to Warren, May 4, 1775, ibid.

[21]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 40.

[22]Numbers based on a search of correspondence during the Revolutionary period at

[23]Damien Cregeau, “Governor Jonathan Trumbull who Supplied Washington’s Suffering Army,” Journal of the American Revolution (December 1, 2021),

[24]George Washington to John Hancock, June 28,1776,

[25]Erna Risch, Supplying Washington’s Army (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1981), 207.

[26]Trumbull to Washington, December 27, 1779, The Trumbull Papers, 150.

[27]Washington To Trumbull, June 18, 1779, ibid., 136.

[28]Scott Smith, “William Tryon and the Park that Still Bears his Name,” Journal of the American Revolution (May 17,2021),

[29]Trumbull to Washington, April 27, 1779,The Trumbull Papers, 135.

[30]Washington to Trumbull, July 12,1779,

[31]Robert K. Wright, The Continental Army (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1981), 93.

[32]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 51; Rolls and Lists of Connecticut Men in the Revolution,

[33]“American Revolution Facts,”

[34]Washington to Trumbull, December 2, 1775,

[35]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 52.

[36]Washington to Trumbull, November 10, 1776,

[37]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 41.

[38]“Congress issues Continental currency, June 22, 1775,”

[39]Washington to Trumbull, November 13, 1782,

[40]Roth, Connecticut’s War Governor, 70.

[41]“Jonathan Trumbull,” Museum of Connecticut History,

[42]Stuart, Life of Jonathan Trumbull, 606.

[43]Trumbull to Washington, April 20,1784,

[44]Stuart, Life of Jonathan Trumbull, 650.

[45]Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States. Volume 6 (Boston: Little and Brown, 1851), 530.

[46]Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., January 5, 1784,

[47]Adee Braun , “Before America Got Uncle Sam, It Had to Endure Brother Jonathan,”Atlas Obscura, July 4, 2019,

[48]Trumbull to Washington, September 13, 1781,

One thought on “Jonathan Trumbull: the Sixteenth “Pope” of Connecticut

  • Good article. One point, Congregationalists derive from the Pilgrims (Seperatists) not Puritans. They came later

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