Born: Lebanon; October 10, 1710
Died: Lebanon; August 17, 1785
Trumbull. a dismal failure as a merchant but highly esteemed as a governor, was a life-long resident of Lebanon. Three years after graduating from Harvard in 1727, he was licensed as a Congregational minister, but the ministry was not to be his vocation. By July 1731 he and his brother Joseph (1705-1732) had formed a mercantile partnership. After Joseph was lost at sea, Jonathan became a full-time merchant on his own.
A committed public servant, he faithfully served his town, church, and colony. Always interested in intellectual pursuits, he helped found a library and a private school in Lebanon. In 1733 Lebanon elected him a deputy to the assembly; in 1740 the colony chose him for the upper house-the youngest assistant in eighteenth-century Connecticut. Enjoying an extremely active legislative career, he frequently accepted committee assignments and wrote the reports. Never one to be idle, he also was a justice of the peace and quorum; a judge of the county, probate, and superior courts; and colonel of the Twelfth Regiment. In 1735 he married Faith Robinson (1718-1780) of Duxbury. Massachusetts, with whom he had six children. All four sons,Joseph (1736-1778), Jonathan, Jr., (1740-1809), David (1750-1822), and John (1756-1843), played active roles during the Revolutionary War.
From 1731 to 1749 he operated as an inland merchant, selling to customers in Lebanon and nearby towns goods he purchased in Boston. Probably late in 1749, with Elisha Williams (1694-1755) and Joseph Pitkin (1696-1762), he formed a partnership which soon acquired large debts attempting a direct trade with England. A later firm, founded in 1764 and composed of Trumbull, son Joseph, and Eleazer Fitch (1726-1796), likewise tried but failed to realize a profitable English trade.
A strong opponent of the Stamp Act, Trumbull and other assistants walked out in 1765 when Governor Thomas Fitch took the required oath of support. In 1766 Trumbull was elected deputy governor and in 1769, governor. The only incumbent colonial governor to serve throughout the war, he established a close relationship with General Washington, providing large amounts of food and arms for the Continental army. An indefatigable worker, he converted about 1,200 meetings of the Council of Safety, but much of the burden of running the state fell on him. In 1784 when he retired from public service, being acutely aware of the disunity which had plagued the American cause, he urged his countrymen to establish a much stronger central government.
His efforts helped greatly in making Connecticut the “Provisions State” of the American Revolution as well as a large contributor of men and arms. His strong and effective leadership as governor during the critical years of the Revolution and his remarkable political acumen wrought a significant change in the relative power of the governor and assembly and “entitled him to the first place among patriots.”
For Further Reading Roth. David M. Connecticut’s War Governor, Jonathan Trumbull. Chester, Connecticut, 1974.
Trumbull, Jonathan. Jonathan Trumbull: Governor of Connecticut. 1769-1784. Boston, 1919.