Griffin, Cyrus

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Griffin, Cyrus

GRIFFIN, CYRUS. (1748–1810). President of the Continental Congress. Virginia. Born in Farnham Parish, Virginia, on 16 July 1748, Cyrus Griffin studied law in England and Scotland, and in 1770 eloped with the eldest daughter of John Stuart, the sixth Earl of Traquair. After studying in the Middle Temple for three years, Griffin returned to Virginia in 1774, where he practiced law. He was not an advocate of rebellion, believing in the peaceful settlement of the differences between the Crown and the colonies. While in London on business, he sent a "Plan of reconciliation between Great Britain and her Colonies" to the William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth and secretary of state to the colonies on 30 December 1775.

Griffin was a member of the Virginia legislature from 1777 to 1778 and was sent to the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1780, where he served on several financial committees. However, the factions in Congress that led to delay and procrastination were distasteful to him, and he welcomed his appointment, on 28 April 1780, as Judge of the court of appeals that heard "cases of capture." He sat on this court until it was abolished in 1787, at which time he was its presiding judge. In 1782 Griffin was one of the commissioners who settled the contest between Connecticut and Pennsylvania over the Wyoming Valley, deciding for Pennsylvania. He returned to the Virginia legislature from 1786 to 1787), and to the Continental Congress from 1787 to 1788. He was the last to be elected president of the Congress, on 22 January 1788, and he served in that capacity until the Congress permanently adjourned in November 1788. After serving as commissioner to the Creek Nation in 1789, Griffin returned to the bench and served as judge of the U.S. District Court of Virginia from December 1789 until his death in Yorktown, Pennsylvania, on 14 December 1810.

SEE ALSO Continental Congress.


Bourguignon, Henry J. The First Federal Court: The Federal Appellate Prize Court of the American Revolution, 1775–1787. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1977.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles

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