Trumbull, Jonathan, Jr.

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Trumbull, Jonathan, Jr.

TRUMBULL, JONATHAN, JR. (1740–1809). Paymaster General, comptroller of the treasury, military secretary to Washington. Connecticut. Son and namesake of Governor Jonathan Trumbull Sr. and kin to other famous members of the Trumbull Family, Jonathan Jr. entered Harvard College at the age of 15 and graduated in 1759. Like his older brother, Joseph, he joined the family mercantile business in Lebanon, Connecticut, and ran it after 1767 when their father became more involved in the politics of resisting British imperial policies. His neighbors elected him a town selectman in 1770, and sent him to the General Assembly in 1774 and 1775. On 28 July 1775 Congress named him paymaster general of the Northern Department, a difficult office that he held until 29 July 1778. At that time he resigned to settle the accounts of his brother, Joseph, who had been commissary general of the Continental Army and who had died on 23 July.

On 3 November 1778 Congress unanimously elected him as the first comptroller of the treasury, and he served for six months until resigning in April 1779. In November he declined the office of commissioner of the board of the treasury. When Alexander Hamilton asked to leave General George Washington's staff in February 1781, Washington chose Trumbull as Hamilton's successor. Appointed lieutenant colonel and military secretary on 8 June 1781, Trumbull served through the Yorktown Campaign and to the end of the war. He resigned on 23 December 1783 and returned to Lebanon to take care of his personal affairs.

A strong supporter of the federal Constitution, Trumbull was elected to the first three congresses of the new government and became speaker of the House of Representatives in October 1794. He served three years in the Senate (1794–1796), resigning in June 1796 when elected deputy governor of Connecticut. He succeeded the late Governor Oliver Wolcott in December 1797, and held the post until he died of dropsy on 7 August 1809. Among his last political acts was his refusal to authorize the use of Connecticut militia to enforce the Embargo Act, which closed all American ports to foreign trade. Although a strong nationalist, in January of 1809 he defied the Act of Congress (1807) because he considered it a violation of states' rights. The act was repealed in March 1809.

SEE ALSO Hamilton, Alexander; Trumbull Family.


Ikovic, John. Connecticut's Nationalist Revolutionary. Hartford, Conn.: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1977.

―――――――. Jonathan Trumbull, Junior: A Biography. New York: Arno Press, 1982.

                             revised by Harold E. Selesky

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