Let us ask Brother Johnathan

Johnathan Trumbull was born on October 12, 1710, in Lebanon, Connecticut. His father was Joseph Trumbull, a farmer and merchant, who had moved his family to Lebanon in 1705. Joseph Trumbull apparently didn't give his sons much choice on their careers. He decided to keep his eldest son, Joseph Jr., at home and on the farm, running the family business and to send Johnathan to Harvard to study for the ministry. Sadly, Joseph Jr. was lost at sea in 1732 while aboard the brigantine The Lebanon, on which he had been travelling to Barbados. Jonathan was told to come home and take his brother's place in the family business.

Johnathan turned out to be a very competent businessman. Within four years of his brothers death, and because of his father's frail health, Johnathan was running the large family business by himself. He became well known as an astute business man and in 1733 was elected to the colonial General Assembly. This was the beginning of a long career of public service both in the military and politics, including the legistative and judicial branches of Connecticut state government.

In 1735, Johnathan married Faith Robinson (1718 -1780), a direct descendent of John and Priscilla Alden. This marriage raised Jonathan's status to one of almost colonial nobility, having married into the direct lineage of the first settlers of New England. The Trumbull's had six children, Joseph (1737 - 1778), Jonathan (1740 - 1809), the second of four "Governor Trumbulls", Faith (1743 - 1775), Mary (1745 - 1831), David (1751- 1822) and John (1756 - 1843), who became a famous early American painter.

During the French and Indian War, (1755 - 1763), Jonathan served as a colonel of the Twelfth Connecticut Regiment. From 1766 until 1769, he served as Deputy Governor of Connecticut. From 1769 until his retirement in 1784, Johnathan was the Governor of Connecticut. During his term in office, he took the office of governor from mostly a powerless figurehead to a being the senior executive in the of management of the state. Johnathan Trumbull was the only pre-War governor to hold his position and support the colonies during the struggle for Independence.

Just before the American Revolutionary War began the business Joseph Trumbull created, and Johnathan built upon so successfully, failed. Much of the business depended upon trade with England and that trade was dwindling in the days before the outbreak of war. However, his experience as a businessman would aid the American war effort tremendously. Long before Connecticut became known as The Constitution State or The Nutmeg State, it was known as The Provision State for supplying the Continental Army with much needed provisions. George Washington deeply appreciated Johnathan's dedication and passion to the cause of American freedom. Washington usually referred to Johnathan as Brother Johnathan, with affection, and would often say to his officers, when they came to Washington for advice, "We must ask Brother Johnathan about this subject." Even after Washington became the first President of the United States, he frequently used the expression, "Let us ask Brother Johnathan," when he had a matter to put before Congress.

In October 1783, when Johnathan retired from 50 years of public service, he gave a farewell speech to the General Assembly:

On my advanced state of life, a life worn out almost in the constant cares of office, I think it is my duty to retire from the busy concern of public affairs, that at the evening of my days I may sweeten their decline by devoting myself with less avocation and more attention to the duties of religion - the service of my God in preparation for a future and happier state of experience in which pleasing employment I shall not cease to remember my country and to make it my ardent prayer that Heaven will not fail to bless her with its choicest favors.

He wasn't long in retirement, but before his death on August 17, 1785, he received honorary degrees from both Yale University and the University of Edinburgh. He was one of the many people who made it possible for the United States to exist.



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