History Timeline 1770s

Photo above: Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag in Philadelphia. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Lithograph of the Boston Tea Party. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Boston Tea Party

U.S. Timeline - The 1770s

The American Revolution

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  • Timeline

  • 1771 Detail

    May 1771 - In Connecticut, the General Assembly directs the governor, Jonathan Trumbull, to "collect all publick letters and papers which hereafter in any way affect the interest of this Colony and have the same bound together, that they may be preserved."

    Governor Jonathan Trumbull

    It was a task that the General Assembly of the colonial government of Connecticut saw as important, although it, as far as Governor Jonathan Trumbull and his history in the state, was a small one. The assembly had been seeking to get their record keeping in order for two decades. In 1741, the Secretary of the Colony had been directed, ... "to sort, date and file in proper order, all the ancient papers that now lye in disorder and unfiled in his office." He was to receive five pounds for completing the task by that October.

    How well that had been completed is not known. However, twenty-eight years later, in 1769, the Assembly still thought the task important, directing Secretary Wyllys and now Governor Trumbull to work as a committee, ... "make a diligent search after all deeds of conveyance relative to the title of the lands granted by the Crown to this Colony by the royal charter." By May of 1770, the Assembly appointed Gurdon Saltonstall and Trumbull to acquire any public records of the Colony.

    By May of 1771, they were to be bound together, and one year later, Secretary George Wyllys was to make a handwritten copy of the first book of the Records of the Colony of Connecticut and that of the New Haven Colony.

    Three years later, the records of the Colony were still on the minds of others, including Silas Deane, who would become the delegate from Connecticut to the Continental Congress just one month later in September 1774.

    So, it seems that the affairs of the colony of Connecticut and their keeping track of the records had become important to the British colony through the first half of the decade that would lead to the American Revolution. And that's where the story takes more of a turn toward just why Jonathan Trumbull, Colonial Governor of Connecticut, was involved in that task, or more, how Jonathan Trumbull would move from that small task, to an even more important one in the affairs of the colony as they moved toward becoming a state in a new nation.

    Jonathan Trumbull would not only be the Colonial Governor, a British servant, for Connecticut, prior to the American Revolution. He would become the Governor of the State of Connecticut after the American Revolution as well. He would be one of only two men to accomplish that, ... Nicholas Cooke of Rhode Island being the other. During the American Revolution, Trumbull would be the only Colonial Governor who supported it.

    Trumbull, Colonial Governor to Patriot

    By 1770, Trumbull had been Royal Governor for one year after three years as Deputy Govenor. The colony itself had a population of 183,881. Jonathan Trumbull had risen through the political ranks since his days after graduating Harvard with a theology degree, then serving as a merchant with his father. Elected to the General Assembly in 1733, then becoming Speaker of the House in 1739, Trumbull also served in the state militia, a colonel during the French and Indian War with the 12th Connecticut.

    So while Trumbull had a long and storied history as a British subject and employee through service in the military and political positions, he chose to side with the Patriot cause, speaking out in 1775, and supporting the Continental Army after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He would become a trusted ally of George Washington, providing men and supplies from Connecticut, and serving as Paymaster General for the Northern Department in 1778. Throughout the war, Trumbull held more than one thousand meetings at his store, which became known as the War Office.

    Image above: Montage of (left) painting of Jonathan Trumbull, date unknown, George Frederick Wright. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons; (right) store used by Trumbull and patriots and known as the War Office, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image below: Trumbull House, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info Source: Connecticut State Library, "Important Dates in the History of Connecticut's Public Records and State Libraries Programs; Governor Trumbull House; Wikipedia Commons.

    Trumbull House

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