Cyrus Griffin

Cyrus Griffin

Cyrus Griffin
10th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
January 22, 1788 to March 4, 1789

Cyrus Griffin was born in Farnham, Richmond County, Virginia in 1749 and died in Yorktown, Virginia on December 14th, 1810. He was educated in Britain, studying law at the University of Edinburgh and at the Temple in London. In Europe Griffin was admired for his fresh, untrammeled colonial spirit and his bright mind at the University of Edinburgh. It was at the University he became a close friend to Charles Stuart, Lord Linton, first son and heir of the Earl of Traquair. During the Christmas holiday, with Cyrus being so far from home, Charles invited him to his family’s Traquair estate.

Cyrus Griffin was born in Farnham, Richmond County, Virginia in 1749 and died in Yorktown, Virginia on December 14th, 1810. He was educated in Britain, studying law at the University of Edinburgh and at the Temple in London. In Europe Griffin was admired for his fresh, untrammeled colonial spirit and his bright mind at the University of Edinburgh. It was at the University he became a close friend to Charles Stuart, Lord Linton, first son and heir of the Earl of Traquair. During the Christmas holiday, with Cyrus being so far from home, Charles invited him to his family’s Traquair estate.

John Stuart, the Earl of Traquair had three daughters, the Lady Christina, the Lady Mary and the Lady Louisa. The Lady Christina was strikingly beautiful and her personality so magnetic that the handsome Cyrus Griffin couldn’t resist making a bold, but private, declaration to win the Lady’s heart. Cyrus, during the holidays, secretly courted the Lady Christina as any talk of a matrimonial alliance between the two young lovers would not be tolerated by the Earl. Christina also knew that if her brother, Lord Linton, discovered the couple’s courtship plans the Griffin Stuart friendship would end abruptly and Cyrus would be asked to leave Traquair. Neither this, nor the fact that the Lady Christina had been properly reserved for a nobleman of fame and fortune dissuaded the young Virginian from falling in love.

The Earl of Traquair was a formal man, who was very attentive to the romantic and business customs of its ancestry. His family had a line of nobility stretching long before Columbus even discovered this new land everyone called America. He was determined to wed Lady Christina to man whose family would enhance Traquair’s social standing in Great Britain. The idea of a colonial plebian, no matter how dignified his status was in Virginia, courting any of his daughters let alone the stunning Lady Christina was blasphemous in the European world of aristocracy.

These customs, obviously, didn’t deter Cyrus as his ancestors had been aristocrats not only in Virginia but in Europe too! Maternally, he was part noble and part Huguenot as well. His grandfather was John Bertrand, the Huguenot who sought safety in Virginia. His grandmother Bertrand, Charlotte Jolie, was the daughter of a French Nobleman. Mary Bertrand married the Huguenot’s son Leroy Griffin, of Rappahannock County. They were the parents of Cyrus and his sister Elizabeth, who married the wealthy Colonel Richard Adams, of Richmond Hill. This Hill was later named Church Hill, after Patrick Henry made his famous speech in Old St. John’s culminating in immortal disjunctive enthymeme, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Cryus’ belief in his nobility emboldened a declaration of his intentions to the Stuart Family after he won Christina’s heart. Griffin believed that the Stuart Family would accept his noble lineage once they learned how deeply in love the Lady Christina was with a noble blooded Virginian. He couldn’t be, however, more wrong as the Earl was furious upon receiving the news. He immediately admonished his son, Lord Linton, for allowing this Virginia plebian to enter Traquair’s sacred gates. The Earl reportedly raved and ranted at the rest of his family, for not uncovering this mischief sooner as such a scandal threatened the social standing of his noble house. Cyrus straight away escorted off the estate and never invited to Traquair again. The Earl forbade Christina from ever seeing Cyrus again and did everything in his power to end the love affair.

The courtship did not end and became real runaway months later through the forests, over hill and dale in a wild flight from Traquair on a spring day in 1770. In the escape, the Lady Christina fell and broke her ankle. Family legend has it that Cyrus, underdetermined to let the event spoil their passionate plans, scooped her up and carried his lover through the countryside not to a doctor but to a parson. The minister, despite their disheveled appearance and her swollen ankle, united them in the bonds of British matrimony on April 29th.

This act estranged the young lady forever from Earl and Christina Anstruther Weir Stuart, her mother. Despite this, the Griffin marriage blossomed and one year later Lady Christina bore her first child, John on April 20, 1771. Due to Lady Christina’s estrangement from their family and Griffin’s meager allowance the young couple struggled during Cyrus’s ongoing legal education in London. News of the courtship and marriage of the Griffins finally reached America through the business contacts of Colonel Richard Adams. Griffin’s brother-in-law, upon learning of the noble yet struggling marriage, wrote this letter to his London merchant:

Mr. Cyrus Griffin, who has been several years at Edinburgh studying the law, and we expect at this time is at the Temple, has lately been privately married to the oldest daughter of the Earl of Traquair; and we suppose his lordship may have some struggles to reconcile himself to such a connection with a plebian, we are apprehensive that Mr. Griffin, from this unexpected event, this extraordinary call, may have occasion for more money than he can readily command, especially as he has been so unfortunate as to have some bills remitted him, return protested. I shall, therefore, esteem it a great favor if you will present him the enclosed and give him any assistance in this way in your power. You will find him a solid, sensible young man well worthy of your notice and friendship.

In 1774, Cyrus Griffin and Lady Christina bore a second child, Mary. Historians are not sure how long the couple remained in London. The author does know, thanks to the acquisition of a 1776 London Complaint by a fellow Virginian, Burgess Ball, that their London financial difficulties continued into the year of Independence. According to this legal document, Cyrus Griffin defaulted on his January 6th, 1776 “First Bill of Exchange for one hundred pounds sterling/ for one Hundred and thirty pounds current money here received…” in London, England. The complaint was filed by wealthy Virginian Burgess Ball’s agents on June 14, 1776 after the collector went to Cyrus Griffin Letter 1Number 3 Fig Tree Court in the Temple where Cyrus Griffin, Esq. on whom the same is Drawn lodges to which he had removed from Grange Court Cary Street where having knocked several times at the Door and no person appearing to give an answer I exhibited the said Bill to a man belonging to the Chambers a Story Lower and demanded from him if he could inform me where the said Cyrus Griffin was or where I might procure payment of said Bill.

June 14th, 1776 default on a Bill of Exchange legal document in favor of Burgess Ball on Cyrus Griffin, Esq. of 3 Fig Tree Court at the Temple in London. Courtesy of the Klos Family

The default on the Bill of Exchange was eventually paid by Cyrus Griffin and this sprouted a friendship between Burgess Ball and the go getting Virginian. Griffin returned to Virginia and as a young lawyer was a staunch supporter of the patriot cause. In 1777, 1778, 1786, and 1787 Griffin was elected a member of the State House of Delegates. He was also a member of the Virginia legislature.Cyrus Griffin Letter 2

Cyrus Griffin was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1778 and served until 1780. During the end of his first term as a Delegate, Griffin wrote Governor Thomas Jefferson this taxing letter on October 6, 1778:

You will be good enough, my dear Sir, to excuse this Letter. There are but few Men indeed with whom I could wish to be thus candid. It appears to me that Congress will shortly be dissolved. If the large Emissions of Money and visionary Expeditions do not bring forth our destruction, I greatly fear that Party will complete the matter. Congress exhibit not more than two or three Members actuated by Patriotism. Great questions are carried every day in favor of the Eastward, and to the prejudice of the Southern States. Great questions are now upon the Carpet and if determined in the affirmative will do excessive Damage to Virginia and Maryland particularly. At present we are under secrecyperhaps in a little time I shall think myself obligated to quit Congress; I will not sit in a house whose proceedings I cannot assent to with honor, nor is it in my abilities to oppose them with success. I value most what our great Politicians value least.

Congress is at present a Government of Men. It would astonish you to think how all affairs proceed upon the interested Principle: Members prostituting their votes in expectation of mutual assistance upon favorite Points. I am apprehensive that in getting free from oppression in one quarter, we are likely to establish it in another; by avoiding one set of Plunderers we are certain to fall into the Clutches of a still more dangerous set. I am sorry our good Friend Harvey is about to leave Congress; he is a valuable man in times like the present, a man of great virtue and boldness of Spirit. If the Land office should be established, put him at the head of it; his abilities and honesty will be highly necessary in that Employment.

The motions of the Enemy are very uncertain; there is an expedition going forward on the part of General Clinton, but to what object is merely conjecture, perhaps to Boston New England and the French Fleet are powerful inducements. All Circumstances considered, I believe they are going to guard the remaining parts of their Dominion. In the mean time they will destroy everything they possibly can, and I should not wonder if Philadelphia itself was reduced to ashes before their departure. As yet Spain has taken no part to our advantage, indeed Arthur Lee still remains at Paris. The Court of Berlin have refused William Lee the Commissioner of Congress to that quarter: he is now gone to Vienna, the most accomplished Metropolis in the world. We are plagued to death with quarrels and recriminations relative to our Commissioners abroad; these men will involve the Continent in perdition. It is

absolutely necessary that Dean should be sent over to Europe for the most valuable purpose in the world, but some Gentlemen are determined to ruin an innocent Character, notwithstanding he alone has the great merit of concluding that valuable Treaty with the Minister of France. Tell MacLurg and President Madison they are both s____ in not answering my Letters. The next I write you will be in a different stile; this only by way of preface. I must beg to trouble you with my best respects to Mr. Wythe.

The government “dissolved” two weeks later but Griffin returned to Congress, in December, to begin another term despite his bleak assessment of the 1778 governing body. In July of 1779 Delegate Griffin wrote Governor Thomas Jefferson a pointed letter giving us more insights into the future President’s thoughts on war and the price of Independence:

It appears to me that Virginia will do her part in placing things upon an adequate foundation; a large Income of Money, and a most judicious taxation. Members of Congress highly applaud your wisdom in demanding Indian Corn, Wheat, Tobacco etc. I wish to heaven such measures had been adopted many months ago by every State in the union. I have no doubt the Enemy are waiting thus long to see the downfall of our paper Credit, but even that calamitous affair would do them no essential Service; America can never be reunited to Britain; and finances with our brave and determined people are only a secondary consideration. The proceedings of Council relative to G. Hamilton etc… were received by Congress with the utmost applause; the whole matter is beautifully stated; the sentence judicious and spirited. That peace is a most desirable object no man in his senses ought to deny, but then it must be a peace honorable to America and grateful to our allies. I hope such a one will take place before Christmas next. By the violence of a giddy Multitude it would be highly disagreeable to patch up even an Independent peace at the expense of public faith and future salvation.

Why are committees upon the establishment throughout all America? They have almost murdered the French Agent at Wilmington. Indeed Fisheries are too much of external nature to be fought for at present; yet in a treaty of peace I would not relinquish them; they should stand upon the common right of Independent nations. But unhappily this will not answer the purpose. The bleeding Continent must bleed still further. When I say my expectations lead to peace I do not mean that England will expressly acknowledge our Independence; the pride of George will not submit; but she may treat with us as an Independent people notwithstanding provided our demands are not unreasonable, which the French Court are in apprehension about, and therefore trust that moderation and a wellguaranteed peace ought not to be despised in our low circumstances. The Enemy with a body of five thousand men have plundered and destroyed Newhaven NB in Connecticut; they carried off the wife and children of old Shearman the member of Congress; yesterday he left this City full of anxiety and trouble; I pity the Lady and Children exceedingly, but I have no tender feelings for the old fellow on many accounts.

In September of 1779 Cyrus Griffin discharged financial matters concerning his late father-in-law, John Stuart, through Benjamin Franklin. In the end Stuart, through his will, remembered his daughter in America after many years of estrangement. Griffin also took the time to inform Minister Franklin of his thoughts on Congress recalling the foreign ministers and explain why Mon. Gérard, “a most valuable and most amiable Man indeed” was not provided with a more fanciful welcome in Philadelphia:

“I do myself the honor to enclose a packet of letters which being carried by your Servant to the place directed will greatly oblige me. We thank you for the trouble of attaching a Bond executed by the late Earl of Traquair. This Letter will be conveyed by Mon. Gérard, a most valuable and most amiable Man indeed! And who has given all the satisfaction possible in his public and private Character. No doubt you were astonished how any part of Congress should wish that all the Commissioners might be recalled to Philadelphia. It was for the purpose of explaining those unhappy dissentions and animosities which have arisen among them; and tho Yourself would have left Europe at a most critical period, yet returning to France with accumulated honors after receiving the blessings of America and convincing Congress in what path to walk upon this unhappy and most disgraceful business, perhaps the whole matter impartially considered the united States would have found great benefit if such a plan had taken place.

The French are a gay people and entertain a good deal; I am afraid Mon. Gérard has thought the Delegates in Congress were rather deficient in that respect; but really the expense of every article is so very enormous, and the allowance from the different states so very trifling, that a person of a handsome American fortune could not entertain frequently without absolute ruin in the period of two or three yearsand especially since some of the states think it best for their delegates to live in separate houses. In the course of conversation you would do some of us a singular favor to hint this matter to Mon. Gérard since it has the appearance of not paying proper Civilities to a man of his worth and elevated station.

On September 21st Griffin took the time to reply to Burgess Ball, who first served in cause for Independence as a captain with the 5th Regiment of Virginia and later as lieutenant colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment Infantry of the Continental Army. In 1776, Burgess Ball organized, equipped and clothed an infantry regiment for the Continental Line (which probably why he sought payment so earnestly on Griffin’s Bill of Exchange in 1776). Griffin writes his friend and his former Bill of Exchange creditor in 1779:

“I have recd. your letter dated on the 4th. No person upon Earth can be more welcome to what little satisfaction I am able to give him in the way of writing now and then. The subscription to Dunlap’s paper I think is 80 dollars by the year, I shall not order that matter until you again write me for the purpose. I fancy the Enemy will attempt nothing great notwithstanding the arrival of Arbuthnot. I wish we could know with Certainty to what place the Regiments lately embarked from N. York are intended; perhaps the Count D. Estaing may fall in with them, the Count having quitted his former station. I am almost as sanguine as yourself that the presentCampaign will finish the Contest; the opposition to Great Britain is very formidable indeed; and yet when so conspicuous a nation begins to fall, perhaps she may go on to the brink of destruction, and of consequence the war may be lengthened a considerable time to come.

The resolutions of Congress relative to the Army were but so many Acts of Justice; and I hope the different states will provide half pay exactly conformable to the English establishment. Congress have done and are doing all they can to appreciate the money; yet the states and Individuals can alone apply the most effectual remedy by loaning and taxation. Enclosed you will find a handsome address upon this subject; written by our president; it contains to my Judgment a great deal of sterling sense and the most solid reasoning. I do not absolutely condemn your associations: but perhaps in consequence of them you may want many comfortable private supplies. I shall take notice of what you mention about the adjutants, paymasters, and Clothiers, I thank you exceedingly and General M[uhlenberg] for a sight of those papers enclosed to his Brother [Frederick Muhlenberg]. They greatly expanded my Ideas upon the subject; our officers write and fight in the same spirit. Your circumstantial account of that affair has given me pleasure tho I feel exceedingly for your situationand yet w[hen] the public are acquainted with the whole matter as more praise will be given you as the brave and fortunate officer who executed the command. I would take a trip to Camp with the utmost satisfaction; but Smith and Fleming are setting off to Virginia, and there only remains a bare delegation.”

Later that month Governor Jefferson wrote President Samuel Huntington requesting Naval Commissions in the form of “blank letters of marque for use in this state” and copied the Virginia Delegation on the matter. Such papers were required for International and Intrastate trade. They were executed by the President and Secretary of the Continental Congress. The burden of issuing these papers to merchant U.S. was lessened by the President signing blank commissions and giving them to the Governors of each state to issue as they deemed necessary. On November 2nd, 1779 Griffin was quick to inform Jefferson that

“My Colleague Mr. Mercer has charged himself with the naval Commissions mentioned a post ago in a letter from your Excellency. We have a report from the Eastward that a bloody Engagement has happened in English Channel, and that the admiral of his Britannic Majesty was sunk with sails and Colors flying; but we do not give the utmost credit to the Intelligence.”

On November 9th, 1779, Griffin wrote a lengthy letter to the Virginia House of Delegates as their lone representative to the Continental Congress questioning the federal political authority over land and other issues involving Virginia and the Continental Congress:

I beg you will do me the honor to lay this letter before the house. I am at present alone in this important delegation; perhaps abundantly more important than my Constituents suppose. A majority of states in Congress shew a manifest inclination to lessen the weight of Virginia in the general scale of the union; and the Continental

Credit is already upon the very brink of ruin. At such a period the assembly are satisfied that my abilities and Influence are greatly inadequate to represent so vast a Country as Virginia, even upon the supposition I had the power of voting in Congress. I feel exceedingly for the rights of my Country, and the Welfare of America, and I hope to be excused when I express some degree of astonishment that at least three members are not sent forward to Philadelphia, and members too of the first abilities and character.

>After a great deal of heat and debate Congress have thought proper to pass a resolution relative to the Land office, which resolution and other proceedings were transmitted by the last post. I am sorry to observe that so important a measure as that should have taken its origin from the Memorial of two private Companies claiming a large extent of Lands within the Bounds of Virginia to their own use and benefit, and offering a recompense to Congress of ten thousand pounds sterling for a confirmation thereof; and however as a member of the Virginia assembly I might be induced to make some compensation to the Indiana Claimants which they are very desirous to accept, and wish to acknowledge the Jurisdiction of Virginia and to defend the state against all opposition whatever, yet I think Congress have no business to interfere with such matters at the expense of our chartered rights, and the rights of an independent Legislature. When Virginia instructed her delegates in Congress to sign the declaration of Independency what did she mean by reserving the sovereignty and internal Government of the state? No deception could be intended of any latent claim to extended Boundary; for Virginia ceded to Pennsylvania and Maryland and the two Carolinas all the Countries within their respective charters which might be supposed a part of her chartered territory and then adds ‘the western and northern extent of Virginia shall in all respects stand as fixed by the Charter of King James the first in the year 1709 [1609], and the public Treaty of Peace between Great Britain and France in 1763.’

Yesterday a letter was read in Congress from Colonel Brodhead with a late date at Pittsburg giving Information that some Inhabitants from the Counties of Yoghagania and Ohio had committed Trespasses upon the Lands of the Indians on the farther side of the Ohio River, which produced the enclosed Resolution.”

Delegate Griffin would continue serving in the Continental Congress through the harsh winter of 177980 and the British Capture of Charleston where, former Continental Congress President Henry Middleton capitulated and swore allegiance to King George III. Griffin stayed true to the patriot cause. His astute, London trained legal mind was an invaluable asset to Congress during these troubling times. Congress wisely, after finally forming a Court of Appeals, presented Griffin with an appointment as a Judge. President Samuel Huntington wrote to Cyrus Griffin on May 1, 1780:

‘”I have the Pleasure and Satisfaction of presenting you with the enclosed Act of Congress & Commission by which you are appointed and constituted one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals.”

Cyrus Griffin wrote to Samuel Huntington on May 4th:

“The appointment of Congress to the Court of appeals does me great honor. I thank them exceedingly for the confidence they repose in my Integrity and abilities, but as the nomination was unsolicited and even unknown to me, and being delegated by the state of Virginia to a very different employment I do not think myself justifiable in a peremtory acceptation of the office without the approbation of my constituents. In the mean time, the state of Virginia being so ably and fully represented without my attendance, if Congress shall think proper I will undertake the business of a Judge and endeavor to pay that attention which so important and distinguished a commission may require.

I thank you, Sir, for the very polite manner in which the act of Congress has been communicated to me, and as I always profess the utmost affection for the dignified and extensive body over which you preside so believe me to be with the highest personal esteem”

One month later on June 9th, 1780 Cyrus, still a delegate, wrote Governor Jefferson a most alarming letter:

“I have the mortification to inform you that the Enemy are parading the Jerseys in great force, at least with six thousand Infantry and the General says with a large body of horse also. In consequence of this movement the Commander in chief requests that major Lee may be ordered to the main army, and I suppose this morning Congress will prevent his proceeding to the southward. A Committee of Congress who have been many weeks at head quarters with very extensive powers, in concurrence with G. Washington and the marquis de La Fayette, think proper to call upon the different states for a considerable quantity of specific supplies in addition to a former resolution of Congress, and also for 22,000 militia immediately to join the northern armybut whether Congress will send forth the requisitions to the state of Virginia I cannot determine as the neighboring states will demand your utmost exertions.

I suppose the great plan of finance is already happily executed; indeed the resolutions of Congress should be complied with, as a General schemefor without unanimity upon these important points our confederation will break to pieces. What ever may have been the opinions of some states in Congress, a large majority of that body ought to be regarded especially in critical times like the present.

Congress have no objection that I should sit in the Court of appeals, notwithstanding my resignation be not accepted but my attendance must be dispensed with whilst acting in that commission. It is probable I shall not act in that Commission long. There has been skirmishing in the Jerseys. The militia behaved well, as yet no great mischief. The army is moving towards the enemy.”

Griffin’s last letter to Governor, On June 13th discussed his appointment and additional enemy military maneuvers:

“As this will be the last letter I shall have the honor of writing your Excellency in my official capacity, I hope to obtain the governor’s approbation that whilst alone and at the head of the Delegation to Congress I have done my part in making those representations and giving that Intelligence from time to time, which the executive ought constantly to be informed of. I do not recollect any one matter of importance that was omitted in my communications to your Excellency and I confess as an Individual that I felt a pride and pleasure in corresponding with a great character, exclusive of that sacred duty which my honorable appointment demanded of me.

The Enemy are still in the Jersey, not far from Elisabeth Town and by a letter from Lord Sterling they are considerably reinforced. They have built a floating bridge to secure a retreat to Staten Island if necessary. Two or three little battles have taken place, in which the militia fought well but have suffered greatly. I fancy the object of the Enemy was to try the force of General Washington’s regular Troops. Unluckily by the experiment they find our illustrious commander unable to meet them without the aid of militia and what next? I fear they will remain in the Jersey until Clinton gets back from Charles Town, and then make a bold attempt upon the continental stores and army. I wish the French fleet and Troops were happily arrived. About fifty sail of merchantmen have got to this City within a few days past. By one of them the last night we are told that Barbadoes is taken, and probably by this time Antigua and Saint Kitts, but I cannot credit so hastily as some Gentlemen are disposed to do.”

Cyrus Griffin would serve as a Judge on the Court of Appeals until 1786. It was in the previous year that the financially insolvent Confederation government notified the judges that they could no longer pay their salaries. Despite this Congress expected the men to continue with their commissions, like them, without any pay. Griffin served in that payless position for several months before writing a letter to the appropriate committee on January 24, 1786. Griffin’s letter contained a protest against Congress’ July 1, 1785, decision to discontinue the salaries of the judges of the court of appeals without vacating their commissions. The Secretary of the United States, Charles Thomson responded on February 13, 1786 as follows:

“Your letter of the 6 of January was duly received and communicated to Congress, in consequence of which they passed a resolution a copy of which I have the honor to enclose.”

The resolve reasserted that it was “necessary that the salaries of the said judges should cease,” but in an appeasing gesture Congress also avowed “That Congress are fully impressed with a sense of the ability, fidelity and attention of the judges of the court of Appeals.”

Cyrus Griffin resigned the commission and returned to Virginia and was quickly elected a delegate to the state assembly in 1786 and served until late 1787. By the end of his term it was clear that Virginia needed experienced representation in the United States in Congress Assembled as the new Constitution had emerged and much work needed to be done to insure its ratification and subsequent implementation.

Griffin was elected in October of 1787 by Virginia to serve as their Delegate in what would be come the last session of the United States in Congress Assembled. He arrived in New York in November and as in the past no quorum could be formed in either that month or December to conduct the nation’s business. On December 15th he wrote his friend and Constitution Signer Thomas Fitzsimmons on a matter concerning the Treasury Board:

I should have written some days ago, but waited a private conveyance which at last has disappointed me. I had great difficulty in getting your little matter adjusted with the Treasury Board, because the promise of payment was to Harison only, and because not a shilling was in hand for continental purposes; however, as being preferable to nothing, You will receive enclosed a warrant upon Thomas Smith for the sum entrusted to my care. I was obliged to accommodate a little affair of my own in the like mode which has occasioned an unexpected inconveniency. For some days past I have been confined with a violent cold and disagreeable affection of the head; but as nothing very alarming is to be feared I wish my poor little woman to know but little of it. I doubt the family of Mr. Marshall’s will give you and your amiable lady a good deal of Trouble; but as they are the last few months they will ever spend to the northward I hope it may be forgiven; for indeed having but little property of my own and scarcely any thing by my wife, I should not be justifiable in spending that little at a distance from my own country even for the purposes of Religion; yet in the meantime I flatter myself they will ask for any thing that may be wanting, and when the little stock is expended that you were kind enough to take charge of I will endeavor to procure them more.

I make free to enclose a letter for your friendly messenger to deliver. There are but four states rep[r]esented in Congress and I see no probability of a majority for weeks to come. Our foreign correspondence contain the strongest reasons why a fixed and efficient government should be organized with all expedition.”

In early January 1788, the United States in Congress Assembled still was not able to muster a quorum. On January 13th, The New York Daily Advertiser contained a notice that the Connecticut convention had ratified the Constitution by a vote of 127 to 40. The newspaper also included a copy of John Lansing’s and Robert Yates’ December 21 letter to Gov. George Clinton explaining their objections to the Constitution. Griffin wrote Fitzsimmons of this news on the same day:

… We are also very impatient for European Intelligence; nothing of consequence can
as yet be relied upon; the packets are hourly expected. A little period since our Ministers abroad were predicting a speedy war. I do not believe the affairs of Europe exhibit at this time a more pacific appearance. If the contest in Holland has terminated with peace to the provinces, France will accept the challenge from England with spirit and with equal ability. A little while and then we may determine with certainty.
Connecticut has received the Constitution; a great majority. Four states have now adopted. Parties are running very high in Massachusetts: Samuel Adams and his friends have at length come forward: the Delegates from that Government, who understand characters, are doubtful of a happy Issue. If Mass. should be so unwise and dishonest to reject the system, N. York and Virginia will not hesitate one moment to follow the example; and then farewell to a federal Government of the whole; the baneful, the fatal consequences not one of us can foresee in their extent.

I beg leave to trouble you with a small letter to Spruce Street. I intended to Philadelphia for a little; but as my cold is bad, and what is still worse my pay would cease when absent from the Seat of Congress. I believe dear Madam had better spend the long nights without a partner, than the short days without Soup.

Do me the kindness to present my best Regards to your lady.

On January 22, 1788 with the arrival of Jonathan Dayton from New Jersey the last United States in Congress Assembled government finally reached a quorum. Their first order of business was to choose the last President of the Unites States Confederation. The Delegates, wisely, sent an important message to the States still deliberating ratification of the newly proposed Constitution of 1787. They overwhelmingly selected a member who heartedly supported the ratification of the new Constitution, Cyrus Griffin. The Massachusetts Delegation wrote their Governor, John Hancock the following day:

Since we last did ourselves the honor to address Your Excellency nothing of importance has taken place until yesterday when the delegates from seven States being assembled, Congress proceeded to the choice of The Honble. Cyrus Griffin Esq. for their President. The States of Georgia, N Carolina, Connecticut & N Hampshire have each a member present, but are unrepresented.

New York will probably make their election this week, And R Island is without a Member in Congress. The arrival of a Minister, Count de Moustiers from the Court of France, is a fresh proof of the attention, which the United States have uniformly received, from an illustrious ally; And we are confident of Your Excellency’s concurrence in the sincerest wishes, that whilst our Nation is respectable abroad, Nothing may take place that will diminish our importance at home.

We shall continue to detail to Your Excelly from time to time, such facts as may be that of consequence to be communicated.

Secretary Thomson’s letter to the States on the 23rd read:

I have the honor to inform your Excellency that on Monday last Seven states assembled, namely Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, and from New Hampshire Mr. Gilman, from Connecticut, Mr. Wadsworth, from North Carolina, Mr. White and from Georgia Mr. Baldwin. Yesterday Congress proceeded to the election of a President and made choice of His Excellency Cyrus Griffin


The Election of Cyrus Griffin JOURNALS OF THE UNITED STATES IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED containing the proceedings from the 5th day of November, 1787 to the 3rd day of November 1788, Volume XIII, Published by order of the United States in Congress Assembled, [Philadelphia] Printed by John Dunlap, 1788. – Courtesy of the Author

From January 23rd to the 31st congress failed, once again, to achieve a quorum. On February 1st the new members were faced with reviewing a backlog of reports and letters. Congress failed to achieve a quorum on the 6th and didn’t reconvene until the 12th when they authorized, John Jay, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to issue sea letters. Congress met again on the 14th and agreed on a date to receive the new French Minister, Comete de Moustier. Sometime in February his family established residence in the home of Thomas Fitzsimmons. On the 18th of February Griffin wrote Fitzsimmons:

I ought to beg pardon for having so long neglected your very obliging letter. The congratulations of a worthy man and so friendly a mind must always be acceptable to a heart of sensibility. I thank you for them; and yet I feel no addition of real satisfaction in being thus elevated, but truly and with sincerity I experience the reverse.

My family are the great object I have in contemplation, and if this promotion in its consequences shall redound to the advantage of my children my utmost wishes will be accomplished, so far as private considerations are permitted to operate; at all times and upon all occasions I would sacrifice my ease to their emolument. And as to the public, it is not in my power to do any essential services, but I will discharge my duty with honesty and to the best of my abilities.

The consultation between the ladies has certainly been a wise one; how happy is lady

C. [His wife Lady Christina] in having so amiable and intelligent a friend! And yet I am almost tired to death with this kind of life, in a croud thro’ the day and solitary at night; the family must certainly be set in motion in April or May unless something material should intervene to prevent a Journey to N. York; and if then yourself and Mrs. FitzSimons can make it convenient to spend some time with us how extremely rejoiced I should be; in point of health the excursion might be of service to your kind lady, and would add greatly to the pleasure of those who admire and love her.

The proposed constitution now stands upon a firm basis; the ratification of Massachusetts will carry it triumphantly throughout. N. Ham. will presently adopt it. Maryland and South Carolina by large majorities in convenient time; N. York, Virginia, and N. Carolina must find their concurrence indispensably necessary; and even Rhode Island in all probability will soon be deliberating. Colonel R. H. Lee and Mr. John Page, men of Influence in Virginia, are relinquishing their opposition; but what to us is very extraordinary and unexpected, we are told that Mr. George Mason has declared himself so great an enemy to the constitution that he will heartily join Mr. Henry and others in promoting a southern Confederacy; Alas! how inconstant is the mind of man. All the European Information of a public nature has been communicated in the newspapers.

On February the 28th Griffin’s Congress received the treasury report on the foreign debt and on the 29th they elected paid Chaplains of the United States in Congress Assembled:

That two chaplains be appointed for Congress whose salaries shall not exceed three hundred dollars each per Annum to commence from the day of their appointment, so it was resolved in the affirmative. Congress proceeded to the election and the ballots being taken Doctor Provost and Doctor Rogers were elected.