Cyrus Griffin Dissolves The Government

Cyrus Griffin Dissolves The Government

Cyrus Griffin’s biggest contribution to the Founding of the United States was his time as the President of the Confederation Congress.

Griffin was the last person to hold this position and oversaw the discussions which ceded power from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution.

Cyrus also had quite important judicial roles for the Federal government.

Cyrus Griffin

It was love.

When Cyrus Griffin first met Christina Stewart, he knew she saw the woman he would marry.

Christina, however, was from a noble family.  Her father had no interest in letting Christina marry the young American man who only journeyed to Scotland for an education.  A noble lady was not to marry a back-country colonist, and the wedding was forbidden.

Cyrus and Christina decided to elope.  The traveled under the cover of the Scottish hills and sailed for America where Cyrus would support their family with a successful law practice.

The Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture

By the time Cyrus turned 30, the American Revolutionary War had begun.  

Griffin, having learned to distrust people of noble dissent (other than his wife), joined the Patriot Cause.

Cyrus received election to the Virginia House of Delegates who, in turn, sent him to the Continental Congress.

Griffin became known for his unbiased judgement and as such was chosen as a Justice on the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture.  This Court, which was first proposed by General Washington, made decisions regarding enemy ships which were taken at sea. These cases concerned who would be awarded the contents of said vessels.

The Court of Appeals was the first inter-State court.  This means Cyrus Griffin (along with William Paca and Titus Hosmer) was one of the original Federal Judges in the history of the United States.

President of the Confederation Congress

By 1788 the Constitution had been written and several States already ratified it.  

During this time of transition, Griffin was chosen as President of the Confederation Congress (as the Continental Congress was known by this point).  

The President of Congress was extremely different from President of the United States as we understand it today.  

The position had no real power, the delegate who was chosen became more of a Chairman than a President. However, this office was only given to someone held in high esteem by their contemporaries.  The President of the Confederation was the one whose signature was placed on all official documents which, for a short period, gave Griffin one of the most important autographs in the new nation.


During his tenure, Cyrus oversaw several important discussions.

One of these debates concerned the recognition of Kentucky as the 14th State.  Seeing as the Constitution had been ratified just one day before, the decision was made not to accept Kentucky’s petition.  

The reason for this choice was, as a new government would be taking over, the decision should be left up to the new delegates.  Approving Kentucky’s claim would be just a bit sneaky.

The End of the Government

In September of 1788, almost exactly a year after the signing of the Constitution, Cyrus Griffin called a meeting to order.  The task at hand: officially recognizing the new form of government.

This was done and, in essence, the Confederation Congress declared itself a lame duck government.

Two months later, Griffin returned to Congress but only two other men were in attendance.  

Cyrus Griffin ended the meeting and resigned his position.  With a few brief exceptions the Confederation Congress would not meet again.  

Griffin had peaceably ceded power to another authority.

District Court Justice

After the Constitution took effect, and George Washington took office as President, certain appointments had to be made.  Many of these appointments were for federal judges.

As Griffin already had experience creating federal judicial positions, Washington nominated him as Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Virginia.  This became one of the highest courts in Virginia, then the most wealthy and powerful State.

Cyrus Griffin served in this judicial capacity for over twenty years until his passing in 1810.

If you enjoyed this article, there is a good chance you might like one of our other bios on past Presidents of the Confederation Congress. I find Nathaniel Gorham, Elias Boudinot and Thomas Mifflin to be extremely interesting Founders.

I also am in awe of the man who just couldn’t let the Articles of Confederation go: Philip Pellham.

For anyone interested in the Presidents of the Confederation Congress, I highly recommend reading ‘The First American Republic.’ It looks at the creation and government of the Articles of Confederation in a fresh light, highlighting its accomplishments instead of the general view many histories have of it being a failure. Get it at your library or through our affiliate link below.

Also, if you have not yet subscribed to our email list to receive a new Founder every morning, now is the perfect time. Feel free to join the fun here.

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