From: The Governers of Connecticut
By: Frederick Calvin Norton
JOHN Treadwell was the last of’ the Puritan governors of Lonnecticut, and in him we see blended for the last time
the theologian and statesman. He was born at Farmington, November 23, 1745, and lived there all his life. His father
was well-to-do mechanic, and a stern Puritan, who told his son when he reached the age of sixteen that he could
have one week in which to decide whether he would receive a college education. The Euture governor accepted the
offer before the week had expired, and Rev. Timothy Pitkin, a son of Governor Pitkin, set about preparing the young
man for college. In 1763, at the age of eighteen Treadwell entered Yale where he gave particular attention to the
classics. It is said that John Locke’s "Essay on the Human Understanding,” and Jonathan Edward’s “Inquiry
into the Freedom of the Will,” were his favorite works. He was graduated from Yale in the class of 1767, and being
heir to a considerable fortune he rejected the idea of pursuing a professional career, although he studied law
with Judge Hosmer of Middletown. Soon after, Treadwell engaged in a mercantile business, hoping to increase Fiis
income but the result was an embarrassing failure.
He began the manufacture of nitre later on however, and extricated himself from the financial loss he had previously
During the Revolutionary period Treadwell engaged in the struggle for freedom. In 1754 and 1755 he was active as
a member of the “Committee of Inspection and Correspondence,” and in 1776 his townsmen elected him as their representative
in the General Assembly. This office he held for the next seven years, when in 1783, he was elevated to the governor’s
council. He continued as a member of this body by successive elections until 1798 Treadwell was a member of the
Continental Congress in 1785 and 1786. In 1789 lie was elected judge of probate of the Farmington district and
also a judge of the Supreme Court of Errors. These offices he held until 1809, and he was afterward a judge of
the Court of Common Pleas for several years. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1798 and continued in this office
until 1809 when he succeeded Trumbull as governor. Governor Treadwell held the office almost two years.
In 1795 Governor Treadwell took an important part in negotiating the sale of lands in Ohio the proceeds of which
constituted the Connecticut School Fund. He was one of the delegates to the convention at Hartford that ratified
the Constitution of the United States in 1788.
Thirty years later Governor Treadwell was also an important member of the convention which formed our present constitution.
In 1800 Yale College conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws.
Retiring from public life in 1811 Governor Treadwell spent a large portion of his time in writing on religious
subjects. He was attentive to the scriptures from his youth up, and was assisted in the acquisition of religious
knowledge by the study of the New Testament in the original Greek. The outcome was a series of essays on theological
subjects, which are preserved, but were never published. Governor Treadwell was active in founding the “Connecticut
Missionary Society,” the first organization of its kind in North America. Governor Treadwell was one of the rich
men of the section, his estate inventorying $74,000.
He died at his home in Farmington on August 18, 1823. His death was a serious loss to the people of Farmington.
Rev. Dr. Noah Porter, pastor of the Congregational church in Farmington, preached the governor’s funeral sermon.
Among other things he said, “He was never suspected of partiality, duplicity, or a timeserving policy. He was known
to act uprightly, and with a sincere desire to promote the public good. Probably no man was better acquainted with
the internal policy of the state. And it is a singular proof of his fidelity, if not his disinterestedness, that
after this long and arduous course of public service he had only about the same amount of property that he had
possessed when he began it. The emoluments of all his offices, together with the income of his farm, but little
exceeded the expenses of his Family"
Professor Olmstead writing of his ability as a scholar says: "It may be safely asserted that few, if any,
of our chief magistrates have retained more fully the acquisition of their youth, or distinguished the latter periods
of life by more solid learning. What was his comparative ability or usefulness, as a theologian or as a magistrate
and civilian, it would be difficult to decide. This is much more evident, that few men have combined in themselves
in so eminent a degree the most important qualifications for all three and that in him they reflected on each other
a lustre, and together formed an excellence of character such as we are not often in this world to behold.”