Christopher Ellery

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Christopher Ellery
Senator Christopher Ellery of Rhode Island.jpg
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
In office
May 6, 1801 – March 3, 1805
Preceded byRay Greene
Succeeded byJames Fenner
Personal details
Born(1768-11-01)November 1, 1768
Newport, Rhode Island
DiedDecember 2, 1840(1840-12-02) (aged 72)
Middletown, Rhode Island
Political partyDemocratic-Republican

Christopher Ellery (November 1, 1768 – December 2, 1840) was a United States Senator from Rhode Island. Born in Newport, he graduated from Yale College in 1787, studied law, was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Newport. He was clerk of the superior court of Newport County from 1794 to 1798.

Ellery was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Ray Greene and served from May 6, 1801, to March 4, 1805. He was defeated for reelection in 1804 by James Fenner, the son of the Governor. Ellery was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson as United States commissioner of loans at Providence in 1806, and was appointed collector of customs at Newport, succeeding his uncle, holding that office from 1820 to 1834. He died in Middletown in 1840; interment was in Island Cemetery, Newport.

Christopher Ellery was a nephew of William Ellery, a Continental Congressman from Rhode Island.

In a curious incident in 1801, a letter to President Thomas Jefferson was sent from someone purporting to be Nicholas Geffroy, a silversmith in Newport, Rhode Island. The letter detailed accusations against many citizens and office-holders, and insisted that "A purification is necessary, & we cannot be purified unless you cleanse the Augean Stable completely." Geffroy received a response from Jefferson, but doubted its authenticity and denied having ever written to the President. Ellery, a local resident, vouched for its authenticity and apparently impounded the letter for return to Jefferson. He then accused Congressman John Rutledge Jr. of South Carolina, also then resident in Newport, of having forged this and another letter from Geffroy. These "Geffroy letters" were subsequently published in the Newport Rhode-Island Republican on September 18, 1802, under the headline "Rutledge's Letters To the President of the United States." As noted in that article, although Geffroy possessed some mastery of spoken English, it was doubted that he could write, "with any degree of correctness, a single sentence of the language." After a flurry of accusations and affidavits, Rutledge challenged Ellery to a duel, which he declined. Rutledge assaulted Ellery in January 1803, "publicly caning him and pulling him by the nose and ears". Although Rutledge vehemently maintained his innocence in the affair, he decided not to seek reelection in 1803 given the negative publicity.


  • United States Congress. "Christopher Ellery (id: E000114)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Letter to Thomas Jefferson from “Nicholas Geffroy,” 1 August 1801
  • A Defence against Calumny; or, Haman, in the shape of C. Ellery, Esq., hung upon his own gallows. Being the substance of certain publications ... refuting the accusation against J. Rutledge, of writing two letters to the President of the United States, urging the "displacement" of all the Federalists in Rhode Island, and the appointment to office of such persons as should be recommended by C. Ellery, John RUTLEDGE (Member of Congress.), Christopher ELLERY, 1803, pages 28-29.
  • A Contribution to the Bibliography and Literature of Newport, R. I.: Comprising a List of Books Published Or Printed, in Newport, with Notes and Additions, Charles Edward Hammett, C. E. Hammett, jun., 1887, page 46.

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Ray Greene
U.S. senator (Class 2) from Rhode Island
Served alongside: Theodore Foster, Samuel J. Potter, Benjamin Howland
Succeeded by
James Fenner