Descendant of a prominent Swiss family that made its mark in America. In 1765, as lord of Worb and bailiff of Nidau, he reluctantly carried out the orders of the authorities of Bern and expelled Rousseau from his refuge on an island in the Lake of Bienne.
Grandson of Baron Christopher Graffenried (1661-1743), who in the early part of the century emigrated to America, settled in North Carolina, helped to lay out the town of New Bern, and acquired land in Virginia. Plagued by numerous troubles, Christopher Graffenried abandoned the colony and returned to Switzerland (1713). His son, Christopher, uncle of Karl Emanuel, moved to Virginia and founded the American branch of the family. The Swiss branch continued through the father of Karl Emanuel.