Elias Boudinot

From Academic Kids

For other people with the same name, see Elias Boudinot (disambiguation).

Elias Boudinot IV (17401821) was an early American lawyer and statesman from Elizabeth, New Jersey who was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a U.S. Congressman for New Jersey. He served as President of the Continental Congress in 1782-1783.

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Elias Boudinot IV


Personal history

Elias Boudinot III (not 4th) was grandson of Elie Boudinot, the son of Jean Boudinot and Marie Suire of Marans, Aunis, France, a Huguenot (Protestant) family. Elias I fled to New York about 1687 to avoid the religious persecutions of King Louis 14th. Elias III's father, Elias Jr., was a silversmith, and a neighbor and friend of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia. Elias III was born in Philadelphia on May 2, 1740. After tutoring and study at home, he went to Princeton, New Jersey to read the law with another attorney. His mentor was Richard Stockton (1730-1781), who later signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1760 he was admitted to the bar, and began his practice in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He owned land adjacent to the road from Elizabethtown to Woodbridge, NJ.

Then on April 21, 1762 he married Richard's sister, Hannah Stockton (1736-1808). Elias and Hannah would have only one child, Susan Boudinot Bradford. Susan married William Bradford who became Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and Washington's Attorney General. After Bradford's death in 1795, Susan came back to make her home with her father and edit his papers, which are a light into the events of the Revolutionary era. Elias' only brother, Elisha, became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

In 1805 Elias moved his family to a new home in Burlington, New Jersey. He lived there the rest of his life, and died there on October 24, 1821. He is buried in St. Mary's Episcopal Churchyard on West Broad Street in Burlington.

A Scottish immigrant named John Craig bought 320 acres (1.3 km²) of land from Boudinot in 1814 and named it after the Cheviot Hills in Scotland. Today, that land is known as the City of Cheviot and is a suburb of Cincinnati in Ohio.

The above portrait is not a portrait of Elias Boudinot III, but rather is a oil portrait of Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee man who met Boudinot III early in his life.

Political career

Boudinot became a prominent lawyer and his practice prospered, As the revolution drew near, he aligned with the Whigs, and was elected to the New Jersey provincial assembly in 1775. In the early stages of the Revolutionary War he was active in promoting enlistment and several times loaned money to field commanders for supplies. Elias also became one of the focal points for rebel spies, who were sent to Staten Island and Long Island to observe and report on movements os specific British garrisons and regiments. To this day, much of what he organized remains a "secret" worth discovery and telling.

On May 5, 1777 General George Washington asked for him to be made commissary general for prisoners. Congress through the board of war concurred. Boudinot was made a Colonel in the Continental Army for this task. He held this job until other responsibilities force him to resign in July of 1778. The commissary was responsible not just for enemy prisoners, but for supplying American prisoners held by the British. See: American Revolution prisoners of war.

In November of 1777, the New Jersey legislature named Boudinot as one of their delegates to the Continental Congress. His duties as Commissary prevented his attendance, so in May of 1778 he submitted his resignation, and by early July he was replaced to attend his first meeting on July 7, 1778. He maintained his concerns for the welfare of prisoners of war throughout his term as a delegate. His first term ended that year.

In 1781 Elias returned to the Congress, and this term lasted through 1783.He was elected the President of the Continental Congress for the November, 1782 to November 1783 term. Some later analysts have incorrectly claimed him as the First President of the United States, an honor he shares with John Hanson. The basis for the claim in his name is that the Treaty of Paris, in which Britain recognized American independence, was concluded during his term as president of the Congress. But news of the event didn't get to Congress until after his term, and the United States didn't ratify the treaty until January 14, 1784.

When the United States government was formed in 1789, New Jersey sent Elias Boudinot to the House of Representatives. He was elected to the second and third congresses as well, where he generally supported the administration, but refused to join the growing forces that led to formal political parties. In 1794 he declined to serve another term, and left congress in early 1795. In October of 1795, President Washington appointed him the Director of the Mint a position he held until his retirement in 1805. After many turbulent decades in law and politics, he was to recall the metallurgic skill learned in his father's silversmithy. Under his administration the first US coinage was minted, the beauty of which is sought after by collectors willing to pay many thousands, or even millions, of dollars for any specimen, most notably the 1804 silver dollar. He was scrupulous in his accounting, as reported to Congress, and left the US Mint in excellent order for the future.

Later public service

In addition to political office Elias supported many civic, religious, and educational causes during his life. He is intimately connected with Princeton University. In revolutionary times, Princeton was the College of New Jersey, and Boudinot served as one of its trustees for nearly half a century, from 1772 until 1821. When the Continental Congress was forced to leave Philadelphia in 1783 while he was its president, he moved the meetings to Princeton where they met in the University's Nassua Hall.

A devout Episcopalian, Boudinot supported missions and missionary work. To that end he was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, and served as its President after 1816. He argued for the rights of black and Indian citizens, and sponsored students to the Board School for Indians in Connecticut. One of these, a young Cherokee named Gallegina Watie, stayed with him while traveling to the school. The two so impressed each other that Gallegina asked to for and was given permission to use his name, and was afterward known as Elias Boudinot.

External link

Further reading

  • J. J. Boudinot; The Life, Public Services, Addresses and Letters of Elias Boudinot; New York, 1896.
  • George Boyd; Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman, 1740-1821; Westwood, Connecticut, 1969, Greenwood Publishing, ISBN 0837113458.
  • Joseph Lee Boyle; Their Distress is Almost Intolerable: The Elias Boudinot Letterbook, 1777-1778; 2002, Heritage Books (paperback), ISBN 0788422103.

Preceded by:
John Hanson
President of the United States in Congress Assembled
November 4, 1782November 2, 1783
Succeeded by:
Thomas Mifflin

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