Elias Boudinot

Elias Boudinot

Infobox Officeholder
name = Elias Boudinot
honorific-suffix =

imagesize = 200px
office = 4th President of the United States in Congress Assembled
term_start = November 4, 1782
term_end = November 2, 1783
predecessor = John Hanson
successor = Thomas Mifflin
birth_date = birth date|1740|5|2|mf=y
birth_place = Philadelphia, Philadelphia
death_date = death date and age|1821|10|24|1740|5|2
death_place =
spouse =
party =
residence =
alma_mater =
occupation =
profession =
religion =

Elias Boudinot Jr. (1740ndash 1821) 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.

Personal history

Boudinot was born in Philadelphia on May 2, 1740. His father, Elias Boudinot Sr. [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~silversmiths/makers/silversmiths/96691.htm] , was a silversmith and a neighbor and friend of Benjamin Franklin. His mother, Mary Catherine Williams, was from the British West Indies and Boudinot's maternal grandfather was from Wales. [http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=:1225461&id=I56538400] His paternal grandfather, Elie (sometimes called Elias) Boudinot, was the son of Jean Boudinot and Marie Suire of Marans, Aunis, France, a Huguenot (French Protestant) family who fled to New York about 1687 to avoid the religious persecutions of King Louis XIV.

After studying and being tutored at home, Elias Boudinot 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, and was married to Elias's sister Annis Boudinot Stockton. 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 Township, New Jersey.

Then, on April 21, 1762, he married Richard's sister, Hannah Stockton (1736-1808). Elias and Hannah had two children, Maria Boudinot, who died at age two, and Susan Vergereau Boudinot. Susan married William Bradford who became Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and Attorney General under George Washington. 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's 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 and lived there the rest of his life. In his later years, he invested and speculated in land. He owned large tracts in Ohio including most of Green Township in what is now the western suburbs of Cincinnati. On his death, he willed 13,000 acres (53 km²) to the city of Philadelphia for parks and city needs.

Boudinot died at home in Burlington on October 24, 1821. He was buried in Saint Mary's Episcopal Churchyard in Burlington. [ [http://politicalgraveyard.com/geo/NJ/BU.html#R9T0WRDZO St. Mary's Churchyard] at The Political Graveyard. Accessed August 21, 2007.]

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 of 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 and able 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, Boudinot 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 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 did not get to Congress until after his term, and the United States did not ratify the treaty until January 14, 1784.

When the United States government was formed in 1789, New Jersey sent 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 United States 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 Nassau Hall.

A devout Presbyterian, Boudinot supported missions and missionary work. He even wrote "The Age of Revelation" in response to Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason". 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 for and was given permission to use his name, and was afterward known as Elias Boudinot.


Elias Boudinot Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey is named after him.

Princeton University Library has a collection of his papers and many family possessions and portraits.

Boudinot Street in Philadelphia, located between C and D Streets.


*“Be religiously careful in our choice of all public officers... and judge of the tree by its fruits.”
*"Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow."


External links

* [http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/boude-bowe.html#R9M0IQ0FJ Elias Boudinot] at The Political Graveyard
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=12858 Elias Boudinot] at Find A Grave

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 0-8371-1345-8.
*Joseph Lee Boyle; "Their Distress is Almost Intolerable: The Elias Boudinot Letterbook, 1777-1778"; 2002, Heritage Books (paperback), ISBN 0-7884-2210-3.

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