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A Founding Father and President – Elias Boudinot

February 22nd, 2012

Elias Boudinot

When you think of the Founding Fathers of our country certain popular and well-known names come to mind. The fact is there are many Founding Fathers with names we may never have heard. Some of these were very influential in shaping our country, and one is Elias Boudinot.

The most important fact about Elias Boudinot, as you will read,  is the clear-cut establishment of Christianity in the founding of the American society, its laws and Constitution.

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) is a name not known by many. Would it surprise you that he was President? Probably the biggest surprise is that we had Presidents before George Washington, and Boudinot was the tenth President of the Continental Congress in 1782-1783.1

Elias Boudinot was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 2nd 1740 and died in Burlington, New Jersey October 24th, 1821. His great-grandfather, Elias, was a French Huguenot, who fled to this country after the revocation of the decree of Nantes. After receiving a Liberal Arts education, Elias Boudinot studied law with Richard Stockton of New Jersey and became distinguished in this profession in the early 1770’s. Boudinot was dutiful to the cause of independence in New Jersey, serving as a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Essex County in 1774. He often used his influence and great legal mind to persuade the New Jersey Provincial Congress to approve the resolutions of the Continental Congress and the United States in Congress Assembled. Boudinot was appointed NJ Commissary-General of Prisoners in 1777. In the same year he was elected a delegate to Continental Congress from New Jersey, serving from 1778 until 1779. He also served in the United States in Congress Assembled from 1781 until 1784.

Boudinot, a wealthily New Jersey lawyer and leader of the Presbyterian Church, won the presidency by a narrow margin The delegate count was 16 to 11. The law however of One state One Vote ended the tally seven states to four and two states not voting.

The other four states cast their votes for three different southern delegates. Eliphalet Dyer wrote to Jonathan Trumbull, November 8, 1782:

 Mr. Boudinot of the State of New Jersey, a gebtn of good character, virtuous, and decent behavior, was elected President of Congress on Monday last for the year ensuing; the choice was clear, no strift, as it is the prevailing inclination of Congress, to proceed in course through the States when it can be done with propriety, Jersey having none before.2

Boudinot was elected President of the United States in Congress Assembled on November 4th, 1782. Boudinot was a humble man who did not seek position or stature. Yet, his diplomacy, manner, and intelligence had a great influence as a Founding Father.

Justice Rehnquist, in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), listed Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) as one of the Christian founding fathers whose views contributed to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Boudinot is one example proving the authenticity of America’s Christian heritage. He set out his Christian viewpoint in The Age of Revelation (excerpted below), which was a pamphlet, written as a letter to his daughter in 1795, to uphold Christian beliefs and to refute Thomas Paine’s pamphlet (The Age of Reason) which advocated “the religion of nature” and sought to discredit the accuracy and infallibility of the Bible. (Boudinot, in contrast, upheld the Bible’s accuracy.) At the time Boudinot wrote this pamphlet, he was the Director of the United States Mint.

Consider this Boudinot statement: “There is no other instance (than that of the Mosaic code) of a body of laws being produced at once, and remaining without addition afterwards….” American society (including its early laws) were based primarily on Christianity, which in turn was based on the Mosaic code (the Ten Commandments). That was the view of many Early Americans, including founders like Elias Boudinot, who certainly would know their own generation better than we would.3

Earlier, in 1782, Boudinot was a member of the third (final) committee to design the Great Seal of the United States (especially the Coat of Arms portion). This committee turned the task of designing the United States Coat of Arms over to attorney William Barton, an expert in heraldry, upon whose knowledge the committee depended.3

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 1795, President Washington appointed him the Director of the United States Mint, a position he held until his retirement in 1805. He was scrupulous in his accounting, as reported to Congress, and left the US Mint in excellent order for the future.

In addition to serving in political office, Elias supported many civic, religious, and educational causes during his life. 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 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 American 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. He later was known as Elias Boudinot.4

 1 There were 16 presidents of Congress. John Hanson (#9) was the first President elected under the terms of the Articles of Confederation with Boudinot being the second Continental Congress President. The presiding officer of the Continental Congress was usually styled “President of the Congress” or “President of Congress.” After the Articles of Confederation were adopted on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress, previously officially known as simply “The Congress”, became officially known as “The United States in Congress Assembled.” Thereafter, the president was referred to as the “President of the United States in Congress Assembled”, although “President of (the) Congress” was used in some official documents.

2  Read his letters and other correspondence at http://eliasboudinot.com/

3 Belcher Foundation, ©2001, All Rights Reserved; http://www.belcherfoundation.org/boudinot.htm

4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Boudinot

 

ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN

October 24th, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

Historians have argued whether or not Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s best-known presidents, ever became a committed Christian. As a youth Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope which could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended seances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible.

As a youth, Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope that could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended séances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible. Increasingly he saw himself as an instrument of the Lord’s will, inscrutable though that might be.

His lifelong friend Joshua Speed remembered, “As I entered the room near night, [Lincoln] was sitting near a window reading his Bible. Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you profitably engaged.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am profitably engaged.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism I am sorry to say that I have not!’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand upon my shoulder, he said: ‘You are wrong Speed; take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.'”

He wrestled to understand why the North continued to lose although its cause, the abolition of slavery and preservation of the union, seemed the more justifiable side. In the end, in a note not written for public consumption, Lincoln concluded that …1

 “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Like a figure from Israel’s ancient history, Lincoln was arguing with God. But it was no longer a domesticated deity, an American God, but the ruler of the nations. The truth had begun to dawn to Lincoln that this God was not at the nation’s beck and call, but the nation at his. His thinking was beginning to diverge from the paths followed by Beecher, Dabney, and the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries.2

He issued a proclamation in the Northern States for a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting “to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities. … It is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy…3

1 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

2 Mark A. Knoll, The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln (Christianitytoday.com)

 3 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

Bibliography:

  1. Current, Richard N. The Lincoln Nobody Knows. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.
  2. Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York, N.Y. : Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1990.
  3. Lincoln, Abraham. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler; Marion Dolores Pratt and Lloyd A. Dunlap, assistant editors. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953 – 1955.

“QUOTES”

September 22nd, 2011

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God”

-In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294.

THE MAYFLOWER – THE REASONS FOR THE TRIP

September 21st, 2011

Pilgrims Boarding the Mayflower (britannica.com) artist unknown

It is interesting to know the ‘whys’ of those traveling on the Mayflower and its ultimate outcome on the formation of our country. To understand the purposes and motivations, one must consider economics as a driving force to settle in the New World. The Puritans, comprising approximately one-third of the passengers, were motivated by religious freedom and expression of their faith in addition to the economics.

The English surpassed other nations in its business practices. English merchants had eclipsed their Spanish and French rivals in preparing for successful colonization through adoption of the joint-stock company as a form of business.1 Merchants who dissented from the Church of England were also willing investors in New World colonies. There were plenty of Puritans who had the necessary capital, and with the Catholic-leaning Stuart monarchs assuming the throne the Puritans’ motive to move became stronger.

With an excess landless population to serve as workers, and motivated, adventurous, or devout investors, the joint-stock company became the vehicle by which England finally settled the Western Hemisphere.

This starkly contrasted with Spanish and French settlements. New Spain and New France were developed by their kings. The English colonies were developed by their people. Many historians argue that the primary reason the relatively small and late English colonization effort ultimately outlasted its predecessors was because individuals had a true stake in its success.2

Indeed, the English respect for property rights soon eclipsed other factors accounting for England’s New World dominance. Born out of the fierce struggles by English landowners to protect their estates from seizure by the state, by the 1600s, property rights had become so firmly established as a basis for English economic activities that its rules permeated even the lowest classes in society. English colonists found land so abundant that anyone could own it. When combined with freedom from royal retribution in science and technological fields, the right to retain the fruit of one’s labor-even intellectual property-gave England a substantial advantage in the colonization process over rivals that had more than a century’s head start.37 These advantages would be further enhanced by a growing religious toleration brought about by religious dissenters from the Church of England called Puritans38.3

There were two groups of Puritans; one believed they could reform the [Anglican] Church from within, and the second group did not. They second group were called “Separatists.” The Separatists favored leaving England, disobeyed royal decrees and English law that brought persecution and death. That led to 125 of them moving to Holland. Holland, although offering freedom, did not satisfy what the group was looking for. This led to negotiations that gave them the British King’s assurances they could exercise their faith and views freely. With that, they started negotiations with one of the proprietors of the Virginia Company about obtaining a grant in Virginia. They raised capital employing the joint-stock company structure, which brought several non-separatists into the original band of settlers. This led to the journey on the Mayflower, heading for the Hudson River, at that time the most northern tip of the Virginia Company charter territory.

The Mayflower was blown off course and never reached the Hudson. In the next blog, we will continue the story and consider the Mayflower Compact.

FOOTNOTES

1 Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States, From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror; (Sentinel, Published by the Penguin Group, © Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, 2004, All Rights Reserved) p15

2 Britain in the New World, U.S. History, Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium (©2008-2011 ushistory.org Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, founded 1942); http://www.ushistory.org/us/2b.asp

3 Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States, From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror; (Sentinel, Published by the Penguin Group, © Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, 2004, All Rights Reserved) p16

37 Footnote in quote from above: David S. Lanes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technical and Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 1969); Nathan Rosenburg and L.E. Birdsell Jr., How the West Grew Rich: The Economist Transformation of the Industrial World (New York: Basic Books, 1986); and Larry Schweikart, The Entrepreneurial Adventure: A History of Business in the United States (Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2000)

38 Philip F. Gura, A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1600 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1984)

 ENDNOTES

Previous blogs on the Mayflower may be found at:

THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

THE MAYFLOWER FAREWELL LETTER 

THE MAYFLOWER FAREWELL LETTER

September 8th, 2011

A pastoral farewell letter to those sailing on the first Mayflower trip to America reveals how God’s Sovereignty directed the founding of America, its government and social order.

Stone carving of the Mayflower, Elizabethan Garden, Kenilworth Castle, England

The reason for the Mayflower voyage and its small band of Pilgrims is so profound in its meaning that most of us are unaware of how the decisions that were made and the actions taken have chartered a course making the United States of America a Christian nation. Although our economy is in economic distress (as of this writing) and the secularization of our nation is increasing, it is the very founding principles of our country and dependence on God that may keep and deliver us.

Knowing our American Christian heritage is more critical today than ever before. This history reveals God’s Sovereignty and how He guides His people. Charles B. Galloway (1898) points out, as quoted in Christianity and the American Commonwealth, that God’s plan is the salvation of individuals  and to determine the character of our civil institutions and the course of our social progress.1

England was a country of religious intolerance in the early 17th century. Ministers of the gospel were silenced, imprisoned, or exiled2. The Pilgrims were reformers and made efforts to reform the Church of practices that did not conform to the scriptures. They were tolerated at first, but later, and under King James, they were persecuted. This led to separating themselves from the Church and organizing their own congregations. One group, led by Richard Clyfton, John Robinson, and William Brewster, made a decision to flee England and go to Holland, where religious freedom was permitted. Soon after the congregation settled in Leyden, John Robinson was publicly ordained as their new minister. Other English Separatists had already settled in Holland.3 The decision to relocate was made early in 1619, when Deacon John Carver and Robert Cushman, who had business experience, were sent to London to negotiate with the London Company. They carried with them articles of belief, written by Robinson and Brewster, as evidence of their loyalty and orthodoxy.

Only a minority of the congregation (thirty-five members), under William Bradford, sailed on the Mayflower from England to America. They were joined by sixty-six people from Southampton and London who had little or no religious motivation. The majority of the congregation remained in Leyden, and planned to make the voyage at a later date. John Robinson agreed in advance to go with the group that was in the majority, but did not make the great historic trip. Before Brewster and his group left Holland, a solemn service was held, at which Robinson chose Ezra 8:21 as his text:

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”4

Pastor John Robinson wrote a farewell letter to the passengers of the Mayflower. It was read before departure. This letter set the tone of godly character and addressed the establishment of government. Here is his letter:

“Loving Christian friends, I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all, as being they with whom I am present in my best affection, and most earnest longings after you, though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly, and much rather than otherwise, I would have born my part with you in this first brunt, were I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me in the mean while, as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set aside) having my better part with you. And though I doubt not but in your godly wisdoms, you both foresee and resolve upon that which concerns your present state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation unto them, who run already, if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known, and generally for our unknown trespasses, so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner upon occasions of such difficulty and danger as lies upon you, to a both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in his sight; least he, calling to remembrance our sins forgotten by us or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other; whereas, on the contrary, sin being taken away by earnest repentance and the pardon thereof from the Lord sealed up unto a mans conscience by his spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether in life or in death.

Now next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men what in us lies, especially with our associates, and for that watchfulness must be had, that we neither at all in our selves do give, no nor easily take offense being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offenses, for though it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man’s corruption) that offenses come, yet woe unto the man or woman either by whom the offense cometh, says Christ (Matt. 18:7). And if offenses in the unseasonable use of things in themselves indifferent, be more to be feared than death itself, as the Apostle teaches (1 Cor. 9:15), how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man is thought worthy to be regarded. Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God from giving offense, except with all we be armed against the taking of them when they be given by others. For how imperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person, who wants charity to cover a multitude of offenses, as the scriptures speak. Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offense, either want charity, to cover offenses, or wisdom duly to weigh humane frailty; or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites, as Christ our Lord teaches (Matt. 7:1-3), as indeed in my own experience, few or none have been found which sooner give offense, then such as easily take it; neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members in societies, which have nourished this touchy humor. But besides these, there are diverse motives provoking you above others to great care and conscience this way: As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons, so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, least when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which does require at your hands much wisdom and charity for the covering and preventing of incident offenses that way. And lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offense, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offense causelessly or easily at men’s doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more heed is to be taken that we take not offense at God himself, which yet we certainly do so often as we do murmur at his providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as wherewith he pleases to visit us. Store up therefore patience against the evil day, without which we take offense at the Lord himself in his holy and just works.

Another thing there is carefully to be provided for, to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding as a deadly plague of your both common and special comfort all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, and all singularly affected any manner of way; let every man repress in himself and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels against the common good, all private respects of men’s selves, not sorting with the general convenience. And as men are careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence before it be well settled and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful, that the house of God which you are, and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.

Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminence above the rest, to be chosen by you into office of government, let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations; not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God’s ordinance for your good, not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat, than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord’s power and authority which the magistrate bears, is honorable, in howsoever mean persons. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are at least for the present to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.

Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of those before mentioned, in more words, but I will not so far wrong your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things, there being also diverse among you so well able to admonish both themselves and others of what concerns them. These few things therefore, and the same in few words, I do earnestly commend unto your care and conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the Lord, that he who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all rivers of waters, and whose providence is over all his works, especially over all his dear children for good, would so guide and guard you in your ways, as inwardly by his Spirit, so outwardly by the hand of his power, as that both you and we also, for and with you, may have after matter of praising his name all the days of your and our lives. Fare you well in him in whom you trust, and in whom I rest.

An unfeigned well-willer of your happy success in this hopeful voyage,

JOHN ROBINSON.”5

Pastor Robinson emphasizes that they must live in godliness. He concludes the letter (second to last paragraph) by clearly giving instruction to forming a political body.  Again, he encourages the character of the government must also be based on godliness.

In the next blog we will re-visit the Mayflower trip and how God’s providence freed the passengers from their original charter.

1 Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth, p3 (American Vision, Inc., Powder Springs, Georgia, © 2005, All rights reserved)

2 Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story, p53 (2nd ed. American Vision, Inc., Powder Springs, GA 30127, © 1993,1995, All rights reserved)

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Robinson_%28pastor%29#Leaving_the_established_church

4 Ibid.

5 http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1526201/posts

ENDNOTE:

Reread the original blog on the Mayflower Compact here:

http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=91