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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

 

IN THE HAND OF GOD: U.S. CONSTITUTION DAY – SEPT. 17, 1787

October 10th, 2011

By Attorney Rees Lloyd

On September 17, 1787, after weeks of often bitter debate by delegates of the States gathered at the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Constitution of

United States Constitution

the United States, beginning with the words, “We, the People,” was signed by thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates. The world was changed forever as America began its ‘great experiment’ in self-government.

Never before had a constitution been established in the name of “the People” of a nation, rather than by and in the name of a monarch, a state, or other governmental power. Many of the most erudite thinkers of the so-called “Age of Enlightenment,” did not believe that a constitutional republic of limited government “by, for, and of the people” could survive in a broad land containing a large and diverse population. America is still an ongoing experiment in liberty.

The Constitutional Convention had commenced on May 14, 1787, with a challenge to the conscience and integrity of delegates by George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army which had won the Revolutionary war. Washington, then and now the model American patriot, was elected President of the Constitutional Convention by unanimous vote.

“If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the Hand of God,” said Washington, who would later become the First President of the United States and be regarded as “the Father of his country.”

The delegates were learned American patriots who had studied history deeply to meet the task of creating a constitution fit for a free people. Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence but did not participate in the Constitutional Convention because he was in Paris representing the United States, wrote of the delegates with utmost respect as “a gathering of demigods.”

The Constitution the framers wrought in the name of “We, the People,” was one creating a government of expressly limited powers – a limited federal government of not a national government of self-expanding powers.

The subsequently adopted “Bill of Rights,” contained in the First Ten Amendments, for which the efforts of James Madison earned him recognition as “the Father of the Constitution,” begin with five words limiting powers of the federal government over the people:

‘”Congress shall make no law…,” respecting an establishment of religion nor abridging the fundamental rights of free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of petition for redress of grievance. These are rights which the Founding Fathers believed Americans were “endowed by their Creator,” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That is, the Founders believed these were natural rights, rights granted by the “hand of God, not the hand of a generous government.,” as the late President John F. Kennedy would express it.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments reinforced the words “Congress shall make no law…” by mandating that the people and the states retained all rights not enumerated as possessed by the central government.

Never before in history had “We, the people,” had their natural rights so expressly protected by a constitution so expressly limiting the government as to its powers. By changing the relationship of the people and their government, limiting the power of government and making the retained rights of the people superior, the Founding Fathers changed the world. Ever after, the people of the world who have dreamed of the freedoms of Americans, have looked to the values expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution, as a model for liberty in a constitutional republic.

The framers of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers of America, were faced with a great challenge, and they met it. The Constitution which they framed was finally ratified by all states by January 10, 1791. It has now endured for 224 years since it was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.

“What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin,” an American woman asked Founding Father Benjamin Franklin at the close of the convention.

“A republic, Madam,” Ben Franklin replied. “If you can keep it.”

That, the keeping of the free constitutional republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us, is our challenge.

We owe a great debt to all those Founding Fathers and other Americans who came before us who preserved our freedom. We pay that debt by what we do to preserve freedom for those Americans who will come after us.

By Attorney Rees Lloyd, September 20, 2011; NewsWithViews.com

Reprinted with permission; © 2011 Rees Lloyd – All Rights Reserved; E-Mail: ReesLloydLaw@gmail.com

 

“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.

PHILLIP LIVINGSTON, SIGNER OF DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

January 10th, 2011

In 1774, Livingston was chosen as a member of the New York delegation to the First Continental Congress. Eventually, after repeated appeals to the British king were denied, he

Phillip Livingston, January 15, 1716 – June 12, 1778

accepted the fact that fighting was inevitable.

While serving in Congress, he continued to be active in politics in New York and was appointed president of a provincial congress in 1775. In February 1776, he was unanimously appointed as member of the colonial general assembly. In April of 1777, after a constitution for the state of New York was adopted, he was chosen as state senator and served on the board of treasury and as a member of the marine committee.

He was also a member of the Secret Committee which imported weapons and gunpowder for the army. He spent a huge amount of his own personal resources in purchasing military supplied for the army.

Phillip Livingston, the austere aristocrat who feared the Sons of Sons of Liberty, did not escape the wrath of the British. Before the British landed, his lucrative mercantile business was already bankrupt. In 1774, Livingston had strongly supported the voluntary boycott of British imports, which was so effective that imports to the value of 437,937 pounds at New York in 1774 dropped to only 1,228 pound in 1775,

When Phillip Livingston signed the Declaration, he believed he was putting his vast fortune in jeopardy, and indeed it was so. All his business interests fell to the enemy. His mansion on Duke Street was seized by the British and turned into a barracks for enemy troops. His country estate on Brooklyn Heights was turned into a British naval hospital. Homeless, his family fled up the Hudson River to Kingston, New York. They were again endangered when the British burned Kingston. Phillip Livingston was never able to return home, and his health was devastated because of the strain from the war. Remaining faithful to the cause, he and his family sold some of their remaining property to help maintain the country’s credit.

For Phillip Livingston, the revolution meant personal ruin and yet his spirit remained strong. Although in poor health by 1778, his country’s great need impressed upon him so much that despite his doctor’s report of dropsy in the chest with no rational prospect of recovery, he bid his final goodbye to his loved ones and pressed himself to take his seat in Congress. The British had taken possession of Philadelphia, forcing Congress to leave the city and meet in New York.

Yet in this dubious and anxious state, his love to his country continued strong
And unwavering. For her good he had made many sacrifices; and now that her
Interests seemed to require his presence in Congress, he hesitated not to relinquish
His comforts of home, and those attentions which, in his feeble and declining state,
He peculiarly needed from a beloved family.

His son Henry, who was now a member of George Washington’s family by marriage, attended his father in the last few days of his life. On June 12, 1778, he breathed his last and was deeply mourned by family, friends and all of Congress.

His last moments were correspondent with the tenor of his well-spend life.
He met, with characteristic firmness and Christian fortitude, the trying hour
With separated him from this world.

He never lived to see Cornwallis’ surrender and freedom procured.

End Note: This edited version of Philip Livingston is taken from For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer (see Bibliography). This wonderful book tells the story of each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. As noted in the Introduction, King George ordered his troops to hunt down and kill every signer to quash the rebellion. These  stories of our founding fathers and brave men should be known by everyone of us. We recommend you read the book.  Go to New Leaf Publishing Company website at http://tinyurl.com/4j5tvsc to review the book for purchase. We will publishing more edited versions of these signers stories in future postings.

Bibliography: Marilyn Boyer, For You They Signed, Copyright © 2009 Marilyn Boyer (Master Books, P O Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638) Printing 2009 and 2010. Reprinted by permission of the Publisher.