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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

 

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND CHRISTIANITY

November 9th, 2010

Washington’s Views

“It appears to me,” writes Washington to Lafayette, February 8, 1788, “little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many States, differing from each other, as you know, in their means, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite informing a system of national government so little liable to well-founded objections. It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed Constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any government hitherto instituted among mortals. We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind in modern times have apparently made some progress in the science of government.” (1)

“We may with a kind of pious and grateful exultation,” writes Washington to Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, July 20, 1788, “trace the finger of Providence through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the States to appoint a general convention, and then led them one after another, by such steps as were best calculated to effect the object, into an adoption of the system recommended by the general convention, thereby, in all human probability, layi8ng a lasting foundation for tranquility and happiness, when we had too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming upon us.” (2)

His Address on the Adoption of the
Constitution to the People of Philadelphia

On his way to New York, after its adoption, to assume the administration of the new government, processions and ovations were frequent in honor of the adoption of the Constitution and as a tribute to the good and great man who had presided over the convention that formed it. At Philadelphia twenty thousand people met and welcomed Washington with cries of “Long live George Washington! Long live the father of his country!” Washington, in addressing the people of that city, spoke as follows –

“When I contemplate the interposition of Providence, as it has been visibly manifested in guiding us through the Revolution, in preparing us for the General Government, and in conciliating the good will of the people of America towards one another in its adoption, I feel myself oppressed and overwhelmed with a sense of the Divine munificence.”

In that procession at Philadelphia, to honor the new Constitution, “the clergy formed a conspicuous part, manifesting by their attendance a sense of the connection between good government and religion. They marched arm in arm, to illustrate the General Union. Care was taken to associate ministers of the most dissimilar opinions with each other, to display the promotion of Christian charity by free institutions. “The rabbi of the Jews, with a minister of the gospel on each side, was a most delightful sight. It exhibited the political equality, not only of Christian denominations, but of worth men of every belief.”

“It has sometimes been concluded”, says a writer*, “that Christianity cannot have any direct connection with the Constitution of the United States, on the ground that the instrument contains no express declaration to that effect. But the error of such a conclusion becomes manifest when we reflect that the same is the case with regard to several other truths, which are notwithstanding, fundamental in our constitutional system. The Declaration of Independence says that ‘governments are instituted among men to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;’ and that ‘whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government.’ These principles lie at the foundation of the Constitution of the United States. No principles in the Constitution are more fundamental than these. But the instrument contains no declaration to this effect; these principles are nowhere mentioned in it, and the references to them are equally slight and indirect with those which are made to the Christian religion. The same may be said of the great republican truth that political sovereignty resides in the people of the United States because this is nowhere expressly declared in the instrument, he ought, in reason, to be equally convinced that the same Constitution is not built upon and does not recognize the sovereignty of the people, and the great republican truths above quoted from the Declaration of Independence. This argument receives additional strength when we consider that the Constitution of the United States was formed directly for political and not for religious objects. The truth, is they are all equally fundamental, though neither of them is expressly mentioned in the Constitution.

“Besides, the Constitution of the United States contemplates, and is fitted for: such a state of society as Christianity alone can form. It contemplates a state of society in which strict integrity, simplicity, and purity of manners, wide diffusion of knowledge, well-disciplined passions, and wise moderation, are the general characteristics of the people. These virtues, in our nation, are the offspring of Christianity, and without the continued general belief of its doctrines and practices of its precepts that will gradually decline and eventually perish.” (3)

The Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (4)

(1) The Papers of George Washington, The Making of the Constitution, George Washington to Lafayette, 7 February 1788 (The Papers, Confederation Series, 6:95-97); Alderman Library, University of Virginia
(2) Life and Times of Washington, Volume 2, John Frederick Schroeder and Benson John Lossing, Pages 310-311; copyright 2007, The Echo Library, Teddington, Middlesex, UK
(3) *The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States, sermon by Reverend J. Adams, President, College of Charleston of Carolina and (exOfficio) Horry Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy February 13, 1833, St. Michael’s Church, Charleston
(4) EndNote: Entire article is quoted from The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., Pages 304-307; Sources added by Editor.