Lapse of time and the
stirring events of our Civil War have thrown somewhat into shade our
patriot fathers, with the exception of the one colossal figure
looming above the later troubled sea of strife and war, the light of
whose patriotism has pierced all misty shadows of the past, and
whose name is a watchword for all that is grand and noble. The spell
of that great name we invoke to bid “come again, ye children of
men,” and marshal before us his faithful followers and co-workers.
Elias Boudinot was one of these, the friend of Washington, an ardent
patriot and philanthropist, resolute and earnest, of strong
intellectual fibre; he gave the greater part of a long life to the
service of his country.
Be it ever remembered that these men were treading a new and untried
path, leading and legislating for a new order of things. To all of
them, as time yields us more and more of their records, do we owe
The purpose of this volume is to place before the reader the
services, speeches, and letters of Elias Boudinot, in such
chronological sequence that they shall for themselves tell the
history of his life.
It is to be regretted that often in the early period of our national
existence our fathers failed to realize what a precious heritage for
us would be the letters to and from these great men. Though many
were preserved, many have been destroyed or lost, some given away,
and others stolen; the latter was the case with some of the most
valuable of those of Elias Boudinot, such having found their way
into the dealers’ hands, and their marketable value is slowly
bringing them to light.
Mr. Boudinot himself says: “A great many interesting anecdotes that
happened during the American Revolutionary War are likely to be lost
to posterity by the negligence of the Parties concerned in not
recording them, so that in future time they may be resorted to as
throwing light on the eventful crisis of this important Era. I shall
therefore, without any attention to order, but merely as they arise
in my memory, set down those that I have had any acquaintance with,
attending principally to the Truth of the Fact.”
When it is remembered that these accounts of Mr. Boudinot were
written chiefly from personal observation, or participation in the
events recorded, and, even when he was not himself an actor in the
scene, he reflects the feelings and views of those who were, an
added zest is given to the narrative. Corroboration of the main
facts, with later accounts culled from various sources, and the
absolute integrity of the writer, give a verisimilitude to the
whole, even though it apparently differs in some details from
There is also evidence that these Reminiscences were written while
Mr. Boudinot was still in the vigor of manhood, and not at all in
declining years, when age and illness might have impaired his
memory. Many of his official letters as President of the Continental
Congress are in the Department of State at Washington, where with
courtesy those in charge welcome the student of history with
I am indebted to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for copies
of valuable documents; to Justin Winsor, Esq., Librarian of Harvard
College Library, for access to Jared Sparks’ manuscript collection;
to Charles Roberts, Esq., of Philadelphia, for copies of letters
from his manuscript collection; to John Nicholas Brown, Esq., of
Providence, R. I., for permission to copy from “The Reminiscences”
written by Elias Boudinot, which are in his valuable collection of
Americana; for Mr. Boudinot’s letter book to Boudinot Keith, Esq.,
of New York; for copies of records from Marans, France, to M. Louis
de Richemond, Archiviste du Departement, Corresp. du Ministere Trav.
Histor. La Rochelle; for the “Proces Verbal,” to the Rev. W. W.
Atterbury, of New York, and for family letters other than my own and
those of my brother, W. B. S. Boudinot, Esq. I am under obligations
to Boudinot Colt, Esq., of Newark, N. J.; to General William S.
Stryker, of Trenton, N. J.; to Mrs. Edwin A. Stevens, of Castle
Point, Hoboken, N. J.; to J. Turner Atterbury, Esq., of New York;
and to the Hon. Garret D. W. Vroom, of Trenton, N. J. I am also
indebted to the courtesy of William Nelson, Esq., of Paterson, N. J.
Jane J. Boudinot.
Volume 1 |