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The Life, Public Services, Addresses and Letters of Elias Boudinot, LL.D
President of the Continental Congress edited by J.J. Boudinot in Two Volumes (1896)


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 our homage.

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 accepted versions.

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 intelligent helpfulness.

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  |  Volume 2

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