On this day in, May 2nd in 1740, Patriot Elias Boudinot is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Boudinot would serve in numerous positions during the War for Independence, culminating in his role as president of the Continental Congress from 1782 to1783. As president, he signed the Treaty of Paris, ending hostilities with Great Britain.
Boudinot’s great-grandfather was a Huguenot (French Protestant) refugee, who fled France for colonial New York in 1687, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had protected Protestants’ right to worship in France, in 1685.
The Boudinot family enjoyed lofty connections among the American colonial elite. Elias’ father, a silversmith, was Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor and friend in Philadelphia. Elias studied law at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where his brother-in-law and future signer of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton, served as his mentor. Elias furthered ties between the two families by marrying Richard’s sister, Hannah Stockton, in 1762. Elias’ daughter, Susan Boudinot Bradford, married the future chief justice of Pennsylvania and President George Washington’s attorney general, William Bradford. Elias’ brother, Elisha, pursued a successful legal career, eventually becoming an associate justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey from 1798 to 1804.
Beginning in May 1775, Boudinot, a colonel, served the Continental Army as its commissary general for prisoners. This placed Boudinot in charge of the well-being of not only British and Loyalist soldiers in Patriot custody, but also Patriot soldiers in British custody. In November 1777, Boudinot was elected to the Continental Congress. The two posts conflicted and he was forced to delay serving in Congress until July 1778, when a replacement was able to assume his duties as commissary.
During Boudinot’s term as president from November 1782 to November 1783, Congress was forced to flee Philadelphia. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the College of New Jersey, Boudinot arranged to have Congress temporarily meet in the school’s Nassau Hall in Princeton.
After the War of Independence, Boudinot went on to represent New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives and served as director of the United States Mint under Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Later, Boudinot advocated for the rights of African-Americans and Indians as president of the American Bible Society.