Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

7.02.2010

The Man of His Day

I'm passionate about the unknown--for the possibilites behind it intrigue and excite me. The possibility of finding the book in the ceiling-high shelves of dusty paperbacks. The possibility of meeting a kindred spirit in a room full of strangers. The possibility of discovering someone—my own private hero—whom history has forgotten and libraries ignore--someone you have never heard of and only Google seems to remember anymore.

Sadly, the selective memory of history makes for so many more unknowns than there should be. Everyone can rhyme “1492” with “ocean blue” in their sleep, and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Daniel Webster deserve every bit of respect and fame and paragraphs in history books that they receive. But what about the others? What about the ones you have to read between the lines of the books to discover? What about the passionate patriots who died in the Boston Massacre, and what of the women who were forced to house British soldiers against their will? And what of the man—described as attractive, tall, handsome, elegant, with piercing dark eyes—who is my private hero?

I’ll introduce you. An attorney from New Jersey. The member of the New Jersey Committee of Safety, the commissary general of prisoners for the Continental army, the member of the New Jersey Provincial Congress, the two-time delegate from New Jersey to Continental Congress, the member of US House of Representatives for six years, the director of the US Mint from 1795-1805, and the trustee of Princeton University. If you scanned over that paragraph because you thought it was overwhelming, maybe that’s because it was! This is a man who was baptized by George Whitefield. He was the Romeo of his day who ardently pursued his hard-to-get sweetheart and then devoted his life to her for the next 43 years, a man whose sense of humor shown out as he lovingly and playfully upbraided his daughter, Susan, for her negligence to write him letters. He begged her even for the chit-chat of the day, if she could not manage anything else.

But beyond all of this historical fact, I want you to know this man, as if you were sitting and talking to him over your Fourth of July fried chicken. He was the James Brady of his day: the sort of fellow who would take the position of comissary general—one that was unpopular, unpleasant, and without glory—and spend $45,000 of his own money because he could not bear to watch the American prisoners suffer without food and basic necessities while Congress deliberated. He is the sort of man who said in the Provincial Congress of New Jersey:

“Let us enter on this Important Business under the Idea that we are Christians, on whom the Eyes of the World are now turned….Let us in the first Place, conscious of our own weakness, and utter Inability to help defend ourselves, humbly and penitently implore the Aid of that Almighty God, whom we profess to Serve—let us earnestly call and beseech him for Christ’s sake to preside in our Councills and to overrule our determination for all the general Good….For the successful determination [of our business] we can only depend on the all powerfull Influence of the Spirit of God….Therefore I move, that some Minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning…to open the Meeting the Prayer.”

He was the Ronald Reagan of his day—the sort of man that all looked up to and decided that he should be President of the United States—and so they voted him the fourth President of the United States in a time when all could be gained or everything his predecessors had worked for could be lost through one misstep. He was the “10th leper” of his day—the sort of man, with all things pressing on him and pulling him, who would take the time to make one of his first acts of president the writing of a letter of thanks to the former president.

He was the Voddie Baucham of his day—the sort of man who would read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine and not let his incense die away after shaking his head against it. No—he had to write a 333 page point-by-point rebuttal of Paine’s illogical attack on religion and dedicate it to his daughter, that she might under no circumstances be led astray and that she might be ready to give an answer always. The Age of Revelation or The Age of Reason shewn to be An Age of Infidelity was the stunning result. I am talking about the Billy Graham of his day—the man who founded the American Bible Society from his sickbed, donated $10,000, and was its first president so that he could promote Christianity among the poor. He was the Martin Luther King Jr. of his day—a benefactor to the Indians, passionate about their education, and unequivocally opposed to slavery.

He was the Elias Boudinot of his day and beyond—my own hero from history and the one I’ll be thinking of when I watch the fireworks shatter the Sunday night sky. History has buried him, sentencing him to anonymity because he took the positions where he was most needed, not the ones where the reporters were. Americans have forgotten him, stumbling over his name(pronounced "Boo-din-oh"), but I have not. He was not a perfect man—emotional, believing even that the Indians represented the lost tribes of Israel—but his imperfections only endear him to me more, and without him, America could not be the same country. I hope for a day when we will not compare Elias Boudinot to men of today, but bestow as the award of highest honor the compliment: “He’s the Elias Boudinot of his day!”

What unknown Elias Boudinots have you discovered?

11 comments:

  1. I read through this really fast because I just wanted to know his name! I am a scholar of United States history, and I have never heard of Elias Boudinot! This is an amazing post, and he was an amazing guy!

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  2. That was an amazing piece. Really. It was fascinating and inspiring. I will also be thinking of him (and others) on the 4th of July now.
    Thank you.
    I do so enjoy reading your blog. You are obviously well grounded in your faith and in being so, you help others stay grounded as well.
    Keep it up! I'll be reading :)

    -Rae <3

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  3. Anisha--Not many have heard of him! I'm glad I could surprise you and that you enjoyed it, but now you'll have to see if you can get your hands on the one really good biography of him! I'm still trying to get one! (-:
    RaeLynn--Thanks so much! You are so sweet, and your comment was a joy to read. If you will be thinking of Elias Boudinot on the 4th, then I'll say, "mission accomplished"! (-:

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  4. Lauren, I loved learning about a forgotten hero of our past! Thank you so much for sharing with us about Elias Boudinot - his story was truly inspiring. : )

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  5. Here's a list of some book about him. Alot of books he is mentioned in are those about the Indians, because he married into and indian family, and because he championed for their rights:

    1) Cherokee editor: the writings of Elias Boudinot
    By Elias Boudinot, Theda Perdue
    2)"Their distress is almost intolerable": the Elias Boudinot letterbook, 1777-1778
    By Elias Boudinot, Joseph Lee Boyle
    3)Gabriel, Ralph Henry, Elias Boudinot, Cherokee & His America, University of Oklahoma Press, 1941

    4)Elias Boudinot (A FULL, but short Biography)
    Donald W. Whisenhunt, 1975

    Those were all I could find on my cursory search. I hope they are helpful, if you are wanting to read more about him! :)

    -Rae

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  6. Nice post. This i must say is a cool piece. Keep it up.

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  7. Vanessa--Thank you! I'm glad I could share my passion for exciting history!
    Ruthie--So glad you enjoyed it! I kept thinking about you yesterday--celebrating the 4th in Uganda!
    RaeLynn--Thanks for sharing. A quick note, though, is that there is another Elias Boudinot--an Indian who, from my understanding, admired the original Boudinot so much that he took his name. Therefore, you have to weed through all the stuff about him to actually find stuff about the original Boudinot. I'm guessing your #1 and #3 books are about that Boudinot, although the original E.B. was quite involved in Indian education. The best bio on him is "Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman" but I'll definitely have to look into the ones you found!
    lilbyt--Thanks so much! Your encouragement is a blessing!

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  8. How cool! I, like most others, have never heard of him. But, like Anisha, I read quickly thru the story to find out who he was. I forced myself to read ALL the facts before finding out who he was. And what a lovely surprise to hear about a good guy who was human and loving.

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  9. Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating! Amazing what one could achieve in such a short lifespan. Indeed it is a challenge to all men folk out there who want to make something of themselves. Am officially a fan!

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  10. Thank you so much for introducing me to a new hero, he sounds like a wonderful man. I am sorry to say this is the first time I have heard of him, but it will not be the last! I too like history and like to discover wonderful "hidden heroes"/forgotten heroes. I recently shared a story on my blog of a lady by the name of Irena Sendler who risk her life to help the Jews. You might enjoy reading her story. I googled her and found information, but have not yet found a book to read in more detail about her life.

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