History From its founding in 1816, the American Bible Society has grappled with the task of making the Word of God available to Christians and churches in America. From its earliest days, it has worked to provide scriptures to the men, and later women of the military, to local and international bible societies, and to translate the Holy Bible to other languages used by peoples in the United States so that they could not only possess scripture, but could understand its importance in their own lives.
Leaders Starting with a leader of the American Revolution, Elias Boudinot, John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and going right down to the most recent president Lamar Vest, The American Bible Society has always been led by “true believers” in the Bible cause.
A memorial tablet honoring Elias Boudinot's service to Princeton University was placed in Nassau Hall there in 1902. The letter from Rev. WW Atterbury to Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton and Woodrow Wilson's response were printed in the Bible Society Record of December 1902 and the text of those letters is reproduced here.
182 Volume 47.
BIBLE SOCIETY RECORD. Dec. 1902
A MEMORIAL TABLET TO ELIAS BOUDINOT
The correspondence following relates, without the need of further explanation, a story of interest to all our readers : New York, Bible House, October 31, 1902.
Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D., LL.D.
President of Princeton University.
Among those who laid the foundations and began the superstructure of the College of New Jersey, in the days of turmoil and strife when as yet the Republic was struggling to its birth, and who, for their self-sacrificing and intelligent zeal in the cause of religion and learning, to which the college was dedicated, deserve to be held in grateful remembrance, Elias Boudinot holds honorable place.
To the end that the memory of his services to the college and to his country may- be perpetuated in these halls, representatives of different branches of his family beg leave to present a tablet memorial of Dr. Boudinot to the university, and to ask for it a place on its walls.
The Huguenot progenitor of the Boudinot family in this country left his ancestral home in Marans, near La Rochelle, famous in the wars of the League, immediately upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled with his family in the city of New York, in 1687, where he was one of the founders of the French church, and its first elder. It is a suggestive incident that among the acts of hostility to which he had been subject before his emigration, was a judicial prosecution for employing a private tutor of the Reformed faith in the education of his children.
Elias Bondinot, third in direct descent from this ancestor, was born in 1740, and was baptized by the Rev. George Whitefield. He studied law at Princeton with Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, who had married his elder sister. At the age of twenty he commenced the practice of his profession at Elizabethtown, where, two years after, he married the sister of Mr. Stockton. Attachcd to the Presbyterian Church, he was made president of its board of trustees when only twenty-five years of age. Elizabethtown was at this time the home of William Peartree Smith, William Livingston, and other eminent Jersey men, leaders in the stirring strife of the times, and through them it had become the center of the patriotic movement throughout New Jersey. Into this movement Boudinot entered with enthusiasm, and began that career of public service which lasted nearly to the close of his life.
Early in 1775 he was chairman of the Committee of Safely at Elizabeth, and soon after a member of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, which took the control of the State out of the hands of the Tory Governor Franklin. In 1777, at the urgent request of Washington, he accepted a place on the staff of the General as Commissary-General of Prisoners and in charge of the Intelligence Department of the Army. In 1778 he resigned this position to take his seat as a member of the Continental Congress, of which, in 1782, he was chosen president, and as such signed the treaty of peace with Great Britain. At the close of the war, resuming the practice of law in Elizabeth, on the organization of the United States Supreme Court, in 1789, his name was entered first on the roll of counsellors admitted to practice before it. On the re-establishment of Congress he was elected a member of the House of Representatives, and was chairman of the Committee of the Senate and House to escort Washington through New Jersey to his inauguration in New York. He was subsequently appointed by Washington Director of the United States Mint, at Philadelphia, which office he held for ten years, when he retired to private life at Burlington, N. J.
His connection with the college began when, in 1772, at the age of thirty-two, he was made a trustee of the college, a position which he held, and whose duties he faithfully performed without intermission amid all the engrossing cares and labors of his public life, for fifty years until his death. His term of service covered nearly the entire administrations of Presidents Witherspoon, Stanhope Smith, and Ashbell Green, He was associated on the board with many who stand high in the annals of New Jersey, with a number of whom he was connected by family ties. His younger brother, Elisha Boudinot, who also bore an active part in the struggles of the Revolution and was afterward a Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, was for seventeen years a member of the board with him, William Peartree Smith, whose daughter the younger Boudinot married and who graduated at Yale in 1742, was one of the original board of trustees of the college when it was founded in 1747, and continued to-be a trustee for forty-five years, serving a part of the time as its secretary.
The letters and memoranda of Dr. Boudinot allude to services rendered to the college from time to time, and speak of occasional journeys on horseback from Elizabeth to Princeton to attend the meetings of the board. During his term of service as President of the Continental Congress, in consequence of seditious disturbances on the part of troops in Philadelphia which the local authorities were unable to suppress, it was judged expedient to remove the Congress temporarily from that city, and accordingly it was convened by proclamalion of the'President in Princeton, where, in Nassau Hall, Dr. Boudinot presided over its sessions.
The closing years of his life were devoted to literary and philanthropic labors. He was the principal founder of the American Bible Society, became its first president, and gave it a liberal endowment. He corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and of other societies, and conducted an extensive correspondence with men of affairs at home and abroad. But his interest in the college suffered no abatement while life lasted, and, by bequest in his will, he founded the fellowships which bear his name.
With the memorial tablet of Dr. Boudinot, which is herewith presented, may we be permitted to offer through you, Mr. President, our congratulations on splendid proportions to which the university, in which we cherish an hereditary interest, has attained these latter days, and to express the wish that under its new administration, so auspiciously begun, while true to its traditional ideals, it may advance to still larger and nobler service.
In behalf of the members of the Boudinot family,
I have the honor to be,
Very respectfully yours,
W. W, ATTERBURY
Rev, W. Wallace Atterbury, D.D.,
New York City,
MY DEAR SIR:
Allow me to acknowledge the receipt of your interesting and important letter of the 31st of October, which reached me on the 11th inst.
As a student of American history and affairs I can subscribe with a great deal of heartiness to what you say of the distinguished and disinterested services rendered by Elias Boudinot to the country; and, as myself an officer and servant of Princeton, it gives me the deepest pleasure to echo all that you say of his untiring and invaluable services to the college which he assisted to nurse through its youth. There is no name more honored amongst us.
In acknowledging the handsome and appropriate gift which the Boudinot family has made to the university in giving it a tablet which commemorates the life and devotion of Elias Boudinot, I wish to express, not only our appreciation of the thoughtful kindness which prompted the gift, but, also, our pleasure in giving it a place of honor on the walls of the building which witnessed so many of the scenes with which Elias Boudinot's fame is so intimately associated. The tablet is not more dignified and beautiful than it is appropriate and acceptable, and I wish in behalf of the board of trustees and of the faculty of Princeton University, to express most grateful appreciation to the members of the Boudinot family who have taken part in erecting it.
I am, sir,
with great respect,
WOODROW WILSON, President Princeton University