The first lawyer admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court was New Jersey patriot Elias Boudinot. A good friend of President George
Washington, Boudinot was a prominent public
official who strongly supported the American
Revolution. Boudinot held several key positions
in the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS and signed the
1783 peace treaty with England after the United
State’ victory in the WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.
After the war he aligned himself with Federalists
JOHN ADAMS and ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Like
them, Boudinot supported a strong, centralized
national government and distrusted many of the
principles of participatory democracy.
Born May 2, 1740, in Philadelphia, Boudinot
studied law and was admitted to the New Jersey
bar in 1760. By 1770 he had risen to the prestigious
level of SERJEANT AT LAW. Although
Boudinot began his career as a political conservative,
he eventually supported the colonies’
efforts to break away from English domination.
He joined the Revolutionary party after the U.S.
War of Independence erupted and served as
deputy of New Jersey’s provincial assembly.
Boudinot was a representative to the Continental
Congress from 1777 to 1784. He was
president of the Congress from 1782 to 1784 and
was named secretary of foreign affairs. He
became commissary general of prisoners in
1777 and donated a large sum of his own money
to help improve prison conditions. In 1787
Boudinot played a key role in obtaining New
Jersey’s ratification of the new U.S. Constitution.
In 1789 Boudinot became a member of the
House of Representatives from New Jersey,
holding office during the first three sessions of
Congress. Once the U.S. Supreme Court was
officially established, Boudinot became the first
lawyer admitted to practice before it, on February
5, 1790.He also served as a trustee of Princeton
University and was director of the U.S.Mint
in Philadelphia from 1795 to 1805.
In the later years of his life, Boudinot’s interests
turned from politics to evangelical theology.
Founder and president of the American Bible
Association, Boudinot proposed a universal
acceptance of religion as a cure for society’s ills.
Boudinot died in New Jersey on October 24,
1821, at age eighty-one.