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Boudinot, Elias

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Significance: Boudinot, a New Jersey politician, was the first lawyer admitted to the Supreme Court bar.


Descended from a Huguenot family that fled France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Elias was the fourth Boudinot of that name. Trained in the law, he entered politics during the Revolution, serving in the New Jersey assembly and helping to ensure its support of the war effort. In 1777 the Continental Congress appointed Boudinot commissary-general of prisoners. He became a close associate of George Washington. In November of 1777 Boudinot was elected to the Continental Congress, where he served until 1784. He signed the 1783 peace treaty with Great Britain. He was a member of a committee to draft plans for a federal court of appeals as well as rules governing state admiralty courts. The court of appeals apparently operated briefly during the period of the Confederation but was replaced by the Supreme Court in the 1789 Constitution. Boudinot was also a member of a committee appointed by the Constitutional Convention to consider the amendments proposed by James Madison that became the Bill of Rights. In February, 1790, he became the first attorney to practice before the Supreme Court. He was elected to the first, second, and third Congresses, and in 1795, he became director of the U.S. mint, resigning in 1805.