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 States' 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.