Monday, June 23, 2014

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society--Update #8

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Since I spent a good part of the weekend in Philadelphia and traveling to New Jersey in preparation for a week in the archives, my work on the American Bible Society (ABS) project was limited this past weekend.  

I did, however, manage to get in three or four hours of reading through some of the early ABS-correspondence of Elias Boudinot, the ABS's first president and its most ardent promoter. He was the George Washington among the organization's many "founding fathers."

Most of the letters I read and processed were exchanged between September 1815 and May 1816.  Though Boudinot was bed-ridden due to a battle with a bad case of gout, he still played an active role in bringing delegates from the various Bible societies in the United States together in New York in May 1816.  He main correspondents during this period, in preparation for the delegates meeting, were William Caldwell and William Jay.  Caldwell was the Secretary of the New York Bible Society and would serve as the host of the delegates convention.  Jay was the author of a memoir extolling the virtues of such a society that was published just prior to the New York meeting.

Since Boudinot could not travel to New York for the May meeting, he appointed Joshua Wallace to stand in his place.  In a letter written in early May, Boudinot gave Wallace a very detailed instructions about how to call the meeting to order and how to make sure that the delegates achieved the desired result--a national Bible society that would eventually be named the American Bible Society.

Boudinot's letters reveal a very interesting mix of political Federalism, nationalism, and Biblical prophecy.  More on this latter.