Elijah Boardman, Ralph Earl -Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I went to see my old crush, Revolutionary War veteran Elijah Boardman, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last week. I have been thinking about him lately since I have started researching writing a book on New Jersey’s role in the Revolutionary War.
Other than my wild affinity for this patriot, I have never been particularly drawn to this period. In fact, I am sure that in my past life, I was a mid nineteenth century abolitionist lawyer and my husband was my spinster sister who resented me and my freedom as a man. This life is just payback for me for being so insensitive to him. Everyone that I know seems to have an affinity to the civil war.
However, there have been periods in our history, such as Victorian, when everyone was wild about ye old colonial days. Perhaps this part of our nation’s history has been botched by our school systems in recent years. I have never really understood the issues and events of the War for Independence. I may have tuned the history out after the trauma I suffered when I did not get the part of Dolly Madison in my fifth grade play, 1776. As to Tea Partiers analogies, can today’s government really be compared to the grasping British Empire as they fought “for the subjection, the unconditional submission of a country (the colonies) infinitely more extended than our own (Britain’s) of which everyday increases the wealth, the natural strength the population” (John Wilkes, Lord Mayor of Londonadress to the House of Commons prior to the war)? Furthermore, today we do have representation however gerrymandered it is -not an appointed officer of the crown from another continent.
Now that I live in New Jersey, The Revolutionary War shouts to me. New Jersey was the one of chief military theaters of the War. More fighting took place in New Jersey than any other state. I have decided that I need to write something that will help all of those kids –who may not have gotten a part in 1776- understand our state’s history. It might be a trashy historical novel where Washington admits that Martha is really kind of dumpy and he really wants me (I mean my heroine) A true love match with a background of fighting and sacrifice.
Back to Boardman, my point is that youth has its assets: energy and hope. Boardman was a young self assured textile merchant in Connecticut. For years, I would look at his portrait in the American Wing and wish that I was 200 years younger. I did not understand his charisma even as a “honey” in my twenties; he managed to lure me away from my flesh and blood admirers for decades. Boardman represented the strength of a young country with raw materials for production.
Boardman is still cute but he is very young. I have aged. My tastes have aged as well. I couldn’t help but notice a much more commanding presence in the room. He looked at me as though he really “got” me. Samuel Miflin has age, wisdom and power. I want to believe that our country as acquired this as well. Miflin was a patriot but also knew when to leave the fight to others and concentrate on politics on the home front. He knew his personal limits.Sam is no grasping, aging ,empire. Here is a man who rests on his laurels but also knows how to get what he wants with persuasive skill and ability to be practical in the face of poor odds.
Samuel Miflin, Charles Wilson Peale, Metropolitan Museum of Art
 New Jersey in the American Revolution Edited by Barbara J. Mitnick Copyright 2005 Rivergate Books