To the Revd John Cosens Ogden
If you do not promise to refrain from the Nonsense & abuse, which you have so profusely lavished of late, upon New England Illuminati,6 Genl Hamilton &c &c,7 you must expect to see the following published in Boston, Portsmouth, Connecticut, Vermont, Canada, Lansingburgh, Albany, New York & Philadelphia Papers & in every other place where you have made yourself known.
Your Promise, to do so, may be communicated thro the Aurora, in the following words—
A. B. has received the instruction of Y. Z. & assures him that he will most scrupulously & faithfully abide by the Promise, which is hereby made.
If this Acknowledgement be not made within 8 Days after your receiving this Letter, or, if you break the Promise thereby intended to be made I shall no longer deem myself bound in Honor to suppress the Publication.
I have so often read your Pamphlets, your Letters & your Paragraphs that I defy you to disguise your Stile so, as that I might not almost venture to swear to it.
To the Editors of
I wish to ask Information, by your Paper of the Direction that will most probably convey a Letter to the Revd Author of the Remarks on the Dinner given to General H. in Boston which were communicated to the Public, by the Aurora of the ult.9 As that Subject has been More than drawn off to the Dregs, I would beg leave to offer him some Hints, on which he can more usefully employ his elegant & chaste Pen, & more to the service of Society, than the very best dissertations that can be written on “New England Illuminati”,10 “Silly & rigmarole Stories of a general’s widow”11 &c &c or even “A Trip to Canada”12 or, “to a Moravian Society.”13
The Title of the Work should be “The Vagaries, Follies & Crimes of a certain vain half-Fool & full Knave Ex-Presbyter.” As he may perhaps, in the mean time have a Perusal of this Paper, in which this Letter is printed, I suggest to him his immediately preparing for the work chapters on the following Subjects—“A Vindication of cheating in Public Securities”14—“A comparative view of the Enormity of adultery & Sodomy”—“A Defence of breaking the Ties of Honor with a Sheriff, & urging on his lenity the Necessity of sending a Deputy after the Person who infamously betrayed his confidence”—“The Experiences of a Yankee Jail”15—and, with as much wit & Pleasantry as possible, “The Transactions of a Night with a male Bed-fellow at an Inn,” & “The true Spirit of Jacobin Independence, exemplified in a shamefull Dereliction of Principles, religious & political, for a Mess of filthy Porridge.”
As soon as I know how to direct to him I shall send to him the whole of the Skeleton, which I wish to have embodied by his prescient & energetic abilities. Let him Not despair of a sufficiency of materials, for anecdotes, collected by Illuminati, shall be transmitted to him in abundance thro’ your Paper.
5. AD, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
6. From September 15, 1799, to June 30, 1800, numerous articles appeared in the Aurora criticizing several New England clergymen and charging them with conspiring under the guise of religious education and piety to influence state governments—especially Connecticut—to discredit Republicans, and to promote their own political power and wealth. See the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, September 19, October 28, November 6, 11, 13, December 18, 1799; February 14, 22, March 26, 31, April 3, 17, 21, June 30, 1800.
7. See the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, June 24, 27, 30, July 1, 7, 1800.
8. Space left blank in MS.
9. Space left blank in MS. The reference is to the Aurora, July 7, 1800.
10. A View of the New England Illuminati: who are indefatigably engaged in destroying the religion and government of the United States; under a feigned regard for their safety—and under an impious abuse of true religion (Philadelphia: Printed by James Carey, no. 16, Chesnut-Street, 1799). This pamphlet, which was printed anonymously, was attributed to Ogden. According to Federalist clergymen, “Illuminati” were an apostate branch of Freemasonry, dedicated to advancing deism and free thought. But according to the author of this pamphlet, “Illuminati” were actually high-ranking Federalist clergymen who were determined to extend their influence and control over all state governments in order to augment their personal power. In any event, Ogden wished to discredit the Federalist clergymen by charging that they were Illuminati.
11. In a pamphlet published in 1799 Ogden described the attempts of May Wooster, widow of the Revolutionary War veteran General David Wooster, to obtain compensation from the Government for the loss of her lands and income which had occurred as a result of postwar adjustments in the new state government. See John Cosens Ogden, Friendly Remarks to the People of Connecticut Upon their Colleges and Schools (Litchfield, Connecticut, 1799), 13–15. See also the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, May 20, 27, 1799; “Report on the Petition of May Wooster,” April 12, 1792; May Wooster to George Washington, May 8, 1789 (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress); Washington to Wooster, May 21, 1789 (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Ogden had a special interest in Mrs. Wooster’s plight, for he had married one of her daughters. Just before his death in October, 1800, Ogden had attempted to help his mother-in-law obtain some lands which the Government had promised her in lieu of her husband’s back pay ([Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, September 1, 1800). See also Harry R. Warfel, ed., Letters of Noah Webster (New York, 1953), 200.
12. John Cosens Ogden, A Tour through Upper and Lower Canada, By a citizen of the United States. Containing, a view of the present state of religion, learning, commerce, agriculture, colonization, customs and manners, among the English, French, and Indian settlements (Litchfield, Connecticut, 1799).
13. John Cosens Ogden, An excursion into Bethlehem & Nazareth, in Pennsylvania, in the year 1799; with a succinct history of the Society of united brethern, commonly called Moravians (Philadelphia: Printed by Charles Cist, No. 104 North Second-street, near the corner of Race-Street, 1800).
14. In 1799, Ogden, who was then in prison, attempted to have the debtors’ law in Connecticut repealed. On May 24, 1799, the Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser printed an article under the dateline of New London, Connecticut, May 20, 1799, which reads: “The clerical lunatic, confined in Litchfield jail, for money squandered away, is week after week filling the pages of ‘the Hum Bug’ with his soporific lucibrations.
“Having tir’ed his readers, with the pretended claims of his mother-in-law, on the general government; he has lately employed his feeble pen against the Debtor law of this state.
“‘No man e’er felt the halter draw
With good opinion of the law!’
“A petition has gone forth from the prison of Litchfield; and is now circulating for signers; praying for the abolition of imprisonment for debt. Undoubtedly it will meet with much support from a certain set of people whose daily cry is ‘overturn and overturn!’”
The poetry quoted in the newspaper article is from John Trumbull, M’Fingal: a modern epic poem, in four cantos (Hartford; Printed by Hudson and Goodwin, near the Great Bridge, 1782), canto iii, I, 489.
15. On February 16, 1799, the Aurora reported: “The Rev. J. C. Ogden, who some time ago presented a petition from Matthew Lyon’s constituents to the President of the United States, upon his return to Litchfield in Connecticut, has been arrested by a Mr. Woolcot, and put into prison for a demand of 200 dollars! …” Ogden had presented a petition to President Adams in an attempt to secure the release of the Republican Representative from Vermont, who had been imprisoned in October, 1798, at Vergennes, Vermont, after he had been prosecuted and convicted under the Sedition Act. On February 19, 1799, an article in the Aurora stated: “It was understood that Mr. Ogden was to have carried from this city a sum of money to pay the fine of Matthew Lyon—if Mr. Ogden could be stopt on his passage with the money, it was supposed that Lyon could not be extricated from prison; and if Mr. Ogden could be prevailed upon to pay out of the money entrusted to him, so much as would extricate him from the arrest, there would be an open field to attack this moral character.…” For Ogden’s imprisonment, see also the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, April 9, 19, 1799.