Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John C. Ogden, 7 February 1799

From John C. Ogden

Litchfield Connecticut Feby 7th 1799


I knew that you would pardon a liberty I take in sending this, with its Contents—Since my arrival in this Town I have found the Superior Court in session, and a large number of my old acquaintance. I am a lodger in an inn, which is the home also of Gideon Granger Esqr. of Suffield in this State, who is attending the court as a lawyer.

My acquaintances all agree that the rancor of party against those called republicans has cooled, since the eight percent. premium for the loan. The people are more moderate, and susceptible of proper impressions.

Many publications in the Aurora have reached Connecticut, within four weeks, which have opened the eyes of the dispassionate. My friends in Philadelphia furnished me with many publications upon our affairs as a nation, in particular with Mr Gallatins book upon foreign intercourse. These have been already put into such hands by me, as will circulate them into various parts of the State. It is to be lamented that Mr Nicholas’s pamphlet was not finished by Mr James Carey before I left the city, as I should have brought a number for my countrymen here. If the gentlemen of my acquaintance accord with me in opinion, they will pass immediately to me whatever they think to be useful. They may depend that nothing shall be lost. My residence will be here until the rising of Congress in March. It will confer a favor, if they will honor me with their communications without hesitation or reserve.

The register is sent, that as large catalogues, of our citizens as possible may be appealed to, in order to find such persons as may be proper from their offices or principles to receive information, by letters or otherwise—As the press is shackled, there can be no immorality, in puting the party who are thus unjust and arbitrary, to the expence of receiving information, by letters for which they must pay postage—A repetition of such addresses, will lead to the opening of the presses sooner than argumentation, upon the liberty, & privilege, of a free press.

The dot in the list of representatives is for firm republicans and the -m, for moderate men. Communications to such ought to be franked—When my acquaintance arrives from the cell he would gladly devote a large part of his time to enlightening the people of Connecticut.

Mr Granger is possessed of a large estate, but owes the State for some lands purchased not long since—After he began his numbers, he saw that the party would seek to destroy his family and property if he persisted. and as there was not so immediate a demand for his strictures, he postponed the design, but it is not abandoned.—

My request is, that you would not answer this letter. If any thing worthy our attention as a family has offered itself, and you would condescend to send it by your letter in such form as I might shew to my mother in law and her friends, we shall be honored indeed.

My interview afforded the clue to our wishes and we have no doubt of your readiness to communicate whatever will convince this State or nation of your readiness to serve so venerable a Lady as Mrs Wooster, or do honor to so distinguished a soldier & patriot as General Wooster.

The honor of this is reserved for you, and the good disposition already exhibited, or any future services shall never be forgotten.

I am Dr Sir Your devoted servant

John C. Ogden

RC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as received 15 Feb. Enclosure: see below.

After graduating from the College of New Jersey, John Cosens Ogden (1751–1800) removed to New Haven, Connecticut. A convert from Presbyterianism, in 1788 he was ordained a priest of the Protestant Episcopal church. Unable to find permanent employment as an Episcopal minister, in the 1790s he traveled and preached through much of Vermont and in the adjacent states and Canada. Never shirking confrontation, he criticized the religious, political, and educational establishment of his former state of residence in a tract, An Appeal to the Candid upon the Present State of Religion and Politics in Connecticut (New Haven, 1797). Following the arrest of Matthew Lyon, Ogden took petitions from Lyon’s Vermont supporters to Philadelphia for presentation to John Adams. Beginning in January 1799 Ogden wrote anonymously for the Aurora. He turned one of the catchwords of his opponents, who likened Republicans to secretive and dangerous “illuminati,” against the Federalists by writing A View of the New-England Illuminati; Who are Indefatigably Engaged in Destroying the Religion and Government of the United States (Philadelphia, 1799). Ogden died in Maryland in September 1800 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956 description ends , 242–3).

Mr Gallatins book upon foreign intercourse: The Speech of Albert Gallatin, Delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, on the First of March 1798, Upon the Foreign Intercourse Bill (Philadelphia, 1798). Mr Nicholas’s pamphlet: Letter from George Nicholas.

The enclosed register was likely a marked copy of Green’s Almanack and Register, for the State of Connecticut; for the Year of Our Lord, 1799 (New London, n.d.), which contained a List of representatives in the state legislature (pp. 38–40) as well as rosters of attorneys, ministers, militia officers, bank directors, town clerks, and others. When my acquaintance arrives from the cell: Matthew Lyon was released from imprisonment on 9 Feb. (Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956 description ends , 244).

Began his numbers: in the spring of 1798 Gideon Granger wrote a numbered series of articles that first appeared in the Impartial Herald, a relatively short-lived newspaper in Suffield, Connecticut, Granger’s hometown. The articles related to his own involvement in politics but dealt primarily with broader themes, including relations with Great Britain and a critical view of the Jay Treaty (Hartford American Mercury, 26 Apr., 3, 10, 17 May 1798; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:73).

Ogden may have called on TJ at Monticello in November 1798, but they may also have had an interview in Philadelphia sometime between TJ’s arrival on Christmas Day and the first couple of days of January, since TJ knew by 3 Jan., perhaps directly from Ogden, that Adams had rejected the petitions on Lyons’s behalf with the comment that “penitence must precede pardon” (note to Stevens Thomson Mason to TJ, 23 Nov. 1798; TJ to Madison, 3 Jan. 1799).

Ogden’s mother-in-law was Mary Clap Wooster, the widow of David Wooster, who was widely criticized for his command of American forces in Quebec in 1775–76 and died in battle at Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777. Before the Revolution David Wooster had been a merchant and the collector of customs at New Haven. Ogden had worked for Wooster and married the Woosters’ daughter. At least a portion of Ogden’s resentment of entrenched political power in Connecticut originated in his failure to attain the collectorship previously held by his father-in-law. Ogden used the pages of the Aurora in 1799 to argue that by giving the collector’s office to their cronies, the Trumbull and Wolcott families had deprived General Wooster’s family of an important and rightful source of income (Alan V. Briceland, “The Philadelphia Aurora, the New England Illuminati, and the Election of 1800,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 100 [1976], 9–11, 16–17; ANB, 16:634; 23:868).

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