George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John C. Ogden, 16 March 1794

From John C. Ogden

Hartland Vermont March 16th 1794


Foreign as the ecclesiastical affairs of our country may be from your immediate deliberation, yet as a member of the Church, it may not be unpleasant, to receive a line, on a new subject, which has excited some conversation.

The Revd Doctr Peters of London, formerly of Connecticut, is elected Bishop of Vermont.1 The Revd Doctr Bass, knowing the embarrassments, as to The Church Land, and being unwilling constantly to reside in this State: declined our appointment. Doctor Peters, thus became a Candidate. His wealth, enables him to attend the duties of the function, without an instant dependence upon the income of our Glebes. The Church from want of possession of her Land has been led to abstain from pressing Doctr Bass’s acceptance, and to take a Gentleman from the English Church, when the laws of that nation actually forbid Clergymen ordained in the State, from holding benefices in that kingdom or its provinces.2

Time may remove many remaining causes of sorrow in consequence of the revolution, both in Church & State—When America remonstrated against the machinations, and resisted the plans of men in Great Britain, to obtain an undue domination; When my own and Mrs Ogdens family connections embarked and lost their lives, in the war, on their countrys side, When we who survive them, in all cases, obediently followed the laws and regulations, which resulted from depreciated credit; and implicitly confided in the public honor and faith, untill we have thereby lost just and large reputations, I little thought that I should experience the sorrows, which are now my portion, and the notion of a family wanting bread and education, because of party usurpation and church plunderers in The States.

Many too partial friends, from pity, love and confidence, would have placed me in the station of Superintendant in the Church of Vermont, but that argument, which led us to resign our designs of enjoying the good offices of Doctr Bass, (from inability now to support him) influenced me in my abstaining from encouraging this design, which would otherwise have been most pleasing to me, and full of consolation to my family and friends. This also in a State, by whose independence, ⟨dis⟩quieting acts, and other titles given by distressing times to trespassers, my wife has lost an handsome patrimony.

To recollect, and to feel, a necessary impulse, to state to Rulers, that the sacrilege upon Church property in Vermont & New Hampshire, is solely caused by the usurpation of a party, by Deists, Adulterers, & lax-principeled men, to purchase popularity, and secure wealth & power, wound more sensibly.3

This appointment of Doctr Peters, I trust will give the Church a Bishop, with out any charges to her, and consequently enable him more disinterestedly to seek the welfare of The Clergy.

We have evinced a magnanimous temper to the English Clergy, and placed a man of learning, abilities, zeal, and benevolence in the Episcopal Chair. If we have offended, it is unwished on our part. We first elected a man whose moderation is great.

In me, A citizen, intitled to just protection, and perhaps some attention for my familys sake, and my own obedience to the interests of The Church and Country, might have ohtained the place. but in both these cases, for causes I have for several years stated, with an hope of redress by means of civil and ecclesiastical leaders, we are disappointed.

The alternative taken, must be supposed prudent, and I trust will be acquiesced in by all parties.

Hitherto, I see the lives of my relatives and the property of my family sacrificed by war & its events—by the consequences of revolution whic aggrandizes others. Their deaths are doubly poignant, because they have been made the causes of undesigned distress, in them, to those whom they loved, for whose protection they undertook the profession of arms, Was this the only case, in the State, it ought never to have been mentioned, but it is what I frequently meet among my extensive acquaintance, Soldiers & Citizens will unite with their sorrowing families, and complain, upon those events, which probe their wounds anew.

All this is repeated, merely, to excuse the Church in Vermont, from every suspicion of a want of attention to the principles, prejudices and interests of our Citizens in general. Her conduct is regular—Her principles good, and her sorrows great—To lessen her wants, she has chosen a Bishop—My duty and wish is to make him useful and happy as far as in my power.

That every satisfaction, in the power of mortals to enjoy, may be Your Excellencys portion is the devout prayer of a devoted servant

John Cosens Ogden

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The postal stamps on the cover read, “RUTLAND” and “FREE.” The date of “March 17” is handwritten on the cover.

1Samuel Andrew Peters (1735–1826), a native of Connecticut, received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Yale in 1757 and 1760, respectively. In 1758 he went to England, and in 1759 he was ordained into the priesthood of the Anglican Church. He returned to Connecticut in 1760 and served as the rector of the Anglican church at Hebron. Persecution for his Loyalist sympathies caused him to flee to London, England, in 1774. On 27 Feb. 1794, Peters was elected as the bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Vermont by a convention of clergy meeting at Manchester. The decision was negated when the Archbishop of Canterbury refused the convention’s request to consecrate Peters.

2Edward Bass (1726–1803), a native of Massachusetts, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1744 and 1747, respectively, from Harvard. Bass eventually left the Congregational Church, and in 1752 he was ordained in London, England, as priest in the Anglican Church. He then returned to the United States to became the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Newburyport, Mass., a position he held until his death. Ogden was among those clergy who selected Bass to be the bishop of the Vermont diocese during their meeting at Pawlet, 18–19 Sept. 1793. His acceptance of this position was conditioned upon the availability of sufficient lands to allow him to live within the diocese. Given that the lands in Vermont of the former Anglican church, which was deemed loyal to the British cause during the Revolutionary War, had been seized by a combination of state and local governments, Bass’s demand was impossible to meet. In 1797, however, he was ordained as the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Massachusetts. On the selection of a bishop for the diocese of Vermont, see the Documentary History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Vermont (New York, 1870), 14–60.

3For earlier complaints by Ogden about the seizure of church lands, see his letters to GW of 9 Jan. 1791, 24 Nov. 1792, and 7 Feb. 1794.

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