George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John C. Ogden, 22 December 1794

From John C. Ogden

Dartmouth College [N.H.] Decr 22d 1794


The event which our Church had good reason to expect, for many years, has taken place.

The Legislature of Verdmont, at their last session, converted our Glebes to other uses, than those to which they were appropriated, by ancient grants & charters. The lands of The Society for propagating the gospel, are also seized upon, as confiscate, The pretext for this is, that by the operation of the late treaty of peace, and laws of nature and nations, these lands, had become forfeit, and of course, the property was vested in the State.1

Ira Allen Esqr. introduced the measure, by petition, from the Trustees of the New College, for a conveyance of the Societys Lands, to that institution.2 His object was to enhance the value, of the settlement of Burlington on Lake Champlain, of which he is chief proprietor, by building a seat of learning and providing a revenue for it, from this property of the Society. These Trustees, are composed of the Governor of The State and Speaker of the house of Assembly, for the time being—of the present district judge—one of the Judges of the Superior Court, and several other Lay men, joined with a minister of religion from three denominations of Christian professors. The Episcopal Clergyman, however, was not consulted upon the designed petition, altho, he is brother to the Governor, and resides within a few miles of the Governor, Mr Allen & Mr Hitchcock.3

Doctor Williams, now minister of Rutland, formerly a Professor and Instructor in Cambridge, College, and author of the natural and civil history of Verdmont, may be said to be the father of these measures. He was offended, because we would not make him our Bishop.4

His friends hold him up, as a Candidate for the Presidents Chairs in the New College.

Stephen Jacobs Esqr.—under Doctor William’s influence, ushered the seizure of our Glebes, into public debate, in the legislature, of which he was a member, Mr Jacobs was lately the Attorney of The District of Verdmont.5

Mr Allen, by the independence and grants of Verdmont became possessed of extensive tracts of land—He has neglected to assign us our glebes, in some Towns in which he is largely interested, untill we considered ourselves bound, to make a small purse, to enable one of our Congregations, to sue him, for its right in that Township—The action was not commenced.

Public Officers, and men enriched by revolution and places, in the national and state governments have effected a perversion of our glebes, in a State, which observed a neutrality, during part of the war, and was too feeble, to render any substantial aid to it. This after eleven years peace, in contradiction also to the opinion of able statesmen and Lawyers, and the whole Church.

The Generals and other Officers, and the soldiers of the late Army—the slain veteran, and suffering citizen, have thus, been made the means of wresting a property from us, which religion, liberty, law, honor, and justice forbid, every man, from converting to other, than its original uses.

This is, but, a part, of an uniform system, from the first settlement of America, to destroy the Church. Printed histories, and public papers, abundantly confirm this idea. A new injury is now intended to be added to those formerly done by the Legislatures of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, aided by Governors, Langdon, Hancock, and Huntington, and the political, civil and military influence of Presidents, Langdon, Stiles, Willard, Wheel⟨ock⟩ and the Colleges and Clergy of New England.6

The public files, authentic facts, and incontestible witnesses prove, that my charge, as to the above bodies, officers and in[di]viduals, are true. They have often departed, from their duty as christians, their honor as patriots, and their dignity as gentlemen, by forming partial laws, by taking public monies, and using improper influence in their stations to injure the Church and the Societies, of Methodists, Baptists &c. By means of party Colleges they have excited unjust political prejudices against us. Our children often meet with and are constantly exposed to injury in the northern schools and colleges because of their religion. The Colleges have for many years taught that Episcopalians are attached to Monarchy. To present the facts, which corroborate, these charges, would be, to write a volume, The materials are at my command—My duty calls me to the task.

I hoped that my respectful correspondence and the regular information, I have given, to my civil rulers, who belong to the Church, and to my ecclesiastical Governors, would have saved our property, by their aid. In pursuance, of that uniform conduct, which belongs to me, in my place, while time and health permit, I lay this before your Excellency, for a place in your files, for the inspection of posterity. Copies of it, will be sent to the Bishops in The States for the same purpose.

By the perseverance of our Clergy and Brethren, and by our mutual exertions, we were recovering the property, which is chiefly entered upon by trespassers, and under considerable cultivation. Religion was about to extend in a more venerable degree than ever among professed christians, who are divided and co⟨nten⟩tious on so serious a subject.

A plundered Church, late complaining army—tumultuous insurrections—and avaricious desires to plunder the neighbouring provinces, do not accord with the honor or prosperity of a christian nation—or men proud of a succesful war—an honorable peace, a good form of government and flourishing affairs.

The Ecclesiastical History of America, is a very exact transcript from the history of England after the civil wars, and reformat⟨ion⟩.

Presbyterianism, owing its power and orig⟨in⟩ to the people, will always call the popula⟨ce⟩ to its aid—The majority, will there determine, what is truth and right, however, ignorant, avaricious, or bigoted this majority may be.

The Clergy and Churches, in general are happy and useful in the Provinces, while we are oppressed and timid in The States. Witnesses to constanty injury, we are scarcely permited to speak or remonstrate, in our defence. We are sold, in an age, vainly boasted to be an age of reason, into the hands of men, who defy and revile christianity—who wrong us, with impunity. Very many of our foes compose the laws, and form the councils of America.

Your Excellency remains as the disinterested friend of religion, liberty, and law—May your administration be always blessed, in extending what is regular and restoring what is right. I am Most respectfully Your Excellency’s devoted servant

John C. Ogden

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Ogden was referring to “An Act directing the uses of the rights of land in this state, heretofore granted by the British government, as glebes for the benefit of the church of England, as by their law established” and “An Act directing the appropriation of the lands in this state, heretofore granted by the British government to the society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts,” both passed 30 Oct. 1794. By the first act, the glebes were “granted to the several and respective towns in which such lands lie, to the use, and for the sole purpose of appropriating the rents and profits of such lands, to and for the support of religious worship in such towns forever.” By the second act, the town selectmen were authorized to “demand, sue for, and recover the possession of such lands,” with the profits from their leases to be “distributed in the several school districts in such town annually” (Acts and Laws, Passed by the Legislature of the State of Vermont, at Their Session Holden at Rutland, on the Second Thursday of October 1794 [Bennington, Vt., n.d.], 101–3, 114–16).

2Ira Allen (1751–1814), a brother of Ethan Allen, served during the Revolutionary War as a lieutenant in the Green Mountain Boys. At this time he was a major general of militia. An important figure in the movement for Vermont statehood, he served as Vermont treasurer from 1778 to 1786 and as surveyor general from 1778 to 1787. He was a trustee of the University of Vermont from 1791 to 1804. The petition, signed by Allen and Enoch Woodbridge “in behalf of the corporation of the University of Vermont,” was introduced on 29 Oct. (A Journal of the Proceedings of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont. At Their Session at Rutland, in October One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Four [Bennington, Vt., n.d.], 30).

3The Speaker of the Vermont House was Daniel Buck (1753–1816) of Norwich. He served in Congress from 1795 to 1797. The federal district judge was Samuel Hitchcock. The Vermont Superior Court judge was Enoch Woodbridge (1750–1805) of Vergennes, who served from 1794 to 1800. The Episcopal clergyman was Bethuel Chittenden (1739–1809) of Shelburne. The other two clergymen were Caleb Blood (1754–1814), a Baptist minister from Shaftsbury, and Asa Burton (1752–1836), pastor of the Congregational Church at Thetford.

4Samuel Williams (1743–1817) graduated from Harvard College in 1761 and was Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural and Experimental Philosophy there from 1780 to 1788, when, facing allegations of financial irregularities and forgery, he resigned and moved to Rutland. He left the ministry in December 1794 and founded the Rutland Herald. His Natural and Civil History of Vermont was printed at Walpole, N.H., in 1794.

5Stephen Jacob, who resigned as federal district attorney earlier this year, represented Windsor at the 1794 session of the Vermont legislature.

6For Ogden’s earlier complaints about injuries done to the Episcopal church, see his letters to GW of 24 Nov. 1792, 7 Feb. 1794 (and n.1 to that letter), and 16 March 1794; see also Ogden to GW, 9 Jan. 1791, n.1. Ezra Stiles (1727–1795) was president of Yale College. John Wheelock (1754–1817) was president of Dartmouth College. Samuel Langdon was a former president of Harvard College, and Joseph Willard the current president.

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