George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John C. Ogden, 17 June 1799

From John C. Ogden

Wooster House—New Haven [Conn.] June 17 1799


It is with reluctance, that I trouble you, with a further detail of the outrages and unmilitary proceedings of the soldiery stationed in Litchfield. The malevo[l]ence of a party in that Town, who constantly circulate prejudices against your excellent fellow citizen Mr Jefferson and other invaluable statesmen, has given latitude to rancors and prejudices subversive of government, law, order, peace and social happiness. This party encouraged the soldiery in their insolence to me three times: On the day following my enlargement, business led me to walk to the house of Colol Stone, about four miles from Litchfield. I had not arrived an hour, before I was followed by a party of soldiers, about twenty in number, who seized me by the collar, and forced me to attend them two miles and an half amidst a well settled country, in presence of the inhabitants⟨,⟩ at eleven oclock in the forenoon.

The impertinenc[e] of the soldiers in calling me, a Democrat an Jacobin and a Frenchman, was not more odious, than their idle remarks upon the farmers, who in a very warm day, were busy in the fields. These young men made themselves merry on the occasion, and concluded, that they had rather “list”—A remark which was to be expected from those who have left their apprenticeships and parents in the hour of thoughtlesness, to embark their lives and felicity with a standing army, in a country which presents such extensive objects to allure the young to industry and enterprize, under the banners of peace.

The violence of the soldiery, was restrained by the interference, as I conclude, of General Judson of the militia, who was on a journey to Litchfield, witnessed the transaction, and received information also from the family of Colol Stone, who was not present when I was forced from his house. This outrage before the officers of the militia and inhabitants of the country, exhibits in a notable degree, what we are to expect, if further progress is made in marshaling an army and leaving detachments in the country, in the neighbourhood of our advocates for war.

You may rest assured Sir, that these events have opened the eyes of the people of Connecticut, who boldly condemn the attempts to keep them ignorant of public affairs, and the raising of an army to be supported in idleness, To place allurements to draw their sons from useful labor in order to ⟨support the⟩ party in the nation must provoke discords and end in civil wars. When civilians, who have never studied tactics, assume the military garb in old age, and abandon science for arms, the society of the learned, for the parade of a military levee in a country village, to gain a re-election, we must expect the people will consider the signs of the times to be dark and intricate, When they draw religion into the vortex of politics, the thoughtful will be alarmed.

The eyes of our fellow citizens are again placed upon you as their guardian and protector. They are weary of the broils in the national legislature, which have caused animosities in the country, & They wish to hear that the army is disbanded. To be seduced from our real happiness, from preserving the laws and constitution is contrary to our inclinations and determinations. Civil discord we abhor. Calm collected and considerate, we will be deluded no longer by fallacious pretexts of foreign invasions or domestic discontents, to butcher each other, or foster party elections.

More than twenty years residence in New England has afforded me an extensive acquaintance and every possible means for information. Determined to adhere to my duty and country, and to live under the banners of religion, benevolence and peace I shall communicate such facts to individuals, or the nation as are important. I wish to exist in this world no longer than while I enjoy my rights and may defend them against open or secret assaults, from any quarter. The exalted Senator and new re⟨cruits⟩ who would deprive me of liberty & safety, I shall ⟨in⟩ due season, present to the examination of their countrymen. Treating the inexperienced with tenderness, I shall at the same time, that I obey the powers which be, attempt to restrain the inhumanity which Mr Tracy, may wish indiscriminately to execute upon me or others.1

Paying great respect to the memories of those who were allied to me by various endearing ties, & fell in war, it shall be my study to avoid fixing the stigma upon them as rebels or traitors, who died as the fool dieth. This will not be the case if we permit a standing army to insult our citizens ravage the country, and trample upon the order of civil society, as is frequently done at this time.

With these motives and impressions, all good men will patiently hear, and candidly consider every address either in person or by epistle in behalf of myself or others. In presenting this, I am prompted, by a regard for the happiness and prosperity of my country family & kindred—I have seen too many of these fall by war & public convulsions to be indifferent at this time of discord—War is a scourge, while peace is a blessing and divine gift from heaven. To secure peace and prevent wars, whether foreign or domestic is the noblest pursuit of man in his social state.2 I am Sir With great esteem & veneration Your devoted servant

John C. Ogden


1Uriah Tracy (1755–1807) of Litchfield, after having served from 1793 to 1796 in the U.S. House of Representatives, was at this time a Federalist senator from Connecticut.

2John C. Ogden, a retired Episcopal clergyman in New Hampshire who was thought by many to be deranged, had been writing to GW for nearly a decade without receiving a reply to any of his letters. See Ogden to GW, 20 Sept. 1798, n.1. There is a letter that Ogden wrote from his “Cell in Litchfield” on 13 May 1799 in DLC:GW which he presumably either wrote to GW or sent a copy of it to him. It reads: “The public news papers, must have detailed to you the horrid condition to which I am reduced, in this place, and the sufferings of General Woosters family. Relying upon the humanity, patriotism, and love of justice which activate General Washington, we have looked in vain for friendship ⟨for⟩ him. My miseries arise chiefly from the plunderings of the church. Ten years ago I gave notice of these nefarious proceedings. In every stage of their progress, I have not been negligent in giving information. Twelve years sufferings, amidst sacrilege is sufficient to destroy a whole order of ministers. I now live in a prison, to tell the leaders in America, that the decisions of the federal judges as to the rights of Episcopalians, have not their due effect in New Hampshire. More public accounts are circulating. In this business some of our leaders in the army and revolution, have taken a wicked share. Yourself and President Adams, have not corrected it. In the most serious moments of my life, I must say, that when I first gave notice to General Washington, it was totally in his power alone, to have saved my Episcopal brethren, General Woosters family and me, from the losses and distresses we have experienced. This I write in a prison. If such a place can give any sanction to what I communicate, it comes with this corroborating circumstance of the signature of a man in real distress, from public ⟨wrongs⟩ & neglects.

“Copies of this go by the post to Bishops White & Maddison, Mr Jefferson and others. I subjoin also an extract from the last letter I ever receiv’d from the Bishop from whom I received my commission, and whom I have every obeyed, Bishop Seabury. ‘You have (said that venerable succesor of the Apostles) been diligently employed in the service of the church, and have met with many and great difficulties. I heartely wish it was in my power to lighten your trouble, or to free you from any difficulties you meet with. But, I am armed with no power, and consequently my single interference would do you no good. Was it other wise, I should rejoice in adding my aid to your endeavors. Time however and your own exertions will, I hope, surmount all obstacles and bring you to a season of retribution, for all you do, and all you suffer.’ It appeared to be proper to circulate this extract in my letters, As every thing relating to the distresses of the church & me, is preparing as fast & carefully as possible for the press, I wished to assure my country men, that I had taken the silent, peaceable, & manly mode of appealing to Superiors in Church & State, before I publish in letters & other writings, extensively.”

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