Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John C. Ogden, 5 March 1799

From John C. Ogden

Litchfield Prison March 5th 1799

Dr. Sir

You are so easy of access, and so condescending, that I must be indulged, while under bounds and imprisonments, when I assume the address of familiarity.

It is said, that Envoys are about to be sent to France. When Mr Gerry went many months since, I solicited the place of Secretary with him, and addressed him and President Adams accordingly.

Mr Gerry treated my application with due respect, but as Mr Pinckney had a Secretary abroad with him, Mr G. concluded that gentleman would be sufficient for the mission.—

I have addressed Judge Elsworth for the place provided he goes. He was acquainted with my application to Mr Gerry.

Judge Elsworth, has been my acquaintance from my youth up. I have appealed to him, to say whether I was not faithful to Colol. Lyon, & have engaged to be faithful & defend him, after his return, provided he permits me to accompany him.

A proposal of this kind, is only to be made to you—If any thing is in store for my good in this way, by your influence, I am sure of your services, which will ever be acknowledged with gratitude.—Your answer is not needful unless my wishes should be indulged, & this proposal be favorable.

In this place, I have written the report of my embassy in behalf of Colol. Lyon. It is calculated more immediately for Connecticut. It contains those statements & observations which are needful, to inform this uninformed people upon those points in which Colol. Lyon has had some share. In writing it was needful to pay great attention to the thoughts which recured from late conversations in Vermont, Philadelphia and Connecticut, in order to apply the address, as far as possible, to the present state of opinions and affairs.

The letter under cover opens a conferrence with the printer concerning printing this production in Philadelphia.

To-morrow my design is to open the aristocracy and spiritual tyranny to view, in another pamphlet. They are well assured, that I shall industriously endeavor to make a revolution in opinions in this state, which violate the constitution & laws, & disturb the public tranquility—

I am Sir With great respect Your devoted servant

John C. Ogden

My friends and family expect that I will not resign their or my rights, to seek favors, because President Adams, so suddenly decided concerning my “interference

President Adams has Mrs Ogden’s letters and the letters of my self & my son. I have requested Mrs Ogden from time to time, to detail to President Adams the injuries done her father’s family.—This is a time for, and my situation requires exertion.

This prison and want of money only, will prevent my visiting France in the same ship with the envoys, in a private station, if a public one cannot be obtained.

Mr Duane has nothing in his letter which will authorize him to determine, to whom I am indebted for the honor of having it passed silently to him.

If Doctr Hurt, the friend I met—so unexpectedly in Philadelphia, should call at your quarters, may I ask that he may receive the salutations of affection and gratitude, which transmit by this epistle.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Vice President of The United States <Philadelphia>,” with Ogden’s name written below address in an unknown hand; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: letter from Ogden to William Duane, not found.

Ogden was under bounds and imprisonments because during February, while stopping over in Litchfield, Connecticut, he was jailed for nonpayment of an old debt to Oliver Wolcott, Jr. Through Wolcott’s brother Frederick, a Litchfield attorney, the Wolcotts paid the fees necessary to maintain the minister’s confinement, while Odgen for his part made no move to raise funds to retire the debt, which then amounted to $180. After four months Frederick Wolcott relented and Ogden went free, but only after signing a new note of indebtedness that was payable on demand and could be used to take him up again anytime he lingered in Connecticut (Alan V. Briceland, “John C. Ogden: Messenger and Propagandist for Matthew Lyon, 1798–1799,” Vermont History, 43 [1975], 113–20).

Ogden evidently intended the report of his embassy to the president in Matthew Lyon’s behalf to take the form of a pamphlet. An anonymous letter published in the New London, Connecticut, Bee on 20 Mch., almost certainly written by Ogden, gave an account of his meeting with Adams on 31 Dec. 1798.

Another pamphlet: in 1799 Ogden published in Philadelphia his View of the New-England Illuminati and in Richmond A Short History of Late Ecclesiastical Oppressions in New-England and Vermont: In Which is Exhibited a Statement of the Violation of Religious Liberties, Which are Ratified by the Constitution of the United States. Two anonymous pamphlets of that year, their places of publication not indicated, have also been attributed to him: Friendly Remarks to the People of Connecticut Upon their College and Schools and A View of the Calvinistic Clubs in the United States (Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History, 6 vols. [New York, 1885–1912], 5:385; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 3209, 3219; Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from …1639 …to …1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59,14 vols. description ends No. 36008; note to Ogden to TJ, 7 Feb. 1799).

The Bee’s account of the presentation of the Lyons petition to Adams included the president’s reference to interference on Ogden’s part, quoting the president as saying to the minister that “as to yourself, your interference on the part of col. Lyon will prevent your receiving any favors from me.â On 3 Apr. the newspaper carried another anonymous letter, again in all likelihood written by Ogden, which interpreted the comment to mean that Ogden’s activity on Lyons’s behalf had cost him any chance of obtaining the collectorship at New Haven (see note at 7 Feb.). “Ministers of religion,” warned the second letter to the Bee, “beware how you interfere in behalf of prisoners and the condemned‥‥ You who are under obligations of gratitude—take heed how you interfere in the concerns of your benefactors.”

Letters of my self & my son: Ogden had sent TJ a copy of a letter to Adams, dated “Litchfield Goal,” 20 Feb., in which he declared that he had sent out to be printed two statements, one in support of the claims of his mother-in-law, Mary Clap Wooster, and another about the clergy in Vermont. Printers had “passed by” both items “to give places for scurrility, upon virtuous republicans, & upon me.” Ogden sarcastically labeled the incident “another proof of the liberty we enjoy, under our excellent constitution” (Tr in DLC; in Ogden’s hand; at head of text: “Copy of a letter to President Adams”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Feb. and so recorded in SJL). Ogden succeeded in having the pieces printed by Charles Holt in the Bee. His observations on the situation of the Vermont clergy also appeared as his Short History of Late Ecclesiastical Oppressions pamphlet, and the Aurora reprinted his appeal in behalf of Mary Wooster (PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877– description ends , 100 [1976], 10, 16). Ogden also sent TJ a copy of a letter he addressed to his son from jail on 18 Feb. that disparaged John Adams’s “dinners, courtly smiles, insolent threats and answers,” and “evasive promises.” “If John Quincy Adams, should set himself up, to be a monarch in these States after an education, at public expence, in foreign courts, after the inconveniences to which you and your brother, have been subjected in your educations,” Ogden enjoined his son, “I charge you both, as you love religion, liberty, your country, and the memories of your deceased grandfather and uncles to pull him down.” Ogden sent copies to TJ, George Washington, and John Adams (Tr in same; in Ogden’s hand; addressed in an unidentified hand at New Milford, 19 Feb. 1799: “Mr Jefferson Vice President of the United States”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Feb. and so recorded in SJL).

Doctr Hurt may have been the Reverend John Hurt of Virginia (see Notes on Comments by John Adams, [1–14 Jan. 1799]).

None of the subsequent correspondence between Ogden and TJ has been located. According to SJL Ogden wrote TJ on 4 Apr., received from Litchfield on the 17th; 20 Aug., received on 12 Sep.; 5 Dec., received from Richmond on the 30th; and 11 Mch. 1800, which was received that same day. On 23 May 1799 TJ wrote Ogden, listing that communication in his epistolary record as a “note.”

At some unknown time Ogden wrote and transmitted to TJ “A list of respectable republicans in Connecticut,” which included Dr. Jared Potter of Wallingford; John Throop of New Haven and Frederick Phelps of Harwinton, each with the title “Captn.”; and the following individuals, each called “Esqr.”: William Heron of Redding, Hezekiah Holcomb of Granby, William Judd of Farmington, Jonathan Bull of Hartford, Andrew Hull of Cheshire, Evan Malbone of Pomfret, and Andrew Campbell of Middleton. TJ endorsed the list “Connecticut. republicans from mr Ogden” and added to it “ Granger” and “Pierpont Edwards.originally whig. a little turned by XYZ” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 232:42209; in Ogden’s hand, undated, with additions and endorsement by TJ).

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