George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John C. Ogden, 9 January 1791

From John C. Ogden

Portsmouth [N.H.] Jany 9th 1791


Nothing of a personal nature, or relating to controversy concerning religious opinions, could induce The Author of the inclosed to transmit it to you.1 The Ideas relating to liberty, protection, and spoiling of Church property, are of a public nature. and too important to those concerned, to pass in silence. With this impression, I have presented them to my country men. If I have erred, the mistake is my own, I have involved no one in the matter. Influenced by your example to maintain liberty for all, I shall ever Zealously guard myself and others from forfeiting a prize, nobly obtained by the blood and treasure of America.

I must request that your unrivaled politeness, may not lead to an acknowledgement of the safe arrival of this; with its contents. Presenting the salutations of The season, I am Sir with the greatest reverence Your devoted servant

John C. Ogden

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Ogden was rector of Queen’s Chapel (incorporated in February 1791 as St. John’s Episcopal Church) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. GW had heard him preach in Portsmouth on 1 Nov. 1789 while on his northern tour (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:488; see also Ogden to GW, 30 Oct. 1789). The enclosure was probably Ogden’s first known published work, A Sermon, Delivered before His Excellency the President, the Honourable Senate, and the Honourable House of Representatives, of the State of New Hampshire, at the Annual Election, Holden at Concord, on the First Wednesday in June, MDCCXC (Concord, N.H., 1790), which compares GW to the prophet Nehemiah. This pamphlet is among GW’s books now in the Boston Athenaeum (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 151–52). The election sermon presented in the pamphlet marked the beginning of a bitter controversy between Ogden and New England Congregationalists that consumed his clerical career. In a series of pamphlets and newspaper articles published over the following decade he defended episcopacy against Congregationalist attacks and accused Congregationalists of oppressing Episcopalians and stealing Episcopal glebe lands and other church property (Harrison, Princetonians, 1769–75, description begins Richard A. Harrison. Princetonians, 1769–1775: A Biographical Dictionary. Princeton, N.J., 1980. description ends 93–97). Ogden had touched on these themes in a letter he wrote to GW on 20 Jan. 1790. Ogden wrote at least fourteen letters to GW regarding this controversy between 1791 and 1799 and presented GW with copies of some of his later pamphlets (see Ogden to GW, 24 Nov. 1792, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Ogden’s letter of 9 Jan. arrived after GW had departed Philadelphia on 21 Mar., and Lear forwarded it to him with the enclosed pamphlet. GW returned the pamphlet, unread, for Martha Washington with his letter to Lear of 28 Mar. 1791.

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