George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John C. Ogden, 16 January 1793

From John C. Ogden

Portsmouth [N.H.] Jany 16th 1793


The rapid decline in the health of that firm patriot, and excellent Soldier Judge Sullivan, will shortly remove him to another world.1

With this in expectation, the People of New Hampshire are generaly anxious, as to his Successor. Their eyes and hearts are set upon The Honble Mr Pickering—a Gentleman of known learning and abilities, of stern integrity, and pure morality, A man who has no enemies because he is an universal friend. In him our country will find more qualities to give dignity and importance to the place of District Judge, than any other man in this State.2 Mr Livermore alone is his rival.3 This I say not of my own thought alone, it is the general voice of our citizens. Sensible how much the liberty and happiness of my country men, family and myself, as well as that of posterity depends upon promoting and rewarding virtuous men, I cannot as a citizen and clergyman forbear saying the above. Not that The President of the United States is ignorant of that gentlemans merits—but, that you probably are not possessed of the sentiments of our citizens—this I have learned from a large acquaintance and late extensive circuit through the State.

The People and Legislature were greatly worr[i]ed when Mr Woodbury Langdon, was called to a continental employment, at the time, when he was under an impeachment for neglect of duty. Their hearts for a moment, revolted against the continental government, He sent them an insolent letter. they have since seen him, making a job of his place, by protracting the commissioners business, and frequently returning home.4 They repeat his equivocal revolution principles at the beginning. his offer to British administration, to assist in reducing the country to its former obedience during the war—His breach of parole with the Commissary in New York—and plots against the property & prosperity of individuals as well as The Church.5

It ought ever to be remembred that in New Hampshire, party and family influence have artfully and assiduously endeavoured to secure public emoluments to themselves without in return, extending the more general good. European customs on this head, and the practice of the royal government, have not evaporated from the atmosphere of this Town & State. The Langdon party have had the success to absorbe governmental favors at present from Congress, among themselves. Good policy appears now to dictate, that, others share also. Mr Pickerings appointment, will be as acceptable, as was that of Mr Sullivan. and Your Excellency must be sensible, that nothing was more generaly pleasing, than the appointment of the latter—particulary to members of the late army.

A Clergyman is a citizen, and while he obeys government, and wishes to be extensivly useful, must endeavor to guard the republic.

I have preserved no copy of this—my request is that it may be destroyed, as soon as it is read. I am Sir with every impression of unalterable reverence and fidelity your obedient servt

John Cosens Ogden

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Judge John Sullivan actually lived until January 1795.

2GW nominated and the Senate confirmed John Pickering as district judge for New Hampshire in February 1795 (GW to U.S. Senate, 10 Feb. 1795, LB, DLC:GW; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:172).

3Samuel Livermore (1732–1803), a 1752 graduate of the College of New Jersey who established a successful law practice in Portsmouth, N.H., served in the New Hampshire general assembly 1768–69 and was a judge advocate in the Admiralty Court and the king’s attorney general for New Hampshire before the American Revolution. Livermore settled in Holderness, N.H., in 1775, and the following year he became the attorney general for the new state. He served in the Continental Congress 1780–82 and 1785–86 and in the U.S. House of Representatives 1789–93. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1793 and 1799, serving as president pro tempore of the Senate during the 4th and 6th Congresses. He resigned due to ill health in 1801. He was chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court 1782–90.

4New Hampshire Superior Court judge Woodbury Langdon was impeached by the lower house of the state legislature for dereliction of duty in June 1790, but his trial was postponed until January 1791 and he was allowed to resign. In late December 1790 GW appointed Langdon one of the commissioners to settle the Revolutionary War accounts between the United States and the individual states. For GW’s concern over Langdon’s frequent absences from Philadelphia, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 2 July 1792, and note 1, and GW to Hamilton, 1 Aug. 1792, and note 4.

5Before the Revolutionary War, Langdon had opposed the nonimportation of British goods. In September 1775 he sailed to England, supposedly to collect debts owed him there. His activities while in Europe for the next two years, which included several trips to France and conferences with members of Lord North’s ministry, are somewhat mysterious. He returned to British-occupied New York City in the summer of 1777 and was imprisoned there for a time. In late December, Langdon escaped from captivity and returned to New Hampshire. He later served in the New Hampshire house of representatives 1778–79, in the Continental Congress in 1779, on the New Hampshire executive council 1781–84, and as a judge of the state superior court in 1782 and 1785–91. For Langdon’s past attempts to seize lands claimed by the Episcopal Church, see Ogden to GW, 24 Nov. 1792.

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