George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Cosens Ogden, 26 November 1796

Lansingburgh, Novr 26th 1796


I know not what apology to make for writing this, nor where to begin. So many disagreeable events crowd upon the mind, when I recollect the causes, which have conspired to produce misery to a venerable Lady, that I should be forever silent, on the subject, did not humanity for suffering virtue direct me to proceed.

Madam Wooster, at a time of life when the infirmities of age are taking fast and deep root, is without any other support, than such as the good will of her friends may afford. A long series of unavoidable occurrences, have done this. Industrious, economical and frugal during her whole life, the events of war, such as taxes, deprivation of public securities, delayed public justice as to her half pay, and the falling of the value of her real estate, joined to eighteen years destitution of any considerable annual income, and the plundering by the British army, have swept away her patrimony.

The last property she held was a farm, whose income was scarcely a competency for her sustenance from year to year; this has been taken from her, and sold to satisfy a demand of Colol Talmage, the President of the order of the Cincinnati in Connecticut. By art and persuasion he led her to become security for her son, in his absence, and without his knowledge or consent, for a property which was totally useless to her son. Colol Talmage after this insisted upon a mortgage, and, then, by the regular process of courts, disposed of her farm by execution. This property she always held so dear and sacred, that when she once before embarked for her son, upon the expectation of his half pay, she suffered Genl Parsons, to cast her into the common prison rather than give it up to him. She informed Colol Talmage, that it was her all. But the address and severrity of this officer, who was young in years, when Genl Wooster was old in public services, have taken it from her. A man of great wealth obtained by speculation consequent upon that loss of life and fortune, which General Wooster experienced by his valor & patriotism has done this, and there is no redress.

The daughter of President Clap, one of the first ornaments and greatest benefactors to literature, is thus cast upon the good will of a too hard hearted world. The Widow of a General Officer is now m[ade] the subject [of] that bounty and charity, which, I trust, all who embarked with him in the war and revolution will gladly bestow.

General Wooster had not returned from his expedition into Canada, before he was ruined in his fortune. His British half pay was then forfeited. Governor Trumbull had given the naval office to another, and [Vermont] had deprived him of his military lands. Notwithstanding this, he continued in the service, and bravely lost his life, leaving sorrow & misery to his family for eighteen years. We have enjoyed no public [places]. I never sought for one. My incomes for several years have been too small to enable me to provide fully for my family. By their united industry, economy, retirement from company and society, they have hither to preserved themselves from distress. By these means their venerable parent Madam Wooster shares with them in their comforts, and is preserved from wretchedness. If in the distribution of your alms, Your Excellency should extend your care and bounty in a small degree to that aged Lady whom I now mention with diffidence and reluctance, your Excellency will bestow a favor upon one who wants but little, and will not want that little long.

Her sons errors or misfortunes have been blameably exaggerated to the great injury of his mother, his family and himself. Too sanguine, too unsuspecting of the honor [and] integrity of [others]. Depending upon [handsome] patrimonial expectations, and the gratitude and justice of the public to his fathers memory and [the] family, he has been plunged into trouble wantonly, and needlessly [   ]. A Mother’s prudence was not proof against the calls of young dependants and the idol of her fathers and husband hearts. Such was her son [with] these two illustrious Characters. I have the honor to be Your Excellencys devoted Servt

John C. Ogden

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries