Samuel Ogden

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Samuel Ogden (December 9, 1746 — December 1, 1810) was a colonial businessman in New Jersey who had an iron works. He fought on the side of the patriots during the American Revolutionary War. Afterward, he became a developer and land speculator for a large tract of land in upstate New York.[1]

He worked with his brother Abraham Ogden, brother-in-law Gouverneur Morris, and others on developing this tract. The City of Ogdensburg, New York, at the confluence of the Oswegatchiewith the St. Lawrence River, was named for him.

Biography[edit]

Samuel Gouverneur Ogden was born in 1746 in Newark, New Jersey, one of five sons of David Ogden and Gertrude (Gouverneur) Ogden.[1] His father was a noted jurist and a member of the supreme court for the royal Province of New Jersey before the Revolutionary War.[2]

Samuel Ogden became prominent in the iron business in New Jersey, founding the Boonton Iron Works in 1770 on six acres of land located along the Rockaway River, near Boonton. Such enterprises became critical to the American war effort. Ogden and his brother Abraham supported the Patriots during the Revolution, but their father and three other brothers were Loyalists. Ogden served as a Colonel of the New Jersey Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Having gotten established in business, in 1775 Ogden married Euphemia Morris (1754-1818), a sister of Gouverneur Morris.

Samuel's brother Abraham Ogden served as Commissioner to the Indians in Northern New York after the Revolutionary War, and became aware that the state was selling large portions of land that had been ceded by the Iroquois nations. The brothers purchased a large tract of land in New York with Gouverneur Morris and others, south of the Saint Lawrence River. They intended to plat, develop and sell off the land to settlers. Many land-hungry migrants were entering the state from New England. There was considerable land speculation going on in upstate New York, as some five million acres of land had been sold by the state after the Six Nations had been forced to cede most of their lands. The Mohawk and three other nations had been allies (highly decentralized in band actions) during the war with the British, who were defeated. The City of Ogdensburg, New York, one of the principal settlements in this tract, was named after Samuel Ogden.[1]

Adventuring in South America[edit]

In 1805, Samuel Ogden was working with Colonel William Stephens Smith, a prominent federal official in New York, to obtain soldiers, money, and war material for General Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan war hero who was waging revolution to liberate South America from oppressive Spanish rule.

On February 2, 1806, Miranda sailed from New York City for Venezuela on the Leander armored by Ogden, and carrying 180 men and weapons. Among the adventurers was Colonel Smith's 19-year-old son, William Steuben Smith. The expedition failed and two ships were captured by the Spanish. Miranda escaped, but the young Smith and the other mercenaries did not. Put on trial in Puerto Cabello for piracy, ten of the mercenaries (mostly Americans) were sentenced to death by hanging. Their bodies were beheaded and quartered, with pieces sent to nearby towns as a warning. William Steuben Smith had survived; he later escaped his captors and made his way home.

When the expedition was publicized by the Spanish ambassador in Washington, Smith and Ogden were arrested in New York for violating the federal Neutrality Act of 1794. That law made it illegal to "set on foot directly or indirectly within the United States any military expedition or enterprise to be carried on against the territory of a foreign state with whom the United States is at peace."

On March 1, 1806, Judge Matthias Talmadge of the U.S. District Court in New York questioned Smith and Ogden. They signed incriminating statements outlining their roles in the affair. Smith and Ogden were formally indicted on April 7. If convicted, they each faced up to three years in prison. In the meantime, President Thomas Jefferson dismissed Smith from his post. Colonel Smith claimed in court that his orders came from President Thomas Jefferson and U.S. Secretary of State James Madison, both of whom refused to appear in court. Judge William Paterson of the US Supreme Court ruled that the President "cannot authorize a person to do what the law forbids." Both Smith and Ogden stood trial and were each acquitted.

After the failed Miranda expedition the people of South America took another 18 years to gain independence.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Wheeler, William Ogden (1907). The Ogden Family in America. pp. 103–4. 
  2. ^ Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 4. 1900. p. 560.