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Richmond May 1st [17]99 (Source of Letter)

Dear Sir

You may possibly have seen a paragraph in a late publication, stating that several important offices in the gift of the Executive, & among others that of secretary of State, had been attainable by me. Few of the unpleasant occurrences produc’d by my declaration as a candidate for congress (& they have been very abundant) have given me more real chagrin than this. To make a parade of profferd offices is a vanity which I trust I do not possess, but to boast of one never in my power woud argue a littleness of mind at which I ought to blush.

I know not how the author may have acquird his information, but I beg leave to assure you that he never receivd it directly nor indirectly from me. I had no previous knowledge that such a publication was designd, or I woud certainly have suppressd so much of it as relates to this subject.

Under Idioms, this page from the Oxford Dictionary says:

beg leave to do something (formal) = to ask somebody for permission to do something

Could someone please explicate and elucidate beg leave? I can't grasp how one would ask person X for permission to assure person X of something (particularly in this context). Wouldn't one just assure person X directly of whatever thing it is?

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How do you feel about, "let me assure you that he never received..."? This too asks for permission to assure before actually assuring. A possible response, after all, might be, "I don't want your assurances." – Jim Dec 22 '13 at 19:49
@Jim: Many thanks. That helps. Please feel free to rewrite as an Answer for which I'll upvote. – Timere Dec 26 '13 at 12:23
up vote 1 down vote accepted

beg leave simply means I beg you to allow me to/give me permission to

I beg leave, to repeat here, what I have already said in my former volume, that...

from beg

ask formally for (permission to do something): I will now beg to make some observations; from Old English bedecian, of Germanic origin; related to bid

and leave

permission; from Old English leaf, meaning permission

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It is merely a polite and formal circumlocution. "Allow me to assure you.." is a similar phrase still in use (though that is so formal that it usually precedes something that the listener would not or could notr believe otherwise).

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+1. Thank you. Please don`t be affrighted by my selection, in the interest of the differences in reputation points. – Timere Dec 26 '13 at 12:22
@LePressentiment; Thanks for your concern, but it is not necessary: I was neither affrighted nor affronted. – TimLymington Dec 26 '13 at 22:15

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