THE FORMATION OF THE STATE OF VERMONT.
Disaffection of the Inhabitants of the "Grants" towards New York — The Rangers — The Westminster Convention — "New Connecticut, alias Vermont" — Report on the condition of Cumberland and Gloucester counties — Appeal to Congress — Efforts to obtain the Services of the Rangers in behalf of the State of New York — Col. William Williams's opinion — Attempts of John Sessions to establish. peaceful Relations — Letter of Bayley, Clay, and Sessions — Commissioners appointed by New York to take charge of the Property of those who had left the State — New York adopts a State Constitution — Powers of the Committees of Safety enlarged — The first State Election ordered in New York — Meeting of the Friends of New York in Brattleborough — Their Report — Resolutions of the New York Convention thereon — Meetings of the Cumberland county Committee of Safety — Their "True Representation" — Sanitary Measures — Adoption of the Constitution of Vermont — Congress refuses to countenance the Proceedings of the New State — The Rangers ordered to Kingston — They Refuse to Obey — Charles Phelps attempts to procure Arms from Massachusetts — His Petition and. the Reply — Alarm at the expected Approach of Burgoyne — Burgoyne's Instructions to Baum — The Victory at Bennington — The increasing power of Vermont — George Clinton elected Governor of New York — Action of the Cumberland county Committee of Safety — Charles Phelps's statement of the right of Massachusetts to a Portion of the Territory of the State of Vermont.
MANY there were, in the state of New York, who would have gladly denied the existence of any alienation between that government and the inhabitants of the New Hampshire Grants had not the fact of such an alienation been too clear to admit of a doubt. An occasional forced admission, by the former government, of the real condition of affairs, was also significant of the pains which were generally used by one of the parties to conceal it. Near the close of the year 1776, Washington ordered Gen. Heath "to march to the grand army on the banks of the Delaware, with the troops under his command." In the recess of the New York Convention, the state committee of safety informed his Excellency, that it would be unsafe to comply with his requisition, and advised some other course. In their letter to him,
282 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
dated January 1st, 1777, containing these suggestions, they said: "On this occasion, we beg leave to lay before your Excellency the true situation of this state. It formerly consisted of fourteen counties, of which five, and a part of the sixth, are in possession of the enemy, and a considerable part of the inhabitants of the counties of Gloucester, Cumberland, and Charlotte, appear determined to shake off their dependence upon us, so that above one half is lost of the remainder, a considerable proportion is disaffected, and ready upon a favorable opportunity to join the enemy." Such was the light in which even the most sanguine were compelled to view the situation of the "Grants."
Notwithstanding these disheartening prospects, the wants of the counties of Cumberland and Gloucester were still supplied, to a certain extent, by the state of New York. The four ranging companies, whose aid had not proved as effectual as many had supposed it would prove, clamored loudly for their wages, although they were almost forced to confess that they had not earned them. Their major, Joab Hoisington, had journeyed to Fishkill, where the state committee of safety were in session, to obtain a settlement for them. This he partially effected, but being detained beyond the time fixed for his absence, he was forced, on the 11th of January, to apply to the committee for funds to enable him to return. His request was granted, and wages were paid him on account of services rendered, and to be rendered by him in his official station. A resolution was also passed on the 14th, by which the Convention agreed to lend to the county of Cumberland "a sum not exceeding £300," on certain just and easy terms. Owing to the neglect of the committee of Cumberland county to furnish their representatives with money, Sessions and Stevens applied to the Convention for the wages due them for their services rendered as members of that body. In answer to this request, £70 were advanced to them, and they were requested to account for that amount to the county committee, who were directed to consider it as a part of the £300 loaned by the Convention to the county.*
While New York was endeavoring to bind the wavering counties to herself by acts of kindness, they were striving openly and in secret to effect a separation. On the 15th of January, an adjourned meeting of the convention of the "Grants" which had assembled at Dorset in September of the previous year,
* Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 753, 770, 771: ii. 379.
1777.] DISAFFECTION TO NEW YORK. 283
was held at Westminster. By a report made on that occasion, it appeared that more than three-fourths of the people of Cumberland and Gloucester counties, who had acted upon the subject, were in favor of a new state. The rest were viewed as neutrals. On the west side of the mountains where the project had made most head, separation from New York was not only regarded as necessary, but inevitable. A committee appointed to prepare a report expressive of the views of the convention, presented the result of their deliberations, in the form of a declaration of rights and independence. The statements and avowals which it comprised, were adopted unanimously, and the district of territory, known as the New Hampshire Grants, was proclaimed a separate and independent state, and was called "NEW CONNECTICUT alias VERMONT." An account of these proceedings was transmitted to the Continental Congress, accompanied by a prayer that the declaration of the people might be received, and New Connecticut ranked "among the free and independent American states, and delegates therefrom admitted to seats in the grand Continental Congress."*
While measures like these were engaging the attention of the inhabitants of the new state, the New York state committee of safety were engaged in devising means to stop the revolt, and bring back the disaffected to their allegiance. The gentlemen appointed to visit the two river counties and inquire into their condition having returned, had announced their readiness to submit the result of their investigations. A hearing was granted them on Saturday, the 18th of January, and while their chairman was reading the report they had prepared, the Cumberland deputies listened in silence and with sorrow to the accounts which they too well knew were true in each particular. The arguments which had been made use of by the Green Mountain Boys to swerve their ultra-montane brethren from the path of duty were detailed at length, and although some of them were baseless, many were so specious as to call for a good share of discrimination to detect their fallaciousness, while
* The convention, after sitting from the 15th to the 22d of January, adjourned to meet at Windsor on the first Wednesday in June following. There appears however, to have been a meeting intermediate. A call was issued on the 30th of January by Nathan Clark, for a convention at Dorset, and by the records of the town of Chester, it seems that Lieut. Jabez Sargeant was chosen on the 13th of February, to attend the special convention, and act "for the good of the state of New Connecticut, and for the town of Chester, according to the best of his understanding." — MS. Records of Chester. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 68-73.
284 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
others were sound and conclusive. When the reading was finished, every member then present, and "every member in the neighbourhood" to whom notice could be sent, were directed to attend on the Monday following for the purpose of passing upon the report. At the appointed time the subject were discussed at length, and an appeal to Congress was decided upon as the inceptive step in whatever proceedings might follow. That the matter might be placed in its proper light, Congress were informed that, at the commencement of the struggle for American liberty then in progress, the inhabitants of Cumberland and Gloucester counties had "in general" submitted to the jurisdiction of New York, obtained grants and confirmation charters from that state, and been ruled by magistrates of her appointment; that "a spirit of defection and revolt" had lately been extended to those counties, "through the arts and misrepresentations of certain people inhabiting the county of Charlotte, distinguishing themselves by the name of Green Mountain Boys, and their emissaries;" that the Congress and Convention of New York had hitherto viewed "the effects of this dangerous insurrection with silent concern, being restrained from giving it a suitable opposition, by the apprehension that it might, at so critical a juncture," weaken their exertions in the common cause; that the insurgents from Charlotte county had incited many of the inhabitants of Cumberland and Gloucester to unite with them in asserting a separate independence, in holding a separate convention, and in "framing a petition to the Honourable Congress for its sanction and approbation of this unprovoked revolt;" that the loss of so valuable a territory, whose people during the present war had received "liberal allowances out of the public treasury" of the state, would not only burden those remaining with enormous debts, but would, at every future period, afford an excuse for others who might wish to deny the jurisdiction of the state, and set her authority at defiance; and finally, that it had become absolutely necessary that "proper and vigorous means should be forthwith exerted" for vindicating the rights of the Convention of the state of New York. In view of these considerations and others as potent, the committee resolved that a proper application should be immediately made to the Congress of the United States, to whose justice the "insurgents" had appealed, requesting them to interpose their authority, and recommend to the "insurgents" a peaceful submission to the jurisdiction of New York.
1777.] APPEAL TO CONGRESS. 285
In accordance with these views, a letter was dispatched to the president of Congress, embodying an epitomized account of the sentiments of the committee, and inclosing the resolve which had been passed and the preambulatory remarks connected with it. Notwithstanding this appeal, confidence in the revolting counties had not entirely disappeared. On the 21st of January a resolution was passed ordering an application to be made to some of the counties in the state, for blankets and stockings for the army and Cumberland, Gloucester, and Charlotte were included among the counties from which relief was to be sought. A few weeks later, when the position of Ticonderoga was considered perilous on account of the smallness of the force to whose care it was intrusted, Gen. Schuyler was, empowered, on the 9th of February, to dispatch one-fifth part of the militia of several of the counties of the state, among which counties were the three mentioned above — to reinforce the garrison at that post.
Owing to reasons of policy, the resolutions and letter of the 20th of January were not immediately transmitted to Congress. All hopes that a decided change would take place in the sentiments of the majority of the inhabitants of the "Grants" having failed, the state committee resolved, on the 1st of March, to present their appeal to Congress without further delay. With the letter which had been already prepared another was sent, in which were detailed several facts which had lately transpired. One paragraph in this communication was in these words: "The Congress may be assured that the spirit of defection, notwithstanding all the arts and violence of the seducers, is by no means general. The county of Gloucester, and a very great part both of Cumberland and Charlotte counties, continue steadfast in their allegiance to this government." In support of this declaration as regarded the first named county, reference was made to a letter, inclosed, from Brigadier-General Bayley, and in proof of the rest of the statement, it was affirmed that Cumberland and Charlotte were still represented in the New York Convention, and that "out of eighty members who were expected to have attended the mock convention of the deluded subjects" of New York, twenty only were present.* Intrusted
* The number of delegates in attendance at the convention held at Westminster on the 15th of January, 1777, and referred to in the text, was twenty-four. Three towns expressed their approbation of its measures by letter. — Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 68.
286 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
with these documents, a messenger was dispatched to Congress.*
The death of Joab Hoisington, which took place early in the year, left the rangers without a commander. The conduct of these soldiers, from the first, seems to have given but little satisfaction. In a letter to Gen. Schuyler of the 24th of February, Col. Bedel declared that they had not done three days' duty since they were enlisted, and other accounts, though not so disparaging, were in no instance complimentary. Being now wholly unemployed, although they had been engaged to serve during the war, Gen. Schuyler proposed to the Convention that they should be located where they could render some assistance. "I apprehend," wrote he on the 4th of March, "there will be occasion of their service as scouts to be employed on the head of the river St. Francis, and although I have no immediate power from Congress to engage any troops for that purpose, I shall nevertheless venture on the measure if Convention should think proper to direct that they should be put under my command as Continental troops; in which case the Continental bounty will be allowed to Convention to replace what it may have advanced them." This communication, and another dated the 6th of March, on the same subject from Gen. Bayley, were read in Convention and committed to Charles De Witt, Simon Stevens, and Leonard Gansevoort. A report was prepared by these gentlemen, advising the adoption of certain measures. Their propositions were read on the 11th of March, but were not received with favor, and the whole, matter was recommitted, James Duane and John Taylor having been added to the committee.
A second report was submitted on the 15th, which declared, that, owing to the present state of Gloucester and Cumberland counties, the rangers raised under the command of the late Major Joab Hoisington, ought to be continued in service, provided they would agree to be employed "for the support of the common cause of America," in such manner as the Convention or a future Legislature of the state should think proper. If an understanding of this nature could be effected, the committee recommended that the companies should be mustered by commissioners appointed for that purpose, and such soldiers as might be willing to serve as before, should subscribe an enlisting roll
* Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 775-780, 800, 820, 821. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 73–75. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 925-930.
1777.] DEFECTION AMONG THE MILITIA. 287
to that effect. They further advised that the commissioners should thereupon appoint one lieutenant for every thirty men, and one captain for every two lieutenants; and that such of the soldiers as should refuse to serve, should be discharged, having first received one-half of the bounty which had been voted by the Convention to such as should engage to serve during the war, together with "pay and subsistence" for the time they had been employed. They recommended the appointment of Gen. Jacob Bayley, John Sessions, and James Clay as commissioners, not only for the purpose aforesaid, but also to examine into and state the sums due to the officers and privates of the ranging companies according to their actual services. For their trouble and expenses while actually employed in this business, they were to be paid two dollars each, per diem. The consideration of this report, in consequence of its connection with some other topics which had not been fully discussed, was postponed. When it again came before the Convention on the 17th, it was, on the motion of Gouverneur Morris, a second time recommitted. When, on the 18th, final action was had, no alterations were made in the propositions above stated.
In accordance with the resolve of the 9th of February, Col. William Williams of Wilmington had received orders both from Gen. Schuyler and the Convention to enlist every fifth man in the lower regiment of the militia of Cumberland county for the purpose of assisting in the reinforcement of Ticonderoga. He immediately undertook the task which had been assigned him, but the spirit of defection had spread so far, that he met with but little success. "I find," he wrote on the 13th of April, "that in general the men are averse to go out under the state of New York, neither do I think it possible for me to raise any men. They are ready to go out under the notion of New Hampshire Grants, or a new state; but for my own part I am willing to serve under York until the matter can be decided by the Continental Congress." Similar orders were transmitted to Col. Joseph Marsh, the commandant of the upper regiment in the county. His exertions were followed by more favorable results, for he had the good fortune to succeed in collecting his men and in marching them to the place to which they had been ordered. The commissioners who had been chosen to settle with the rangers, dispatched the business with commendable diligence. In communicating an account of their transactions to the Convention, on the 21st of April, John Sessions, the chair‑
288 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
man, signified his regret that all the negotiations which had been had, concerning the rangers, had been attended with "such perplexity and cost," and expressed a hope that more care would be taken in the future to avoid mistakes and prevent misunderstandings. He recommended the appointment of a paymaster and commissary, for the companies which should be continued in the service, and proposed Gen. Bayley for those offices. He also advised, in case the General should receive the appointments, that he should be further empowered to correspond with the commanding officer in the northern department, and in that way act as director of the rangers of Cumberland and Gloucester counties. He further declared that the situation of his own and the country's affairs, rendered it almost impracticable for him to attend as a deputy in the Convention. At the same time he asserted his loyalty to the state of New York, and his displeasure at the course which many of his friends were pursuing. Referring to the attempt to establish the state of New Connecticut or Vermont, he said, "I hope if prudent measures are taken this new-fangled scheme will, like the house of Saul, wax weaker and weaker. I ardently wish that some decisive measures might be taken that the sword of justice and sceptre of mercy may be properly exercised." In the same reasonable temper, he remarked that he had no disposition to extenuate the faults of those who manifested such contempt for the authority of New York. He desired that every obstacle with respect to the title of lands might be removed, and expressed the wishes of the more moderate inhabitants of the county, when he indirectly recommended the abolishment of quit rents, and advised the substitution of a land tax in their place.
A joint letter was prepared on the 2d of May, by Bayley, Clay, and Sessions, the commissioners for settling with the rangers. In this communication, the Convention were informed of the course which had been pursued in investigating and wiping out the old accounts. The formation of a company mustering one hundred and fifty-two men, to be divided according to the plan previously suggested, was announced as the result of the efforts which had been made to secure re-enlistments. A proposition was made that these soldiers should be employed as scouts and messengers between Connecticut river, Ticonderoga, and Canada, and that they should be paid according to the rules of the Continental service. This communication having been
1777.] FURTHER PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONVENTION. 289
read in Convention, was referred to a committee, who, after due deliberation, reported the accounts therein stated correct. Conformable to this report, the treasurer of the state was directed to pay to the commissioners, the sum of $13,430, and take a receipt for that amount from the messenger who had been deputized by the commissioners to receive the money. Upon the suggestions regarding the method of employing the new troops, no action was taken.*
While endeavoring to regulate the militia, the Convention had not neglected to attend to the general welfare of Cumberland county. In every part of New York, as in the other states, many who had joined the enemy, had left their possessions in such a condition as to render them liable to waste, or to be employed for purposes unfriendly to the cause of liberty. To prevent these results, commissioners were appointed, on the 6th of March, in every county, to take into their custody "all the personal property" of persons answering to the above description, and sell it at public vendue after ten or more days' notice. An account of each sale was to be left with the treasurer of the state, as were also the net proceeds and such moneys as might be found. The whole was to be paid to the respective owners, at some future time, or disposed of, at the discretion of the Legislature of the state. Strict directions, however, were given that the families of persons who had joined the enemy, should be allowed to retain their apparel, necessary household furniture, and as much provisions as would be sufficient to maintain them for three months. James Clay, Amos Robertson, and Israel Smith, were chosen commissioners for Cumberland county; but the appointment of commissioners for Gloucester county was deferred, until the names of persons fitted for the trust could be obtained.† By a resolution passed on the 21st of March, the commissioners were authorized, in case of a refusal to deliver up property over which their office gave them jurisdiction, to apply to the committee of the county or district in which they might meet with opposition, for such aid as should be judged necessary to enable them to perform their duty.
* Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 825, 831, 837, 839, 841, 907, 916: ii. 404, 421, 431, 476, 477. MS. Letter Col. J. Bedel to Gen. Philip Schuyler, dated Feb. 24th, 1777.
† By the advice of Col. Jacob Bayley, the Convention on the 2d of May, 1777 appointed Col. Peter Olcott, Col. Jacob Kent, and Maj. Israel Smith, commissioners for Gloucester county. — Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 907: ii. 498. 499.
290 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
One of the most important measures of the Convention, during the year, was the adoption of a state constitution. This event took place on the 20th of April. It would, of course, be out of place in this connection, to present a detailed account, or even an epitome, of this most "venerable monument of the wisdom of our high-minded ancestors." Let it be sufficient to say, that such men as John Jay and Gouverneur Morris were its founders, and that it continued to guide and govern the people of New York until the year 1821, when a new system was adopted. By its provisions, the supreme legislative power was vested in an Assembly and a Senate. In the former body, Cumberland county was allowed a representation of three members and Gloucester two. The state was divided into four senatorial districts; and of these the eastern district comprised the counties of Charlotte, Cumberland, and Gloucester, and was permitted to elect three of the twenty-four state senators.
Until the new constitution should take effect, the Convention were willing to increase the powers and dignify the character of the committees of safety, who had acted so important a part in regulating the affairs of the districts, counties, or towns over which they bore rule. To this end, they passed a recommendation, on the 21st of April, counselling all the committees in the state "to use their utmost endeavors to apprehend, secure, and otherwise, according to their discretion, dispose of all such persons" as they might deem inimical or dangerous to the state. As the time for which the committees were appointed to serve would soon expire, the Convention adopted a resolution, on the 5th of May, calling on the inhabitants of the state to choose "active, spirited, and discreet" persons to act as committee men, and to continue in that service until the 1st of the following October. "Although," said they in the handbill which was circulated throughout the state, "although the office of a member of any of the said committees is extremely painful and laborious, yet, as the service will probably expire before the said day, it is most earnestly recommended to the good subjects of this state, cheerfully to undertake, and vigilantly to execute, the said office; more especially, as the last hope of our dispirited foes is now grounded upon those intestine divisions which they so assiduously labor to promote, by the assistance of which they expect to accumulate greater evils upon a country which they cannot subdue, and without which all their diabolical designs must prove utterly abortive." Special powers were given to
1777.] MONETARY AFFAIRS. 291
some of the committees. Those of Albany, Tryon, Charlotte, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ulster, and Orange counties, were requested and authorised "to take the most effectual measures to prevent, suppress, and quell all insurrections, revolts, and disaffection within their respective counties," and were also empowered to call out the militia to aid them in destroying or securing any who might be found in arms against the state.
At the same time measures were taken by the state to maintain the monetary affairs of Cumberland and Gloucester counties, and an attempt was made to exert a more direct influence upon the people by appointing to such offices as the state government was empowered to fill men who were friendly to its interests and designs. At the request of Simon Stevens, one of the deputies from Cumberland county, the Convention, on the 3d of May, ordered the state treasurer to accommodate him with the sum of £60, and render the charge to his constituents. This circumstance showed that confidence was still reposed in the honor of the county, although its loyalty was, to all appearances, irrevocably lost. On the 5th of May, Paul Spooner was chosen by the Convention, sheriff of Cumberland county, and in conjunction with other sheriffs in the state, was ordered to qualify himself without delay, and give public notice in his bailiwick of the time, place, and manner of the first state election, and of the offices which were to be filled.* The places designated for holding the election in Cumberland county, were the house of Seth Smith in Brattleborough, the house of Luke Knowlton in New Fane, the Court-house in Westminster, the house of Jonathan Tarbell in Chester, the Town-house in Windsor, and the house of Col. Joseph Marsh in Hertford. Writs of dedimus potestatem, were issued to John Sessions and John. Stevens, to enable them to qualify the county officers of Cumberland county and the same authority was given to Brig.-Gen. Bayley, to be exercised in the county of Gloucester.†
Meantime, those who continued favorable to the government of New York were striving to stem the opposition which surrounded them on every side. In Brattleborough, they were more
* Spooner declined the appointment soon after it had been given him, and the Convention were informed of his refusal in a letter which he wrote them, and which was presented on the 15th of July, 1777, by Col. Eleazer Patterson of Hinsdale, now Vernon. — Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 995.
† Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 826, 845, 892, 898, 910, 912, 917, 918, 935, 937. Dunlap's Hist. N. Y., ii. 130. Handbill issued "In Convention of the Representatives of the state of New York, at Kingston, May 5, 1777." Pingry MSS.
292 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
numerous than the Vermont adherents, and were not afraid to act as their convictions dictated. At one of their meetings held in that town, on the 22d of April, they declared that, as they had always owed allegiance to the state of New York, so they would continue to pay that allegiance, and would strictly adhere to such directions as might be sent from the Convention of that state. To express these views to the New York Convention, Israel Smith was chosen agent for the town, and his instructions, dated the 25th of April, pointed out to him the manner in which he should fulfil his commission. He was especially directed to inform the Convention, that, at the meeting held at Westminster on the 15th of January previous, not one half the towns in Cumberland county were represented; that all the people in Brattleborough were loyal to the state of New York, and considered themselves in duty bound to execute all orders of the state and Continental Congress; and that, in the opinion of many, these were the sentiments of the majority of the property holders in the county. He was also instructed to say, that the spirit of faction was so rife that it was dangerous to speak against a new state, and that the difficulties prevalent in the county, were neither few nor unimportant. These instructions were signed by Obadiah Wells, Seth Smith, Samuel Warriner, James Blakeslee, and John Griffin.
On his appearance in Convention, on the 6th of May, the papers with which he had been intrusted were read and committed to Gouverneur Morris and Simon Stevens. In his conferences with these gentlemen, he informed them more particularly of the condition of the town which he represented, and, in a general way, of the affairs of the county. The report of the committee was divided into two parts; the first part having reference to those inconveniences which obtained equally in the counties of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Charlotte, arising from the uncertainty or defect of land titles, distance from the seat of government, and the exaction of heavy quit rents; and the second part relating to the disadvantages suffered by the people of Brattleborough on account of their steady attachment to New York. In the latter portion of the report, the committee, in conformity with the information given them by Mr. Smith, and obtained from other reliable sources, declared that the inhabitants of Brattleborough had, on account of their "unwearied opposition" to the independence of Vermont as a separate state, and their allegiance to New York, become odious to some of
1777.] RESOLUTIONS OF THE COMMITTEE. 293
their neighbors; that, owing to the indolence or disaffection of their militia officers, they were not in a position to exert themselves against the common enemy, although willing to aid, should their services be required; that they were in want of arms to reduce the tories to subjection; and that, although they were ready to join in new and spirited measures against the Tories, yet it was feared that it would be impossible to collect a county committee to carry such measures into execution.
In view of this representation, and of the general condition of the state, the committee reported on the 10th, that it would be utterly impracticable to furnish the inhabitants of Brattleborough with arms; and that the odium they had incurred from their attachment to New York, could not be removed except by a change in the opinions of those who favored the new state — a change which the committee imagined would take place as soon as those who had revolted became convinced of their true interests. Upon the remainder of the representation, the committee submitted these resolutions:—
"First. Whereas it hath been represented to this Convention, that divers of the inhabitants of the county of Cumberland, who are desirous of continuing the subjects of this state, are, from divers reasons, incapable of exerting themselves in the general defence, particularly from the want of proper officers — therefore, Resolved, that it be recommended to such inhabitants to associate as follows, to wit: 'We, the subscribers, subjects of the state of New York, do associate together for the defence of the United States against the King of Great Britain, as follows: First. We will choose our officers by vote of the majority in each respective company or regiment. Secondly. We will obey our officers so chosen in the same manner as the militia of the said state, render obedience. Thirdly. The names of the said officers shall be transmitted to the government of the said state, and to the general in the northern department. Lastly. This association shall continue in force until revoked by proper authority.'
"Second. Whereas it hath been suggested to this Convention, that the county committee of the county of Cumberland cannot be collected together but with great difficulty. Resolved, that any committee chosen by the inhabitants of three or more adjoining townships, within the said county, may exercise the powers [of a county committee of safety.]"
That part of the report which related to the condition of the
294 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
"Grants," together with the portion already cited, was tabled, the two resolutions excepted. The latter of these was, however, changed so as to read thus: "Resolved, that such of the members of the said county committee as, on due and regular notice for the convening of the said committee, shall meet, be authorized to proceed to business." Such was the result of Smith's mission to the New York Convention.*
Encouraged by the evidences of good will on the part of New York, the county committee of safety still continued to exercise their functions, though unable to secure such obedience to their orders as they desired. At a general meeting held in the Court-house at Westminster, on the 4th of June, it was resolved that an attempt should be made to give greater vitality to their operations. Twelve members from eight towns only were in attendance on the first day. A chairman and clerk were appointed, a few complaints were heard, but it was deemed inexpedient to proceed with the business of the meeting. A postponement was therefore agreed on. When the committee reassembled on the following morning, and it became known that no addition had been made to their number, an adjournment was voted, and the members separated, with a fuller persuasion than they had ever before felt, of the weakness of the minority which they represented.
At the adjourned meeting, held on the 17th of June, six members from five towns were present. After waiting for two days in the vain hope of collecting a quorum, a readjournment was resolved on, and the house of Capt. John Sergeant in Brattleborough was selected as the place for the next meeting. Nine members from six towns assembled in Brattleborough, on the 26th, at the second adjourned meeting. It had now become evident that it would be impossible to command the attendance of a majority of the members. The committee accordingly resolved that they would act in accordance with the dispensation which had been granted them by the New York Convention, and proceed to business without a quorum. James Clay, Eleazer Patterson, and Hilkiah Grout were thereupon chosen a committee to draft a "True Representation of the Broken State, of the Inhabitants of the County," and assign some reasons for the conduct of the county committee in neglecting to observe the
* Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 913, 921. Miscellaneous Papers, in office Sec. State, N. Y. xxxvii. 57, 397: xxxix. 23. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 936-940.
1777.] REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE. 295
resolves of the Convention respecting the election of a Governor and representative officers. Their report was in these words:—
"Pursuant to the resolves of the Honorable Convention of the state of New York, appointing the committee of the county of Cumberland to assist the sheriff in holding the election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senators, &c., the county committee from eight towns met on the 4th day of June, instant, and proceeded to make choice of Capt. James Clay, chairman, and Mr. Simon. Stevens, clerk, and after deliberating on the important affairs and broken state of the county, adjourned until the 17th day of June, instant, at which time they met according to adjournment from five towns. But the sheriff having resigned his commission, and entirely refusing to act thereon, and the committee being terrified with threats from the people who are setting up a new state here, thought it imprudent to proceed to any business, and adjourned to meet at Brattleborough on this 20th day of June, where they are met according to adjournment from six towns, and where also a number of men who are appointed by several towns to make their disapprobation to the proceedings of the late convention at Windsor publickly known, in some proper manner, meet the committee and joyne with them in representing the broken and disordered state of the county, and making their disapprobation of the proceedings of the late convention at Windsor, known to the Honorable Convention or Assembly of the state of New York.
"We therefore, the committee of the county of Cumberland, and others specially appointed by the towns of Weathersfield, Westminster, Putney, Brattleborough, Hinsdale, and part of Guilford, for said purposes, do represent as follows, viz., that the convention held at Windsor on the 4th day of June, instant, for the purpose of establishing their new state of Vermont,* have taken into their possession the prison of this county, and have strictly forbid all committees acting under the authority of the state of New York, so that it is become impracticable for the county committee, or any other committee to proceed to any publick business in this county. As the result of these measures, several prisoners now in prison in this county who
* The Vermont convention, held at Windsor on the 4th of June, recommended to the people of the new state to assemble in their respective towns on the 23d of the same month, and choose representatives to meet at Windsor on the 2d of July following, for the purpose of forming a constitution, and electing delegates to the Congress of the United States. — Various MSS.
296 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
might have been set at liberty, agreeable to the resolves of the Convention of the state of New York, are still kept in prison in the most pitiful circumstances, and are so like to continue. The publick peace is so interrupted by the proceedings of this convention at Windsor, and by those disorderly persons who are so warmly engaged in supporting the illegal authority of their new state, that it hath already considerably hindered the raising of men for the common defence; and we think we have reason to believe that if a stop is not speedily put to this spirit of disorder which rages so vehemently here, a final period will soon be put to any further provision being made in this county for the common defence of America.
"We further represent that a considerable number of the people in this county who are so warmly engaged in setting up their new state, have not any or but little property which they can claim under any grant whatever; and we really believe that the leaders of the people who are for the new state in this county, are pursuing that which they esteem their private interest, and prefer that to the publick weal of America, and that they are determined to support the authority of their new state at all events; and we really believe that without the interposition of the Honourable Continental Congress they will never submit to the authority of the state of New York until obliged so to do by the sword.
" And we do hereby solemnly declare, that we entirely disapprove of the proceedings of the late convention at Windsor, and of all persons whatever acting under authority of said convention, and that we will, at all times, do our best endeavour to support the legal authority of the state of New York in the county."
This report having been accepted by the committee, was signed by James Clay, the chairman. Eleazer Patterson and Hilkiah Grout were deputed to present it to the Convention of New York. In the credentials which were given them, it was stated that the expense of their journey was to be paid by private subscription, inasmuch as the state of the county rendered it impossible to raise money in any public way.*
* Col. Patterson presented his commission, and the various papers entrusted to him, to the New York Council of Safety, on the 15th of July, 1777. They were committed to Robert R. Livingston, Gen. John Morin Scott, and Major Christopher Tappen, but the records do not show that any action was had upon them. — Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 995.
1777.] MEETING OF THE NEW STATE CONVENTION. 297
One other act of the committee is worthy of notice. By a resolution of the New York committee of safety, passed some months previous, authority had been given to the county committees to select places suitable for the residence of persons who should be inoculated with the small-pox. In conformity with this resolve, permission was now granted by the county committee to erect a house in Brattleborough to be used for that purpose. Obadiah Wells, Capt. John Sergeant, and Lieut. Israel Smith, were empowered to select a proper site for the building, which when completed was to be in their charge. Special instructions were at the same time given them as to the manner in which they should act, and they were enjoined to be watchful, lest through any neglect the dreaded disease should extend its ravages among those who could not receive the treatment necessary to their health and safety. The committee then adjourned, to meet on the first Tuesday in September, at the court-house in Westminster.*
On the 2d of July, the convention of the new state of Vermont assembled at Windsor. The draft of a constitution was presented and read, and the convention entered upon an examination of its articles, determined to accept of nothing which would not support the principles of republicanism and democracy combined. In the midst of their deliberations, news came that Ticonderoga had been evacuated, and that the frontiers of the state were exposed to the ravages of the enemy. Many wished to break up the convention and return to their homes, in order to defend their families and firesides. But Providence had ordered otherwise. While fear seemed to paralyze effort, and doubt to render the little action which was exerted ineffectual, a violent storm arose. So fierce was the conflict of the elements, that the members were compelled to remain. A new life seemed to inspire the convention. The constitution was read, paragraph by paragraph, amid the roaring and flashing of batteries fiercer, louder, and brighter than those with which the British were at that moment endeavoring to environ the Americans in their flight from Ticonderoga. Evening saw the work completed. The constitution had been adopted, a council of safety had been appointed to act during the recess, and the convention had adjourned. Besides the adoption of the constitu-
* MSS. in the possession of the Hon. William M. Pingry, containing a record of the acts of the Cumberland county committee of safety. Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 773.
298 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
tion, little else was done by the convention. A right to the county jail at Westminster was, however, reiterated, and orders were issued to a sergeant and six men to guard it both by night and day, and to permit no one to advance within six feet of the gratings, or to approach the jail door.*
While the New York and Vermont adherents were struggling for the supremacy on the soil which they both claimed, the supporters of the former in the New York council of safety, were endeavoring to wring from the Congress of the United States an expression of opinion as to the validity of the conflicting claims. In a letter to Congress of the 28th of May, wherein reference was made to those who had been instrumental in declaring the independence of Vermont, they said: "Although we apprehend no great difficulties in reducing these factious spirits to obedience and good order by the justice and vigor of the government of this state without the aid of Congress, yet as a report prevails, and is daily gaining credit, that they are privately countenanced in their designs by certain members of your honourable house, we esteem it our duty to give you this information, that by a proper resolution on that subject, the reputation of Congress may cease to be injured by imputations so disgraceful and dishonourable." Although some members of Congress had expressed opinions favorable to the establishment of Vermont, yet their number was small, and did not at present seem likely to receive accessions. When the petitions from Vermont and the letters from New York had been thoroughly examined, the subject of the controversy was referred to a committee of the whole house. When their report had been submitted, Congress resumed the discussion, and determined after long debate, to agitate no further a topic which appeared to be pregnant with difficulties. To this end they resolved on the 30th of June, that the independent government whose establishment had been attempted by the people of the new state, "could derive no countenance or justification from any act or resolution" which they had passed. Other resolutions explaining more fully their sentiments were at the same time adopted, and Vermont was left to pursue her own course, with the sure warrant, however, of the disapprobation of Congress.†
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 79. MS. letter from William Williams to Capt. John Sessions, dated July 7th, 1777.
† By a resolution of the New York council of safety, passed at Kingston, July 17th, 1777, printed copies of the resolves of Congress referred to in the text
1777.] LETTER OF GEN. BAYLEY. 299
In order to concentrate the troops not at that time in actual service, the New York council of safety had, on the 28th of May, requested Gen. Bayley to march the ranging company formerly commanded by Joab Hoisington, but now in charge of Capt. Benjamin Wait, to Kingston, there to receive further instructions. Orders were accordingly issued, but it was found impossible to procure money to support the men on their journey, and for this reason they refused to advance. In a letter from Gen. Bayley, of the 14th of June, containing the reason of their refusal to obey orders, he adverted to the situation of the people inhabiting the north-eastern counties. He stated that he had received an ordinance from the state council of safety directing the election of state officers; that the sheriff had given the proper orders to the different towns, but that it was not probable the people would choose any members to sit in the Legislature of New York. In this supposition he was correct. A few days later, when a committee from Charlotte county visited Cumberland county, to obtain information as to the temper of the people east of the Green mountains, word was returned that "the New Hampshire Grants had declared themselves independent, and would not let the county committees sit, nor permit anything to be transacted under the jurisdiction of New York."
While matters were in this condition, the New York council of safety resolved, on the 27th of June, that the company of rangers commanded by Capt. Wait should be "peremptorily ordered" to repair immediately to Kingston, and that all arrear-
were sent to James Clay, the chairman of the general committe of the county of Cumberland, to be given by him to Col. Eleazer Patterson, and Major John Wheelock, with a request that they should distribute them through the eastern district of the state. By his own exertions, Clay notified the resolves to the towns in Cumberland county, and at the same time requested that a meeting might be called in each town for the purpose of affording the people an opportunity to hear the resolves read publicly, and to ascertain whether they were willing to choose county committee men to meet at Westminster court-house on the first Tuesday in the following September. The Vermont council of safety hearing that Clay was thus engaged, issued a warrant, dated August 10th, 1777, for his arrest. He was accordingly taken before them as a prisoner, and was informed by Col. Thomas Chittenden that he had done wrong in obeying the directions of the state of New York; in notifying a meeting of the county committee; in distributing the resolves of the Continental Congress; and in inciting people against the new state. On these charges Clay was detained in custody six days. At the end of that period, he was allowed to return to his home in Putney. — Miscellaneous Papers in office Sec. State, N. Y., vol. xxxvii; also Papers relating to the Vermont Controversy, pp. 2-4. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 944-948.
300 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
ages should be paid them on their arrival at that place. By another resolution, they directed $200 to be advanced to Capt. Wait to defray the travelling expenses of his men. On reaching their place of destination, permission was to be given them to receive rations instead of subsistence-money, if such should be their wish. A copy of these resolutions was sent to Capt. Wait, and notice was at the same time given him that compliance was expected. In obedience to orders, Wait proceeded to Newbury, in Gloucester county, and, on arriving there, was informed that his under-officers and men had marched for Ticonderoga, to ward off, if possible, the attack anticipated at that post. On their return, on the 14th of July, he called them together and ordered them to set out for Kingston. This command they refused to obey, and in support of their refusal, declared that at the time of their enlistment they did not expect to be removed from the counties of Cumberland, Gloucester and Charlotte; that on account of the abandonment of Ticonderoga, the frontiers were exposed to the attacks of the enemy; and that they could not, under such circumstances, think of leaving their wives and children unprotected and alone. This answer was presented on the 26th to the New York council of safety, who declared themselves satisfied with Wait's conduct, but refused to pass any resolutions respecting the conduct of the rangers, choosing to leave that subject for the consideration of the Legislature, who were soon to assemble.*
Owing to the defenceless condition of Cumberland county, many attempts were made by the inhabitants to procure arms and ammunition, that they might be enabled to defend their families from the attacks of the enemy's ranging parties, and in the meantime prepare to escape to more secure abodes, should the British approach in force. Among those most active in forwarding these measures, was Charles Phelps. Though far from single-minded in many of his operations, yet in this instance he mingled with secondary motives enough of disinterestedness to render his conduct praiseworthy, and, to some extent, meritorious. From a period anterior to the erection of Fort Dummer, the General Court of Massachusetts had professed a claim to a portion of what was now the southern part of Cumberland county. This claim had for a long time been allowed to rest in abeyance. Within a few years, a disposition to renew it had
* Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 947, 976, 977, 979, 980, 1016 ii. 502. Journals Am. Cong., ii. 183. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 77-79.
1777.] PETITION OF CHARLES PHELPS. 301
been evinced. Taking advantage of this circumstance, Phelps, on the 17th of July, addressed a petition "to the Honourable Council of the most Patriotic State of the ancient Colony of the Massachusetts Bay," in behalf of the inhabitants of fifty townships mostly in Cumberland county, which, three years ago, had been "claimed by the legislative authority of the two houses of Assembly" of Massachusetts. In a lengthy address, he referred to "the shameful and detestable" evacuation of the "all important fortress of Ticonderoga, and the adjacent garrisons;" to the pitiable situation of the "infant settlements and defenceless plantations;" to the destruction of men, women, and children, which would surely follow, unless strenuous endeavor was made to prevent it; to the oppressive sway of New York and her "new-fangled schemes;" to the attempts which had been made by the adherents of the new state of Vermont to put a period to the jurisdiction of New York, by "wrenching" prisons and prisoners from the hands of New York prison-keepers; to the settlers scattered among "woody, mountainous wilds;" to their extreme poverty; to their incessant toil, which scarcely rewarded them with the food necessary to support life; and to the inability of the people generally to procure the means of defence. Pursuing this style of remark, he declared that the government of New York had wholly refused to afford any protection to the distressed inhabitants of the new state, on account of the revolt in which many of them had lately engaged; and that on this account, the only alternative left them was to apply for assistance elsewhere. The petition ended with a request for arms and ammunition. No definite number or amount was named, since it was thought best that the Council should assist according to their ability rather than be guided in their actions by the necessities of others.
In answer to this petition, Phelps was referred to General Heath. Heath immediately wrote to the Council, that he had no power "to issue arms to any other than the Continental troops," but at the same time asked the question whether a number of arms put into the hands of the Vermonters, would not answer a valuable purpose. In reply to this question, which comprised the substance of Phelps's petition, the Council ordered the Board of War to deliver to Abel Marsh, and Charles Phelps, three hundred fire arms, on condition that they should pay or give security for them, and engage to distribute them among the inhabitants of the New Hampshire Grants. On the
302 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
same conditions, the Board of War were further directed to furnish Phelps with one hundred and fifty pounds of powder, three hundred pounds of lead, and four hundred and fifty flints, to be distributed among those persons who should receive arms.*
Nor were the people of Cumberland county, themselves inactive. All who were not incapacitated by extreme youth, old age or infirmity, were formed into guard companies and scouting parties, and were stationed at the points and along the roads by which it was supposed the enemy would advance. But as preparations went on, fear increased. Joel Matthews of Hertford, having heard, on the 19th of July, that the forces of Burgoyne were at Rutland, and that they intended to advance on Number Four, and send forward a detachment to the Coos country lying north of Newbury, ordered out the militia under his command, and sent word to Col. Joseph Marsh, that although he should await his orders, he should yet march whatever men he might be able to raise, to oppose the enemy. This information having reached Bezaleel Woodward at Hanover in New Hampshire, on a Saturday near midnight, he immediately endeavored to disseminate it among the officers and soldiers of the state by expresses.
One appeal for aid, written by him at this critical moment, concluded with these words: "As you regard the safety of this frontier, for God's sake, pray come forward without delay." As the impression became more prevalent, that the enemy were advancing to scour the banks of the Connecticut, the terror of the inhabitants increased. In one day, from the thinly settled towns of Stratford and Thetford, thirty men deserted and went over to the enemy. By this cowardly act, twenty families, and over four hundred cattle and sheep, were deprived of protection. By the kindness of the people of Lyme, they were, however, conveyed across the river, and made comfortable by shelter and security. On the 21st, Gen. Bayley advised, that the militia of the county should march to Otter creek. If they shall do so, said he, "we will operate with them — otherwise five hundred men will not be able to guard Connecticut river."
By the time the enemy's forces had arrived within thirty-four miles of the Connecticut, the consternation had become
* Revolution Council Papers, in office Sec. State, Mass., 1777, iv. 90-92: 2d series, 1775-1777, p. 291; also Revolution Letters, v. 307.
1777.] BURGOYNE'S INSTRUCTIONS TO LIEUT.-COL. BAUM. 303
general. Many refused to take up arms in defence of their families and firesides, and some declared openly, their intention of joining the British as soon as they should make their appearance. Nor were these fears without cause. Although Burgoyne had not at that time made known his intention of ravaging the country bordering the Connecticut, still that such was his design, there was no room to doubt. In the instructions, which, on the 9th of August, he issued to Lieut.-Col. Baum, this intention was fully proved. That he might "try the affections of the country, disconcert the councils of the enemy, and obtain large supplies of cattle, horses, and carriages," he charged the allied Hessian in these terms. "You are to proceed from Battenkill to Arlington, and to take post there till the detachment of Provincials under the command of Capt. Sherwood shall join you from the southward. You are then to proceed to Manchester, where you will again take post, so as to secure the pass of the mountains on the road from Manchester to Rockingham. From thence [i.e. Manchester], you will detach the Indians and light troops to the northward, towards Otter creek. On their return, and also receiving intelligence that no enemy is in force upon the Connecticut river, you will proceed by the road over the mountains to Rockingham, where you will take post. This will be the most difficult part of the expedition, and must be proceeded upon with caution, as you will have the defile of the mountains behind you, which might make a retreat difficult. You must therefore endeavor to be well informed of the force of the enemy's militia in the neighboring country. Should you find it may be effected, you are to remain there, while the Indians and light troops are detached up the river, and you are afterwards to descend the river to Brattleborough, and from that place by the quickest march, you are to return by the great road to Albany."
Such was the course which the British General had marked out for the Hessian Colonel. By pursuing it, Burgoyne hoped to replenish his diminishing stores, and to render the condition of his forces so formidable as to enable him to obtain possession of Albany, and establish there the headquarters of his army. But the result of the battle at Bennington, not only changed the entire programme of his proceedings, but aroused in the breasts of the Americans feelings of hope — feelings to which they had been strangers during months of despondency and gloom. The victory at Bennington, like that achieved at Trenton, was re‑
304 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
ceived with exultation throughout the whole northern country. Men who had long time been wavering between the smiles of royalty and the beggary of republicanism snatched eagerly at the honest rags of the latter, and spurned the glittering robes of the former with unqualified determination.*
Although events connected with the struggle in which the whole United States was interested, now and then concentrated the feelings and actions of the people of Vermont, and led them to forget, for a season, the differences occasioned by the conflict of jurisdictions, still the cessation from internal discord was only temporary, and the partizans of New York and Vermont usually returned to their former positions, strengthened in the support of their different principles by the respite they had enjoyed. The favorers of the new state, supported only, it is true, by an infant government, felt that they could call on that government for assistance and be sure of receiving such aid as it could afford. The supporters of the jurisdiction of New York, on the contrary, were uncertain whether an active opposition to Vermont would be sustained by those to whom they owed allegiance. In Cumberland county, committees of safety had been formed under the superintendence of the leading men of the new state. The committees of a similar name who had been responsible to New York for their proceedings, were now almost wholly disregarded. The power of the Vermont committees was far in the ascendant. They it was who decided the differences which were continually arising between man and man, and settled disputes which, if courts of law had been then established, would have been there determined. By them the citizens were detailed as guards, or excused from military duty. In their estimation, the favorers of New York, who resided in Vermont, were but little better than enemies to American liberty. From men of this class they would frequently extort no inconsiderable sums of money for the support of government, threatening them, in case of refusal, with bonds, or imprisonment in the jail at Northampton. Levies were often made by them for the maintenance of the militia, and those who refused to serve as soldiers were compelled, whether acknowledging the authority of New York or Vermont, to pay for the support of a certain number of men and horses for a specified time. In this manner the Vermont committees of safety were enabled to
* MS. letters and documents in office Sec. State Vt.
1777.] GEORGE CLINTON ELECTED GOV. OF NEW YORK. 305
maintain the authority of the young state, and in many of the towns in Cumberland county to hold in check the discontented and rebellious Yorkers.
As the result of the first state election held in New York, George Clinton was, on the 30th of July, elected Governor. Soon after this event, the question arose whether the militia of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Charlotte counties should be called on to render aid to that state. The Governor was in doubt as to the course he should pursue. He was not acquainted with the names of the officers in command, nor did he expect, if orders were issued, that they would be obeyed. On the other hand, he knew that if he should neglect to notice these counties on this occasion, when he was calling on every other county in the state for a proportion of their militia, the oversight would not only be marked, but would tend to strengthen the Vermonters in carrying forward their project of a new state. For these reasons, on the 13th of August, he ordered all the counties in the state, those on the New Hampshire Grants included, not only to make returns of the present state of their militia, but also to furnish their quota of men to join the northern army. Although no attention was paid to this requisition by the three counties, yet this disobedience did not prevent the exercise of humane feelings on the part of New York. When a few weeks later it became known that the inhabitants of the northern counties were suffering from a want of salt, the subject was referred to the Legislature, and means were taken to supply them with a sufficient quantity of this article so necessary to health and subsistence.
Notwithstanding the opposition they encountered, the committee of safety in Cumberland county who derived their powers from New York, met occasionally, and strove to exert the little influence left them, for the good of the state whose interests they represented. On assembling on the 2d of September, there were present delegates from six towns only. In the absence of Capt. James Clay, the chairman, the meeting was called to order by Simon Stevens, the clerk. After long debate an adjournment until the following day was ordered. But this measure did not avail to increase the attendance. Soon after assembling on the morning of the 3d, a motion was made to send some "suitable person" to the New York Legislature to give information of the conduct of the "pretended council" and the "pretended committees" of Vermont. The motion
306 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
being lost, the committee voted to adjourn until the second Tuesday in November. In less than an hour after the adjournment, Capt. Clay appeared, attended by Obadiah Wells of Brattleborough. The members of the committee who had not as yet left town, together with those who had just arrived, again assembled, and voted to send Clay to New York for the purpose of representing the difficulties of the county, and seeking some method of relief. The credentials which he received with his appointment were signed by Simon Stevens, Hilkiah Grout, Michael Gilson, Obadiah Wells, and Eleazer Patterson. At the same time Deacon John Sessions of Westminster, a supporter of the jurisdiction of New York, wrote to the convention of that state, of which he had until of late been a member, in truly scriptural phrase, an account of the inconveniences to which he was subjected because of his opinions. "My opposition," said he, "has rendered my situation somewhat unhappy at present, but I trust I shall find the old maxim true in the end, that honesty is the best policy. I have been a sort of Micaiah in the affair, and I believe many would be glad I were in the house of Jonathan,* and I have reason to expect this will be my fate if something is not done very soon."†
Having been successful in obtaining arms and ammunition from Massachusetts, to be distributed among the people residing on that portion of the "Grants" which border the western banks of the Connecticut, Charles Phelps now turned his attention towards the accomplishment of a project which, had it resulted according to his wishes, would have rendered the condition of the inhabitants of Cumberland county far more precarious than ever before it had been. On the 27th of October he presented a memorial to the Council of Massachusetts, "in behalf of the sacred rights" of that state, and for the purpose of securing to her the control and disposal of fifty townships situated in the south-eastern part of Vermont. In defence of his position, he asserted that Massachusetts had purchased of the Indians the territory in question, which had been afterwards laid out into townships, and had taken of them the necessary deeds and conveyances signed and sealed by their chiefs and sachems; that these transactions had taken place
* 1 Kings, chap. xxii. vs. 7-28. 1 Samuel, chap. xiv.
† Miscellaneous Papers in office Sec. State N. Y., xxxvii. 461; also Papers relating to the Vermont Controversy, pp. 4, 5. Pingry MSS. Journal N. Y. Prov. Cong., i. 1021, 1039, 1059. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 948-951.
1777.] MEMORIAL OF PHELPS TO THE COUNCIL. 307
while Belcher was Governor of Massachusetts; that the necessary agreements had been entered into at Fort Dimmer; that the papers drawn on the occasion had been placed in the provincial Court-house at Boston, and had been destroyed when that building with its contents was burned on the 9th of December, 1747. He denounced as unjust the conduct of Great Britain in assigning to New York lands which belonged to Massachusetts, and did not scruple to blame New York, the state from which he had received so many favors, and to which he owed allegiance, for endeavoring to retain possession of territory which had been claimed for Massachusetts by the "rightful, just, and most solemn resolves" of her General Court. Inasmuch as manuscript testimony was out of the question, Phelps proposed that Col. Israel Williams of Hatfield, the only surviving witness to the transactions referred to, should be requested to make affidavit to such facts as he might remember bearing upon the case under consideration, and that Massachusetts should purchase of John Moffatt of Boston, the journals and records of that colony then in his possession. In answer to this memorial, the Council, on the 29th of October, voted to take the deposition of Col. Williams, to be used as evidence of the treaty consummated at Fort Dummer between. the years 1725 and 1730, the proofs of which had been afterwards destroyed. Two years later the General Court declared that the state of Massachusetts had a "clear and indisputable right" to the southern part of Vermont, but when, in the year 1780, the subject was brought before Congress, the General Court decided that the claim was an "infringement on the rights of Vermont," and refused to prosecute it further.*
* Revolution Council Papers, in office Sec. State Mass., 1777, iv. 377.