OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF VERMONT.
The first General Assembly of Vermont — Meeting of the friends of New York at Brattleborough — Gov. Clinton's Proclamation — Its reception — A Protest against the Government of Vermont — Circular Letter from the Protesting Convention at Brattleborough — First Meeting of the Legislature of Vermont — Col. Thomas Chittenden elected Governor — Opposition of the New York Adherents to the Government of Vermont — Disturbance at Halifax — Robbery of Powder and Lead at Hinsdale — Simon Stevens's friendship to Vermont — Letter from Micah Townsend and Israel Smith to Gov. Clinton — Clinton's reply — Peletiah Fitch's Letter to Clinton — Clinton to Fitch — Clinton to Gouverneur Morris — Clinton to Henry Laurens — "Yorkers," "Vermonters," "Neutrals" — Officers chosen both by Vermont and New York — Union with New Hampshire dissolved — An attempt to connect Vermont with New Hampshire — Arrest of Hilkiah Grout, a New York Justice of Peace, by the authority of Vermont — His Trials before various Courts — A Conviction for Defamation.
WHEN the delegates from the different towns in Vermont who had assembled at Windsor in convention, on the 2d of July, 1777, separated on account of the evacuation of Ticonderoga, and the progress of the enemy under Burgoyne, they had intended to publish without delay, the constitution they had adopted, and thus enable the people to hold, in the month of December following, an election of representatives to compose the General Assembly. Owing to the unsettled condition of the times, the constitution was not printed in season to allow of the accomplishment of this object. Another general convention was therefore called by the council of safety. The meeting was held at Windsor on the 24th of December, the constitution was revised, and effectual means were taken to set the machinery of government in full operation. On the 6th of February, 1778, the council of safety distributed among the inhabitants of the different towns in the state, copies of the new constitution. The election of representatives took place on the 3d of March following, and on the 12th of the same month, the
1778.] PECULIAR POSITION OF VERMONT. 309
first session of the General Assembly of the state of Vermont was held at Windsor. The necessary state officers were soon after elected, and Vermont presented the novel spectacle of a free government, wholly independent of Congress, and yet engaged in the same struggle against the power of Great Britain, which interested the men, and employed the money of the thirteen United States.*
While the leaders of the new state were thus engaged in perfecting their plans, a number of the inhabitants of Cumberland county who owed allegiance to New York, assembled at Brattleborough on the 28th of January, and prepared a petition addressed to the Legislature of the latter state. In this paper they stated that they had been informed on "credible authority," that the convention of the "pretended state of Vermont" had prohibited the exercise of all authority derived from New York had made laws to bind the inhabitants of Cumberland county and had lately adopted a constitution under which state and other officers were soon to be elected. From the evils which threatened them in this quarter, they prayed to be defended. More fully to express their views, they appointed James Clay their agent at the New York Legislature.
In answer to their petition and others similar, the subject of the controversy between New York and Vermont was taken up in the Senate and Assembly of the former state, and resolutions were passed, on the 21st of February, containing such overtures to the disaffected inhabitants of the northern counties, as were deemed compatible with the dignity of New York as a state, and with the welfare of those with whom a reconciliation was desired. These resolutions were embodied in a proclamation, which was issued on the 23d, under the signature of Governor Clinton. Its closing paragraph was in these words. "The several branches of the Legislature of the state of New York will concur in the necessary measures for protecting the loyal inhabitants of this state, residing in the counties of Albany, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Gloucester, in their persons and estates, and for compelling all persons, residing within this state, and refusing obedience to the government and Legislature thereof, to yield that obedience and allegiance, which, by law and of right, they owe to this state." Prompt and energetic action, it was supposed, was to follow a declaration like this,
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 80, 81
310 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
but subsequent events showed that the government of New York, although skilled in the use of firm language, was not prepared to support its words by its acts.*
To the New York adherents resident in Vermont, this proclamation was most welcome. On its reception at Halifax on the 10th of March, forty-six of the principal inhabitants of that town joined in an address of thanks to Governor Clinton, and to the Senate and Assembly, "for the salutary measures taken for settling the peace and unity", of the northern counties. "Notwithstanding the uneasiness of many disaffected persons," said they, "we do freely comply with the terms of said proclamation, and rejoice to find such pacific sentiments therein contained; not in the least doubting but on suitable application, we may have redress of all grievances." In the few towns in the county where the sympathies of the inhabitants were consonant with the sympathies of the people of Halifax, the proclamation was regarded with similar feelings. It was for this reason that Governor Clinton was informed that his address had been "productive of some good," in spite of "the many unmanly artifices made use of by the New State's men to prevent it." In order to exert a favorable influence upon the gubernatorial election which was soon to be held in the state of New York, and also in such towns upon the "Grants" in which there was a prospect of obtaining New York votes, care had been taken to distribute this proclamation as widely as possible before that event. The effect on the election was far otherwise than had been anticipated. In some towns a very small vote was polled, and in others there was no voting. The proclamation was generally regarded as an unfortunate production, whose provisions would by no means suit the temper of the mass of the people. In some towns it was publicly burned.†
The dispute between New York and Vermont having now assumed a definite shape, the people of Brattleborough at once evinced a decided preference towards the jurisdiction of the former state. At the annual meeting of the town, held on the 3d of March, they resolved unanimously to send a protest to the Assembly of the "pretended state," denouncing the conduct of that body in disavowing allegiance to New York, as an act tending to "disunite the friends of America in the present
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 7. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 82-84. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 951-955.
† George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. iv. docs. 1161, 1181.
1778.] A PROTEST. 311
important contest with Great Britain." Desiring to add weight to this intended protest, they appointed Benjamin Butterfield, Samuel Knight, Israel Smith, James Blakslee, and Micah. Townsend, a committee to confer with the different town committees in the county, and ascertain who among them were inclined to bear testimony against, the "unjustifiable proceedings" of Vermont. Letters were accordingly sent by the central committee, on the 4th of March, both to those who were known, and to those who were supposed to entertain friendly feelings towards New York. "We call upon you in the most earnest manner," said the committee in their circulars, "as you value the blessings of good order and just government, to unite with us in concerting and executing such measures as will be most efficacious for procuring those blessings, and frustrating the designs of those who are opposed to them." A request was at the same time made, that the towns would send committees to confer with the central committee, and a meeting, to be held on the 18th, was called at the house of Capt. Sergeants in Brattleborough.
Delegates from several towns assembled at the appointed time, but of their proceedings no record has been preserved. It is known, however, that the initiatory steps in the proposed movement were then taken, and that proper persons were chosen to draft such papers as were required. At an adjourned meeting held at the same place, on the 15th of April, representatives from Guilford, Brattleborough, Putney, Newfane, Hinsdale, and Rockingham, were in attendance. The proposed protest which had been previously prepared, in accordance with the sentiments of the committees of the above towns, and of Westminster and Weathersfield also, was on this occasion presented for adoption. It was in the form of an address, and was directed "To the gentlemen convened at Windsor, under the style of the General Assembly of the state of Vermont." In it the objections to the formation of a new state were strongly put, and old arguments in a regenerated form, and new ones also, were urged in opposition to the plans of the patrons and citizens of Vermont. In view of the principles adduced, the protesters announced their determination in these words:—
"We conceive that endeavoring at present to establish a separate state here, is not only a violation of the Continental Union, but is imprudent, and to the last degree impolitic and dangerous, tending in the present important crisis to weaken
312 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
the authority of the Continental Congress, disunite the friends of America, and stimulate a spirit of separation and sedition which may end in the ruin of the United States; and we esteem it not only our duty, but the duty of all who are friends to the liberty of America, to bear open testimony against it. Therefore, on behalf of ourselves and those who delegated us for that purpose, we publicly declare that as we have not in any way assisted in, or consented to, the forming of a separate and independent government, we shall not consider ourselves bound by any acts of the Legislature thereof, but shall, as in duty bound, continue to yield our allegiance to the state of New York, until otherwise directed by the Honorable the Continental Congress. And we do hereby solemnly protest against the right of any persons to govern us and the other inhabitants of the New Hampshire Grants, except that of the Continental Congress and the Legislature of New York, and against all measures which shall be used to enforce the pretended rights of any other person or body of men, and against all the bad consequences which may arise from attempting at present to establish an independent government in the 'Grants' before mentioned."
Before separating, a letter was prepared and presented to the convention, expressive of the ideas of those who had joined in the protest. As an epitome of their sentiments, and of the course which they wished to pursue, this document is now of especial value. At the time it was written, its composers were careful to make use of such language as would dignify the measures which they wished to publish and pursue.
"As we are warmly interested in favour of American liberty," said they, in the paper referred to, "we cannot view with unconcern, or remain silent spectators of, the present disorderly attempt to separate the New Hampshire Grants from the thirteen United States — a measure directly tending, in our opinion, to weaken the opposition made by the continent to its European oppressors, and introduce the utmost confusion, at a time when good order and unanimity are essentially necessary.
"The final adjudication of the King of Great Britain in privy Council (the only proper court which could then determine matters of this nature), that this territory was within the jurisdiction of New York; our peaceable acquiescence in that judgment; and representation in Continental Congress and the Convention of New York, both before and since the Declaration of Independence, are undoubted proofs that our allegiance is
1778.] LETTER TO THE CONVENTION. 313
justly due to the state of New York, until Congress shall otherwise determine. The resolutions of Congress of the 30th June last, and the articles of confederation, are convincing to us that that honourable body disapproves of a measure so extraordinary. The present government of New York engaging to remove such grievances as we really laboured under, from the iniquity and bad policy of our former governors, we hope will quiet the complaints arising from those grievances. The confusion that erecting a new state, without the consent of Congress, has already, and will more abundantly, introduce; the present inability of the people to support a separate government, however frugally the public moneys are managed;* and the great, very great scarcity of men properly qualified to make and put in execution a wise system of laws, plainly demonstrate to us the wretched policy of so extraordinary an attempt at this time.
"We have therefore agreed upon, and shall forward to the Assembly of the pretended state of Vermont, a protest against erecting the 'Grants' into an independent government in the present time, and also one copy thereof to his Excellency Governor Clinton, and another to the press for publication, that the world may know our disapprobation of the present irregular proceedings.
"We think it the duty of every friend to the independence of America, more especially in the 'Grants,' to use their most strenuous efforts to suppress or check this offspring of anarchy in its infancy. And as preserving unanimity amongst the number who choose not to assist in dividing the continent, in this momentous crisis, may have a tendency to answer that end, and is essentially necessary as well for the public good as for the security of their persons and property, we beg leave to recommend to you, to elect a committee, in such time that they may meet at Capt. Sergent's in Brattleborough, on the 30th day of June next, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, to exist for six months; to authorize them to consent to such measures as they shall think most likely to restore to this divided county internal tranquillity, and submission to the just and necessary authority of those who, by order of Congress, are regularly appointed to rule over us; from time to time to transmit to the government of New York, accounts of all such matters as may be material for them to be acquainted with; and to take such steps as they think best for relieving those who may suffer in
314 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
their persons or properties by any authority pretended to be derived from the state of Vermont."*
By a special resolution, copies of this letter were signed by Thomas Cutler, the chairman of the convention, and were sent to those towns in the county whose representatives had already signed, or had expressed a willingness to sign, the protest which had that day been adopted. Copies were also sent to those towns in which there were a respectable minority who were opposed to the new state, and all who favored the protest were invited to send delegates to the convention to be held on the 30th of June following. Whether this convention ever met, or, if they did meet, whether their previous efforts resulted in such an organization as they desired, does not appear. Succeeding events show, however, that the principle of opposition to the new state was of sufficient weight to carry out in action, to a certain extent, what had been proposed in council. The adherents of New York did not fail to support their views, even when the sword and the bayonet were employed to compel them, to yield obedience to the laws which had been enacted by Vermont.†
The representatives who had been elected by the General Assembly of Vermont met at Windsor on the 12th of March, and formed themselves into a House. Their names were not entered on the journals of that session, but it is certain that of the fifty or more who were present, twenty-three were representatives from, nineteen towns in Cumberland county. Agreeable to the constitution of the state, a committee were chosen to count the votes of the people, and as the result Col. Thomas Chittenden was declared Governor. At the same time Joseph Marsh was elected Deputy Governor, and Col. Ira Allen State Treasurer. Twelve Councillors were, also chosen, and were formed into a body known as the Council. The relation which
* When, on the 27th of May following, a copy of the protest was forwarded to Governor Clinton by Micah Townsend and Israel Smith, a copy of this circular letter was also sent, accompanied by the following notice: "We also enclose a copy of a circular letter sent by the convention to several towns in this county, recommending the choice of committees; the principal design of which we apprehend is to preserve union amongst the friends of New York state, and enable them to act with unanimity as occasions offer, for increasing the number of the friends of New York government, and with expedition to carry into execution such directions as they may receive from your Excellency." — George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. doc. 1437.
† Protest of towns in Cumberland county. MS. Letter from Brattleborough convention. MS. Letter from select committee. Pingry MSS. George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. iv. doc. 1282.
1778.] APPOINTMENT OF STATE OFFICERS. 315
the Council bore to the General Assembly was the same as that which the upper house bears to the lower house in deliberative bodies as they are now constituted in the United States. The less important offices were filled as the performance of minor duties became necessary. During the session many general laws were passed for the regulation of the affairs of the state. All the land lying between the Green mountains and Connecticut river, including the whole of Cumberland and Gloucester counties, was, on the 17th of March, erected into a county, and was called Unity. Unity county was divided, for the sake of facilitating militia arrangements, into three regimental districts, and, for the sake of facilitating judicial and legal proceedings, into four probate districts. The vote by which the name Unity had been given to the consolidated counties was reconsidered on the 21st, and the name Cumberland was substituted. The enlarged county of Cumberland was, on the 24th, divided into two shires, the old division lines of the former counties being adopted as the bounds of separation. The upper shire was called Newbury, and the lower Westminster. At the close of the session a committee were chosen to transcribe such of the proceedings as were deemed of interest to the inhabitants, and furnish each town in the state with a copy. In order to increase the revenue of the state, and to punish those who were opposed to the new jurisdiction, a court of confiscation was, on the 26th, established by the Council. Col. Joseph Marsh, Gen. Jacob Bayley, Maj. Thomas Murdock, Col. Peter Olcott, Benjamin Emmons, Esq., Dr. Paul Spooner, and Col. Benjamin Carpenter, were the members of this court, and to them power was given to confiscate and sell all "lands and estates" within Cumberland county which, upon sufficient evidence, should be adjudged forfeited. The Council during the same session appointed John Hatch, Joshua Bayley, Ezra Sargent, and Darius Sessions, surveyors, and John Benjamin sheriff of the same county.
During the spring troops were raised in Cumberland county for the use of the new state. Orders for making levies were issued by Governor Chittenden, and were obeyed by the officers acting in the Vermont service. But there were many on the "Grants" who, although friends to American liberty, were unwilling to advance that liberty by fighting with, or giving aid to the state of Vermont. The most ardent of these were enabled to act in accordance with their principles by taking commissions from New York, while others, equally as patriotic
316 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
but less impetuous, were content to contribute of their substance to the support of the militia of that state. It was in this manner that the enmity of the New York adherents became systematized. Their opposition was a source of continual alarm to the originators of the new state. Ethan Allen stigmatized them as "New York malcontents," and when referring to them, declared as he would of vermin, that they "infested" the country, and made earnest inquiry as to the method of treatment which should be adopted towards them.*
Nor did their opposition confine itself to words. They not only denied the jurisdiction of the Vermont courts, but resisted the precepts, and refused to submit to the decisions, which emanated therefrom. In the town of Halifax, Hubbell Wells, a justice of the peace by commission from Vermont, issued a warrant directing William Hill, a constable, to arrest John Kirkley and his wife, Hannah, charged with the perpetration of an assault and battery in the highway, on the person of David Williams. In obedience to this order Hill arrested the accused, returned the warrant, and, the parties in the case having been summoned, the court was opened. Hardly had the trial commenced, when Thomas Clark, Thomas Baker, Isaac Orr, Henry Henderson, Alexander Stuart, Jonathan Safford, Elijah Edwards, Pelatiah Fitch, and about sixteen others, inhabitants of Halifax, and subjects of New York, rushed into the court-room, armed with bludgeons, and attempted to rescue the prisoners. Failing in this, they brandished their weapons over the head of the justice, called him a scoundrel, bade defiance to the authority of Vermont, and finally succeeded in breaking up the court. Acts of resistance like this were the arguments that proved to the rulers of Vermont the necessity of adopting the most strenuous measures to support the power and dignity of the state.†
Notwithstanding their enmity to the government of the new state, the supporters of the jurisdiction of New York who resided in Cumberland county, were pure-minded, patriotic Americans. Their unwillingness to unite with the people of Vermont against the British, did not prevent them from opposing their country's foes in every practicable manner. In detecting the machinations of the Tories, none displayed greater activity than
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 247, 260, 264, 266, 267. MS. Council Records of Vt. Various MSS.
MS. complaint of William Hill.
1778.] PATRIOTISM OF THE YORKERS. 317
they. The vigilance which they manifested in the following instance, may serve as a slight illustration of their zeal. "On, the 3d of May, the granary of Lieut. Samuel Stratton, of Hinsdale now Vernon, was broken open during the night, and the powder and lead belonging to the town, and which had been stored there, was stolen. This event gave "great uneasiness" to the inhabitants of Hinsdale and the neighboring towns. Measures were immediately taken, by placing guards in different parts of the village, to obtain information concerning the theft. As a scouting party were passing near the granary on the evening of the 5th, they discovered a man asleep at the foot of a haystack, and secured him. On examination, he proved to be one Jonathan Wright, "a person inimical to the American cause." Elijah Elmer, an accomplice of Wright, was at the same time taken prisoner, but managed to escape from the hands of his captors. The fact of the arrest having been made known, Col. Eleazer Patterson, Capt. Joseph Stebbins, Capt. Orlando Bridgeman, Moses Howe, and Gad Wait, from the safety committee of Hinsdale, and Capt. Hezekiah Stowell, Joseph Elliott, and Henry Sherburne, from the safety committee of Guilford, all of them supporters of the jurisdiction of New York, assembled at Hinsdale on the 7th. Patterson having been chosen chairman and Sherburne clerk, the associated committees commenced an investigation of the circumstances connected with the robbery. On the examination which followed, Wright refused to answer the interrogatories of the committee. Ruth Stratton, at first, intimated her suspicions that the prisoner had been lurking about her father's house from the fact of the disappearance of some articles of furniture, but finally declared that he had not been there since the preceding winter. Lieut. Stratton, in whose charge the powder and lead had been deposited, testified to the fact of the robbery, but could give no further information. Several witnesses were then examined with a view to implicate the Lieutenant, but nothing satisfactory was elicited.
When the committee came together on the morning of the 8th, Wright asked permission to give evidence in behalf of the state. This privilege was granted him on condition that he should prove in a satisfactory manner the statements he should make. He then informed the committee, that in company with Elijah Elmer, he had broken open the granary, taken thence the powder and lead, carried them across Connecticut river and concealed them among the bushes. He also informed the com‑
318 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
mittee that John Stratton, a son of the Lieutenant, was privy to the robbery, and had deposited the powder and lead in the granary in such a manner as to render them easy of access and removal. John Stratton, who had already been before the committee, and had then denied all knowledge of the affair, being re-called, pleaded ignorance as to the nature of an oath, acknowledged the truth of the statements of Wright, begged "mercy of God," and implored the forbearance of the committee. As Wright had escaped the liability of punishment by his confession, Stratton was alone obnoxious to the awards of justice. In view of his participation in the robbery as an accessory before the fact, the committee resolved that he should pay all the charges which had been incurred by reason of the theft; restore fourfold to the town of Hinsdale; pay a fine of £100 to the state of New York; be disarmed, and confined to the limits of his father's farm for the space of a year, provided his father should give a bond of £1000 to be forfeited in case he should go beyond the prescribed bounds. Permission, however, was granted him to attend public worship on Sunday, to be present at funerals, and to be absent from the farm whenever, on "extraordinary occasions," he should procure a pass from the committee of the town.
An account of these proceedings was sent to Governor Clinton, and at the same time inquiries were made as to the manner in which similar offences should be punished in future. One paragraph, however, in the letter of the committee, showed that their conduct had not met with the approbation of the whole community. "As we are under difficulty in these upper counties," wrote they, "concerning the jurisdiction of government, and are under the censure of a set of factious and officious people, who are trying to carry the committee to Albany to be tried by the Supreme Court, and the above-mentiond Stratton to be tried by a Court Martial, which would prove fatal for him and very troublesome for the committee, if your Excellency should think what the committee has done to be sufficient, and according to true policy, then we pray for your concurrence." Whatever may have been the reply of Governor Clinton, no one can deny that the course pursued by the committee, though dictated by humanity, was yet subservient to the ends of justice.*
While the favorers of the jurisdiction of New York, residing in Cumberland county, were thus strenuous in punishing the
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. ii. docs. 490, 494.
1778.] SIMON STEVENS. 319
enemies of the United States, they were no less active in their endeavors to resist every infringement of their rights, whether attempted by open foes or false friends. Simon Stevens of Springfield, who had formerly held office under New York, had of late been appointed a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Vermont militia. Before he received his commission, or decided to accept it when it should come, he wrote letters to several captains desiring them to raise their quota of men for the American service, and on being questioned as to the state from which he derived power, replied that he "did not think it best to be too critical in examining by what authority" soldiers were raised. He also declined signing the protest "against the pretended state of Vermont," which had been adopted by the inhabitants of several towns, but gave as a reason, a promise he had made not to act in favor of New York until the return of the agents whom "the Council of the new state were about sending to Congress." As to the shrievalty of Cumberland county, an office to which the government of New York were inclined to appoint him, he stated that he had concluded to write to the Assembly of that state, and provided they would engage to indemnify him against any damage he might suffer, to accept it, but on no other terms. At the request of a number of the inhabitants of Brattleborough, these facts, which were known to Micah Townsend, of that place, were certified by him and sent to Governor Clinton, on the 27th of May. Accompanying this statement was another addressed to the Governor and Council of Appointment, and signed in pursuance of a unanimous order of the people of Brattleborough in town meeting assembled, by Samuel Warriner, the moderator. In this the declarations of Townsend were upheld, and the appointment of Stevens as sheriff was represented as an act which, if consummated, would deprive the people of their privilege of electing representatives to the Assembly for the ensuing year. Major Hilkiah Grout was recommended as a proper person for this office, and acquiescence in the recommendation was expressed by the committee of Hinsdale.*
* In a letter written to Governor Clinton by Pelatiah Fitch, chairman of the committee of Cumberland county, dated July 1st, 1778, occurs this paragraph, which marks the sentiments of the Vermont adherents towards Grout, and shows on what ground his nomination was not recommended by the committee of Cumberland county. "The reason of Major Grout's not being recommended to your Excellency for the shrievalty is, that as the election was not likely to be held as soon as was expected when he was recommended by the town of Brattleborough,
320 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
By a vote of the convention of Committees which was held at Brattleborough in the previous month, Micah Townsend and Israel Smith had been directed to send one copy of the protest which was then drafted "to the press at Hartford in Connecticut," one "to the Assembly of the pretended state of Vermont," and another to Governor Clinton. In making the last transmission on the 27th of May, they informed his Excellency that sub-mission to the new state had not been as cheerfully accorded as had been desired by its advocates; that in that section of the county no soldiers had been enlisted for the completion of Col. Warner's regiment, not even in those towns in which were to be found "the warmest advocates for a new state;" that this conduct was explainable by the fact that the people did not deem it proper to obey their rulers, when obedience was inconvenient; that the number of those who had taken the oath required by the constitution of Vermont previous to voting at election, was in Cumberland county small, and throughout the "Grants" inconsiderable when compared with the population. Referring to the opinions entertained of the continuance and stability of Vermont as a separate and independent government, they remarked: "It is with real concern we are able to acquaint your Excellency that it is too general a topic of conversation among the enemies of New York state, that they will maintain their new state, even if Congress should be opposed to it, because they had as good a right to declare themselves independent of New York, as the Congress had of Great Britain. To what lengths this doctrine will lead them may easily be seen. It appears absolutely necessary to the friends of New York state in this part of the country, that Congress should, in an explicit manner, recommend to these people to yield their allegiance to the state of New York, before they have time to reason themselves out of their senses. If it is not done soon, it will perhaps be omitted till none of them will pay any regard to the recommendations of Congress. Besides, as we are not likely to be troubled this summer with any considerable body of British troops, it seems to be the most favourable season for settling internal tranquillity, and enabling this extensive part of the country to act in the common cause with vigour and
and as he by his situation is much exposed to ill-treatment from the New State's Men, he has chosen to decline serving in that office at present, seeing it cannot be a disservice to the state of New York." — George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib. vol. v. doc. 1555.
1778.] LETTER OF GOVERNOR CLINTON. 321
unanimity, when the circumstances of this continent may require it."*
To the gentlemen who had addressed him this communication, Governor Clinton replied on the 3d of June, in a manner which proved his hearty acquiescence in their determination to uphold the authority of New York. "It is with pleasure," he wrote, "I find that a considerable number of the inhabitants on the 'Grants' are so attentive to the dictates of reason and justice, and possessed of so much spirit as publicly to oppose the ridiculous and destructive schemes of erecting those lands into an independent state. I was in hopes that in consequence of the generous and equitable terms held out in my late proclamation, the whole country, whatever injuries they might have received from the former, would be convinced that the present government was disposed to do them ample justice, and consequently that they would again have acknowledged its jurisdiction.
"What will be the event of this affair, it will be impossible for me to presage; yet as the Legislature appear to me equally determined 'to decide every case respecting the controverted lands according to justice and equity without adhering to the strict rules of law,' and to assert and maintain their authority over them at all events, I may venture to declare, that should these imprudent people still persist in their ill-judged and unjustifiable measures, that the consequences will be serious and melancholy, and to them particularly ruinous and destructive."
To increase the power of the jurisdiction of New York, and facilitate the administration of justice, he recommended the preparation of a list of the names of those capable of filling civil and military stations in the county. He urged them to use the "utmost candour and impartiality" in their selection, and to propose no persons except "in consequence of their merit and abilities." The list which they should send he promised to present to the Council of Appointment for their approval. While he assured them that he should bring before the Legislature at their next session, the papers which he had received relative to the immediate results of the controversy, he also informed them that the shortness of the session would scarcely allow the discussion of that subject. When the new Legislature should convene in the fall, he expressed a hope that they would be
* George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. docs. 1435, 1436, 1437.
322 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
able to attend to the settlement of the affairs of the state, without prejudice to the cause of America, and adopt measures which should compel obedience to the laws of New York. "In the mean time," said he, "let me recommend it to you, and every other person attached to this state, to persist in your opposition, and upon every occasion to bear your testimony against those unwarrantable proceedings."*
Copies of this letter were forthwith sent to every town of note in Cumberland county, and in consequence of the recommendations which it contained, the committees of Brattleborough and Guilford were authorized to prepare a list of nominations, civil and military, for the assistance of the Council of Appointment. In his letter to Governor Clinton enclosing the result of their deliberations, Pelatiah Fitch, the chairman of the committees, remarked upon the difficulties which had attended the selection of proper persons, owing not only to the existence of three parties in the county — "Yorkers," "Vermonters," and "Neutrals" — but also to the fact that a number of the prominent friends of New York had been drafted, by Vermont authority, to serve in Col. Warner's regiment. He also informed the Governor, that the officers of Vermont were then engaged in many towns in settling the valuation of personal estates for the purpose of levying a tax, and that they were in general strenuous in maintaining the government of Vermont. He signified his intention of obtaining a return of the inhabitants of the towns represented by the committees of which he was chairman, together with such information as he could gather touching their views respecting the new state; returned "sincere thanks" for the proclamation of February 23d, "and for the salutary measures taken for restoring peace and internal tranquility;" and expressed his fears, should an attempt be made to hold a court under the authority of the state of New York before an express resolution on the subject was obtained from Congress, that force would be used to prevent the session. "In this critical situation," wrote he, "when their persons and properties are exposed to the lawless invasion of a rude rabble, or the exasperated leaders of an imperfect, unsettled government, except violence should be opposed to violence, the friends of New York state cannot but most ardenly wish that Congress would immediately interfere in the
* George Clinton Papers. in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. doc. 1464.
1778 .] CLINTON'S REPLY TO PELATIAH FITCH. 323
most direct manner and settle this internal contest. The interest of the state of New York also calls loudly for a speedy end's being put to the present dispute, as the authorities of Vermont have very lately confiscated and sold several valuable estates, and doubtless will continue the practice as long as their necessities require it, and they can find any, the least pretence for so doing. We therefore most earnestly entreat your Excellency to press Congress for a speedy determination of the matter, and. in the mean time, to direct us in what manner to conduct ourselves."*
In reply to Mr. Fitch, Governor Clinton informed him, on the 7th of July, that the list of civil and military nominations had arrived subsequent to the adjournment of the Council of Appointment that as the members of that body resided in different parts of the state, he could not immediately convene them; that he would do so, however, "with all possible dispatch," and, as soon as the commissions should be issued (the names in which, he did not doubt, would accord with the recommendations), would transmit them by express. Other topics to which reference had been made in Mr. Fitch's letter were disposed of in these words:
"We are still waiting with anxious expectation the result of our application to Congress to interpose in this affair, and can impute our not receiving an answer only to their being engaged in those very important matters which you may easily suppose at present to engross their attention. I have, notwithstanding, by a special conveyance, this day informed them that drafts were making under the authority of the pretended state of Vermont to complete Col. Warner's regiment that though we were willing that the main business of advising means for settling the controversy should be deferred till the more important and urgent business of the continent is so far completed as to admit of leisure, yet that for the present we must insist upon an immediate and positive disavowal of this extraordinary exercise of authority, and express orders to Col. Warner (their officer) not to receive any of the drafts into his regiment, or in any wise countenance the measure.
"I would still, as upon a former occasion, earnestly recommend a firm and prudent resistance to the drafting of men, raising taxes, and the exercise of every other act of government,
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. doc. 1555.
324 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
under the ideal Vermont state, and in such towns where our friends are sufficiently powerful for the purpose, I would advise the entering into associations for the mutual defence of their persons and property against this usurpation.
"You will readily perceive that until we have received the answer of Congress, and the Legislature have declared their sense, it is impossible for one to advise except only in general terms. Your own prudence and discretion must determine the true line of conduct, which I trust will be consistent with the sacred obligations of allegiance and the characters of men who dare oppose lawless domination and power, whether attempted to be exercised by a single tyrant or a misguided multitude."*
On the same day he wrote to Gouverneur Morris, a member of the New York delegation in Congress, expressing his surprise that so little attention had been given the Vermont business — a subject in which one of the states was "so deeply interested, and in which the honor and perhaps the future peace of the whole were so intimately concerned." This letter was followed, on the 8th, by another addressed to Henry Laurens, the president of Congress, in which Clinton described, with an earnestness which bespoke the sincerity of his sentiments, the peculiarity of the situation of the "well-affected" inhabitants of Cumberland county, and the persevering attempts which some of the "deluded inhabitants" were making to effect a separation from New York. Referring to the draft of every fourth man in the state, which had been ordered by the Vermont Legislature, for the purpose of completing Col. Warner's regiment, he prayed for the passage of a resolution in Congress which should condemn the measure, and restrain Col. Warner, by "a positive order," from receiving any of the men who might be sent him. "This," said he, "appears to be necessary to prevent the immediate shedding of blood; and without it, I fear all those calamities and misfortunes which are the natural attendants of a civil war." Notwithstanding this appeal, Congress neglected to comply with the request of Governor Clinton. Meantime, the adherents of Vermont were busily engaged in strengthening their government and in increasing the number of their supporters, not only in their own state, but in the other states of the Union.†
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. docs. 1567, 1568. Williams's Hist. Vt., 1st ed. p. 247: 2d ed. ii. 186.
† George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. v. docs. 1570-1572.
1778.] SENTIMENTS OF THE INHABITANTS. 325
In compliance with the promise made to Governor Clinton by Pelatiah Fitch as chairman of the committee, an attempt was made during the month of August, to ascertain whether the majority of the voters in the southern part of the county, would support the jurisdiction of Vermont or New York. From some of the towns interrogated, no answer was received, but from the reports obtained, and from an examination of other sources of information, it appeared that in the towns of Hinsdale, Guilford, Halifax, Brattleborough, Marlborough, Draper, Fulham, Newfane, Putney, Westminster, Springfield, and Weathersfield, there were at the time of the enumeration about four hundred and eighty voters who supported the jurisdiction of New York, three hundred and twenty who supported the jurisdiction of Vermont, and one hundred and eighty-five who were neutral in opinion. Although this statement was favorable to New York, yet it must be remembered that of those who were friendly towards this state, many were prepared to declare their allegiance to Vermont if strenuous measures were not soon taken to protect them in the exercise of their rights, and further, that of those who were neutral in opinion, nearly all of them might be considered as the well-wishers, if not the advocates, of the new state.*
On the 12th of March, a petition had been presented to the Vermont Legislature by a number of towns in New Hampshire, praying that they might be allowed to become a part of the former state, and subject to its jurisdiction. The application having been entertained in the Assembly for several days, was finally submitted to the people. When the discussion of the subject was renewed, on the 11th of June, at the summer session of the Legislature, thirty-five of the representatives, expressing the views of the towns to which they belonged, declared in favor of the union, and twelve against it. Sixteen towns were accordingly added to the territory of Vermont. These were Cornish, Lebanon Dresden,† Lime,‡ Orford, Piermont, Haverhill, Bath, Lyman, Apthorp,§ Enfield, Canaan, Cardigan,†† Landaff, Gunthwaite,¶ and Morristown.** Although no act was
* See Appendix J.
† A name given to the district belonging to Dartmouth College, but used only for a short time.
‡ Now Lyme.
§ Now divided into the towns of Littleton and Dalton
†† Now Orange.
¶ Afterwards New Concord, now Lisbon.
** Now Franconia.
326 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1778.
passed to that effect, they were regarded as a portion of Cumberland county, and were so referred to whenever it became necessary to legislate concerning them. On the 17th of June, judges were appointed for Westminster and Newbury, the two shires of Cumberland county, and the jurisdiction of the judges was understood to extend over that part of New Hampshire to which the revolted towns had until now belonged. At the session in October, more energetic measures were taken to establish in Cumberland county the machinery of law, in order to enable the new state to compel obedience to its authority. Justices of the peace were appointed in eighteen towns, and two of the probate districts were supplied with judges. In the shire of Cumberland the superior court was ordered to hold a session at Westminster, on the second Thursday in March, 1779, and in the shire of Newbury, at the town of Newbury, on the second Thursday of September, 1779. The first session of the court, however, was held at Bennington on the 10th of December, 1778. On that occasion, persons who had been charged with committing crimes in Cumberland county, were conveyed across the mountains for trial. Among the complaints presented by John Burnum, Jr., the state's attorney, was one against Titus Simonds of Hertford, charging him with "inimical conduct" towards Vermont, and the United States, in that he, on the 4th of September, 1777, "did go over to the enemy, and aid, and assist them against the said states." The friends of New York, when they saw that the laws of Vermont were prevailing, determined to assert whatever power they had, and counteract the current which was setting in against them. Though they could not establish and maintain a superior court, yet justices of the peace, and other officers both civil and military were created in different parts of the county, and many towns were thus provided with two sets of officials, one of New York, and the other of Vermont appointment, both striving to further the ends of justice, and each endeavoring to frustrate the attempts of the other.*
Ever since the sixteen New Hampshire towns had been admitted into union with Vermont, great dissatisfaction had prevailed on both sides of the Connecticut among those who were opposed to this act. In vain were all the efforts of the Legis-
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 89, 90, 271, 274, 284. MS. Council Records of Vt. MS. Complaint of John Burnum, Jr.
1778, 1779.] ENACTMENT OF LAWS BY THE LEGISLATURE. 327
lature of Vermont to restore peace. The experiment of annexation, hazardous in the beginning, began now to assume an aspect threatening the very foundation of the new state. In this crisis, the General Assembly, on the 23d of October, 1778, resolved to lay the subject before their constituents and request them to instruct their representatives how to proceed in relation to this unfortunate connection at the next session of the Legislature. The impolicy, as well as the injustice "of aiding in the dismemberment of New Hampshire," was too apparent to the friends and supporters of Vermont, to admit of a doubt of the course proper to be pursued. On the 12th of February, 1779, the instructions of the representatives on this point were canvassed, at the winter session of the Legislature, and in conformity with these instructions, the union was declared "totally void, null, and extinct." On the 17th of March, soon after the announcement of this result, a petition was presented to the Legislature of New Hampshire, praying that the whole of the "Grants" might be "connected and confederated" with that state. The majority of the committee to whom this petition was referred, reported favorably, but when the question upon the adoption of the report was taken, on the 2d of April, the further consideration of the subject was laid upon the table. At the following session the report was taken from the table, and having been received and accepted by the House on the 24th of June, was readily concurred in by the Council. So complete was the change, that Vermont, instead of occupying the position of an encroaching state, found herself the subject of a demand which, should it be successful, would put an end to her separate existence, unless Congress should interfere, and agree to receive her as the fourteenth state in the confederacy.*
The February session of the Vermont Legislature continued sixteen days, during which time nearly one hundred acts were passed for regulating such matters as required immediate attention. Various laws ostensibly introduced for the benefit of the whole state, but more particularly intended to affect the county of Cumberland, were enacted, while others were passed with a direct reference to the affairs of this county. In order to increase the revenue of the state, the estates of those inhabitants of Cumberland county who had joined the enemies of Vermont and of the United States were, on the 16th of February,
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 101-105.
328 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
declared confiscated and subject to be employed for such purposes as might be prescribed. Major Thomas Chandler was, on the 30th of April, appointed commissioner for the sale of confiscated estates in Rockingham, Chester, and Westminster. Capt. Ebenezer Curtis was chosen to the same office on the 16th of July, with jurisdiction in the towns of Windsor, Hertford, Woodstock, and Reading. On the 10th of June, 1780, Timothy Bartholomew was vested with similar powers in the towns of Norwich, Sharon, Thetford, Stratford, Fairlee, and Mooretown. Meantime the court of confiscation was established on a different basis, and the powers which had formerly belonged to it were, on the 2d of June, 1779, vested in the Governor and any four of his Council. Satisfactory evidence having been produced against a number of persons who had joined the enemy, several valuable estates in Cumberland county became, in consequence, the property of Vermont. These estates had previously been owned by Capt. Timothy Lovell of Rockingham, Andrew Norton of Windsor, William Paterson and Crean Brush of Westminster, Samuel Gale of Brattleborough, Zadock Wright of Hertford, Titus Simonds and Charles Ward Apthorpe. In accordance with the instructions under which the commissioners acted, deeds of the property sold were given "in the name and behalf of the representatives of the freemen" of Vermont, and great care was taken that those who purchased should be firmly secured in their possession.*
For several months no open disturbances between the partisans of Vermont and New York had occurred, and so little had the opposing parties interfered in the affairs of one another, that hopes were entertained that it would be possible, without hindrance, to hold an election for the purpose of choosing a representative to sit in the Legislature of New York. But this temporary calm was not the prelude of settled weather. No sooner were courts of justice established in Vermont, than prosecutions were commenced against the subjects of New York, whenever an occasion was presented, and what had been before dislike and opposition became now animosity and hatred. By the fourth article of the Declaration of Rights of Vermont, "the sole, exclusive, and inherent right of governing and regulating the internal police" of the state was vested in those of the
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 287-388. MS. Records Gen. Ass. Vt., 1779. Instructions to Commissioners of Confiscation.
1779.] CONDUCT OF VERMONT OFFICERS. 329
inhabitants who acknowledged its jurisdiction. By the nineteenth section of the Constitution, it was necessary that all commissions should be in the name of the freemen of the state, sealed with the state seal, signed by the governor, and attested by the secretary. Owing to a failure on the part of those who acknowledged the jurisdiction of New York to recognise these facts, trouble not unfrequently arose. The course pursued by the officers of Vermont in enforcing their laws, is shown in the following incident.
Hilkiah Grout, a citizen of Weathersfield, not only acknowledged the jurisdiction of New York, but had received the commission of a justice of the peace from that state. Being requested as an officer of New York, by William Oliver, a gentleman from New Hamphire, to take the depositions of a number of persons who resided on the banks of Otter creek, whose testimony was to be used in the superior court at Exeter, before which court affidavits witnessed by Vermont officers were not deemed valid, he set out from home with Oliver on the 16th of February, and on reaching the town of Shrewsbury prepared to remain there until Oliver should find the persons whose evidence was desired. On the 17th, towards evening, Oliver returned with the witnesses, and their statements were sworn to and subscribed in due form. About two o'clock on the morning of the 18th, the house in which Grout lodged was surrounded by seven men, "armed with guns, swords, bayonets," and other weapons. Having obtained admission to the building, they seized the justice and conveyed him to Rutland, showing him no abuse except by their "surly look." A court of inquiry, composed of a number of the officers in Col. Seth Warner's regiment, was soon after organized at Fort Ranger, "to examine and hear the evidence for and against such prisoners" as should be brought before them. By order of Capt. Gideon Brownson, commissioner, the court proceeded to try Hilkiah Grout, charged by two of the citizens with being engaged with certain others his associates, in "planning something very enemical to the United States of America." The prisoner pleaded not guilty, and the court, after hearing the evidence, decided that the charge was not supported. This judgment was approved of by Capt. Thomas Lee, the presiding officer, and Grout was set at liberty.
No sooner had he obtained his dismissal, than he was again arrested on a warrant from Benjamin Whipple, a justice by
330 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
appointment from Vermont, in which he was described as "a transient person, who pretends to officiate in this state in the character of a justice of the peace, not having authority derived from the freemen of this state as stipulated by the constitution." The writ was made returnable "as soon as conveniently may be, before the subscriber" at the house of William Roberts. On the examination held on the 19th, Reuben Squire testified that Oliver had introduced Grout to him as a justice of the peace, and had desired him, his wife, and his daughter, to testify before Grout "concerning a piece of Holland cloth." Charles Button also made affidavit, that he, at the request of Oliver, had been at the house of Lemuel White, in Shrewsbury, and had there taken an oath, and borne witness before Grout as a justice, in a case then pending between Oliver and one West. Abel Spencer and Lemuel White testified to the same effect. The charge in the warrant being supported, Grout was ordered to procure bonds in the sum of £1,000 lawful money for his appearance before the superior court at their session in June, or in default to be committed "to close gaol." Bonds having been given, the prisoner was released. On his return home he wrote to Micah Townsend, of Brattleborough, and, in the account which he gave of the affair, referred to the forbearance of the Vermonters, by declaring that he had "neither been whipped nor insulted." Oliver, at whose suggestion he had undertaken his official journey, was brought before the same tribunal by which Grout had been adjudged guilty, and was mulcted in a fine of £5, and in costs £3, "for introducing an unconstitutional justice into the state of Vermont."
When the superior court assembled at Rutland, on the 10th of June, Grout was tried on the charges which had been substantiated at the examination. His only defence was a denial of the jurisdiction of Vermont. The court, however, refused to hear the reasons which he wished to present in support of this denial, and adjudged him guilty of "treasonable practices" against the state. He was ordered to pay a fine of £120 lawful money, to which were added the costs of the suit, making the whole sum more than £180. Not considering it advisable to submit to this exaction, as he deemed it, he notified a determination to that effect to the clerk of the court, and was informed, that in case the money was not paid, execution would immediately issue, unless he should ask it as a favor of the court to stay proceedings for a few months. "I was not," wrote Grout to
1779.] SEVERE SENTENCE FOR DEFAMATION. 331
Governor Clinton, "in a temper of mind to ask any favours of them, and so returned home." The sheriff of Cumberland county was thereupon commanded to levy upon his goods and chattels, and after disposing of them in accordance with the laws of the state, to place a portion of the proceeds equal to the amount of the mulct in the hands of the state treasurer.*
At the February session, an act had been passed for the punishment of defamation. By one of its provisions whoever should vilify any court of justice, or its sentence or proceedings, or traduce any of its magistrates, judges, or justices, on account of any act or sentence therein promulgated, was, on the conviction of the offence, made liable to punishment by fine, imprisonment, disfranchisement, or banishment. On account of the license in language which then as now prevailed, an opportunity was soon presented for trying the efficacy of this act. Nathan Stone, a citizen of Windsor, but a Yorker in principle, having been charged with using "reproachful and scandalous" words on the 15th of March concerning the "authority" of the state, was arraigned before the superior court at Westminster. On examination, it was proved that in the presence of "many good and faithful subjects" of the state, he had said to the sheriff, John Benjamin, "God damn you and your governor, and council." He pleaded guilty to the charge, and judgment having been rendered against him on the 26th of May, he was fined £20 lawful money and costs, and was obliged to give bonds in the sum of £1,000, as a guaranty for his future conduct.†
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 244-251. MS. records of Vt. courts. George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. vii. docs. 2095, 2198; vol. viii. doc. 2464.
† MS. Court records. Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 382. The session of the court at which Stone was indicted was the first ever held in Cumberland county. The first cause tried in the session was that of Pompey Brakkee of Chester, a negro, plaintiff, against Elijah Lovell of Rockingham, defendant. The exact nature of the complaint does not appear, but the court awarded to Brakkee, damages in the sum of £400 lawful money to be recovered of the defendant with costs.