CONFLICT OF JURISDICTIONS.
Vermont Militia Law — Obedience to it refused in Putney — Sergeant McWain endeavors to enforce it — Resistance is offered — Friends of New York convene at Brattleborough — Letter from Col. Patterson to Gov. Clinton — Clinton to Samuel Minott — Clinton to John Jay — Thirty-six Yorkers arrested and lodged in the Jail at Westminster — Ethan Allen — His tyrannical character — Trial of the Yorkers — Allen incensed at the Proceedings of the Court — His Indignant Speech — The Plea of the Yorkers — They are declared Guilty and Fined — Letter from Ira Allen to Benjamin Bellows — Act to prevent the Exercise of Authority not derived from Vermont — Proclamation of Gov. Chittenden — Information of the Treatment of the Yorkers communicated to Gov Clinton and to Congress — Course of Congress — Letter from Gov. Clinton to Samuel Minott — Clinton to Washington — Clinton to Jay — The Committees of Six Towns in Cumberland County to Clinton — Micah Townsend to Clinton — Resolves of Congress — Further Attempts of Vermont Officers to enforce Obedience to the Laws of the State — Letter from the Committee of Congress to Samuel Minott — Gov. Chittenden to a Friend — Doings of the Committee — Convention of the Yorkers — Their Petition to Congress — Their Letter to Gov. Clinton — Action of the New York Legislature — Letter from Gov. Chittenden to President Jay — Proceedings in Congress relative to Vermont.
MEANTIME events which marked with greater clearness the differences between the contending parties residing in Vermont were attracting general attention. In the act passed at the February session of the Legislature of that state, for forming and regulating the militia, and for encouraging "military skill," power was given to each captain or commanding officer of a militia company, in obedience to an order to that effect from the governor, to draft men within the district over which his command extended. Any soldier who should refuse to serve, was obliged to forfeit and pay the sum of £18, to be recovered "by bill, plaint, or information." In default of goods or estate, he was to be "disposed of in service" to some citizen of Vermont or of the United States, so to remain until the liability was dis‑
1779.] THE VERMONT MILITIA LAW. 333
charged, "any law, usage, or custom — to the contrary notwithstanding." Provision was also made for raising men by the following method. The captain or commanding officer having first taken the advice of his under officers, was authorized to make a roll of those whose services he had a right to demand, and divide them into classes equal in number to the number of men required. Each class was ordered to furnish a man, and in case of refusal to comply with this regulation, the commanding officer was directed to hire one man for every class neglecting or refusing, and pledge the faith of the state for the payment of his wages. To defray the charge, the commanding officer was further directed, after taking counsel with his subordinates, to collect the amount of the sum expended, from the members of each class for which a man had been hired, particular reference being had in equalizing the assessment to modifying circumstances, such as past services and the estates of persons. Any goods or chattels seized in order to satisfy the assessment were to be sold by public vendue, and any overplus, after discharging the liability, was to be returned to the owner or owners of the property sold. Such were the regulations under which the militia establishment of Vermont was to be maintained.
In conformity, as was reported, with advice received early in the spring from Brigadier-General James Clinton, the commander-in-chief of the northern department, orders were issued by the Vermont Board of War, during the month of April, directing a levy of men for the service, not only of the state but of the United States, in guarding the frontier settlements. As Governor Clinton was informed that a draft had been made by the authority of the "pretended state of Vermont," predicated on advice from a high quarter, he communicated the intelligence to his brother James on the 21st of April, and took occasion at the same time to remind him of the necessity of continuing to act with the utmost caution towards "those designing and turbulent people," the Vermonters, and "to avoid giving them even the least shadow of encouragement in the exercise of their undue authority." In his reply of the 28th, General Clinton remarked, that he had always been very careful in his conduct towards the supporters of the usurped authority, and suggested that the assertion made by them concerning himself, must have been founded on the advice he had given them on their frequent application for troops, the effect
336 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
and add our strength to oppose one which we conceive entitled to our dutiful obedience and support."*
On the 5th of May, Col. Patterson wrote to Gov. Clinton an account of the disturbances which had occurred in Putney. He also stated that in Fulham some of the subjects of New York, choosing rather to submit than to contend, had lately been deprived of their property by the direction of Vermont officials, and that in Guilford a tax had been levied upon those who it was supposed had done least in support of the war, which tax the collectors had not as yet been able to realize, on account of the strength of the opposition. He further expressed his fears lest the attempts which had been made in Westminster and Rockingham by the Vermonters to draft Yorkers, would end in broils, as the parties in those towns were nearly equal.† In anticipation of combined and strenuous efforts, on the part of the Vermonters, to seize the property and persons of such as refused to acknowledge their authority, he asked for advice, and suggested the necessity of issuing orders to the militia of Albany county to hold themselves in readiness to afford him assistance. Although unable to present an exact return of his command, he estimated it at five hundred, officers and men included, who were "but poorly armed," and almost destitute of ammunition. Unless the Legislature of New York should give the desired aid, he announced his determination to resign his commission and retire from the public service. This letter and the petition, were entrusted to Micah Townsend, who delivered them to Governor Clinton at Kingston.‡
On the 14th of May, Clinton wrote, in reply, to Samuel Minott of Brattleborough, expressing his belief that the decision of Congress would be favorable to New York, and that the de-
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 9.
† On the same day in which the letter epitomized in the text was written, Capt. Lemuel Sargents of Rockingham, while engaged in enforcing one of the laws of Vermont, was threatened and insulted by Isaac Reed, Enos Lovell, Ashur Evans, and other inhabitants of that town. Being arraigned at Westminster, on the 26th of May, they were charged in the information of the state's attorney, with a "flagrant violation" of the rules of society, of the laws of the land, and of an act of the state passed in the month of February preceding, entitled, "An act for preventing and punishing riots and rioters." Having been adjudged guilty, Reed was fined £30 6s. 6d.; Evans £25 6s. 6d.; and Lovell, £20 6s. 6d. To satisfy these mulcts, executions were issued, and the sheriff was directed to sell such a portion of the estates of the delinquents as would meet, the demand. MSS. Information, Execution, &c. Slade's Vt. State Papers, 346-348.
‡ Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 10.
1779.] REPLY OF CLINTON TO MINOTT. 337
lay which had characterized their proceedings had arisen from no other cause than the necessity of first attending to topics of greater importance. "As in my former letters, so in this," wrote he, I forbear to point out the line of conduct I could wish the well-affected inhabitants in your quarter should observe upon every particular occasion. I conceive it impossible, and therefore can only recommend, in general, firmness and prudence, and in no instance to acknowledge the authority of Vermont, unless where there is no alternative left between submission and inevitable ruin. This appears to me the only proper advice I can give at present, till we are favored with the sentiments of Congress relative to the dispute, or until we are convinced the business is designedly procrastinated. In either case, as the Legislature have promised, so I have no doubt that they will afford you protection, and that effectual measures will be immediately taken for vindicating the rights of this state, and enforcing a due submission to legal government. If, however, any outrage or violence, which you may suppose will produce bloodshed, should be committed in the towns continuing in their allegiance to New York, either by Green Mountain Boys, or any parties who may come under a pretence of carrying into execution the laws of Vermont, you will immediately apprise me of it, and you may be assured of all the assistance in my power, and I trust it will be sufficient for your safety and defence. In the mean time I will myself endeavor to procure intelligence, and if I should discover that any attempt will be made by Vermont to reduce you by force of arms, I will instantly issue my orders to the militia, who are properly equipped, and who will be led against the enemies of the state whoever they may happen to be." Other passages in this letter contained words of encouragement and promises of assistance, calculated to awaken hope and excite to action. "I could ardently wish," were Clinton's closing words, "that the inhabitants of Vermont would conduct themselves in such manner as to avoid the necessity of bringing matters to a crisis ruinous to them, and very injurious to individuals among US."
On the 18th of May, Clinton transmitted to John Jay, the president of Congress, the papers he had received through Townsend and others, with a request that Jay would lay them before Congress. In the letter which accompanied these papers, he stre‑
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 11.
338 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
nuously advocated the immediate interposition of Congress as the only means which could possibly avail to ward off the dangers impending. "The Legislature," wrote he, "have from time to time given the most solemn assurances of protection to their well affected subjects, and relying upon these promises, the inhabitants of several towns have hitherto persevered in their allegiance to this state. They will not, I imagine, remain much. longer content with mere promises, and I daily expect that I shall be obliged to order out a force in their defence. The wisdom of Congress will readily suggest to them what will be the consequence of submitting the controversy, especially at this juncture, to the decision of the sword. It will not, however, I trust, be imputed to this state that we have precipitately had recourse to coercive measures. We have anxiously expected the sentiments of Congress upon this important business, and it was our earnest wish that in the mean time the inhabitants of the 'Grants' who deny the authority of this state would, by a proper conduct on their part, have prevented the necessity of force. But justice, the faith of government, and the peace and safety of society, will not permit us to continue longer passive spectators of the violence committed upon our fellow-citizens."*
While Clinton was striving to interest Congress in the topics which were attracting so much attention in New York, the Yorkers and Vermonters were as busily engaged in prosecuting their various schemes. As soon as it was known in Cumberland county that Col. Patterson and his men had set at naught the laws of Vermont, Col. Samuel Fletcher, commandant of one of the Vermont regiments in that county, went over to Arlington to consult with the state Council. Ethan Allen, ever since his return from captivity, had threatened to lead his Green Mountain Boys against the rebellious Yorkers, in the south-eastern corner of the state, and now that the Vermonters seemed determined to enforce submission to their authority, fears were entertained that he would not only put his threat in execution, but, in pursuance of a general plan, endeavor to subdue all who opposed the jurisdiction of Vermont.
As the initiative step in the proceedings which were to follow, Sergeant McWain, on the 18th of May, entered a complaint against those who had been engaged in the rescue of the cows,
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 12.
1779.] CONDUCT OF ETHAN ALLEN. 339
and damages were laid at £1,000 lawful money. Writs were issued, signed by Ira Allen, for the arrest of forty-four persons, among whom were the officers in Brattleborough, Putney, and Westminster who had received commissions from New York, charged with "enemical conduct" in opposing the authority of the state. Of this number thirty-six were taken and confined in the jail at Westminster. No return was made of the remaining eight.* Closely crowded together in one room, the prisoners were obliged to remain standing on their feet during the first night of their confinement. This, and the excessive heat of the weather, rendered their sufferings almost intolerable. In answer to their just demands, more comfortable quarters were, on the next day, provided for them, and their situation during the week in which they continued in prison, although by no means agreeable, was thus rendered endurable. That the sheriff might be protected in the execution of his office, Gov. Chittenden, as captain-general of the state militia, ordered Col. Ethan Allan to engage "one hundred able-bodied, effective men, as volunteers, in the county of Bennington, and march them into the county of Cumberland," there to remain during the sitting of the court. Orders for men were also issued to Col. Joseph Marsh and Col. Samuel Fletcher, and during the week of the trial a force varying from two hundred to three hundred and fifty were under arms at Westminster.
Armed with authority from the Governor, Ethan Allen at the head of a hundred Green Mountain Boys, boasted of his force which he represented as five times greater than it really was. In his intercourse with the Yorkers, he abused them in the most insulting terms. Not only with his tongue, but with his sword also, he assailed those who differed from him in opinion. Vermont, he swore, should be established as a state, let the cost be what it might; and if bombast and effrontery could have accomplished this end, there would have been no occasion for the efforts of any other person. Allen's rhodomontade would have effected that which was finally realized only by time and compromise. To such a pitch of rage were the Yorkers incensed by his conduct, that the reluctance to shedding human blood was alone sufficient to deter them from resisting his petty tyranny, and releasing the prisoners who were guarded by his men. At this crisis, a meet-
* These were Israel Smith of Brattleborough; Charles Kathan, William Perry, Noah Sabin Jr., and Joseph Lusher of Putney; Joseph Ide, Ichabod Ide Jr., and — Wilcox of Westminster. — MS. Court Records.
340 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
ing of the county committee composed of New York adherents, was convened at Brattleborough on the 25th of May. An account of the events of the preceding week was prepared by Samuel Minott, the chairman on that occasion, and was forwarded to Governor Clinton by an express. The prayer for relief was of a nature not to be mistaken. If aid is not rendered, "our persons and property," said they, "must be at the disposal of Ethan Allen, which is more to be dreaded than death with all its terrors."*
An adjourned session of the superior court was held at Westminster on the 26th of May. Moses Robinson of Bennington, presided as chief judge, assisted by John Shephardson of Guilford, John Fasset Jr., of Arlington, Thomas Chandler Jr., of Chester, and Capt. John Throop of Pomfret, side judges. To guard against interruption during the session, the people of the town who supported the jurisdiction of Vermont forcibly seized the public stock of gunpowder, amounting to one hundred pounds, which had been provided by the state of New York, and placed twenty-five pounds of it in the hands of their friends. Preliminaries having been arranged, the prisoners, under a strong guard, were marched from the jail-rooms in the lower part of the county hall to the court-room in the second story. Noah Smith, the state's attorney, exhibited a complaint against the delinquents, in which he stated, that they were assembled at Putney on the 28th of April previous, "in a riotous and unlawful manner;" that they, at that time, made an assault upon one William McWain, "a lawful officer in the execution of a lawful command," and rescued out of his hands and possession two cows, which he had taken by legal measures. He charged that such "wicked conduct" was a flagrant violation of the common law of the land, and contrary to the force and effect of a statute law of the state, entitled, "An act to prevent riots, disorders, and contempt of authority within this state, and for punishing the same."†
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 13.
† As an example of the severity of the earlier laws of Vermont, the act referred to in the text is given entire. It was passed at the session of the General Assembly holden at Bennington, in February, 1779, and, with the exception of its title, is as follows: —
"Whereas, breaking open gaols, rescuing prisoners, &c., are much to the damage of civil society,
"Which to prevent,
"Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted, by the representatives of the freemen
1779.] COURSE OF THE IMPRISONED YORKERS. 341
Much time having been occupied in perfecting the arrangements incident to the occasion, and the day being far spent, the court announced a recess until the following morning. On their return to the jail, the prisoners held a consultation in order to decide upon the course which in the present emergency could be pursued with the greatest advantage. Of their number was Micah Townsend of Brattleborough, a lawyer of ability. By his advice they addressed a petition to the judges of the court, in which they set forth the peculiarity of their situation, and the want of impartiality in the proceedings then in progress against them. They averred that on account of the recency of their apprehension, and the strictness of their confinement, they had been unable to procure any writings or witnesses to substantiate the pleas which they might wish to offer, and, further, that they could not be "justified to their consciences and to the world," should they omit any "prudent and lawful measures to acquit themselves." They also desired the privilege of obtaining counsel from another state, to plead their several causes.
of the state of Vermont, in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that if any person, or persons, shall impede or hinder any officer, judicial or executive, civil or military, under the authority of this state, in the execution of his office — on conviction thereof before the superior court of this state, [the offender] shall be whipped on the naked back, not exceeding one hundred lashes for the first offence, and pay all costs and damages that shall accrue from such disorder, beside cost of prosecution; and, for want of estate to pay said costs, damages, &c., the offender may be bound in service to any subject of this state, for such time as shall be judged by said court to be sufficient to pay said costs, damages, &c. And said court are hereby authorized to bind said delinquent.
"Be it further enacted, by the authority foresaid, that if any person shall be guilty of a second offence of the like nature, and shall be convicted thereof, he shall be branded with the letter C on the forehead and shall be whipped on the naked back, not exceeding one hundred lashes; to be repeated every time of conviction.
"Be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons, either directly or indirectly, shall break open, or aid or assist in breaking open, any gaol, or place of confinement, wherein any prisoner or prisoners may be confined by the authority of this state, on conviction thereof, [the offender] shall be whipped on the naked back, not exceeding one hundred lashes, and be branded on the forehead with the letter B, and pay a fine, not exceeding one hundred pounds, and all costs and damages that may accrue from such disorder, together with cost of prosecution; and for want of estate to pay said costs and damages, the offender may be bound in service as aforesaid.
"That the superior court, before the dismission of such delinquent, may call on him to give bonds, in surety, not exceeding three thousand pounds, for his good behaviour; and in case such delinquent shall refuse to give such surety, said court are hereby empowered to confine such delinquent in any of the gaols in this state." — Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 300.
342 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
To obtain these ends, they prayed that the court might be adjourned, for at least one month. To this petition were subscribed the names of twenty-eight of the prisoners. Its only effect was to procure as counsel for the delinquents, Stephen Row Bradley, then of Bennington, the temporary clerk of the court.
When the court resumed business on the morning of the 27th, the state's attorney having become satisfied of his inability to sustain the complaints which he had instituted against three of the prisoners, John Kathan, John Kathan Jr., and Lieut. Daniel Kathan, all of Dummerston, entered a nolle prosequi, in their cases and withdrew the suits. At the same time the defendants' attorney, Mr. Bradley, presented a motion to quash the indictments preferred against Stephen Greenleaf Jr., of Brattleborough, Joseph Goodhue of Putney, and Josiah White, on the ground of the nonage of the parties. The motion was granted, and the court was about to proceed with the trial of the remaining prisoners, when an unexpected interruption took place. Ethan Allen, who, with his men, had been engaged at Westminster in assisting the sheriff and guarding the prisoners, had watched with interest and satisfaction the transactions of the preceding day, and had expressed great pleasure at the manner in which the goddess of justice seemed to be preparing to punish the rebellious Yorkers. He was not present at the commencement of the second day's session, but having heard that some of the prisoners were obtaining their discharge, he resolved to stop such flagitious conduct, and teach the court their duty. Accoutred in his military dress, with a large cocked hat on his head profusely ornamented with gold lace, and a sword of fabulous dimensions swinging at his side, he entered the court room breathless with haste, and pressing through the crowd which filled the room, advanced towards the bench whereon the judges were seated. Bowing to Moses Robinson who occupied the chief seat, and who was his intimate friend, he commenced a furious harangue, aimed particularly at the state's attorney, and the attorney for the defendants.
The judge, as soon as he could recover from his astonishment, informed the speaker that the court would gladly listen to his remarks as a private citizen, but could not allow him to address them, either in military attire, or as a military man. To this information Allen replied by a nod, and taking off his chapeau threw it on the table. He then proceeded to unbuckle his
1779.] SINGULAR PROCEEDINGS OF ETHAN ALLEN. 343
sword, and as he laid it aside with a flourish, turned to the judge and in a voice like that of a Stentor, exclaimed,
"For forms of government, let fools contest;
Whate'er is best administer'd, is best."*
He then turned to the audience and having surveyed them for a moment, again addressed the judge, as follows: — "Fifty miles, I have come through the woods with my brave men, to support the civil with the military arm; to quell any disturbances should they arise; and to aid the sheriff and the court in prosecuting these Yorkers — the enemies of our noble state. I see, however, that some of them, by the quirks of this artful lawyer, Bradley, are escaping from the punishment they so richly deserve, and I find also, that this little Noah Smith is far from understanding his business, since he at one moment moves for a prosecution, and in the next wishes to withdraw it. Let me warn your Honor to be on your guard, lest these delinquents should slip through your fingers, and thus escape the rewards so justly due their crimes." Having delivered himself in these words, he with great dignity replaced his hat, and having buckled on his sword, left the court room with the air of one who seemed to feel the weight of kingdoms on his shoulders. After a short interval of silence, business was again resumed.
Of those against whom warrants had issued, thirty were now before the court on trial. These were Col. Eleazer Patterson of Hinsdale; Maj. Elkanah Day, Capt. Michael Gilson, Lieut. Medad Wright, Benjamin Whitney, Bela Willard, Joseph Willard, Bildad Easton, John Norton, and Deacon John Sessions of Westminster; Lieut.-Col. John Sargeants, Lieut. James Blakeslee, Lieut. Samuel Root, Micah Townsend, Timothy Church, and Benjamin Butterfield of Brattleborough; Capt. James Clay, Lieut. James Clay Jr., Lucas Willson, Ephraim Clay, Daniel Sabin, Noah Sabin, William Pierce, Noah Cushing, Samuel Wheat, Francis Cummings, James Cummings, Thomas Pierce, Joseph Jay, and Thomas Nelson of Putney. They were generally men of note and influence, and among
* Pope's Essay on Man, epistle iii. vs. 303, 304. Referring to the sentiment contained in these lines, John Adams once observed, "Pope flattered tyrants too much when he said,
" For forms of government, &c."
The Life and Works of John Adams, iv. 193.
344 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [l779.
them were some of greater ability than those who were to pass judgment upon their conduct. In answer to the charges preferred against them, they pleaded in bar that although by common law they might be held to answer a portion of the information, yet they could not be held to answer that part of it founded on the statute, since it was not in their power to know the statute at the time when the crimes were said to have been committed, as it had not then been promulgated.* This statement they declared themselves ready to verify. The court decided the plea in bar to be sufficient, and ordered that part of the information brought on the statute to be dismissed.
The delinquents then pleaded, to general issue, not guilty, and gave in evidence that they were subjects of the state of New York, and that the acts charged against them in the information as offences, were done by virtue of authority granted them by that state. Here the defence rested. Witnesses were then examined on the part of Vermont, and the cause was returned to the judges, who after due consideration pronounced the defendants guilty. As a punishment, they were all mulcted, the state being the recipient of the proceeds. Eleazer Patterson, John Sargeants, Elkanah Day, and James Clay, were fined, each, £40 lawful money. Michael Gilson, Lucas Nelson, and Timothy Church, each, £25. Micah Townsend, James Blakeslee, James Clay Jr., Benjamin Whitney, Samuel Root, John Norton, and John Sessions, each, £20. Ephraim Clay, Medad Wright, Bela Willard, Joseph Willard, and Bildad Easton, each, £10. Daniel Sabin, Noah Sabin, William Pierce, Noah Cushing, Samuel Wheat, Francis Cummings, James Cummings, Joseph Jay, Thomas Pierce, and Thomas Willson, each, £3. Benjamin Butterfield, £2. In addition to this the costs of prosecution,
* The law referred to, and which is given in full in a previous note, was passed at Bennington in the month of February preceding with many others, but was not published until several months had elapsed. In a letter from Ira Allen, dated at Norwich, April 19th, 1779, and addressed "To the inhabitants of the state of Vermont," occur these words:— "As the laws of this state were committed to my care to see to the printing of [them], I have to inform, that the printers have been some time engaged in that business, and will not attend to any other until that is accomplished. But to print them, really will take a considerable time, and cannot be done as soon as was expected, but depend, that they will be ready to deliver to the Assembly at their next session at Windsor." The session referred to, commenced on the 2d of June. The offences for which the Yorkers were tried were committed on the 28th of April, more than a month before the promulgation of the statute.
1779.] SENTIMENTS OF IRA ALLEN. 345
amounting to £1,477 18s., were divided equally among the delinquents.*
In commenting upon these events, Ira Allen in a letter to Benjamin Bellows of Walpole, written from Westminster, expressed what may be regarded as the sentiments of the more moderate portion of the partizans of Vermont. "It is not our design," said he, "to treat the inhabitants of this county with severity, but with as much lenity as the nature of the case will admit. Yet the authority of this state must be supported, for commissions from two different states can no longer subsist together. We mean not to boast of our victory over those gentlemen that were in favour of New York in this county, but hope to make them our friends, and have the pleasure of treating them as such. We mean this movement as a defiance to the old government of New York, with whom we have long contended for our properties."
The effect of these disturbances was visible not only in the conduct of the members of the two parties towards one another, but also in the measures adopted by the Legislature of Vermont. When on the 2d of June, the General Assembly held a special session at Windsor, this effect was made especially apparent. The act which was then passed, entitled, "An act to prevent persons from exercising authority, unless lawfully authorized by this state," was one of the direct results of the attempt which had been made by Col. Patterson to obey the directions of the state of New York. No one could mistake the intention of the government of Vermont, when it uttered its edicts in terms as plain and decided as these: —
"Whereas there are divers persons within this state, who have opposed, and do continue to oppose the government thereof and who do, by every way and means in their power, endeavor to obstruct the free exercise of the powers of government within the same:
"Which mischief to prevent,
"Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted, by the representatives of the freemen of the state of Vermont, in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that if any persons within this state, except continental officers, shall, after the first day of September next, accept, hold, or exercise any office, either
* MS. Court Records. George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. vii. docs. 2231, 2249. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 957-966. Slade's Vt. State Papers, 305 — 312. Narratives of Old Men.
346 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
civil or military, from or under any authority, other than is or shall be derived from this state, and be thereof duly convicted, they shall, for the first offence, pay a fine not exceeding £100 lawful money, according to the discretion of the court which may have cognizance thereof; and for the second offence of the like kind, shall be whipped on the naked body not exceeding forty stripes, according to the discretion of the court before whom they are prosecuted; and for the third offence shall have their right ear nailed to a post, and cut off, and be branded in the forehead with the capital letter C on a hot iron. This act to continue in force until the rising of the Assembly in October, 1780, and no longer."
In order to express their approbation of the manner in which the late opposition of the Yorkers had been resisted, the Assembly appointed Edward Harris of Halifax, Silas Webb of Thetford, and Col. John Strong of Dorset, a committee to wait on his Excellency the Governor, and the members of the Council, and convey to them the thanks of the Assembly for their promptness in raising and sending the posse comitatus into Cumberland county in the month of May previous, "for the purpose of apprehending the rioters who were tried at Westminster." As a reward for his invaluable services, Ethan Allen was, on the 3d of June, created a Brigadier General, and the sum of 48s. lawful money per diem, was voted to each of those who had accompanied him or the other colonels, for the purpose of assisting the sheriff. At the same time means were taken to organize militia companies. As the initiative in this undertaking, the males in the town of Whiting, between the ages of sixteen and sixty, were ordered to choose a captain, a lieutenant, and an ensign, and the same directions were given to the inhabitants of Newfane. Owing to a representation made to the Assembly charging the enemies of the state residing in Cumberland county with being in possession of "considerable stocks of ammunition," the selectmen of the different towns were ordered to make application for, and receive everything of this description that might be held in their respective districts. In case of resistance, they were authorized to seize the contraband articles. No one was excused from affording aid in carrying this law into execution.
In the Council, measures more conciliatory in their nature were adopted. Maj. Stephen Row Bradley was appointed to prepare a proclamation "to be issued by his Excellency,"
1779.] GOV. CHITTENDEN'S PROCLAMATION. 347
relative to the disaffected inhabitants of Cumberland county. The instrument was drawn in conformity with the sentiments of the Council. On the 3d of June it received the official sanction in the following form:—
"By His Excellency Thomas Chittenden, Esquire, Governor, Captain General, and Commander in chief in and over the State of Vermont.
"Whereas, sundry persons inhabitants of this state, forgetting that great tie of allegiance that ought to bind every subject in a faithful obedience to that power which protects life, liberty, and fortune; being instigated, partly through their own mistaken notions of government; not considering that all power originates from the people;* and building on a false reason, that a public acknowledgment of the powers of the earth is essential to the existence of a distinct, separate state but more especially being deceived and influenced by certain persons,† who have crept in privately to spy out and overturn the liberties of this state, purchased at the dearest rate, who acting under pretence of power assumed by a neighboring sister state, never derived from God or nature,‡ have imposed their tenets on the credulous, whereby some have been led to follow their pernicious ways, in consequence of which, some of my faithful subjects have been traduced to oppose the authority of this state, and obstruct the course of civil law to the disturbance of the peace, thereby incurring the penalties of that great rule of right, which requires obedience to the powers that are.
"And whereas the supreme authority of this state, are ever willing to alleviate the miseries of those unhappy subjects, who transgress laws through mistaken notions, in remitting the penalties thereof; and inasmuch as equal punishments, in this case, cannot be distributed§ without punishing the righteous with the wicked.
"I have therefore thought fit, by and with the advice of Council, and at the desire of the representatives of the freemen
* The form of the proclamation given in the text, is taken from the published copy. In the original draft the words, "whose voice is the voice of God," was inserted after the word "people."
† In the original, this passage ran, "deceived and led on by certain persons ordained of old to condemnation."
‡ In the original, these words were inserted at this point, "being mostly enemies to the prosperity of America.."
§ In the original, the words "inasmuch as the tares in this world cannot be separated from the wheat," are used in place of the sentence commencing "inasmuch as," in the text.
348 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
of this state, in General Assembly met, to make known and declare this my gracious design of mercy to every offender, and do hereby publish and declare to all persons, residing within this state, a full and free pardon of all public offences, crimes and misdemeanors heretofore committed within the limits of the same, against the honor and dignity of the freemen thereof; remitting to all and singular, the persons aforesaid, all penalties incurred for breaches of the peace, such as riots, mobs, tumultuous assemblies, contempt of and opposition to authority, excepting only the crimes of high treason, misprision of treason, and other capital offences, committed since the fifteenth day of January, 1777;* and all persons indicted, informed against, or complained of for any of the offences aforesaid, committed before this date, may plead this proclamation in discharge thereof, provided nothing herein contained be construed to extend to any person to whom judgment has already been rendered, nor to bar any person from recovering private damages, anything contained herein to the contrary notwithstanding.
"And I do further assure the subjects of this state, that it is not the design of government to take from any one the peaceable enjoyment of his own possessions, acquired by the sweat of his brow, whatever falsehoods, wicked and designing men may have invented to disquiet the minds of the faithful subjects of the state of Vermont.†
"Given under my hand and seal at arms, in the Council Chamber at Windsor, on the third day of June, 1779, in the third year of the independence of this and the United States of America.
"By His Excellency's command.
"Jonas Fay, Secretary, pro tem.
God save the People."‡
* The words "and other capital offences, committed since the fifteenth day of January, 1777" are wanting in the original. The words following "misprision of treason" in the original are, "against this, or the United States."
† In the original draft, this paragraph was introduced by the following sentence: "And I do further recommend and enjoin upon every denomination of men, strict obedience to the laws; as the executive authority are determined to carry into execution every good and wholesome law made by the freemen of this State." Other verbal differences not here noted, may be observed by comparing the proclamation in the text with the original draft published in Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 556, 557.
‡ MS. letter of Ira Allen to Benjamin Bellows. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 389, 390. Records General Assembly Vt. Records Council Vt.
1779.] VARIOUS PUBLICATIONS BY THE COUNCIL. 349
By a resolution of the Council passed on the 7th of June, this proclamation, the orders of the Governor to Col. Ethan Allen dated the 6th of May, 1779, and an extract from the records of the adjourned session of the superior court, held at Westminster on the 26th of the same month, were published together, in order that the people might not be uninformed concerning the measure which had been taken to uphold the authority of the state.
On being apprised of the disturbances which had occurred in Cumberland county, Governor Clinton, on the 29th of May, transmitted by express, the papers containing the information to John Jay the president of Congress, with a request that he would lay them before Congress without delay. By the same conveyance he wrote to the New York delegation, telling them that the "Vermont business" had reached a crisis, and assuring them of his confidence in their exertions to obtain the opinion of Congress on that subject at the earliest moment possible. He informed them that the state Legislature would meet on the 1st of June, and would probably adopt decisive measures. At the same time he assured them that he should issue his orders to the militia, and make the necessary arrangements for supporting the injured dignity of the state; and further, that he should conceive it his duty to order a force of a thousand men who had been destined for the defence of the frontiers, to march to Brattleborough for the protection of that and the adjacent towns, unless the interposition of Congress should render such a measure unnecessary.*
On the 22d of May, before several of the events above referred to were known in Philadelphia, resolutions had been proposed in Congress by the New York delegation, the object of which was to obtain from Congress an acknowledgment of the right of each of the thirteen states to retain in its possession all the lands it had held while a colony of and subject to Great Britain, and to declare in what manner disputes regarding territorial jurisdiction should be settled. On the 29th, the day on which these resolutions were to have been taken up in committee of the whole, information anticipatory of trouble in Cumberland county was received, which led Congress to postpone their consideration. Time committee met, however, on the 1st of June, and were engaged in a discussion of the resolutions, when letters
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 14.
350 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
arrived from Clinton containing an account of the trouble which had been foreshadowed. Although these letters were not laid before Congress, yet the legislation which followed was probably based in part upon them. A resolution was passed, authorizing the appointment of a committee who should be instructed to repair to the "Grants," and learn the reasons why the inhabitants refused to continue citizens of the respective states which had previously exercised jurisdiction over that district; and further, to take every prudent measure to promote an amicable settlement of all differences, and to prevent the recurrence of animosities and divisions which had already been so prejudicial to the interests of the United States. Information of this proceeding was conveyed to Governor Clinton in letters dated the 1st of June, from John Jay, the president of Congress, and from the New York delegation. In the communication of the latter, moderation was especially recommended. "In our opinion," said they, "it will be wise to abstain from hostilities for the present, and rather suffer a little than shed blood." They also expressed a hope that every cause of jealousy would be removed, and that "mutual confidence, harmony, and good understanding," would arise between New York "and her sister states to the eastward."*
On the 2d of June, Oliver Ellsworth and Jesse Boot of Connecticut, Timothy Edwards of Massachusetts, Dr. John Witherspoon of New Jersey, and Col. Samuel J. Atlee of Pennsylvania, were deputed to visit the "Grants" in accordance with the resolve of Congress. Notice of their appointment was immediately communicated to them, accompanied with an urgent request from the president of the Congress, that they would enter immediately on the business which had been intrusted to them.
While affairs were in this condition, Governor Clinton wrote from his camp in the Highlands, on the 7th of June, to those who were especially interested in the amicable settlement of the disputes which had been the cause of so much ill feeling and violence. He informed Samuel Minott, the chairman of the committee of Cumberland county, that the advance of the British up the Hudson had delayed the meeting of the Legislature, and had compelled him to take the field. At the same time he assured Minott that he should convene the members as soon
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., pp. 15, 16.
1779.] GOVERNOR CLINTON. 351
as the safety of the country would admit of his return, and should endeavor to induce them to concert such measures as would insure the peace and safety of the inhabitants of Cumberland county. "In the mean time," said he, "I must earnestly recommend to you to continue firm in the cause in which you are engaged, and to conduct yourselves with prudence towards the revolters, and you may rest assured that I shall make every exertion for your protection of which the executive authority of government is capable."
To General Washington he communicated his regret that the late resolutions of Congress were insufficient to remedy the difficulties which they were designed to meet, and announced his intention of quitting the field in order to convene the Legislature, and make the necessary arrangements for vindicating the authority of the state. "I had flattered myself," wrote he, "that in consequence of my representation that Ethan Allen having the rank of a colonel under Congress, had with his associates seized and imprisoned the principal civil and military officers of this state in the county of Cumberland, the justice and wisdom of Congress would have adopted such measures as might have prevented this state from the cruel necessity they will too probably be reduced to in a short time, of opposing force to force. Your Excellency, who knows my inclinations and conduct, the zeal and exertions of this state in the common cause, and their long and patient forbearance under the usurpation of their revolted citizens, will judge with what anxiety we look forward to the cruel dilemma to which by the great principle of self-preservation we may shortly be reduced and this anxiety is rendered doubly painful by the reflection, that the general interest of America must necessarily be affected by applying the resources for maintaining the authority of this state, which have been so amply and liberally afforded by them since the commencement of the war in support of the common cause." He also informed him that in order to carry into execution the measures upon which he had determined, it would be necessary for the state to be furnished with appropriate means. He therefore desired Washington to return "the six brass six-pounders, together with their apparatus," which New York had loaned to the United States in the year 1776, or to replace them in case they were not to be obtained. As to pro‑
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 17.
352 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
visions, he stated that he had been ordered by the Legislature to collect a "magazine of flour," but that it would, perhaps, be wanted by those who might be ordered to support the authority of the state. The whole tone of the letter was in keeping with the course which the Governor had determined to pursue as a faithful guardian of the interests of the state.*
In writing to Jay, Clinton declared his opinion concerning the late action of Congress in language even more decided than that which he had used in his letter to Washington. He expressed his astonishment and concern that Congress had "passed over in profound silence" the remonstrances which had been sent them against the conduct of the revolters from New York. He appealed to their candor to decide whether their inaction accorded with their repeated resolutions in which they had declared their determination to "discountenance every species of disrespect shown by any officers in their service to the legislative or executive authority of the respective states;" or whether it was a proper result of their decision of the 1st of June, whereby they had resolved to "pay an equal attention to the rights of the state of New York with those of the other states in the Union." Not doubting the purity of the intention of Congress in appointing a committee to confer with the revolters, he at the same time made known his disapprobation of the measure in terms which could not be misunderstood. "I am apprehensive," said he, "it will by no means produce the salutary effects for which I suppose it was calculated; for, notwithstanding the just and generous terms offered by my different proclamations founded on the resolutions of the Legislature of this state, the refractory disposition of the principal actors in this revolt has still increased. By them it will be considered as an implied acknowledgment of their authority, and thereby tend to strengthen the usurpation; and in the minds of the well-affected citizens who know the repeated and uncontradicted declarations which the principal revolters have made that they have received encouragement from several members of Congress, some of whose names are mentioned, and who have observed that the most flagrant insults against the civil authority of this state, even by officers of Congress, have been totally disregarded, it will, I have too much cause to fear, excite fresh jealousies." For these reasons he recommended that the con‑
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 20.
1779.] JOHN SESSIONS. 353
ference committee should postpone their journey until the state Legislature should have time to convene, and consider the late resolves of Congress. His letter to the New York delegation, though not as comprehensive, contained sentiments similar to those announced in the letters to Minott, Washington, and Jay.*
By the committees of six towns in Cumberland county, which acknowledged the jurisdiction of New York, John Sessions of Westminster was commissioned to bear to Governor Clinton an official account of the late transactions, and of the difficulties to which the subjects of New York had been exposed in consequence of their obedience to the laws of that state. In the letter of the committees which he carried, dated the 8th of June, an earnest wish was expressed that the state should bear his expenses to Philadelphia, whither they desired he should proceed for the purpose of expediting, if possible, the determination of Congress with respect to the controversy. A report spread by Ethan Allen, to the effect that two-thirds of the members of Congress were favorers of the new state of Vermont, served to render the committees especially anxious to know how much of this story was to be placed to the account of truth, and how much to the workings of fancy. As to the effect which the legal prosecutions they had suffered had produced, they used this language:— "We would beg leave to inform your Excellency, that we cannot long endure our present distressing situation, and if Congress does not immediately interfere, or the state protect us effectually and, without delay, we shall be under the disagreeable necessity of submitting, though reluctantly, to be governed by the enemies of the state."†
Similar to this was the account sent by Micah Townsend to Governor Clinton on the 9th. From his declarations it appeared that the greater part of the Green Mountain Boys, with whom he had conversed during the time of the disturbance, were either unwilling or unable to make known the number of their "fighting men," or even of their regiments. He stated, however, on the authority of Roswell Hopkins, the clerk of the General Assembly of Vermont, that their militia force numbered three thousand, of which two thirds, it was supposed, would take arms against New York; that they also depended upon the
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 966-976. Journals Am. Cong., iii. 285, 286, 295—298. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State, N. Y., pp. 18, 19.
† George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib. vol. viii. doc. 2394.
354 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
assistance of a thousand men from Berkshire county, Massachusetts, in an emergency, and upon the co-operation of the immigrants who were flocking from other states. He assured the Governor that Ethan Allen had remarked that the trials of the Yorkers had not been held for the purpose of distressing individuals, but that they were intended as a challenge to the government of New York "to turn out and protect their subjects." He also stated that Allen had publicly declared that the supporters of the new state had, for a long time, been engaged in making preparations for a contest with the Yorkers, that they were now prepared to receive their opponents, and were desirous that Governor Clinton should be informed of their readiness to fight. "After so open a challenge," wrote Mr. Townsend, in view of these circumstances, "if Congress does not immediately determine this controversy in favor of New York, or the state effectually protect their subjects here, it cannot be thought strange if they should in a body join the only government under which they can be secure. Who will dare resist the execution of the laws of Vermont, unless upon tolerably sure ground, when whipping, branding, &c., will infallibly be the consequence if superior force does not prevent it? And if submission must be our lot, will not the state hereafter, and with reason, have those who are now their friends for enemies? If Congress do not take up the matter presently, or if they make only a temporary settlement, it is clear to me that Vermont is favored, and will infallibly maintain their independence unless the force of New York prevents it immediately. For New York to delay taking arms, however specious the reasons, is the same as to yield the point."
In discussing the subject at greater length, Mr. Townsend recommended to Governor Clinton, in case the Legislature should deem it best to defend their constituents, to send from New York a force strong enough "to bear down all opposition" in the county, and then, if it should be thought practicable to make use of the Yorkers resident in Vermont, to supply them with arms, ammunition, and "some experienced officers." He further suggested, as a plan which had been communicated to him by one who was "acquainted with military matters," and who had ever been a staunch supporter of the jurisdiction of New York, that fortifications should be erected to enclose the Court-house at Westminster, and that two hundred or three hundred men should be sent to build them and to act as a garrison when they should be completed. The accomplishment of
1779.] ACTION OF CONGRESS. 355
this design he described as easy, owing to the bluff a few rods north of the building, which would serve as a natural rampart, and to the level character of the ground in every other direction. Under the protection of the garrison he recommended the establishment of courts of justice, a measure which, he supposed, would tend gradually to restore order and end opposition. "In this event," said he, "Charlotte county will be between two fires, the British and the Yorkers." To support the troops he doubted not that private contributions would be made. In behalf of Col. Samuel Wells of Brattleborough, he promised a thousand pounds of beef and a barrel of pork. He also expressed his belief that when it should appear that New York was "in earnest" in her efforts, a company could be easily raised in the county to assist in garrisoning the fort.*
These various communications, containing expressions betokening an intention of prompt and decisive action in certain quarters, were not without their effect. To atone for a supineness, which was probably the result of ignorance rather than of design, Congress resolved unanimously, on the 16th of June, that the officers acting under the state of New York, who had been lately deprived of their liberty "by certain persons of a district called the New Hampshire Grants," ought to be immediately liberated; directed the committee of conference, that had already been appointed, to inquire into the subjects discussed in Governor Clinton's letters, and report specially to Congress; declared that Congress did not intend, by their resolution of the 1st of June, to uphold principles subversive of, or unfavorable to, the internal policy of any of the United States; and decided that, inasmuch as "very salutary effects" were expected to follow the appointment of the committee of conference, further proceedings on Governor Clinton's communications should be postponed until that committee should report. Of the views of Congress at this time, upon the controversy between New York and Vermont, Jay, in a letter to Clinton, observed; — "The majority of the house have proper ideas on the subject, and we flatter ourselves that it will terminate right." Clinton received the resolutions of the 16th on the 23d, and immediately informed the New York delegation, that in consequence of the measures adopted by Congress, be should defer convening the Legislature until the beginning of August. He further remarked that this
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. viii. doc. 2397.
356 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
delay would give the committee an opportunity to report, and at the same time would not prevent him, in his official capacity, from making such arrangements for supporting the authority of the state as circumstances might require.*
Notwithstanding the excitement which had followed the attempt to seize the property of those who had refused to act in the service of Vermont, Chittenden proceeded on the 11th of June again to draft men, and did not fail to include the southern part of Cumberland county in the district from which levies were to be raised. In obedience to his orders, one of the officers of Vermont informed Benjamin Jones Jr., and John Kathan of Fulham, on the 17th, that they were required to do military duty. On their refusal to comply, being subjects of New York, the officer took a cow from each, and sold one of them by auction, and retained the other for the use of the state.† On the 21st, a party of Vermonters, acting under the same authority, seized a heifer belonging to Ezra Robinson of Fulham, and without notifying to the owner the time and place of the sale, disposed of the property at vendue. On the same day an officer who had been directed to demand the services of Ephraim Rice of Fulham as a soldier, called at his house accompanied by five men. Rice refused either to serve, or to pay one half the amount required to engage a substitute. Thereupon the officer took possession of a cow and a heifer, the value of which was nearly twice the amount necessary to discharge the obligation, and sold them under the hammer without public notice of the time or place of the sale.
While matters were in this condition, Dr. Witherspoon and Col. Atlee, two of the members of the committee of conference, arrived at Bennington, and held an interview with Chittenden and others concerned in the government of the state. On the 23d, the two members wrote to Samuel Minott, informing him of the object of their visit, and of the results which they hoped to achieve. They expressed a hope that by the interposition of Congress, there would be in a short time a happy accommodation of all differences, and stated that they had for the pre‑
* Doc. Hist. N. Y. iv. 976-978. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., pp. 21, 22.
† On the 23d of July following, the "inclosed wood" of John Kathan was entered, and "about three loads of hay" were removed, and appropriated to the use of the state of Vermont. George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. viii. doc. 2462.
1779.] SENTIMENTS OF GOV. CHITTENDEN. 357
sent obtained a promise from Governor Chittenden, that the subjects of New York resident in Cumberland county, should not be molested until a final settlement of existing differences should be effected. In view of these considerations, the committee recommended to Mr. Minott to counsel those whom he represented, to raise their full proportion of men, whenever the services of the people of Vermont were required either by the rulers of that state, or by continental officers. By following this advice, the Yorkers would neither acknowledge the authority of Vermont, nor disavow allegiance to New York. Such a course would also remove all imputations of disaffection to the cause of the United States, and would aid effectually in advancing the measures of pacification which were then on foot.*
In a letter of the same date to a friend in Cumberland county, Governor Chittenden advanced similar sentiments. Referring to the late refusal of some of the inhabitants of that county to serve in the Vermont militia, he expressed his regret that "a second insurrection and open violation of the authority" of Vermont, and of the United States had occurred, and that "private difficulties should in the least impede" a general union in defence of the liberties of America. Owing to the urgent necessity of securing the frontiers from depredation, he entertained no doubt that the inhabitants of Cumberland county would readily assist in that service. So long as they should continue to do their proportion in the present war, and the question of jurisdiction should remain undetermined, he recommended the suspension of all prosecutions against those who acknowledged themselves subjects of the state of New York.†
To obtain the information concerning Vermont desired by Congress, the committee of conference propounded a number of written queries to Governor Chittenden on the 24th. To these he returned written, replies. The sentiments entertained by the government of Vermont towards that of New York and of the United States, became in this manner more fully known, and enabled Congress to ascertain with greater accuracy the strength of the position which Vermont had taken. The reasons assigned by Chittenden for the seizure of cattle in the preceding month, were the same that had been alleged at the time of the transaction. In answer to the main question of the
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 23.
† Papers relating to Vt. Controversy in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 24.
358 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
committee, whether the people of the new state would be willing to refer the final decision of the question of jurisdiction to the Congress of the United States, Chittenden answered that he believed he had the warrant of his constituents in saying, that "they would think themselves happy" in submitting to the arbitration proposed, provided the privileges granted to Vermont in supporting her cause were equal to those granted to New York, and on the further condition that the people of the former state should be permitted to reserve to themselves in the trial all the "rights, privileges, immunities, and advantages," which they might possess by any former power, grants, or jurisdiction.*
Witherspoon and Atlee, having accomplished their mission to their own satisfaction, set out for Albany without waiting for the arrival of their colleagues. Meantime, Governor Chittenden having been informed that the cattle which had been taken from the Yorkers, had been sold in consequence of his orders of the 11th inst., transmitted the intelligence, on the 27th, to the Congressmen with whom he had so lately held conference. In his letter he assured them that the seizure and sale were wholly the result of the refusal of some of the citizens of Cumberland county to contribute their proportion in support of the war, and could not, therefore, prejudice his attempts to effect a reconciliation. He also informed them that Mr. Root, and Mr. Ellsworth, two of the other three members of the conference committee, were then within a few miles of Bennington. So anxious was he to insure the safe delivery of his communication, that he sent it by the hands of a special messenger. In their reply, the committee manifested great concern lest this last disturbance should be the means of defeating the measures for a reconciliation which had been agreed on. Although unwilling to regard it as "a breach of the agreement," yet they did not hesitate to inform Mr. Chittenden that all hopes of a peaceful settlement would be frustrated, unless proceedings of this nature were discountenanced and forbidden, and restitution made to those whose property had been taken.
On their return to Philadelphia, Witherspoon and Atlee presented a report to Congress on the 13th of July, embracing an account of the manner in which they had been received by the new state men, and of the written replies which they had
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 25.
1779.] CONVENTION OF COMMITTEES. 359
received in their conference with Governor Chittenden. It does not appear that this report was ever accepted, nor could it have been with propriety, since it was presented by two members of the committee only, while three was the smallest number authorized to act officially. As far as this mission was intended to answer the purposes of those who proposed it, it was a failure.* It served, however, to sustain the hopes of the new state party and to give them fresh zeal in their efforts to obtain from Congress an acknowledgment of Vermont as a free and independent state.†
On the 23d of July, the committees of Hinsdale, Guilford, Halifax, Brattleborough, Fulham, Putney, Westminster, Rockingham, Springfield, and Weathersfield, assembled in convention at the house of Col. Serjeants in Brattleborough for the purpose of concerting measures to protect themselves and their constituents from the indignities to which they were subjected by the authorities of Vermont. Samuel Minott being chairman and Micah Townsend clerk, a petition was prepared, addressed "to the honorable the Congress of the United States of America," in which the disputes concerning the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire Grants were reviewed, and the conduct of those concerned in them, noticed. In opposition to the attempts of those who desired to establish Vermont as a separate and independent state, the petitioners stated that a majority in several, and a respectable minority in other towns in Cumberland county, including men of the best character and estates, were of the opinion that the settlement made by the king of Great Britain in the year 1764 was still binding and would so remain until Congress should determine otherwise. Announcing this as their own belief they declared that they had refused to join in the "unprovoked and unreasonable" revolt from New York, choosing rather to suffer the inconveniences which would attend their loyalty than to join in an internal revolution whose consequences would tell so fatally upon the common
* During three or four months succeeding the visit of the congressional committee of conference, it is probable that the laws of Vermont were not strenuously enforced against the Yorkers. In the orders of Col. Samuel Fletcher to Capt. Jesse Burk of Westminster, dated at Townshend on the 2d of August, 1779, Burk is directed "to call upon those called Yorkers" to contribute their proportion in hiring a man to do military duty, "but not to proceed in law against them in case of refusal at this time." George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. viii, doc. 2466.
† Various MSS. Doc. Hist. N. Y., vi. 978, 979. Journals Am. Cong. iii. 322.
360 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
cause of America. Referring to the cruel activity which had been evinced towards them by the "usurped government," and to the proscriptive and bloody enactments which the Legislature of Vermont had seen proper to pass, in order to hold them in subjection, they besought Congress — by the "complete anarchy" under which they had long suffered, by the imputations to which they were continually exposed of being branded as Tories on account of their refusal to obey the laws of Vermont, and by the respect due the articles of confederation, whose words were intended as emblems of the protection which would be afforded to each of the United States — to adopt such measures as should restore rights to those who had been deprived of them by violence, and ensure peace to a distracted people.*
At the same convention, a letter was prepared for Governor Clinton, more particular in its details of the situation of affairs, and more desponding in its tone, than any which had preceded it. In this communication Samuel Minott, in behalf of his associates, recounted the services which they had rendered, and referred with regret to the little good which had been thereby accomplished. He stated that a number of the inhabitants of Cumberland county, influenced by principles of duty and affection towards the state of New York, and opposed to the exercise of an authority which they deemed usurped, had, since the beginning of the year 1778, chosen committees to conduct their opposition; that they had held frequent meetings for the purpose of preserving and increasing the interest on this subject, and had often addressed his Excellency in relation to its importance; that this attachment had subjected some of them to fines, imprisonment, and the partial loss of their estates; and that the state of anarchy which they had been compelled to endure had been to them a constant source of trouble and disquiet. "We suffered all with patience and cheerfulness," continued the writer, "hoping that Congress would at length interfere and do justice to the state of New York, by recommending to the revolted to return to their allegiance and use their influence to quiet the disorders. And when the violent measures of Vermont had attracted the notice of Congress, and threatened to disturb the peace of the continent, we rejoiced at what had
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 981-987. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 26.
1779.] PETITION SUBMITTED TO NEW YORK LEGISLATURE. 361
occasioned Congress to attend to our difficulties, though otherwise distressing. But when we are convinced that those from whom we expected relief, by public recommendations and private advice, countenance what we before thought was rebellion; and instead of supporting the jurisdiction of New York, advise its subjects to a temporary submission to Vermont, and, as we are informed, the officers of Vermont how to conduct the opposition to New York, we are discouraged, and think it needless for us to spend our time and money, and perhaps subject ourselves to trials for treason, on account of our duty to the state. As to their future conduct, he assured the Governor that the county committee were to convene on the return of their representatives from the Assembly of New York, and would then dissolve and submit "to the powers that are," unless it should appear that the state had determined to assert and support its jurisdiction. Amid all these discouragements, he did not fail to declare his belief that the rights of New York could be maintained on the "Grants." In closing, he acknowledged with great courtesy the attentions which his Excellency had paid to the distresses of his constituents, and expressed gratitude for the efforts which he had made to restore peace to an unhappy country."*
Before presenting the petition to Congress, the convention determined to submit it to the New York Legislature, and obtain their views concerning its sentiments and propositions. It was accordingly placed in the charge of Charles Phelps, who was instructed to carry it to Kingston. Thence he was to take it to Philadelphia, provided the Legislature should agree to bear his expenses. The representatives in the New York Assembly from Cumberland county at this time, were Micah Townsend, Elkanah Day, and John Sessions. The petition was brought in by Mr. Townsend on the 25th of August; and, its object having been fully explained, the House signified their approbation of the course which it recommended by the following preamble and resolutions:—
"Whereas, the inhabitants of the towns of Hinsdale, Guilford, Halifax, Brattleborough, Fulham, Putney, Westminster, Rockingham, Springfield, and Weathersfield, in the county of Cumberland, are immediately and greatly affected by the disorders prevailing in the north-eastern parts of the state; have suffered exceedingly by their attachment to this state, and oppo-
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. viii. doc. 2448.
362 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
sition to the authority of the pretended state of Vermont; may be presumed to be peculiarly anxious for the restoration of order and good government; and under these circumstances, am entitled to great indulgence and attention. And, whereas, the Legislature are disposed to attempt every measure, which may have even the most remote tendency to peace and accommodation:
"Resolved, therefore, that for the above reasons, this House do consent that the petition of the inhabitants of the said towns, signed by Samuel Minott, and bearing date the 23d of July last, be presented to Congress.
"Resolved, that the Legislature will provide for the expense of the journey of Charles Phelps, Esq., appointed by the inhabitants of said towns, to present the said petition.
"Ordered, that Mr. Jay and Mr. F. Bancker, carry the said petition, together with a copy of the above resolutions, to the Honorable the Senate, and request their concurrence in the said resolutions."
The petition was read in the Senate on the 26th. The action of the Assembly was approved of, and the same preamble and resolutions were adopted as an expression of the views of the upper house. While these measures were in progress, Governor Clinton had addressed a message to the Legislature on the 25th, in which he had referred to the "disturbances in the northeastern counties" of the state, and to the necessity of subduing to submission, those who had excited them. The theme suggested was taken into consideration on the 26th by a joint committee from the two houses, who reported a draft of instructions for the benefit of the New York delegation in Congress. The report was agreed to by the Senate on the same day, and on the 27th was concurred in by the Assembly. These instructions, together with the documents emanating from Cumberland county previously mentioned, were intrusted to Phelps, who soon after left Kingston for Philadelphia.*
While the Legislature of New York and the citizens of that state in Cumberland county, were engaged in endeavoring to induce Congress to adopt measures which should put a period to the dangers by which they were threatened, Governor Chittenden was not idle. In a letter addressed by him to President
* N. Y. Assembly Journals. N. Y. Senate Journals. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iii. 987-992. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 27.
1779.] SENTIMENTS OF GOV. CHITTENDEN. 363
Jay on the 5th of August, he maintained the right of the new state to a separate and independent jurisdiction, and stated in plain but forcible terms, the reasons which had induced the late seemingly severe conduct on the part of Vermont towards the New York adherents. He denounced the action that Congress had taken in their resolves of the 16th of June previous, and declared that the authority of Vermont had been "impeached and censured" by them, before the "facts and circumstances in the case could have been particularly known." The punishment which those acting under New York authority had received, was owing, he remarked, to a "high-handed breach of the peace," of which they had been guilty, and he further stated that their liberation had been effected previous to the passage of the resolves referred to. The full meed of praise was given to the valor and patriotism of the Green Mountain Boys. Their readiness to engage in the scenes of war, and to bear their proportion not only of the labor but of the expense also, received special comment. Notwithstanding the declaration of the inhabitants of the southern part of Cumberland county, that they were the warm friends and firm supporters of the cause of the United States, the Governor asserted that many of them who were able-bodied and effective, had taken advantage of the disputes between New York and Vermont, "to screen themselves from service," and had refused to comply with the appeals which had been frequently made to them for their quota of men and money to furnish defence for their own frontiers. The whole tenor of this letter bore evidence to the intention of the writer and his friends, to maintain, at all hazards, the independence of Vermont as a separate state.
On his arrival in Philadelphia, Phelps, not satisfied with delivering the documents of which he was the bearer, used his exertions to interest such members of Congress as he could approach, in behalf of the measures advocated by the New York delegation. While engaged in these attempts, he kept the Legislature, at whose expense he was then supported, well informed of the temper of Congress, and of the opinions which were entertained by the members on the subject of the controversy. Some of them, he stated in his letter of the 21st of September, were satisfied with the manner in which New York had borne with those who had maltreated her subjects, and were of opinion that it was "high time" to put an end to the jurisdiction of Vermont. At the same time he did not conceal
364 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
the fact, that there were others who would be glad to see Vermont established as a separate state. After numerous delays the subject of the controversy was taken up by Congress on the 24th of September; and several resolutions were adopted preparatory to the final disposal of the matter. The committee of conference, who had been appointed in the month of June previous, a majority of whom, as it was declared, had never met in the district to which they were sent, and, therefore, had never executed the business committed to them, or made a regular report thereon to Congress — this committee were discharged from further service.*
To the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York, the passage of laws expressly authorizing Congress "to hear and determine all differences between them, relative to their respective boundaries, in the mode prescribed by the articles of confederation," was earnestly recommended. To the same states the passage of similar laws was also recommended, concerning the settlement of disputes between them and the inhabitants of the "Grants." Congress also asked for authority to adjudge all differences subsisting between the grantees of the states named with one another, or between either of the states, respecting title to lands lying within the "Grants." In case this power was granted by the states concerned, Congress pledged their faith to carry into execution the decision they should make, whatever it might be, in order that permanent concord and harmony might be established, and all cause of uneasiness removed. The first day of February, 1780, was fixed upon as the time when Congress would hear the arguments of the different parties. As to the manner of voting, it was expressly stated that neither of the states interested in the controversy should vote on any question relative to its decision. Until this reference was had, Congress declared it the duty of the people on the "Grants," who denied the jurisdiction of the states before mentioned, to abstain from exercising any power over any of their neighbors who professed allegiance to any or either of the interested states. They further declared it to be incumbent on New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts respectively, to suspend the execution of their laws over the inhabitants of the "Grants," except in the case of those who acknowledged the jurisdiction of any one of these states. In
* Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 29.
1779.] RESOLVES OF CONGRESS. 365
defining the limits of that district for which a separate and independent jurisdiction was claimed, they resolved that none of the towns either on the east or west side of Connecticut river should be considered as included within it, those being excepted which had heretofore actually joined in denying the jurisdiction of the states before named, and had assumed a separate jurisdiction under the name of the state of Vermont. They also gave it as their opinion that no unappropriated lands or estates lying in this newly named district, which had been or might be adjudged, forfeited, or confiscated, ought to be granted or sold, until the final decision of Congress should be made known. The inhabitants of Vermont were especially desired to abstain from all hostile action, and to this end it was recommended to them to cultivate harmony and concord among themselves, to forbear "vexing each other at law," and to "give as little occasion as possible for the interposition of magistrates." By these resolutions it was proposed, that the power of deciding the controversy should rest with Congress. On the 2d of October, it was proposed that this power should be vested in "commissioners or judges," to be appointed in the mode prescribed by the ninth article of the confederation.
This programme of the course which Congress intended to pursue, was immediately transmitted to all the parties interested, with a request that they would conform to its provisions. In compliance with this application, resolutions were passed and agents were appointed by New York, on the 21st of October. On the same day, the General Assembly of Vermont elected delegates to appear at Congress to vindicate the right of that state to independence, and to agree upon articles of union and confederation. Massachusetts, although she did not choose agents to represent her in the approaching conference, avowed her right to a portion of the controverted territory, notwithstanding the agreements which had been previously made, by which she had been excluded from participation. The resolves of Congress were approved of in New Hampshire, and delegates were chosen on the 17th of November, to present and defend the claims of that state at the time appointed. The power of deciding the unhappy disputes which had caused so much personal and political animosity, was now in the hands of a tribunal which commanded time respect of the appealing states. To its decision, not only the parties concerned, but all the states in
366 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
the confederacy looked forward with an interest commensurate with the importance of the results which were to follow.*
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 992—1000. Journals Am. Cong., 350, 363, 365-367, 371. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 110-115. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y. p. 30. Laws of N. Y., in office Sec. State N. Y., 1777-1789.