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CHAPTER   I   II   III   IV   V   VI   VII   VIII   IX   X   XI   XII   XIII   XIV   XV   XVI   XVII   XVIII   XIX   XX   XXI  ]

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIX.

 

 

THE END OF RESISTANCE.

 

 

The gathering of the Vermont militia at Brattleborough — The number of the force — The march to Guilford in the snow storm — Spies — The Yorkers retreat — The fight at Packard's house — Sergeant Silvanus Fisk of the Vermont troops mortally wounded — Ethan Allen arrives with reinforcements — A number of Yorkers taken prisoners, and lodged in the jail at Westminster — The session of the Superior court at Westminster — Twenty-five Yorkers arraigned at the bar — Their trial — Conviction — Sentence — Vermonters take Daniel Shepardson pri­soner — Instruction to New York delegates in Congress — Report of joint commit­tee of Senate and Assembly of New York on the late transactions — Additional instructions — William Shattuck — Charles Phelps — Offenders pardoned — Resolu­tions of the General Assembly and Council of Vermont — The militia force at Guilford reduced — David Goodenough — He and Daniel Spicer are fired on by a scout from Lieut. Knight's company — Spicer is killed — Barbarous conduct of the Vermont militia — Account of Daniel and Jabez Spicer — Lieut. Knight informs the Legislature of Vermont of the proceedings at Guilford — Action of the Legislature — Rumors of war — The condition of Guilford — Governor Hancock's proclamation — County house at Windsor — Attempt to interest Congress in the controversy — Court of Inquiry held at Westminster — The Yorkers petition for pardon — Their request granted by an act of the General Assembly — Charles Phelps pardoned — Letter of citizens of Brattleborough and Guilford to Gov. Clinton — Improved condition of Vermont.

 

IN the midst of these transactions, Colonel Church and Major Evans wrote to Governor Clinton, begging him to adopt such measures as would tend to their relief, and free them from the oppressions of the Vermonters. In their letter of the 16th of January, they informed him, that they were forced to be under arms day and night; detailed to him the names of those who had been imprisoned; and, filled with the dread of their foes and ready to believe every rumor which might be suggested, reported that an army of four hundred or five hundred Vermonters were already stationed in separate divisions at Brattleborough, Marlborough, and Halifax, ready to "kill, burn, and destroy all before them." These representations, although exag-

 

 

 

 

1784.]                          THE NUMBER OF THE FORCE.                          515

 

gerated, were destined to be verified, in part, during the follow­ing week. The seizure of Waters had confirmed the Vermonters in the determination they had taken to subdue the Yorkers by military force, and the time had now come for the execution of this design. The colonels of two of the nearest regiments were immediately informed that the period for action had arrived, and were requested to collect their companies and proceed without delay to the seat of war.

On Saturday the 17th of January, the day succeeding the publication of these orders, troops began to assemble, towards evening, at the rendezvous in Brattleborough, the inn of Josiah Arms. On the following day reinforcements arrived from the neighboring towns, and the usually quiet village rapidly assumed the appearance of a military station. The quiet of Sunday was disturbed by the roll of the drum and the shrill notes of the fife. The place of worship was deserted, for all were interested in the contemplated proceedings. Those who acknowledged the government of Vermont, freely opened their houses to the soldiers, while those who owed allegiance to New York barred their doors, and carefully guarded every entrance to their dwellings. Bullets were moulded; guns prepared; belts furnished; buckles polished; dresses lacking in martial appearance were made more martial; and any arrangement which would tend to expedite the march was perfected.

The number of men who reported themselves on the morning of Monday, the 19th, ready for service, was more than three hundred. The regiment of state troops, the command of which had been given to Col. Benjamin Wait, mustered nearly a hundred guns, and was officered by Lieut.-Col. Elijah Knight, Maj. Josiah Boyden, and Capt. Benjamin Whitney. Of the first brigade of the militia under the command of Gen. Samuel Fletcher, the first regiment was officered by Col. Stephen R. Bradley, Maj. Samuel Minott, Adjt. Eliakim Spooner, and Quarter Master Benjamin Burt. From this regiment there were now assembled a company from Townshend of fifty-three men, commanded by Capt. Josiah Fisk; one from Westminster of forty-four men, under the command of Capt. Silas Burk; one from Putney of twenty-seven men, in charge of Lieut. Ebenezer Parker; and one from Rockingham of twenty-two men, commanded by Capt. John Fuller. Of the regiment of Col. John Sergeants, belonging also to Gen. Fletcher's brigade, Capt. Isaac Wheeler commanded a company from Wilmington

 

 

 

 

516                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

of thirty-two men; Lieut. Daniel Gates one from Dummerston of twenty-two men; and Sergt. Sylvester Bishop one from Marl­borough of fifteen men.

Snow had begun to fall early on Monday morning, and when, a few hours after sunrise, the troops commenced their march, the storm had become so severe, and the roads so obstructed, that rackets were found of great assistance in increasing loco­motion. As the little army, piloted by Samuel Shepardson, advanced in a southwesterly direction, a violent northwester blowing the snow upon the right side of their faces, served to increase the unpleasantness of the undertaking. The ordnance department was composed of one old cannon, almost useless, from Dummerston, and was superintended by Ebenezer Haven and Isaac Miller. The soldiers marched in single file, about three paces distant one from another, and as they wound through the woods, appearing here at a clearing, and anon disappearing in a thicket, the effect upon those who beheld them was far more beneficial in inspiring fear, than would have been the display of a dozen field-pieces. The long procession, but dimly seen through the falling snow, left full scope for the imagination, and many believed that a numerous host was coming to ravage, burn, and destroy. In the lower part of Brattleborough, the advanced guard noticed on the further side of the fence that skirted the road, a man on horseback stationed on a little elevation, who rode off at their approach. Others similarly posted were met further on, and it now became evident that spies had been placed along the whole line of the route by which the troops were advancing. The service which these spies unintentionally performed for the Vermonters, was far from being trivial. Deceived by the appearance of the approaching columns, they rode back to their friends and reported that the enemy was a thousand strong. At the same time the Vermonters were informed by some persons whom they had captured, that the Yorkers to the number of a hundred and sixty, had taken a pledge to fight to the death. At Guilford the soldiers halted for the night, obtaining shelter in houses, barns, and such other places as afforded protection from the storm.

On the morning of Tuesday, the 20th, hostilities commenced. About forty Yorkers had rendezvoused at a house in Guilford occupied by a man named Stowell, and had stationed themselves not only within, but around the building, and behind an adjacent

 

 

 

 

1784.]                     COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES.                    517

 

pile of logs. But at the sight of the armed militia they quailed and fled, with the exception of eight or ten who were captured. After running half a mile, their course being most of the way descending, they again took a position in the house of a Mrs. Holton, a widow, situated on a plain, and again swore to stand their ground and "fight it out." Meantime Captain Burke's men, with two other companies, stopped and took possession of Stowell's house, while Captain Whitney and his followers pushed on to dislodge the Yorkers at Holton's. This was easily effected, for no sooner had Whitney and his troops reached the house than the Yorkers again ran, halting at a point about half a mile further on. It was now between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, and as the valiant soldiery had found that they could enjoy accommodations in the houses which had been vacated by the Yorkers, they determined to suspend all warlike operations of an aggressive character until the morning. Having taken good heed to station guards about their encampments, and to send out spies to watch the motions of the enemy, they made preparations to spend the night as agreeably as their circumstances would permit.

On Wednesday, the 21st, the troops assembled at Stowell's house. Part of them were detached thence to reconnoitre in Marlborough and Halifax, while the main body advanced in pursuit of the Yorkers. The snow had now become so deep that the officers, being on foot, found it difficult to perform their duty with all the alacrity which the circumstances required. Horses were accordingly procured for Colonel Bradley, Adjutant Spooner, Dr. Elkanah Day, and others, and the supervision of affairs was thus rendered easier and more complete. On reaching the top of a hill, distant about a mile and a half from the Massachusetts line, the house of one Packard, a justice of the peace, near which it was supposed the Yorkers were assembled, was easily discerned. The Vermonters pressed forward, and as they approached the building, thirty or forty Yorkers, who were within at dinner, rushed out with their guns, and began to station themselves in an advantageous position. At Packard's house commenced a valley running south, through which lay the road. The elevation on the right had been cleared of brush and underwood, but there were still standing a number of girdled hemlocks, whose size and position afforded a safe cover to which to flee or whence to assail. A scattering growth of sugar maples on the elevation at the left, offered similar advan-

 

 

 

 

518                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

tages. Across the road the bole of a large tree had been thrown, behind which and the trees on either side, the Yorkers awaited the approach of the troops.

As they advanced, 'Squire Packard appeared at the door of his dwelling, and begged Sergt. Silvanus Fisk, who was temporarily in command of the advance company, not to proceed, telling him at the same time that as soon as he should pass a certain blacksmith's shop, situated a short distance before him, he and his company would certainly be fired upon. Fisk, a young man, rash and impetuous, was not disposed to pay much attention to this warning. When passing through Westminster, in reply to some inquiry as to the course which was to be pursued towards the opposition, he had been heard to say in one of the rough expressions of a farmer, that he would show the Yorkers "how the pig ate the butter," thus signifying, by an allusion now obsolete, that he would teach the opponents of Vermont a lesson which they would not soon forget. His daring did not now desert him, and his men, partaking of his spirit, followed where he led.

The given point was soon reached, but the Vermonters had hardly passed it, when a discharge from the right proved the truth of Packard's assertion. No injury followed this assault. The troops pressed forward and were again fired upon from the barricade in front. As the smoke occasioned by this volley cleared away, a man distinguished by the blue coat which he wore came from behind the maples, and with deliberate aim discharged his gun at Sergeant Fisk. The ball took effect, entering at the right side of the stomach and passing into the groin. "Are you badly hurt, Sergeant?" said Private Theophilus Crawford, who was standing near him. "God bless you!" replied Fisk, "don't ask any questions, but push on and kill some of the devils." Encouraged by these words, his men gave chase to the now retreating Yorkers, and, pursuing them with hot haste, drove them more than half a mile beyond the boundaries of Vermont, and within the limits of Massachusetts. Unable to walk, Fisk was placed on a sleigh, and being taken to Mrs. Holton's dwelling was treated with all the attentions which kindness could suggest. But his wound proved incurable, and he died before the close of the following spring. The only other person who suffered on this occasion was Joel Knight of Dummerston, who was slightly injured in the arm by a bullet.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                    MOVEMENTS OF VERMONT TROOPS.                   519

 

Driven from their homes, the Yorkers applied for assistance to the inhabitants of the towns in Massachusetts to which they had fled. This was readily granted as far as food and shelter would avail, but no one was willing to engage in acts of hostility against the neighboring state, without orders from Congress. Hoping to obtain favorable terms, the Yorkers sent a flag to their "unnatural enemy," as they styled the Vermonters, promising passive obedience until the rising of the Vermont Assembly, provided they should be permitted to return to their homes and remain there unmolested. To their message they received no reply, and the person by whom it was carried was detained as a prisoner.

On the 22d, Ethan Allen arrived with ammunition and reinforcements. Of the companies from Bennington which came with him, one was commanded by Capt. Joseph Safford, another by Capt. Hezekiah Armstrong, and a third by Capt. Joseph Wickwire. Not daring to make an incursion within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts in pursuit of the Yorkers, who had fled thither for safety, and deeming it useless to remain longer in a place where their presence could be of no essential service to the cause they maintained, the officers from both sides of the mountains, after a long consultation, concluded to return. To render the march more easy, a company were dispatched, in the morning, to break a road through the snow which was now nearly four feet in depth on the level. Leaving Stowell's house two hours before sunset, the main body of the troops began their march, having in charge about twenty prisoners, and reached the tavern of Landlord Arms, in Brattleborough, the same night. Here a portion of the troops were dismissed. On the morning of the 23d the remainder proceeded to Westminster, where the Yorkers were lodged in jail to await their trial at the next session of the Superior court.

During the time which intervened between the commitment and the trial, the prisoners were guarded by a strong military watch, and every precaution was taken to prevent their escape. An account of these proceedings was sent by Colonel Church and Major Evans to Governor Clinton, and a request was made that he would write to the Governor of Massachusetts, if such an act was proper, and desire him to send relief to the unfortunate subjects of New York. "We are driven from our habitations," said they. "Our houses are plundered. Our possessions taken from us. We are in a very miserable situation, and

 

 

 

 

520                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

implore your Excellency's interposition, our case being really deplorable."*

On the 3d of February the Superior court commenced its session at Westminster, Moses Robinson, chief judge, presiding. About twenty-five prisoners were arraigned at the bar. Francis Prouty, who had been engaged in the month of November last, at the head of a number of men, in conveying Luke Knowlton without the borders of Vermont, pleaded guilty to the indictment of the grand jurors, and was sentenced to pay a fine of £30, with costs of prosecution, and to be "imprisoned in close confinement for the space of forty days." He was also charged, in a separate indictment, with having entered Knowlton's house on the same occasion burglariously, and with an intent "the goods and chattels of the said Knowlton to steal, take, and carry away." This accusation was not substantiated. To a third charge, that of resisting the deputy sheriff Barzillai Rice, when he endeavored to arrest him on a warrant issued in consequence of his attack upon Knowlton, he pleaded not guilty. The records of the court do not show a decision contrary to the plea. Of those who had been accused of being engaged in an assault upon Benjamin Carpenter in December last, only a few were arrested, and of this number Charles Phelps, Abraham Avery, and Henry Evans pleaded not guilty, and were sentenced to pay the costs of the prosecution. A nol. pros. was entered in behalf of Henry Evans Jr. Cyril Carpenter was alone found guilty, and was sentenced to pay a fine of £20; to give bonds for his good behavior; and stand committed until judgment should be complied with.

As the result of the investigations consequent upon the late hostilities at Guilford, the grand jurors presented charges against a number of the Yorkers. The principal count in the indictments was that in which the wounding of Silvanus Fisk "so that his life is greatly despaired of," was set forth. Joseph Wells of Brattleborough pleaded guilty to the charge of being engaged in the proceedings which resulted in this sad event, and was sentenced to pay a fine of £20 and the costs of prosecution; to be imprisoned six months; and if the terms of the whole sentence were not complied with at the end of that time, to stand committed until the satisfaction should be complete. Elijah Curtis, a participator in the same affair, and who entered

 

* MS. Accounts. Old men's narrations.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                               MULCTING OF YORKERS.                              521

 

a plea of not guilty, was fined £10 and the costs of the suit. On another indictment to which Joseph Wells pleaded guilty, the court sentenced the delinquent to "close confinement" for six months, and fined him £30 and costs. Amos Yaw Jr., charged with some, offence, owned that he had disobeyed a Vermont officer. To the remainder of the indictment in his case the State's attorney entered a nol. pros. The prisoner was amerced in the sum of £5 and the costs of suit. Charles Phelps was tried for the offences which had been charged against him in the fall of 1782, similar in their nature to those which had resulted in the condemnation of Shattuck, Church, Evans, and Timothy Phelps. His plea was guilty. By the judgment of the court he was attainted of treason; was sentenced to sixty days' imprisonment; and all his estate, real and personal, was forfeited to the use of the state. Edward Carpenter, Asaph Carpenter, Shubael Bullock, Joseph Chamberlain, add David Thurber, all of whom were proved to have been engaged in the disturbances at Guilford, were fined in sums varying with the character of the offences committed. Of the rest of the offenders, same were mulcted in small amounts; others were dismissed on paying the costs of prosecution; and in the case of a few the complaints were withdrawn for want of evidence to sustain them.

During the session of the court, Westminster had presented more the appearance of a military encampment than of a peaceful village. With the departure of the dignitaries of the bench, the lawyers of the bar, and the prisoners in the dock, it again assumed its wonted aspect, and the roll of the drum and the shrill notes of the fife gave place to the music of the merry sleigh bells of winter, and left to their jingling notes the monopoly of noise for the rest of the season.

For the purpose of keeping the Yorkers in subjection, a portion of the troops, comprising Lieut. Elijah Knight's company of twenty men, and Capt. Benjamin Whitney's of sixty-five, were stationed at Guilford and in the adjacent towns until the 1st of March following. The effect of this watchfulness was to prevent those who had fled from returning, and had not the hospitalities of the inhabitants of the neighboring state been extended to the refugees, their sufferings — multiplied though they were — would have been far more severe and intolerable. Intent upon an excursion of some kind, and finding but little opposition within the borders of Vermont, a party of soldiers set out on the 20th of February, with the determination of

 

 

 

 

522                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

securing Daniel Shepardson, a sworn magistrate of the state of New York, and until within a few weeks a resident of Guilford. Proceeding to Northfield, Massachusetts, where Shepardson had taken up his temporary abode, they made him a prisoner, although he was at that time within the jurisdiction of another state, and hurried him back to Vermont, where he was placed in confinement. In many instances the property, which the Yorkers in consequence of their sudden flight had left unprotected, was regarded by the militia as legitimate spoil, and not a few of the latter manifested an unbecoming pleasure in despoil­ing their adversaries of such necessaries and conveniences of life as were found in the deserted dwellings.

Meantime the Legislature of New York, fully alive to the unhappy situation of the citizens of that state residing in Vermont, were endeavoring to obtain from Congress a definitive settlement of the dispute between the contending parties. On the 2d of February, James Duane, from the committee ap­pointed to prepare instructions to the delegates from New York in Congress, presented a report to the Senate, in which among other recommendations, it was advised, that the delegates be instructed "to press Congress for a decision in the long-protracted controversy respecting the rights of this state to the dis­trict commonly called the New Hampshire Grants, not on consideration of public expediency, but consistency with the assurances of Congress, according to equity. That they represent, in the most pointed terms, the grievous injustice done to the state by such delay, especially after a submission in compliance with the unanimous recommendation of Congress, and claim, most expressly, a performance of the solemn engagement of Congress to make the said decision, on a pledge no less sacred than that of the faith of the United States, which ought not to be violated on any pretence whatsoever. That they likewise represent to Congress the danger which may arise from further procrastination; that the leaders of the district in question have actually raised troops, and do now employ those troops to reduce other inhabitants, resident in said district, and acknow­ledging themselves citizens of this state, to submit to the said assumed government; that when every state ought to be in the full enjoyment of the blessings of peace, under the protection of the Union, this alone is in the disagreeable situation of having hostilities already commenced against its citizens; but, that if she must recur to force for the preservation of her lawful

 

 

 

 

1784.]      REPORT OF NEW YORK LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE.     523

 

authority, the impartial world will pronounce that none of the bloodshed, disorder, or disunion, which may ensue, can be imputable to this Legislature, who appeal to the Journals of Congress for the rectitude, moderation, and liberality of the measures they have invariably pursued to produce an amicable determination of the controversy. And lastly, that they, if necessary, be most explicit on the subject, and inform Congress that this Legislature conceive themselves to be urgently pressed by the great duty of self-preservation, to prepare, without loss of time, for the worst events: and that, however sincerely they are disposed to maintain the Union, and to manifest an invio­lable respect for Congress, if the decision, which has so long in vain been solicited, should not be pronounced within two months next after nine states shall be represented in Congress, subsequent to this state being represented there, no further expectations can be entertained of such decision, and that this state, with whatever deep regret, will be compelled to consider herself as left to pursue her own counsels, destitute of the protection of the United States, to whose judgment they have cheerfully submitted, and on whose justice they have hitherto relied.

"The committee further report it as their opinion, that if Congress should delay the decision of the said controversy after the time above limited, it ought to be considered as a denial of justice. That the act entitled 'An act to empower the Con­gress of the United States of America, to determine all con­troversies relative to certain lands in the counties of Cumber­land, Gloucester, Charlotte, and Albany, commonly called the New Hampshire Grants,' passed the 21st day of October, 1779,* ought to be repealed, in order that this Legislature may be left at liberty to propose an adjustment of the said dispute in the mode prescribed by the ninth article of the federal union, or to take such other measures as the preservation of their coun­try from lawless invasion and encroachment may require."

On the 6th of February, before the instructions had received the sanction of the Legislature, Timothy Phelps† appeared be‑

 

* See ante, p. 365.

† After escaping from Oliver Waters on the 19th of January, 1784, as has been previously mentioned, Phelps resumed his journey southward. He tarried at Norwich a few days, where his wife was then visiting, and on reaching the city of New York presented to the Senate, who were then in session at that place, eleven papers containing information respecting the situation of the friends of New York in Vermont, which papers had been entrusted to his care by Samuel

 

 

 

 

524                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

fore the Senate; testified under oath to the maltreatment he had received on account of his allegiance to New York; and produced a number of papers and depositions "relative to the disorders and violences committed on the well-affected citizens of the state, residing in the north-eastern parts thereof, by per­sons under the authority of the usurped government commonly called Vermont." The information and papers were immedi­ately communicated to the Assembly, and were by them considered on the 7th. By a concurrent resolution of the two Houses, the whole subject was referred to a joint committee composed of Messrs. Ford, Lamb, Nicholson, Coe, and Lott from the Assembly, and Messrs. Duane, Paine, and Floyd from the Senate. On the 13th Mr. Ford, as chairman of the joint committee, rendered his report to the Assembly. In it he adverted briefly to the principal events connected with the con­troversy, which had occurred since the time when Governor Denning Wentworth made grants "in express violation of a solemn agreement with the former government of this state, that all grants should be suspended until the final decision of the Crown." Turning, then, to the consideration of the present condition of affairs he observed:—

"It appears to the committee, that the people who style themselves Vermonters, to prevent all opposition to their project of independence, have actually raised troops and levied war against those of their neighbors within the said district, who yield allegiance to the state of New York; that hostilities have actually been commenced; that many of the subjects of this state have been imprisoned, loaded with irons, and punished as traitors with the utmost severity; and that others have been driven from their habitations, and have had their property confiscated, for no other reason than their attachment to this state.

"That the papers which were submitted to the committee

 

Bixby, one of the justices of the peace for Cumberland county by the appoint­ment of New York. At the same time he exhibited a complaint and a deposition descriptive of his own sufferings and condition. While awaiting the result of the deliberations of the Legislature, he "not only expended the little money" he had received from his friends who had sent him on this mission, but was obliged to pawn his clothes in order to procure food and lodgings. In this situation he memorialized the Assembly, begging them to provide him with means sufficient to pay his expenses and "enable him to leave the city with decency and credit." His petition was read on the 17th of February, and referred to Messrs. Adgate, Malcom, and Youngs. It is probable that his sufferings were relieved. Journal Ass. N. Y., 7th session, p. 40.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                 REPORT FROM THE JOINT COMMITTEE.                525

 

contain sufficient proof of these facts, and an earnest appli­cation from the last mentioned inhabitants to this state, for protection.

"That, upon the whole, it is the opinion of the committee, that the most decided measures ought to be pursued, without loss of time, as well for the protection of our said suffering citi­zens, as for the peace and tranquillity of the said district.

"That therefore Congress ought to be earnestly pressed to determine the controversy aforesaid; and that, to remove all uneasiness about the right of soil, the concessions respecting the said district ought to be so far enlarged, as to confirm to the said claimants, the lands which they hold within the lines of the towns settled by them, although they may be compre­hended within the bounds of patents of prior date, under the seal of New York. That this concession should be fully gua­ranteed to the said claimants by the United States in Congress assembled; and that it is the opinion of the committee, that a bill should be ordered to be brought in, for carrying the measures aforesaid into effect."

The House agreed with the committee in their report, and the same committee were appointed to bring in a bill "for carrying into effect the measures" they themselves had recom­mended. On the 27th, instructions to the New York delegates in Congress suggested by the report of the committee, and additional to those which had been introduced on the 2d, were presented to the Senate and adopted. On the same day both sets of instructions were sent to the Assembly, and were con­curred in by them on the 2d of March.*

While the Legislature of New York were deliberating, resolving, instructing, and the inhabitants of the southern part of Windham county were engaged in attacking, re­pelling, and defending, the General Assembly of Vermont convened at Bennington on the 19th of February and continued in session until the 9th of March following. The present condition of affairs in the southern part of the state; the means by which obedience to constituted authority could be enforced; questions of policy; and the consideration of the petitions of Yorkers who had become obnoxious to punishment, were topics which occupied the time and shared the delibera­tions of the representatives of the people on this occasion. From

 

* Journal Senate, N. Y., 7th session, pp. 16, 17, 20, 21, 42, 43, 44. Journal Assembly, N. Y., 7th session, pp. 30, 36, 37, 59, 60, 61.

 

 

 

 

526                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

his cell in "Bennington jail," where he had been confined during the two months preceding, William Shattuck on the 24th of February, supplicated the Assembly for pardon. His request was referred to a joint committee, but their report was laid on the table on the 26th, "for further consideration," and was allowed to remain there during the rest of the session.* A petition from Charles Phelps, imprisoned in the same place, praying to be released from confinement, was, on the 26th, referred to a joint committee, who recommended in their report of the 27th, "that the said Charles Phelps be immediately dis­charged from his imprisonment and, that no part of the estate of said Phelps, which has been seized and confiscated by order of the Supreme court, be sold or disposed of until further orders from the Assembly." The report was accepted, and a bill was introduced, entitled, "An act to discharge Charles Phelps from imprisonment." Having been read and accepted in the Assem­bly, it was sent to the Council and received their concurrence. On the same day Phelps was permitted to appear before the Council, and in their presence voluntarily took "the oath of allegiance and fidelity to the state of Vermont." Though, by this act, he obtained his liberty, his property, which had been taken from him, was not restored, nor was that which remained allowed to rest unmolested. Debts due the government of Ver­mont from insolvent or absconding Yorkers, were satisfied from his estate. His books were borrowed by Vermont lawyers to be

 

* On a subsequent occasion Shattuck petitioned the Council for his release, acquiescing in the justice of the sentence of banishment which had been passed upon him by the Superior court in September, 1782, and praying for pardon. His prayer was granted on the 12th of April, 1784, and a resolution was passed restoring him to partial citizenship, and declaring his estate free from the ban of confiscation. The conditions on which these favors were bestowed, were that he should pay to the sheriff of Bennington county £25 lawful money, to meet the costs of prosecution; satisfy the "just demands" of Nathan Fey, the jail keeper, for board; and give to the treasurer of the state bonds in £100, lawful money, with sufficient sureties, that he would not "enter or presume to go into the county of Windham, without liberty therefor first had and obtained" from the Council. With these terms he complied, and thus obtained his discharge. A few weeks later he notified to Governor Chittenden the "distressed circumstances" of his family, and his inability to relieve them, except in person. A passport, signed by the Governor and Councillors, was accordingly granted to him on the 8th of June, 1784, by which permission was given him to visit his family unmolested. On the 14th of October, 1785, he prayed the General Assembly to release him from the payment of the £25 bond. The application was dismissed without an answer. Journals Gen. Ass. Vt., and Vt. Council Records, 1784. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 53.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                                  REMISSION OF FINES.                                  527

 

used and kept. His cattle were divided among the neighboring families. Much of his household furniture served to enrich the best rooms of his sturdy opponents. A full pardon granted to him by the General Assembly at their session in October following, alone saved him from beggary and ruin.

During the meeting of the Council, a memorial was presented by Cyril Carpenter, who at the last session of the Superior court had been sentenced to pay a fine for being "concerned in a dangerous riot." In it he stated that he had since taken the oath of allegiance that he intended to "consider himself" in the future as a good and peaceable subject that he was a poor man, entirely unable, at present, to satisfy the judgment of the court and that he desired a remission of the fine, or a suspension of collection until he should be able to pay. Similar statements were made by others similarly situated, and the whole subject was temporarily settled by the passage of a resolution on the 28th, directing the state's attorney for Windham county to suspend the collection of fines against Cyril Carpenter, Edward Carpenter, Asaph Carpenter, Amos Yaw Jr., Shubael Bullock, Elijah Curtis, Joseph Chamberlain, and David Thur­ber, until further orders.*

In the General Assembly, pursuant to a motion offered by Colonel Bradley, the Westminster delegate, a committee, appointed on the 1st of March, were authorized to ascertain the amount of the expenses attending the illness of Sergt. Silvanus Fisk, occasioned by the injuries he had received from the Yorkers while supporting the authority of the state. Though the report of the committee was rejected, yet a resolution was adopted on the 2d, directing the payment of £35 on his behalf, and the issuing of orders upon the "hard money tax" for the purpose of meeting any charges which might remain unsettled.† The expediency of continuing a body of troops at Guilford was considered at the same session. The opinion of the gentlemen who were selected to report upon this point was favorable to a reduction

 

* October 26th, 1784. The Council, in session at Rutland, resolved, "that the fine of Edward Carpenter, Asaph Carpenter, and Cyril Carpenter, imposed on them by the Supreme court of this state, be, and is hereby remitted." Extract from Council Minutes.

† At the next session of the Assembly, the treasurer was directed by a resolution, passed October 18th, 1784, "to issue an order in favor of Silvanus Fisk, late deceased, who was wounded in the service of this state, for the balance due for his last sickness, by the committee of pay-table, upon either of the collectors of the two-penny tax within this state." Journals, etc..

 

 

 

 

528                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

of the force there stationed. Brig.-Gen. Samuel Fletcher was therefore empowered to proceed to Guilford, and discharge from service the state troops raised for the assistance of the sheriff of Wind­ham county, with the exception of one lieutenant, one ensign, two sergeants, two corporals, and twenty-one rank and file. In fulfilment of this commission, Fletcher dismissed the militia on the 1st of March, retaining only Lieut. Elijah Knight, and a company of men under his command of the number and character requisite to meet the Assembly's resolution.*

Following this reduction, the Yorkers, who had fled across the southern line of the state, emboldened by the belief that they would not be resisted as vigorously as they had been during the preceding three months, began to contemplate a return. Not unfrequently, under cover of the night, they would visit the house of some friendly Vermonter, and engage for an hour in conversation respecting the course which the victors intended to pursue towards the vanquished in the future. Unwilling to be regarded as recreant to his duty, Lieutenant Knight redoubled his vigilance, and the opposition were, in consequence, more closely watched than ever before.

Among the citizens of Guilford who most strictly adhered to the jurisdiction of New York, David Goodenough was pre-eminent. He had accepted of a lieutenancy from that state; had been imprisoned for this act; had been released under large bonds; and finally, having been ordered out of town, had left his family and taken up his residence temporarily in Massachusetts. Desirous of visiting his wife and children, whom he had not seen for some time, and finding it necessary to go by night, as his life had been threatened, he invited Daniel Spicer of Bernardston, "a young man of good repute," to accompany him. Spicer accepted the invitation, having, however, previously informed Goodenough that he was neutral on the subject of the existing controversy, and could enter into no quarrel "with the Statesmen," as the Vermonters were then styled.

Leaving Goodenough's quarters at nine o'clock on the evening of the 5th of March, the two men set out for Guilford. After proceeding for some distance on the main road, leading north, they strapped on their snow-shoes, that they might be ready to pursue their journey in the woods, should it become

 

* Journals Gen. Ass. Vt., Feb., 1784.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                             DEATH OF DANIEL SPICER.                            529

 

necessary, and had advanced about half a mile within the limits of the town of Guilford, when they were hailed by a "Who comes there?" from a man "under arms," who was stationed at the side of the road. Before time for a reply had been given, Lieutenant Knight appeared with a force of twenty or more men, and following the scout who had discovered the two travellers, endeavored to shoot them down. Aided by the fog which partially concealed the light of a full moon, and which, in a narrow road skirted by a thick forest, destroyed the effect of the reflection from the snow, Goodenough and Spicer endea­vored to make good their escape. Having leaped the fence that bordered the road, they started for the woods. Knight and his party followed with threatening and defiant shouts, and having approached within four rods of Spicer, discharged their pieces at him. One bullet took effect in his hip, and another passed "directly through the trunk of his body," causing a fatal wound. Pausing in their pursuit, the Vermonters gathered about the disabled man, but, as if destitute of the common instincts of humanity, instead of endeavoring to relieve his sufferings, they taunted him upon his miserable condition, and "ordered him to take his own knife and cut off his snow­shoes," which they claimed as their lawful booty. They then robbed him of his arms, wallet, and money, and having dragged him through the snow, a distance of sixty rods, to a house, left him on the floor weltering in blood, and departed uttering angry oaths at the escape of the Guilford lieutenant, and expressing impious regrets that he was not then in the situation of the dying Spicer.

Spicer lingered through the night in great agony and died on the following morning. During his last hours he, with diffi­culty, related to William White and James Davidson, of Guil­ford, the circumstances of the transaction. The facts which he stated with his dying breath were subsequently reduced to writing by them, and sworn to before Judge Richard Morris of New York. A narrative of the event was also prepared by four of the New York refugees, who had removed to Bernard­ston, and was by them sent to Governor Clinton. At the close of the latter production, the honest sympathies of the narrators found expression in these words:—

"Thus fell the innocent.

"Our young men fall by the sword, and no one layeth it to heart.

"Traveller, can you refrain from shedding a tear?

 

34

 

 

 

 

530                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

"We must fall victims to the most savage, barbarous, and murderous usage, unless God, in his all-wise providence, is pleased to incline our fellow-countrymen to give us assistance in this dark and dismal hour."

Spicer had served as a sergeant in the militia of Massachu­setts during the revolutionary war, and had obtained his dis­charge in the month of June previous to his death. As has been already observed, he was an inhabitant of a town in that state was kindly disposed towards both the Yorkers and Ver­monters and had never been concerned in the disputes relative to the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire Grants. Such being the facts, the conclusions appended to a distorted account of the affair, written by a citizen of Vermont, which appeared at the time in Thomas's Massachusetts Spy, cannot but be regarded as illiberal and unjust. "Unhappily for the unfortu­nate man," observed the newspaper chronicler, referring to Spicer, "he was a subject of the state of Massachusetts, but being out of the line of his duty, by interfering in a contention which this state pretends to hold only with that of New York, though we lament the death of a fellow-creature, yet we consi­der him as having received that reward which is justly due to every one who espouses a cause on the principles of prejudice and partiality."*

Fearing that the people in the northern towns of Massachu­setts would be instigated both by the wishes of the Yorkers residing among them, and by a determination to avenge the

 

* MS. Affidavits, dated March 29th, 1784. MS. Letter from Timothy Church, William White, Nathaniel Carpenter, Samuel Bixby, to Governor Clinton, dated Bernardston, March 10th, 1784. Thomas's Mass. Spy, No. 676, April 8, 1784.

The statement of the transaction which appeared in the Spy, and which is referred to in the text, was false in every particular, that alone excepted which announced that Spicer was "mortally wounded" and that he expired. It was prepared at Windsor, Vermont, and was in these words:— "We hear a party of the Yorkers, consisting of about fifty, made a reconnoitering excursion a few weeks since in the night season but meeting with our people (who hailed them several times and received no answer), were fired upon, by which one man was mortally wounded, who expired soon afterwards. By him, they learn that several had balls fired through their hats, but none received any flesh wound."

Jabez Spicer of Leyden, Massachusetts, a brother of Daniel Spicer, served dur­ing a part of the years 1786 and 1787 in the well-known "Shay's Rebellion," and was killed on the 25th of January, in the latter year, while engaged with others in an attempt to take the arsenal at Springfield. It is said that he wore on this occasion the same coat in which his brother was clad when wounded by the Vermonters, and that the fatal ball passed through the same hole which had been made by their bullet. Vt. Gazetteer, p. 143. Holland's Hist. West. Mass., i. 265.

 

 

 

 

1784.]               ACTION OF THE VERMONT LEGISLATURE.              531

 

death of Spicer, to attack the state troops, Lieutenant Knight increased his force by levies from Dummerston and the neigh­boring towns. At the same time, he strengthened his outposts, that he might have timely warning of any hostile incursion. From the statement of charges, presented to the treasurer of the state of Vermont, on account of services performed in this emergency, which statement is still preserved, it appears that a certain Dan Bill," and other friendly Guilfordites, rendered valuable aid as scouts and expresses; that John Noyce was several times employed "in watching ye motions of ye insurgents;" and that pilots were engaged, both by day and by night, in guiding the troops along the drifted roads to those localities which seemed most to require protection.

Having rendered his position as secure as circumstances would permit, Knight, on the 7th of March, despatched a messenger to the Legislature, who were still in session at Bennington, with information of the events which had occurred. Immediate action was taken upon the subject, as presented by the messenger and by the letter which he bore, and a series of resolutions were passed, appropriate to the exigencies of the occasion. On the 9th, Governor Chittenden was desired to write to the Governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, "on the subject of the tumults in Windham county, requesting him to grant warrants for apprehending such inimical persons" as had fled or might flee from justice into that state from Vermont. General Fletcher was requested to repair to the county of Windham, and on examining into the circumstances of the disorders there, was empowered to call into service the militia of his own brigade, and of the other brigades in the state, should he deem such measures necessary, and to dismiss them when he should judge best. The commissary general was authorized to collect and receive the provisions due on a pro­vision tax which had been levied during the years 1780 and 1781, in Windham county. The wages of the troops, who might be called into service, were fixed at the same rates at which the troops had been paid who had served at Guilford during the preceding winter.*

Before the return of the messenger from Bennington, a report had been industriously circulated that an army was coming from Massachusetts to avenge the death of Spicer, and reinstate the Yorkers in their possessions. Terrified at this announce‑

 

* Journals Gen. Ass. Vt., Feb. and March, 1784.

 

 

 

 

532                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

ment, and aware of his inability to cope with any considerable force, Knight retreated in great haste to Brattleborough, and summoned the militia to his aid. Here he subsequently met Fletcher, who assured him that no danger was to be appre­hended from the quarter whence danger had been expected, and that the Yorkers were not only unprepared, but unable to make any hostile demonstration. At the same time, Fletcher dismissed the militia whom Knight had called out, and thus succeeded in quieting the apprehensions of the people. Before the end of the month of March, the company of state troops, which had been located in the southern part of the county, was dismissed from service, and society was relieved from the terrors of law almost martial.

At a town meeting, held in Guilford, a short time after these events, the Yorkers assembled in full numbers and chose Hugh Stowell, one of their own party, moderator. Though in the majority, they were constrained, through fear, to adjourn until the 8th of June following, without transacting any business. Of the meeting held on this occasion, no account remains, nor are any records to be found of the proceedings of the town for the next seven years. It is traditional that both parties held public and private meetings during that period, producing thus a state of anarchy by no means advantageous to the advancement of the town, or the welfare of its citizens. "The Yorkers, although they had the town books, dared not enter their pro­ceedings in them, and both sides kept secret their own records. During this confusion and jealousy, one party stole the records of the other and buried them, together with their own, many deeds, and a number of proprietors' papers, in the earth within the town pound." There they remained until the exact locality of their concealment was well-nigh forgotten. When, after the lapse of several years, they were discovered and brought to light, they were so much mutilated, as to be entirely illegible.*

Soon after the death of Spicer, Governor Chittenden com­municated the intelligence of the circumstance to Governor John Hancock of Massachusetts. The relatives of the deceased memorialized the General Court of that commonwealth on the same subject. In consequence of these and other representations, and in order to prevent the recurrence of a similar event in connection with any other citizen of Massachusetts,

 

* Vt. Gazetteer, pp. 143, 144.

 

 

 

 

1784.] PROCLAMATION OF THE GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS. 533

 

Governor Hancock published the following proclamation on the 26th of March:

"Whereas an unhappy dispute has subsisted between some of the citizens of the state of New York and the people inhabiting the territory called the New Hampshire Grants, or state of Vermont; and it being probable, from the present disposition of the parties, that the same controversy may be recommenced, to the great distress and calamity of all concerned therein; and there being great reason to fear that some of the citizens of this commonwealth, who live on the borders of the said state of Vermont, may, by incautiously intermeddling with the conten­tion, involve themselves and families in that distress which is at all times the consequence of civil dissensions, unless care is taken to prevent it:

"I have, therefore, at the request of the General Court, thought fit to issue this proclamation, commanding and enjoining it upon all the citizens of this commonwealth, that in all and every controversy now existing, or that may hereafter exist between the citizens of New York and the people inhabiting the said state, or between any of them, in whatever form or manner the same may exist, they, the citizens of this commonwealth, conduct themselves according to the strictest rules of neutrality; and that they give no aid or assistance to either party; but that those who live on the borders of the said state, and within this commonwealth, sell to each party indifferently, such things as they have to sell, without giving preference to either; that they send no provisions, arms, ammunition, or necessaries to a fortress or garrison, besieged by either party. And all the citizens and inhabitants of this commonwealth are absolutely and most solemnly forbidden to take arms in support of, or engaging in the service, or contributing to the conquest, success, or defence of either of the said parties, as they will answer it at their peril."

This timely warning tended to allay the malevolent feelings which had already arisen in the breasts of the inhabitants of northern Massachusetts against the people of Vermont, and placed in its proper light the conduct of those, who, situated in other respects similarly to Spicer, had escaped his unhappy fate.*

Among the acts passed by the Legislature of Vermont dur‑

 

* Thomas's Massachusetts Spy, April 8th, 1784, No. 676.

 

 

 

 

534                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

ing the February and March session, was one giving, as had been given on former occasions, power to the Governor and Council, during the recess, to pardon those persons, residing in Windham county, who had "traitorously taken up arms against, and otherwise opposed" the authority of the state. Numerous applications for pardon were presented, in consequence of this provision, and many who had been noted as "violent Yorkers," seeing that all attempts to oppose the established government would be in vain, quietly submitted to the jurisdiction which they had opposed with so much determination, and became citizens of Vermont.

Although the settlement of the river towns had not been perceptibly retarded by the civil dissensions which had dis­turbed the peace of a portion of the community, yet the prospect of a settlement of difficulties seemed to give new life to society, by infusing into its composition the element of a healthful competition. In Windsor county, the want of an appropriate building for holding the courts had for some time been acknowledged, but the rivalry existing between the inland and the river towns had prevented the selection of a location. A meeting was finally called by the authority of the county, at the town house in Windsor, for the purpose of deciding in what town a court house and jail should be erected. In answer to the call a few were present at the meeting on the 17th of March, but nothing was accomplished, from the want of a quorum. Aware of the difficulties which would arise from a discussion of the eligibility of different localities, and convinced that Windsor, already a county town, afforded the greatest advantages for the erection of a county building, a number of the citizens of that place assembled, and subscribed upward of £100 towards defraying the expenses of erecting an edifice fifty feet in length and thirty-four in width, to be finished in a manner appropriate to the uses for which it was designed. A competent builder was immediately engaged, and the structure was commenced within three days after its erection had been resolved on.*

For the purpose of inciting the Legislature of New York to action, Governor Clinton laid before the Senate, on the 27th of March, a number of letters containing accounts of the disorders prevailing "in Cumberland county," and of the "disagreeable

 

* Acts Gen. Ass. Vt., March, 1784. Thomas's Massachusetts Spy, April 14th, 1784, No. 677.

 

 

 

 

1784.]                  ABILITY OF CHITTENDEN AND ALLEN.                 535

 

situation" to which many of the citizens of New York had been thereby reduced. This information was soon after transmitted to Philadelphia, and Charles De Witt and Ephraim Paine, two of the delegates in Congress from New York, represented to that body, on the 24th of April, and in the plainest terms, their views and those of their constituents respecting the course which had been adopted to drive the Yorkers either into submission or from their homes. But Governor Chittenden and Ethan Allen, though not the most polished rhetoricians, possessed by nature a forcible style of expression, and proved themselves on paper, as well as in the field, a match for their antagonists. While the New York delegates, on the floor of Congress, were deprecating the condition to which many of the inhabitants in Windham county had been reduced, and were calling on the "impartial world" to bear witness to the "rectitude, moderation, and liberality" of the measures they had adopted to effect a settlement of the question of jurisdiction, Chittenden declared that Vermont would act on the defensive, and invoked the twelve states to "observe a strict neutrality, and let the two contending states settle their own controversy" Allen, too, urged his fellow-citizens to combine to support the "liberty and independency" of the state, and in the columns of the Vermont Gazette laid before the public his own views as to the policy which should obtain in the formation and establishment of a nation. During the summer, the congressional committee to whom the representation of Paine and De Witt had been referred, reported favorably to the admission of Vermont into the Union. An effort was made, on the 3d of June, to take into consideration the views embodied in the report, but Congress refused to devote their time to the subject, and the question of the controversy, so far as the representatives of the United States were concerned, without any agreement as to the time when it should be fairly met and definitely settled, was left undecided, to the great detriment of all parties concerned in its final disposition.*

At the session of the Superior court, held in February last, official notice had been taken of the injury done to Sergt. Silvanus Fisk, and a presentment had been made of those who it was supposed had been concerned in the attack in which he suffered. Some of the delinquents had been punished at the

 

* Vermont Gazette, November 18th, 1784. Journals Am. Cong. June 3d, 1784. Journal Senate, N. Y., 7th session, p. 71.

 

 

 

 

536                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1784.

 

time, while others had been allowed to remain unapprehended. On the 28th of June, warrants founded on the indictments of the grand jury were issued, and Henry Evans, Samuel Bixby, William White, Joseph Eliot, Samuel Melendy, and Giles Roberts were brought before a court of inquiry, held at Westminster on the 9th of July, at which John Sessions, chief judge of the county court, presided. As the result of this examination, the delinquents were bound over to take their trial on the charges alleged against them, at the next session of the Superior court. Worn out by the indignities to which for a long time they had been subjected, and aware that a continuance in their present course would only sink them deeper in trouble, they presented their grievances to the General Assembly of Vermont on the 25th of October. In the form of a petition, they stated that they had for several years owed and paid allegiance to the United States and the state of New York, and in consequence of their loyalty had suffered by imprisonment, confisca­tion of estates, etc. Referring to the apathy of Congress, they acknowledged that they had lost all confidence in "public faith." Though expressing their willingness to stand the trial at which they had bound themselves to appear, they asked for pardon, and to be received as citizens of the state.

Another petition of a similar import, signed by twenty of the "late disaffected inhabitants," was presented to the General Assembly on the same day. Both papers were referred to a committee, who, on the 27th, reported favorably to the prayer of the petitioners. A bill was accordingly prepared and passed, granting a free pardon to twenty-six persons, who had previously been open and avowed opponents of the government of Vermont. Of these, seven were citizens of Brattleborough, eighteen of Guilford, and one of Marlborough. By the terms of the act, forgiveness was extended to them for all the crimes they had committed, and all their property, real and personal, which had been taken from them, as forfeited to the state, and which had not been disposed of, was to be returned, provided they should appear before some justice of the peace in the county of Windham, within two months from the time of the publication of the act, and take the oath of allegiance to the state.

In answer to a petition from Charles Phelps for "a full pardon," and a reversion of the sentence of the Supreme court, respecting the confiscation of his property, a joint committee of the Council and Assembly stated in their report, that he had

 

 

 

 

1784.]                    FULL PARDON OF CHARLES PHELPS.                    537

 

acted meritoriously in former times, in endeavoring to prevent the state of New York from re-granting the lands on the New Hampshire Grants, and in opposing a union and association of the people of Cumberland county with New York; that he had been "very serviceable to his country, by procuring and selling, without profit to himself, a quantity of arms, ammunition, and salt;" that, on the other hand, he had for a number of years past, been "exceedingly obstinate against and troublesome to" the government; and had had the sentence of imprison­ment and confiscation passed upon him as the punishment of the crime of treason. On account of "his former merit, his advanced age, and the bad circumstances of his family," they recom­mended that his request should be granted. By the act which passed the Assembly on the strength of this advice, the attain­der of treason with which he had been disgraced at the last session of the court was removed, and directions were given that all his estate, both real and personal, with the exception of such as had been already disposed of, should be restored to him on the payment of £35 lawful money, as an indemnification to the state for the costs of prosecuting the various actions which had been brought against him. Satisfied with the terms of this act, Phelps accepted the pardon for which he had asked, and became, nominally, a citizen of Vermont. In feeling and principle he remained devoted to the cause of New York until the day of his death. His last will was dated at "New Marlborough, in the county of Cumberland and state of New York." In this instrument, referring to the people of Vermont, he stated that they had deprived him of his possessions, and thereby reduced him to poverty, but expressed a faint hope that relief would be found for his descendants in the legislation of coming years. However mistaken he may have been in the means by which he sought to manifest his loyalty towards New York, yet the sincerity of his professions in behalf of that state, during the time in which he avowed them, cannot be doubted, and in the report of the committee of the Legislature of Vermont, on which was based the act of pardon which was passed in his favor, even his enemies acknowledged the good services he had done in behalf of American freedom, and bore witness to his strenuous endeavors in past periods, to advance the interests and increase the comforts of the early settlers on the New Hampshire Grants.*

 

* Journals Gen. Ass. Vt., Oct. 26th, 1784. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 494, 495.

 

 

 

 

538                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1785.

 

The strenuous measures of the government of Vermont, exerted for several years with determination, had at length silenced effectually the open opposition of those who acknow­ledged the jurisdiction of New York. The inhabitants of the "separate and independent" state, who for eight years had maintained a civil and political existence, began now to look forward with assurance to the period when they should be recognized as an integral part of the confederated states, and permitted to enjoy the benefits arising from the Union which they, to a certain extent, had helped to create and maintain.* Though Congress refused to encourage them in the hope that Vermont would be admitted, as an equal, to a share in the federal government, yet the report had gone abroad that no difficulty would be experienced in effecting the long-desired connection. Alarmed at this rumor, Jotham Biglow, Timothy Church, William White, and Samuel Bixby, in behalf of a number of the "loyal subjects" of New York, residing in Guilford and Brattleborough, wrote to Governor Clinton on the 18th of March, 1785. "We would inform you," said they in this communication, "that it is commonly reported that there are now twelve states convened at Congress in the city of New York, besides the agents from Vermont, who we do hear have reported that all those people that called themselves the subjects of New York, have yielded quiet submission unto Vermont, and that they have taken the oath of fidelity unto it; and also, how that the Vermonters have obeyed Congress in restoring and in making good all our damages; and also, how that thay have relinquished the large fines that they have laid on many of us for obeying Congress, or rather, for disobeying Vermont. Now, kind sir, we have great reason to bless the great God of truth, that we and many others, not only here on the Grants, but also our neighbors in the Bay state, can with truth say, and do dare to say, that there is no color of truth in such a report. We say that there is not one man of the York party who has taken the oath of allegiance unto Vermont, excepting only such of them as have been taken and confined in

 

* "The Vermonters seem much elated at the idea of their being admitted into the confederation of the United States: and indeed they have reason for exulta­tion, since they will participate in the advantages, and have borne but a small part of the expenses attending the late Revolution. Their delegates have arrived at Congress, and presented their credentials, but whether they have taken their seats, we are not informed." Salem (Mass.) Gazette, January 4th, 1785.

 

 

 

 

1785.]        A DENUNCIATORY LETTER FROM THE YORKERS.       539

 

gaol, and fed with the bread and water of affliction, and made to suffer both with cold and hunger, being in iron chains and fetters."

Continuing in this strain, they declared the statement that restitution had been made to them for damages, "a right-down falsehood;" that, on the contrary, their opponents were "laying heavy fines and taxes" on them, "yea, very heavy indeed;" that his "only cow" had been taken from many a poor man; and that several citizens had been obliged "to quit their farms and flee into the Bay state for protection, with their families, there to get their bread as they can." They assured the Go­vernor that it was the fixed determination of some of their number who were "somewhat low in the world," to "leave these regions of horror as soon as the spring doth open, and fly away, that they may be at rest from these Vermonters." Every day we are "in jeopardy of our lives and fortunes," said they. "We are taken for every offence, let it be ever so small; and as certainly as that we are taken and tried by the Vermont authority, we are obliged to pay all costs and damages — whether just or unjust, it makes no matter." Having made known their condition by the presentation of facts which no one pretended to deny, they concluded their memorial with a petition, which Governor Clinton would have been rejoiced to grant, had he possessed the power. "It is the hearty prayer and wish of all your good subjects here, that his Excellency would exert himself unto the uttermost of his power to deliver this distressed people out of the hands of these wicked tyrants."*

Though Congress studiously maintained silence on the ques­tion of the admission of a new state, the legislators of Vermont deemed it best to be prepared to meet any proposals to that effect which might be offered. On the 18th of October, the General Assembly, then in session at Windsor, elected Moses Robinson, Ira Allen, and Stephen R. Bradley, their agents to Congress. No opportunity was afforded these gentlemen of initiating negotiations for a friendly union between Vermont and the United States; yet there were but few in the state who could have conducted a transaction of this nature with greater dignity and effect than they.

Internal dissensions having been brought to an end, the dan­gers of invasion from a foreign foe having long since ceased to

 

* George Clinton Papers, in office Sec. State N. Y., vol. xx. doc. 5563.

 

 

 

 

510                          HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.                  [1785.

 

be expected, the inhabitants of Vermont began to turn their attention with great assiduity to the improvement of the moral and civil condition of the state. Permission having been granted by the General Assembly, taxes were levied in various towns for the purpose of obtaining the means of building churches and grammar schools. Old county houses were repaired, and new ones erected. Communication between the different towns was rendered more easy by the construction of roads. Rivers were spanned by bridges built with the proceeds of lotteries authorized by law. Ferries were established at available points on the Connecticut. The farmer cultivated his land with greater care and more persevering labor. The artizan toiled at his occupation cheerfully, and with good hope of the future. One cause for disquiet alone remained. The incubus of debt brooded over many like a threatening cloud. Payment, if enforced at this time, could not be made without producing the direst want. When, at a later period, judicial authority was invoked to enforce the execution of the laws against debtors, results followed which showed but too plainly the remoter effects of the revolution, which for seven years had wasted the energy and expended the treasure of a nation.