LEGISLATION OF THE NEW YORK COLONIAL ASSEMBLY.
EVIDENCES OF A REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT.
Census of Cumberland and Gloucester Counties — Samuel Wells and Crean Brush chosen Representatives — Laws for Regulating the Affairs of the Counties — Road Law — License Law — Law for Supervising Intestates' Estates, and Regulating the Probate of Wills — Petition for Confirmation Charters — Law respecting the Sheriff's Fees — Law Establishing Fairs — Pay of Representatives — Road Law — Law Forbidding Justices' Courts to be held in Taverns — "Sons of Liberty" — Letter to the Supervisors of Cumberland County — Meeting at Chester — Patriotic resolves of the Westminster Convention — Troubles at Dummerston — Dr. Harvey, the Town Clerk — His Account of the Imprisonment and Release of Lieut. Leonard Spaulding — Another Meeting at Chester — Second Convention at Westminster — Committee of Inspection — Third Convention at Westminster — Committee of Correspondence — Petition to the New York Legislature.
IN the various petitions, remonstrances, and memorials which had been presented to the governors of New York at different times, by persons claiming to be residents on the "Grants," the population of that district had been made to appear much greater than it really was. To come at the truth on this point, Governor Dunmore, on the 16th of January, 1771, directed the sheriffs of Cumberland and Gloucester counties to take an enumeration of the inhabitants of their respective bailiwicks. As the result of this census, it was shown that there were in the twenty-six towns in the county of Cumberland, from which returns were received, of white males, one thousand and eighty, under the age of sixteen; one thousand and thirty-three, between sixteen and sixty; and sixty, aged sixty and upwards; of white females, nine hundred and forty-nine, under sixteen; and eight hundred and eighty-seven above that age; of black males, seven, and of black females, eight. The whole population amounted to four thousand and twenty-four persons, of whom seven hundred and forty-four were heads of families. At the
188 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1772.
same time the total number of whites and blacks in Gloucester county was found to be seven hundred and twenty-two.* With these data, the Legislature of New York were prepared to appreciate better the wants of a people who, on account of their distance from the seat of government, had been neglected, although their rights were nearly the same as those of the inhabitants of the other counties of the province.†
Among the complaints which were made when the subject of removing the court-house was first mooted, was one arising from the fact that the people of Cumberland county were denied representation in the Provincial Legislature. Thomas Chandler, writing to Governor Dunmore, on the 10th of April, had informed him of this "grievance," and had expressed his belief that his lordship would endeavor to redress it. The right of petition being that most frequently exercised in such cases, the people of the county drew up an address to Governor Tryon, on the 7th of December, 1772, in which they set forth the "powers, privileges, and immunities" to which they were by the terms of their charter entitled. They declared themselves "wholly disposed to demean themselves as good subjects," but expressed a desire of "enjoying, in common with the inhabitants of the other counties," the liberty of choosing two representatives "to serve in the General Assembly." "Such representation," said they, "will fulfil the hopes of your petitioners, by establishing that firm and lasting connection which they are desirous should ever subsist between them and the government to which it is their happiness to belong, and will enable them the more readily to accomplish the good purposes of government, by obtaining such laws as will most tend to its honor and their own prosperity." This address, which bore at its foot one hundred and fifty-one signatures, having been read in Council on the 23d of December, was favorably received, and a writ was ordered to issue, enabling the freeholders and inhabitants of the county to choose two representatives to sit in the next General Assembly of the province. At the election, which was held agreeable to this order, Samuel Wells, of Brattleborough, and Crean Brush, of Westminster, were returned as representatives. The Legislature being then in session, they soon after repaired to the city
* Williams's Hist. Vt., 1st ed., p. 411; 2d ed. ii 478 Brattleborough Semi-Weekly Eagle, vol. iii., nos. 43, 45-47, 49-51, 58, 60, 76. Doc Hist. N. Y., iv. 1034
† See Appendix H
1772.] THE INDUCTION OF WELLS. AND BRUSH. 189
of New York, and, having notified their attendance to the house on the 2d of February, 1773, were called in, and after presenting their credentials, were ordered to withdraw. Having been received as representatives by a unanimous vote, they were waited upon by Mr. De Lancey and Mr. Nicoll, two of the representatives, by whom they were conducted to one of the commissioners appointed to qualify representatives, and having taken the required oaths, were allowed to take their seats "at the table." Such was the ceremony by which members were inducted into office under the old courtier-like regime. Republicanism has removed most of the forms which served to give dignity to the legislative transactions of our ancestors, and the result may, for a time, have been beneficial. But the experience of the last twenty years has shown, at least in our deliberative bodies, that a decrease in respectful conduct has followed closely upon a disuse of ceremonial observances, and the scenes which have lately disgraced the floor of our National Congress have awakened in many a heart a wish for the revival of some of that becoming etiquette which lent so great a grace to the proceedings of the assemblies of former days.*
Previous to the election of Wells and Brush, some of the members of the Legislature had proposed the passage of a number of necessary and judicious laws, relating to Cumberland county. Leave having been granted, on the 15th of January, 1772, to bring in such acts as would meet the ends designed, the yeomanry of Cumberland had the satisfaction of knowing before the close of the session that their wants had been considered, and that the punishment of the statute-breaker and the protection of good men were certain, so far as legal enactments could avail, to produce these results.
The first of these acts, passed on the 26th of February, was for the revival and continuation of an act which had been made six years before for the purpose of "laying out, regulating and keeping in repair" the roads of the county.† At the same time a law was enacted for regulating the inns and taverns of the county. By its provisions no person was allowed to sell "by retail, any rum, brandy, wine, or spirits of any kind, under the
* Council Minutes, in office Sec. State, N. Y., 1765-1783, xxvi. 331. Journal Gen. Ass. N. Y., 1767-1775. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 816, 817.
† See ante, pp. 138, 139. By an act passed March 8th, 1773, this act was extended to Gloucester county. Laws of N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 487-490, 646, 804, 805.
190 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1772.
quantity of one quart; nor any cider, strong beer, metheglin, or any such strong liquor, or any mixt liquors, directly or indirectly, under the quantity of five gallons," without a license, on pain of forfeiting the sum of twenty shillings, current money, for every offence, one-half of the fine to be paid to him who should sue for it, the other half to the overseers of the poor, for the benefit of those under their care. Licenses were to be granted for one year by the court of General Sessions of the Peace, to such persons as the justices should recommend, and were to be entered by the clerk on the court records. The justice from whom a recommendation proceeded, was to receive three shillings for every license granted, and the clerk two shillings for his services. By another provision, the act was to be read once in every year at the session of the court.*
Many difficulties had already arisen from the imperfect condition of the laws regarding the probate of wills and the settlement of the affairs of intestates. By an act passed on the 11th of November, 1692, in the fourth year of the reign of William and Mary, the courts of Common Pleas for the remote counties in the colony of New York, had been authorized "to take the examination of witnesses to any will within the said respective remote counties upon oath, and to grant letters of administration."
On the 24th of March, 1772, an act was passed extending the aforesaid act to Cumberland and Gloucester counties, giving to the courts of Common Pleas in those counties power "to take the examination of any witnesses to wills upon oath;" and "to act, do, and perform every matter and thing" pertaining to the supervising of intestates' estates, the regulating of the probate of wills, and the granting of letters of administration. When the courts were not in session, the same authority was given to the judges and justices by virtue of their office, and the clerks were ordered to give such assistance as might with propriety be
* This act was amended March 8th, 1773, and was extended to Gloucester county. As altered, no person was allowed to retail "any Rum, Brandy, Wine, or Spirits of any kind, under the Quantity of Five Gallons," without a license. No person having a license "to retail strong Liquors," was permitted to "sell any mixt Liquors, directly or indirectly, on pain of forfeiting the Sum of Twenty Shillings," current money, for each offence, to be recovered and applied as directed by the former act. The judges of the Inferior court of Common Pleas were authorized to grant licenses at the meetings of the court of General Sessions of the Peace, to such persons as they should deem proper. Laws of N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 646, 647, 805.
1773.] PETITION FOR CONFIRMATION CHARTERS. 191
demanded of them. Owing, no doubt, to the troubles consequent upon the prosecution of the Deans for felling his Majesty's trees, as related in a previous chapter, a bill was brought in, on the 28th of February, for preventing abuses "in the destruction of timber by joint tenants, or tenants in common, to the prejudice of their fellow joint tenants or commoners." It was ordered to a second reading, but, as no further account of it appears on the Assembly journals, it is probable that it was defeated.*
Although a number of the townships east of the Green Mountains, had received confirmation charters from New York agreeable to the order in Council of July 20th, 1764, still the majority of them were held by grants from New Hampshire. To produce a uniformity in the titles, about four hundred of the favorers of the jurisdiction of New York residing in the counties of Cumberland and Gloucester, petitioned the King on the 26th of January, 1773, to confirm to them the rest of the townships for one half of the usual fees of office. "Your petitioners," said they, "are not desirous of any change of jurisdiction, but are perfectly satisfied with, and earnestly wish to continue under the government of New York, and are only anxious to have their titles made valid and secure by confirmations under the Great Seal of the said province, which have been hitherto suspended, as your petitioners are informed, by your Majesty's royal instructions." On account of the insecurity of their titles, they declared that they could not carry on their improvements "with spirit and vigour" for fear of being deprived of them and losing their labor; that they were not entitled to the rights and privileges of freeholders, by reason of the defects of their New Hampshire charters; and from the same cause, were unable to support any action in behalf of their landed property, when it was injured or withheld from them. "While these distressing circumstances," said they, "fall heavy on individuals, they at the same time obstruct the growth and further cultivation of these new counties, impede the equal administration of justice, and prevent the payment and augmentation of your Majesty's revenue from the quit rents." These were some of the reasons which induced them to seek for a securer title than that under
* Act of Assembly, passed in the Province of New York, London ed. MDCCXIX., 1691-1718, pp. 16, 17. Acts of 12th George III., in Laws of N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 646, 647, 707. Journal Gen. Ass. N. Y., 1767-1775.
192 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1773.
which they then held. But a reduction of the fees of office one half, as prayed for by the petitioners, was deemed too great a "mark of favor and indulgence" to be granted, and the riotous conduct of the settlers on the west side of the mountains received more attention from government than the reasonable complaints of the more peaceable inhabitants of Cumberland and Gloucester.*
At the session of the Assembly of New York in 1773, an act was passed on the 18th of March relative to Cumberland county, for the purpose of settling certain disputed questions regarding the sheriff's duties and privileges. By the law enacted on that occasion, he was authorized to compute his mileage fees for the service of all writs and papers" from the court-house at Westminster. He was also empowered, for the time being," to demand "the usual customary" mileage fees for every mile he might "necessarily travel in or out" of the county, "in order to facilitate the return" of writs and processes issued from the Supreme court of the colony. An affidavit from him of the number of miles he had thus travelled, was declared to be sufficient proof when presented to one of the judges of the Inferior court of Common Pleas, and, after the approval of the affidavit, the sheriff was allowed to tax his mileage fees in the bills of costs. In addition to these privileges, he was authorized, by himself or his deputies, to serve justices' warrants, summonses, executions, and other precepts in civil causes, and to collect the fees for his trouble.†
By an act passed on the 11th of November, 1692, when Benjamin Fletcher was Governor of New York, for "settling fairs and markets in each respective city and county throughout the province," an attempt had been made to, excite and maintain an interest in improving the agricultural condition of the country. The manner in which these fairs were conducted, was most liberal and beneficial. According to the regulations, "all and every person or persons, inhabitants, strangers, or sojourners" might resort to them, and "carry or cause to be carried" thither, "all sorts of cattle, horses, mares, colts, grain, victuals, provisions, and other necessaries, together with all sorts of merchandise of what nature soever," and expose them for sale or barter "in gross, or by retail, at the times, hours, and seasons"
* Doc. Hist, N. Y., iv. 821-824.
† Act of 13th George III., in Laws of
New York, Van Schaack's ed. 1691 — 1773,
pp. 796, 797.
1773.] COUNTY FAIRS. 193
appointed. At each fair, an officer, styled a Governor, had supreme control, and was empowered to "commissionate "rulers of the fair, who were "to hold Courts of Pypowder," in the manner in which they were conducted in England.* In accordance with these regulations, an act was passed on the 8th of March, 1773, "respecting fairs in the counties of Albany, Cumberland, and Tryon." In making provision for the second named county, two fairs were appointed to be holden annually at Westminster the first from the first Wednesday in June until the evening of the Friday next ensuing, and the second, for the same period, from the first Wednesday in September. All the rules and usages which had obtained under the old act, were applied with full force by the new act to the regulation of the fairs in the county of Cumberland.†
A question having arisen as to the remuneration which the members from Cumberland were to receive for their services, an act was passed on the 8th of March by which the sum of twelve shillings, current money, was allotted to each of them for every day's attendance on the Assembly. Ten days was apportioned to each at the beginning, and the same number of days at the close of the session, to be used in going to and returning from the Assembly, and for the time thus consumed, regular attendance fees were allowed. The county treasurer was ordered to pay the representatives their wages on a warrant from the supervisors, and the sum thus expended was to be assessed as other charges, and collected within ten days after the assessment.
On the 29th of November, 1745, an act had been passed to prevent damages by swine in Dutchess county. Cumberland being in want of similar protection, this act was extended to that county on the 8th of March, 1773, and was declared to be in force until the 1st of January, 1775.‡
* The word Piepoudre, Piepowder, or Pypowder, is derived from the French pied, foot, and poudreux, dusty, from poudre, dust; or pied-puldreaux, a peddler. Piepowder courts were granted at fairs in England, for the purpose of investigating all manner of causes arising and disorders committed upon the place, and were so called either "because justice was done to any injured person before the dust of the fair was off his feet," or because the principal disputes determined were between those who resorted to the fairs, and the alien merchants or peddlers who generally attended on such occasions. Brand's Popular Antiquities, ii. 468.
† Act of 4th William and Mary, and act of 13th George III., in Laws of New
York, Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 11-14, 802.
‡ The act of November 29th, 1745, referring to Dutchess county, was again
194 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
At the session of the Legislature, for the year 1774, only one act was passed in which especial reference was had to Cumberland county. This act, passed on the 9th of March, had for its object, the revision of the laws concerning "common and public highways," and the facilitation of the business of "raising the county charges." By its provisions, all disputes which might arise as to the "place proper for making a road," were to be determined by commissioners appointed by the court of General Sessions, who were to be paid by the towns interested. The road which they might lay out, was to be worked as were other roads. Owing to the importance of Westminster, as the county town, particular care was taken that the approaches to it should be kept in good condition. Its inhabitants who were freeholders and who lived on the "town street," or who owned lands bordering thereon, were each of them ordered to work three days during the year 1774, "in clearing, opening, and repairing the said town street, to the breadth of ten rods." This service was to be deducted from the amount of general road labor, which each was required to perform. As to the classes of persons bound to or excused from labor, by the general road law, it was enacted, that every laborer or tradesman who was not a freeholder or housekeeper, should be obliged to work only three days in each year on the highways, and all indented servants living with and laboring for their masters, and young men living with and laboring for their parents, and not freeholders, were wholly excused from road work on their own account. Freeholders were compelled to keep the roads in repair, and eight hours of labor in that service, was deemed a day's work.
A short time before, a road had been laid out through the townships of Brattleborough, New Marlborough, Whiting, and Draper, in Cumberland county, and through the townships of Readesborough, New Stamford, and Pownal, in Albany county. As this road was calculated to facilitate the transportation of produce to market, and raise the value of land, the freeholders residing in the townships through which it passed, were ordered to work on it three days in each year, thenceforward. Samuel Anderson of Albany county, and John Houghton and Malachi Church of Brattleborough, were appointed commissioners to in‑
revived on the 1st of April, 1775, to be continued until January 1st, 1790, and was, as before, extended to Cumberland county. Act of 15th George III. in New York Colony Laws, 1774, 1775, p. 127. See also act of 19th George II., and of 13th George III., in Laws of N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 266, 803.
1774.] LAST SESSION OF THE COLONIAL LEGISLATURE. 195
spect the road and alter its course, if they should think best, and were allowed eight shillings per diem for their services.
To facilitate the raising of county charges, the justices of the peace, in case any township or district should neglect to choose a supervisor, assessors, or collectors, "at the proper time," were authorized to nominate, at the next court session, the officers so neglected to be chosen, who were obliged to serve under a penalty of ten pounds. This penalty, if incurred, was to be sued for by the county treasurer, as were also moneys detained by the collectors against the will of the sheriff. The second Tuesday in June was fixed upon as the day on which the supervisors were to hold their annual meeting at Westminster. The laws passed by the New York Legislature for the benefit of Cumberland county, although wisely planned, were not readily executed. Where a direct and palpable benefit was to ensue from their observance, they were obeyed; but when any one chose to break them, his disobedience was but little regarded, and was still more rarely punished.*
The last session of the Colonial Legislature of New York, held in the early part of the year 1775, was noted for the amount of business which was transacted and the large number of bills which were passed. Of the latter, only two related to Cumberland county, and of these, that by which the western bounds of the county were changed, has been already noticed.† The other bill, enacted on the 1st of April, had for its object, the prevention of the trial of causes in taverns, by justices of the peace. In accordance with an established law of the colony, justices of the peace were allowed to hold a court for the trial of causes to the value of five pounds and under. In Cumberland county, it had come to be the fashion for justices to hold their courts in taverns, "to the great prejudice of the suitors, and damage of the inhabitants." To prevent this abuse, justices who should be guilty of it after the second Tuesday in June following, were
* Act of 14th George III., in New York Colony Laws, 1774, 1775, pp. 51-55.
† The law referred to, was passed March 12th, 1772, and was entitled, "An Act to empower Justices of the Peace, Mayors, Recorders, and Aldermen to try causes to the value of five pounds, and under, and for suspending an Act therein mentioned." Act of 12th George III., in Laws of New York, Van Schaack's ed. 1691-1773, p. 648.
The "Act therein mentioned" was passed December 16th, 1737, while George Clarke was Lieutenant-Governor, and was entitled, "An Act for establishing and regulating Courts, to determine causes of Forty Shillings, and under, in this Colony." — Ibid. pp. 194-196.
196 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
to forfeit for each offence ten pounds, and the proceedings of the court held in disobedience to this order, were declared null and void. Forfeitures in such cases, were to be sued for and recovered, with costs of suit, by a qui tam action in any court of record in the colony, one half of the sum to be allowed the prosecutor for his trouble, the other half to be appropriated to the support of the poor in the township or district where the offence was committed.*
On the 3d of April, two days after the passage of this act, the Colonial Assembly of New York adjourned, never to meet again. The feelings of hatred towards Great Britain, which had originated, in part, in the extension of the stamp laws to the colonies ten years previous, had in the mean time been increasing in force, and now, as then, found their exponent in the conduct of the "Sons of Liberty." Long had these determined men waited for the time when they should be able to demand of Great Britain the free exercise of those rights which had been guaranteed to them as her subjects. That time had now come, and they were not unprepared to improve the opportunities which it offered.
Among the most prominent actors in the ante-revolutionary history of New York, was Isaac Low. Early in the year 1774, a committee of correspondence had been formed in the city of New York, for the purpose of ascertaining the feelings of the inhabitants of the province in regard to the usurpations of the mother country. As chairman of this committee, Low had written to the supervisors of Cumberland county, on the 21st of May, in that year, for information as to the measures which the majority of the people in that part of New York would be likely to adopt in the present crisis. At their meeting in June, no action was taken upon his letter by the supervisors, and, either "through ignorance or intention," they endeavored to keep the knowledge of the existence of such a document from the people. The secret, nevertheless, was whispered abroad, and having become known to Dr. Reuben Jones of Rockingham, and Capt. Azariah Wright of Westminster, was communicated by them to the towns in which they lived. Meetings were, in consequence, called in those towns, and a committee from each was appointed to wait on the supervisors at their meeting in September, to see if they had in their possession
* Act of 15th George III., in New York Colony Laws, 1774, 1775, p. 128.
1774.] CALL FOR A CONVENTION. 197
any papers which should have been laid before the people of the county. When that, which had been a suspicion, proved to be a fact, the supervisors made many excuses for their conduct. Some pleaded ignorance, "some one thing, and some another." But "the most of them," says Dr. Jones, in his account of the affair, "did seem to think that they could send a return to the committee at New York, without ever laying it before their constituents; which principle, at this day, so much prevails, that it is the undoing of the people." "Men, at this day," adds the philosophic chronicler, "are so tainted with the principles of tyranny, that they would fain believe that, as they are chosen by the people to any kind of office, for any particular thing, they have the sole power of that people by whom they are chosen, and can act in the name of that people in any matter or thing, though it is not in any, connection with what they were chosen for."*
A resolution was now formed that no answer should be returned to Low's letter, until it had been laid before every town in the county. In accordance with this determination, the people in each town were invited to send delegates to a convention to be holden at Westminster on the 19th of October following. When the call was received at Chester, four of the inhabitants, by a written application, dated October 3d, requested Col. Thomas Chandler, the town clerk, to call a town meeting, that it might be known by a public expression whether the people were willing "to choose a comte to make report to ye comte of Correspondence," whether they would "stand for the privileges of North America;" whether they were content "to receive the late acts of Parliament as Just," or would "view them as unjust, oppressive, and unconstitutional." A meeting was accordingly held on the 10th of October. Col. Chandler was chosen moderator, and a committee of five were directed to join the county committee for the purpose of preparing a report for the committee of correspondence in the city of New York. Not content with lending their aid to effect those changes in behalf of which many were soon to suffer, they resolved in the most patriotic manner, and in language whose meaning was unmistakable, "that the People of America are Naturally Intituled to all the Priviledges of Free Borne Subjects of Great Britain, which Priviledges they have Never
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 55.
198 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
Forfeited; that Every Man's Estate, Honestly acquired, is his own, and no person on Earth has a Right to take it away without the Proprietor's Consent, unless he forfeit it by some crime of his committing; that all acts of the British Parliament, Tending to take away or abridge these Rights, ought not to be obeyed; that the People of this Town will joyn with their Fellow American Subjects in opposing in all Lawfull ways every incroachment on their Natural Rights." Thus spoke the people of Chester. In capital letters and in syllables strengthened by heavy gutturals, they spoke, but their language was not the "great swelling words of vanity." Every sound contained a meaning, and every meaning seemed to look forward to a development of itself in action. Similar meetings were held in other places with similar results.*
On the 19th of October, eighteen delegates from twelve towns, met in convention at the "County Hall" in Westminster. The session lasted two days. Col. John Hazeltine of Townshend, was chosen chairman, and the meeting having been properly organized, the letter of Isaac Low, the act of the British Parliament by which a duty had been levied on tea for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, the Boston port bill, and several arbitrary declarations of the English government, were read in the hearing of the people. These papers were referred to a committee consisting of John Grout, of Chester; Joshua Webb, of Westminster; Paul Spooner, of Hertford; Edward Harris, of Halifax; and Major William Williams, of Marlborough. In the report which they submitted on the following day, they briefly reviewed the sufferings which they had endured as pioneers in the settlement of a new country, and the hardships they had encountered in "subduing the wilderness, and converting it into fruitful fields." They expressed the greatest surprise that Americans should, by the late acts of Parliament, have been deprived "of that great right of calling that their own," which they by their industry had honestly acquired; that the King and Parliament should dare to say with impunity they had "a right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever," and that they should "attempt to exercise that authority, by taking, at their pleasure, the properties of the King's American subjects without their consent." "He who has nothing" — this was the argument of these liberty‑
* MS. records of the town of Chester.
1774.] RESOLUTIONS PASSED. 199
loving men, who, regardful of the course which England had pursued towards her colonies, looked forward with dread apprehensions to the future — "he who has nothing but what another has power at pleasure lawfully to take away from him, has nothing that he can call his own, and is, in the fullest sense of the word, a slave — a slave to him who has such power; and as no part of British America stipulated to settle as slaves, the privileges of British subjects are their privileges, and whoever endeavours to deprive them of their privileges is guilty of treason against the Americans, as well as the British constitution."
In view of these sentiments, they resolved "that as true and loyal subjects of our gracious sovereign, King George the Third of Great Britain, &c., we will spend our lives and fortunes in his service; that as we will defend our King while he reigns over us, his subjects, and wish his reign may be long and glorious, so we will defend our just rights, as British subjects, against every power that shall attempt to deprive us of them, while breath is in our nostrils, and blood in our veins; that considering the late acts of the British Parliament, for blocking up the port of Boston, &c., which we view as arbitrary and unjust, inasmuch as the Parliament have sentenced them unheard, and dispensed with all the modes of law and justice which we think necessary to distinguish between lawfully obtaining right for property injured, and arbitrarily enforcing to comply with their will, be it right or wrong, we resolve to assist the people of Boston in defence of their liberties to the utmost of our abilities." In the next resolution they announced in the most explicit terms the rules by which their own conduct should be governed in circumstances in which they might be nearly concerned. "Sensible," said they, "that the strength of our opposition to the late acts consists in a uniform, manly, steady, and determined mode of procedure, we will bear testimony against, and discourage all riotous, tumultuous, and unnecessary mobs which tend to injure the persons or properties of harmless individuals; but endeavour to treat those persons whose abominable principles and actions show them to be enemies to American liberty, as loathsome animals not fit to be touched or to have any society or connection with."
Agreeable to the suggestions contained in Low's letter, a committee composed of Joshua Webb, John Grout, William Williams, Deacon John Sessions of Westminster, and Capt.
200 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
Joab Hoisington of Windsor, were chosen to communicate with other committees of correspondence in the province and elsewhere. Thanks were returned to the committee in New York city for the notice they had taken of the "infant county," and the chairman was directed to forward the resolutions of the convention to Isaac Low, and inform him why his letter to the supervisors had not met with an earlier answer. The convention also acknowledged their obligations to John Hazeltine, "for his good services as chairman." This report was read, paragraph by paragraph, and was adopted unanimously. Although there is no record to that effect, yet power seems to have been given to the chairman to convoke another convention whenever the good of the county might seem to demand it.*
The town of Dummerston numbered among its inhabitants some who were unfriendly to the jurisdiction of New York, and who regarded the order of the King in Council, by which Connecticut river was declared the eastern boundary of that province, as especially tyrannical. Such were pre-eminently the views of Solomon Harvey, the physician and clerk of this patriotic village, and the records which he kept, in virtue of the latter office, exhibit on almost every page, traces of his peculiar disposition. The dislike which he, in common with others, entertained towards the government of New York, had no doubt been increased by the aristocratic bearing of some of the county officials who held their appointments from the
* American Archives, Fourth Series, 1775, vol. ii. cols. 1064-1066. The proceedings of this convention — the first held within the limits of the present state of Vermont for the purpose of opposing the tyrannous measures of Great Britain — were not made public until the middle of the year following. Meantime, the Congress of the United Colonies had been organized, and a report had got abroad charging the people of Cumberland county with being unfriendly to its measures. On the 23d of June, 1775, some person in New York city — probably John Hazeltine, for he had arrived there as a member of the New York Provincial Congress two days previous — addressed a note to John Holt, the editor of the New York Journal, couched in these words: "The County of Cumberland in this Province, having been represented as inimical to the proceedings of the late Continental Congress at Philadelphia, and to the several Provincial Congresses since held in the respective British Colonies in America in defence of their just rights and freedom; you are desired to publish in the New York Journal the following Proceedings and Resolutions of a General Committee, consisting of the Committees of a number of Towns, by which the whole County was well represented at a meeting in October last. The long delay of the publication was occasioned by some unfair practices of a small but mischievous party, together with the remote situation of the County from the City of New York." Holt complied with the request of his correspondent, and the opinions of the people of Cumberland county were presented in their true light.
1774.] EXTRACT FROM THE RECORDS OF DUMMERSTON. 201
Colonial Legislature; and the abuse of power which these men sometimes exhibited in their functionary character, was used as an argument against those from whom they had received their authority. At a town meeting held at Dummerston on the 17th of May, 1774, the people omitted to choose town trustees. "Should this Excite any Speculation," says Harvey, who entered an account of the event on the town records, several years after its occurrence, "it may be remembered that the Government of New York, has, Ever Since July ye 4th Anno 1764,* Exercised an unpresidented system of tyrany over all that teritory Since Called State of Vermont, and did in almost Numberless instances So Cruelly Harrass and pillage the poor New Settlers in this intolerably inhospitable wilderness, as rendered their hard Erned pittances Scarce worth Enjoying, and all under the Sacred and auspecious Name of administring justice."
Having with these words aroused the recollection of his readers, the eloquent clerk proceeds to unfold to them the reasons which led the people of the town to postpone the election of trustees. "Governor Tryon & his imps, and the minions of the British tyrant (George the third)," these are his glowing words "had by their Hell-invented policy, their plans, Commissions, and other artful insinuations, Extended their influence into Every New plantation, over which they tyranized; and had not failed Even to have Some in their interest in this town, who by art and insinuation, overpersuaded the honest people of this town to Omit Chusing trustees for the year, alledging that they had no right to it by virtue of any Law of the government, notwithstanding the provision made and provided in such Cases, and the Special injunction to all incorporated Societies to Comply with it." The people having discovered the imposition which had been practised upon them, and fearful that some of the higher dignitaries of the county would "appoint some of their emissaries to supply the place of trustees," caused another meeting to be notified, and avoided the mischief which had been intended for them by choosing for themselves the officers whose places had been left vacant at the regular election.†
Fully on their guard, and ready to treat as tyrants those who
* The order in Council which declared Connecticut river to be the eastern boundary of New York, was passed on the 20th of July, 1764. It is to this date that Harvey probably intended to refer.
† MS records of the town of Dummerston, i. 15-17.
202 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
should endeavor to deprive them of any of their privileges, they afterwards sent delegates to the Westminster convention, and were among the foremost in advancing the objects for which it had been convoked. Nor was it long before they had an opportunity to carry into action the spirit which they had evinced in words. An event occurred in their own rock-ribbed village, which allowed full scope to their patriotism, and ended in confirming the jealous watchfulness with which they had resolved to guard their rights. The warm-blooded Dr. Harvey, the "village Hampden" of Dummerston, who, judged by his zeal and courage, seems to have possessed
"Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,"
was the leader on this occasion. He has shown, in his narrative records, how the insolence of Britain was checked by the valor of himself and of his compeers, and it is but right that he should tell the story in his own quaint and energetic mode.
"On the 28th of October, A. Dorn. 1774, Lieut. Leonard Spaulding of the town of Fullham alias Dummerston, was Committed to the Common gaol for high treason against the British tyrant George the third,* by the direction of the infamous Crean Brush, his attorney, & Noah Sabin, William Willard, & Ephraim Ranney Esqrs., and Wm. Paterson the high Shreeve, and Benja. Gorton, and the infamous Bildad Easton, and his Deputies†; upon which, on the following day, viz.
* "P. S. Mr. Spaulding's pretended Crime was, that he threw out some words unfavourable to the British tyrant relating to the Quebec Bill by which he is made Pope of that government." — MS. Dummerston records, i. 20.
The cause of Lieutenant Spaulding's confinement, is more fully given in the annexed extract. "One man they put into close prison for high treason; and all that they proved against him, was, that he said if the king had signed the Quebec bill, it was his opinion that he had broke his coronation-oath. But the good people went and opened the prison door and let him go, and did no violence to any man's person or property." — Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 56.
By the provisions of the Quebec bill, as it was called, the Roman Catholic religion, instead of being tolerated in Quebec, as stipulated by the treaty of peace, was established. By the same act the people of the province were deprived of the right to an Assembly. Trial by jury, and the English laws, in civil cases, were abolished. In the place of the latter laws, the laws of France were established, in direct violation of his Majesty's promise in his royal proclamation. See Journals Am. Cong. i. 37.
† Jacob Laughton of Dummerston who was born in Rutland, Massachusetts, September 10, 1760, and who was contemporary with Dr. Harvey, remarked to the author, in a conversation which took place in December 1851, that "Lieut. Spaulding was a resolute man," and that "it took three or four Yorkers' to conquer him when he was committed to the jail at Westminster."
1774.] EXTRACT FROM THE RECORDS OF DUMMERSTON. 203
October the 29th, a majority of the inhabitants met near the house of Charles Davenport on the green, and made Choice of Sundry persons to Serve as a Committee of Correspondancy to joyne with other towns or respectable bodies of peopel, the better to secure and protect the rights and priveledges of themselves and fellow-cretures from the raveges and imbarassments of the British tyrant, & his New York and other immesaries.
"The persons made choice of, were these, viz., Solomon Harvey, John Butler, Jonathan Knight, Josiah Boyden & Daniel Gates, by whose vigilence & activity Mr. Spaulding was released from his Confinement after about eleven days: the Committee finding it Necessary to be assisted by a Large Concourse of their freeborn Neighbours and bretherin, Consisting of the inhabitants of Dummerston, Putney, Guilford, Halifax and Draper, who discovered a patriotic Zeal & true heroic fortitude on the important occation. The plain truth is, that the brave sons of freedom whose patience was worn out with the inhuman insults of the imps of power, grew quite sick of diving after redress in a Legal way, & finding that the Law was only made use of for the Emolument of its Cretures & the immisaries of the British tyrant, resolved upon an Easyer Method, and accordingly Opned the goal without Key or Lock-picker, and after Congratulating Mr. Spaulding upon the recovery of his freedom, Dispersed Every man in pease to his respective home or place of abode. The afforgoing is a true and short relation of that Wicked affair of the New York; Cut throatly, Jacobitish, High Church, Toretical minions of George the third, the pope of Canada & tyrant of Britain." Such is the graphic and impartial narrative of one who was the chronicler of events in which he bore an important part. Comment is unnecessary.*
While the people of Cumberland county were thus engaged in endeavoring to pluck off the leaves from the tree of despotism, the representatives of the different Colonies, assembled in Congress at Philadelphia, were dealing vigorous blows at its trunk.
The adoption by Congress of the "non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation association" on the 20th of October, was hailed with a joy, which, though not universal even
* MS. records of the town of Dummerston, i.18-20.
204 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1774.
among the lovers of liberty, was significant of the feelings of the mass of society. By the advice of some of the leading men in Cumberland county, John Hazeltine, on the 13th of November, assumed the responsibility of issuing circulars to the different towns, notifying a second convention to be held at Westminster, and inviting the attendance of delegates. At a meeting which was held at Chester, on the 28th of November, in accordance with this call, two delegates were chosen to represent that town at Westminster. They were instructed to "use their best endeavors" to procure from the convention, a vote of thanks to the Continental Congress "for their good services," and an assurrance that the people of the county would "fully comply with their advice and resolutions." They were also directed to exert their influence, to obtain the passage of certain instructions to Samuel Wells and Crean Brush, their representatives in the New York Legislature. Of these instructions, the chief was, that their representatives should exert "their best skill and wisdom" to choose deputies to attend the Congress of the Colonies, to be held at Philadelphia in the following May, unless the grievances universally complained of should be redressed before that time. On the same day, a similar meeting with similar results was held in Dummerston. Among the votes passed on that occasion, was one particularly significant, by which the assessors were directed to "assess the town in a Discretionary sum of money, Sufficient to procure 100 weight of gunpowder, 200 Weight of Lead & 300 flints, for the town use." The tax was to be taken in "potash salts," and a committee was appointed to receive that article.
At the second convention, held at Westminster, on the 30th of November, "all the resolves of the Continental Congress" which had been passed a few weeks previous, were adopted, and a promise was made by which the delegates bound them selves as representatives of their constituents "religiously to adhere to the non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation" association. An attempt was made to form a county committee of inspection, but as this movement was "much spoken against by a justice and an attorney," and was "looked upon by them as a childish, impertinent thing, the delegates dared not choose one." The state of the county was then considered, as were also the inconveniences to which the inhabitants were subjected in collecting their dues in the province of New Hampshire. As to the general spirit of the proceedings of the con‑
1775.] COMMITTEES OF INSPECTION. 205
vention, there was no retrogression from the high position which had been taken in the previous month.*
In one of the articles of the "non-importation, non-consumption and non-exportation association," was a recommendation that a committee should be chosen "in every county, city and town," by those "qualified to vote for representatives in the Legislature," whose business it should be "attentively to observe the conduct of all persons" in regard to the measures which had been adopted by the association. The advice conveyed in these words, though rejected by the Westminster convention, was not unheeded by the patriotic people of Dummerston. The service implied was such as suited their temper. The subject was broached in town meeting, on the 3d of January, 1775, and seven persons, with Dr. Harvey at their head, were chosen a "Committee of inspection" to observe the "Conduct of the inhabitants, agreeable to an order or recommendation of the Right Honorable Continental Congress." The authority with which this committee was vested, was by no means negative, and their office was in no sense of the word a sinecure. Under their inquisitorial sway, two of the town assessors were removed from their places, because they had refused to purchase the stock of ammunition which was to be paid for in "potash salts." From one man they took a gun, because forsooth they suspected it contained a ball more friendly to the King than to the Congress. By their decision, another man who had been prominent in the history of the village, was declared unfit for office, and was not permitted to act in a public station, until by his conduct he evinced the spirit of a patriot. After the commencement of the Revolution, committees like these were to be found in almost every town throughout the New Hampshire Grants, but the people of Dummerston seem to have led the way in sustaining in Cumberland county the efforts of Congress to guard against the manœuvres of inimical persons.†
So favorable had been the result of the two Westminster conventions, that it was thought best that another convention should be held early in the year 1775. Warrants signed by Col. John Hazeltine, were in consequence sent to the different towns in the county on the 30th of January, and primary meetings were again convened for the purpose of choosing delegates.
* MS. records of the town of Chester, 37-40. MS. records of the town of Dummerston, i. 28. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 55, 56.
† Journals Am. Cong. i. 25. MS. Dummerston Records, vol. i. passim.
206 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1775.
As on former occasions, the towns of Chester and Dummerston were foremost in responding to the call. On the 7th of February, delegates from twelve towns assembled at Westminster, and the convention was organized by the choice of Col. John Hazeltine as chairman, and Dr. Paul Spooner as clerk. The session lasted three days. A standing committee of correspondence, composed of persons from twenty-one towns, was chosen, that the county might be kept well informed as to the doings of the friends of liberty in the different colonies. Its members were Joshua Webb, Nathaniel Robinson, and Abijah Lovejoy, of Westminster; Capt. Samuel Minott, of Putney; Dr. Solomon Harvey, of Dummerston; Nathaniel French, of Brattleborough; William Bullock and Hezekiah Stowell, of Guilford; Lieut. Eleazer Patterson, of Hinsdale, now Vernon; Edward Harris, of Halifax; Charles Phelps and Capt. Francis Whitmore, of Marlborough; Elijah Alvord, of Draper, now Wilmington; Samuel Robertson, of Newfane; Col. John Hazeltine and Samuel Fletcher, of Townshend; James Rogers, of Kent, now Londonderry; Moses Gile, of Chester; Moses Wright and Jonathan Burt, of Rockingham; Simon Stevens, of Springfield; Hezekiah Grout and Oliver Rider, of Weathersfield; Benjamin Wait, of Windsor; Dr. Paul Spooner, of Hertford, now Hartland; "Esquire" Jonathan Burk, of Hartford; Jacob Hazeltine, of Woodstock; and John Winchester Dana, of Pomfret. Col. Hazeltine was chosen chairman of the committe. Dr. Spooner, Joshua Webb, Abijah Lovejoy, Dr. Harvey, and Capt. Whitmore were appointed to "serve as monitors to the committee of correspondence" and were directed to transmit all letters of public importance, and convey all intelligence of general interest of which they might become possessed to Col. Hazeltine. To avoid any misrepresentation of the objects for which the delegates had assembled, Charles Phelps and Dr. Harvey were instructed to prepare for publication, such extracts from the doings of the convention as they should deem advisable, and to add a short account of the proceedings which had taken place at the meetings which had been previously held. Power was given to the chairman to call a general meeting of the town committees in cases of great emergency, or on application of the committees of three towns; and he was directed to notify a meeting without delay when the application should proceed from the committees of five towns.*
* MS. Pingry Papers.
1775.] PETITION TO THE LEGISLATURE. 207
One of the main objects for which this convention was assembled, was to obtain, if possible, from the Legislature of New York, the passage of such laws as would tend to improve the mode of administering justice in the county courts, and effect a change in several of the preliminaries in judicial proceedings. A formal petition, drawn by Charles Phelps, was in consequence addressed to Lieutenant-Governor Cadwallader Colden, and probably received the sanction of the convention before its adjournment. In this document the delegates, in behalf of their constituents, represented the "great expense and heavy burdens" that had been imposed on the county by the additional courts which had been lately established. As the result of this change, they stated that lawsuits had increased, charges had been multiplied, and families nearly beggared. They further declared that their hard-earned money had been appropriated in fulfilling the conditions of their charters, in clearing their heavy timbered lands, in cultivating their fields, in supporting their "numerous and very indigent families," and in building the court-house and jail, which had been located at Westminster. Among their other hardships, they mentioned the inconveniences attending the "calling off from their business" of more than seventy farmers at each of the quarterly sessions of the court to act as grand and petit jurors, for which service they did not receive enough to defray their expenses; the wages which they were obliged to pay their representatives in the Colonial Legislature, and the high fees charged by attorneys for their work. These and other inflictions of a similar nature they pronounced "very burthensome and grievous," and stated that unless they were redressed the further settlement of the county would be greatly obstructed.
In view of this representation, they prayed that the number of the terms of the inferior court of Common Pleas, and of the court of General Sessions of the Peace, might be reduced to two of each annually, and further, that such an arrangement might be continued for seven years. They also asked for the reduction of the number of grand and petit jurors to eighteen each, for each of the court terms; for the lessening of the retaining fee taxed by the court in bills of costs, to ten shillings; for a regulation by which all deeds and conveyances of lands should for the future be recorded in the office of the clerk of the town in which the lands might lie; for the establishment of a probate office in the county for the passage of an act by
208 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1775.
which all processes issuing from justices of the peace, under the restriction of the five pound act," should be served by constables and not by the under sheriff or his deputies for the repeal of the law by which such processes were served by the sheriff; and for the passage of another act by which grand jurors should be paid for their services from the fines collected of criminals. Such were the changes prayed for by the convention. Through some inadvertence, those who were charged with the care of the petition delayed so long to send it to the Colonial Legislature, that when they would fain have retrieved their neglect, they found that that body had held its last session, and declared its final adjournment. Another circumstance had also occurred which rendered the contemplated reforms unnecessary. The courts of Cumberland county had been stopped by violence, and Providence had effected the desired changes in a manner far different from that which had been contemplated by man.*
* The petition, of which a synopsis is given in the text, was sent by Elijah Grout of Windsor, to Samuel Wells, Noah Sabin, Nathan Stone, Benjamin Butterfield, Samuel Gale, Samuel Knight, and Jonathan Stearns, who, previous to March 13th, 1775, were the principal officers in the courts of the county. Grout's letter accompanying the petition, was dated April 15th, 1775, and at that time, those whom he addressed had just reached New York, after having been detained in prison nearly a month. — Brattleborough Semi-Weekly Eagle, Thursday, December 6th, 1849.