The Story of Ethan Allen (1738-1789)

Chapter VI

Since Congress would not help the Grant settlers in their struggle for independence, Allen and the Vermonters would have to find some leverage against Congress and New York.

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The Western towns of New Hampshire were not happy with their government. Most of the power in the New Hampshire state government was held by those towns on the east coast. The western towns were told they could get better representation in government if they joined with Vermont. Vermonters approved, and the eastern border of Vermont was extended to the White Mountains.(50)

Ethan then made a deal with Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress. If Congress made a concerted effort at convincing New York that Vermont should become the fourteenth state, Allen would convince the General assembly of Vermont to reject the new towns from New Hampshire.(51)

At a General assembly meeting in Windsor, Ethan was able to convince the members that keeping the New Hampshire towns would convince the Union to destroy Vermont. Much to the dismay of the New Hampshire towns, they were voted out. With the ensuing protests, the matter was sent to Vermont town meetings. (52)

Allen told New Hampshire and Congress the towns were disassociated from Vermont. However, when Allen asked Congress to now convince New York of Vermont's independence, the representative of the New Hampshire towns said they had not yet been voted out. Before Ethan arrived at Congress in Philadelphia, two thirds were for Vermont's independence. Now there was a minority. (53)

Congress asked Governor Chittenden of Vermont if his would return to New York if their land titles were secured. Chittenden refused. "We are in the fullest sense as unwilling to be under the jurisdiction of New-York as we can conceive America would [be] to revert back under the Power of Great Britain". With no help from Congress there was only one power left more powerful than New York: the British.(54)

Justus Sherwood, a friend of Allen, told Lord George Germain, one of the commander of forces in British Canada, that Ethan would "accept any proposal rather than give up their possessions to the New York claimers." Haldimand questioned all of his spies as to whether Ethan would turn on his country. He concluded that he was too treacherous a character to count on. However, Haldimand promised Governor Clinton he would continue probing. (55)

Ethan was playing a game of chance. He wanted Congress to seriously think Vermont would surrender to the British if Congress would not recognize Vermont as a state. He told the British the same thing. Chittenden was not vague about how he felt of the whole situation. He told Congress that if they would not recognize Vermont as a state and defend the state if attacked by the British, a deal would be struck with the enemy. Chittenden explained that any governor would prefer to save the lives of his citizens, even under another flag, than be destroyed. (56)

In August, 1781, George Washington announced his support for Vermont's statehood if it would reject its annexed territories in New York and New Hampshire. The Vermont assembly believed denying those towns in New York and New Hampshire residence in Vermont, was worth statehood in America. (57)

Washington did not, however, represent the concensus of Congress. New York stiffened its opposition. By the act of Vermont breaking off from New York and forming a state and constitution based on the will of the people, it failed to recognize authority of colonial charters. The colonial charter of Virginia stated that all lands west to the Mississippi and north to the Great Lakes belonged to Virginia. Virginia wished to keep its lands and not let it be divided up into states. In other words, it did not want Vermont to set an example for settlers moving west. James Madison, representing Virginia in Congress, opposed Vermont's statehood for this reason.58 (58)

Allen now returned to the British. However, the people of Vermont would not return to Engish rule. Allen continued his stalling tactics still hoping to convince Congress. Haldiman, meanwhile, had no problem dragging out the negotiations. Congress would not think to invade Canada if Vermont could not be counted on. (59)

In February, 1783, Washington denied a decision by Congress to invade Vermont. Congress had the intention of occupying the Green Mountains and forcing the settlers to obey Yorker rule. Most soldiers in the Continental army had no reason to fight such a powerful force as the Green Mountain Boys. Furthermore, fighting people who helped defeat the British in the Revolution did not seem very appealing. Washipgton believed it was time for New York and Congress to admit Vermont's independence.(60)