|Subject: Ethan Allen & the Green Mountain Boys
Source: Harper's New Monthly Magazine
No. CII. November. 1858 - Vol. XVII
Note: with additions and links by transcriber
A few years ago I was sojourning for a day or two in the beautiful village of Burlington, Vermont, which spreads out so pleasantly over a gentle slope upon the eastern margin of Lake Champlain. I had just come from Ticonderoga and Crown Point and was on my way toward St. John's, Chamblee, Montreal and Quebec. It was in sultry August. At early dawn I mounted a horse and in company with a young lady, upon another, rode to a little embowered cemetery within sound of the cascades of the charming Winooski. There sleep several of the patriarchs and some of the heroes of that northern border; and among them reposes the mortality of Ethan Allen, the colossus of the group. We clambered over the style and waded through the deep grass which was sparkling with dew, until we reached the tomb of the hero, encanopied by maples and a drooping willow. It is a tomb appropriate for such a sturdy republican. Upon a granite base rests a plain white marble slab, bearing the following unostentatious inscription:
Near this humble monument are the graves of several of his relatives and that of his brother, Ira, the earliest historian of Vermont as a State of our consideration. Their earth-beds were inclosed by a chain, supported by small granite obelisks and curtained with shrubs of seringo, lilac and rose. In the branches of the maples the birds, lately so silent, were chanting matin hymns, and the fragrance of flowers went up from the open-ing petals like sweet incense to the God of the birds and blossoms. There was a charm with-in that consecrated acre.
Ethan Allen was not a native of the State in whose historic drama he acted a conspicuous part. He was born in Connecticut in 1739 in the town of Litchfield, it is believed, before his parents left there for a residence in Cornwall. He was not much favored in early life with the schoolmaster's instructions by book and birch. "The critic," he observes, in the introduction to his Narrative of his Captivity, "will be pleased to excuse any inaccuracies in the performance itself, as the author has unfortunately missed of a liberal education." The "miss" did not affect his future usefulness. The vigor of his intellect and his physical energy supplied all wants of college learning in fitting him for the peculiar sphere in which he was called to act. He was not the coarse, ignorant, unsocial and arro-gant man whom popular belief is disposed to contemplate in the character of Ethan Allen. He was not polished by the attrition of refinement, now was he expert in the delicate arts of social communion; for his home was among pioneers in a rude wilderness, whose chief reliance in the battle of life, was upon physical strength rather than upon conventional proprieties.
He was truly a Boanerges - a son of thunder - among his associates; honest in all his intentions, fearless in the performance of his duties, frank in the expression of his opin-ions, generous toward his enemies and opponents, eminently judicious in council, and a civil and military leader who never disappointed the expectations of his followers. Such was the man, the chief instrument in laying the foundations of one of the sovereign States of our confederacy - whose career we are about to consider. It is to lamented that a man so con-spicuous should have passed among us without a memento traced by the pencil of art. The true lineaments of his face and person are lost forever.
footnote: The portrait of General Ethan Allen was never painted.
Ethan Allen was the eldest of six brothers, four of whom, with himself, emgrated to the fertile territory of the Green Mountains, which stretches along almost the entire length of Lake Champlain on its eastern border. Thither they went, among the earlier settlers, disputed the mastery with the beast of the forest, and opened with the axe and plow, the generous bosom of mother earth to the blessed sunlight and the fattening rain. The French and Indian war had just ended, and no question of political jurisdiction over that wilder-ness had yet been raised when the Allens built their first rude cabins there. That question however was soon presented to the settlers for a practical decision; and we must briefly survey its history in order to comprehend the dawning of the public life of our hero.
It must be remembered that the western boundaries of provinces in America for which charters were originally obtained from the British monarchs were wholly indefinite, some of them being, by the words of the instrument, on "the South Sea," or Pacific Ocean. The interior of the vast continent and the distance from ocean to ocean were unknown; and the forecast of statesmen did not perceive the probability of the establishment of a series of empires, extending inward and having by necessity, fixed boundaries and defined sovereign privileges. Herein was concealed the kernel of many difficulties, especially in connection with the New England colonies.
When Charles the Second of England gave the province of New Netherland (which he did not possess) to his brother, the Duke of York, the eastern boundary was defined by the patent as being on the Connecticut River, while the western boundaries of Massachusetts and Connecticut were, by their characters, upon the "South Sea," or Pacific Ocean. Here was direct and palpable conflict, which nothing but mutual concessions and compromises could settle. It was an open question when the Duke obtained his new possessions by conquest, and the name of the province was changed to that of NEW YORK, one of the proprietor's titles. Commissioners settled it, by agreeing that the boundary line between the New England provinces and New York, should be at twenty miles eastward of the Hudson, and running parallel with that river. This line was first established between New York and Connecticut, and by precedents, asked to have the line of its sister colonies extended northward as its own definite western boundary. New York had already controverted the right of Massachusetts to the northern extension of the Connecticut line; now that prov-ince emphatically protested against the new claim. As the country had never been surveyed or settled, the claim and the protest were of little cosequence, but of great prospective importance. Thus the matter stood when Benning Wentworth became governor of New Hampshire in 1741.
Wentworth, on receiving his commission, was authorized by the King to issue patents for un-improved lands within the limits of his province. Settlers were then penetrating the wilderness westward of the Connecticut River and built their pioneer fires even upon the wooded borders of Lake Champlain. Numerous applications for grants were made, and in 1749, Governor Wentworth gave a patent for a township of land six miles square, near the north-western angle of Massachusetts, having for its western limit a line parallel with that of the two adjoining provinces, or twenty miles eastward of the Hudson River. In honor of the Governor of New Hampshire, the township was called Bennington. That grant first brought the territorial question between New York and New Hampshire to a direct issue.
New York claimed the whole territory north of Massachusetts, as far eastward as the Connecticut River, and of course, protested against the grants of Governor Wentworth, de-claring them illegal and null. The latter disregarded all remonstrances, because he assert-ed the claims of his province to be just, and at the commencement of the French & Indian war in 1754, he had issued patents for fourteen townships westward of the Connecticut River. That war periled the frontier settlements, for Indian invasions were frequent and for five years very few men were bold enough to seek a new home in that northern wilderness.
But when, in 1759 and 1760, Canada passed from under the French dominion to that of the English, and this border territory became a place of comparative safety, a great number of adventurers sought possessions there. There was a sudden gush of enterprise and the con-sideration of applications for patents composed much of Gov. Wentworth's daily business. Within four years he issued grants for one hundred and thirty-eight townships of the size of Bennington; and that territory, comprising a great portion of the present State of Vermont, was know as the "New Hampshire Grants" from that time until the kindling of the war for Independence (Revolutionary War).
The original prporietors of the Grants had received their domain from Governor Wentworth on easy terms. The territorial disputes had awakened some doubts in their minds respecting the validity of their titles and many of them sold their lands in parcels to practical farmers at a large advance.
Among these farmers were the Allens and several of their friends from Connecticut, who settled in the township of Bennington at about the year 1763. Emigration flowed in that direction with a continually augmenting stream. All the townships became its receptacles and were rapidly filling with a hardy, independent resident population, when the authorities of New York perceived the necessity of immediate and efficient interference, before it should be forever too late. Lieut-Governor Colden, then acting Governor, accordingly wrote an energetic letter to Governor Wentworth, protesting against his grants. He also sent a proclamation among the people, declaring the Connecticut River to be the boundary between New York and New Hampshire. Protests and proclamations were alike unheeded by Wentworth and the people, until 1764,when the matter was laid before the King in council for adjudication.
It was decided in favor of New York. Bowing to Royal authority, Wentworth ceased issuing patents for lands westward of the Connecticut River, and a source of immense wealth for himself was thus suddenly checked. The settlers, regrding the question as one of terri-torial jurisdiction only, felt very little interest in the decision, for they believed their civil rights and property would be as much respected by the authorities of one colony for another. They were contented. But their pleasant dream of confidence was soon dispelled.
New York acted unwisely if not unjustly. Not content with the award of territorial jurisdiction over the Grants, it was claimed, on the authority of able legal decisions, that that jurisdiction included the right of property in the soil as well as of government. The authorities of New York declared all the patents for lands westward of the Connecticut River, issued by Wentworth to be void, and proceeded to order the survey and sale of farms in the possession of actual settlers who had bought and paid for them and in many instances had made great progress in improvements. This oppression was a fatal mistake.
It was like sowing dragon's teeth to see them produce a crop of full-armed men. The settlers had been disposed to be quiet loyal friends of New York; now they were convert-ed into determined, rebellious and defiant foes. A new and powerful element of opposition to the claims of New York was thus evoked. It was no longer the shadowy, unsubstantial government of New Hampshire, panoplied in proclamations, that opposed the arrogant pretensions of New York; it was the sinews and muskets of the people of the Grants, backed by ALL New England - who now stood in battle-array against her. She gave them the degrading alternative to which, as freemen conscious of being right, they could not submit. They did not submit, but declared their readiness to defend their soil, hand to hand, against any force the oppressor might send. Foremost among those who counseled resistance, was Ethan Allen, then in the prime of young manhood.
At length, the Governor and Council of New York summoned all the claiments under the New Hampshire Grants to appear before them at Albany, with their deeds and other evidences of claim, within three months, failing which, the claims of all the delinquents should be re-jected. The settlers governed by the advice of Ethan Allen and other leading men, paid no attention to the summons and their lands were considered forfeited. In the meantime New York speculators had been busy in purchasing large tracts of these menaced estates, and the people of the Grants, foreseeing much trouble from this new element of mischief, sent one of their number to England tolay their case before the King and Council. He obtained an order for the Governor of New York to abstain from issuing any more patents or lands eastward of Lake Champlain. That order was issued in July, 1767. As it was not ex post facto in its operation, the New York patentees proceeded to take possession of their grants by writs of ejection. These were served on the actual occupants of land for which they had paid.
Some forcibly resisted the officers seat to serve the writs, but a majority seemed disposed to meet their opponents in the courts. A resident of Shaftesbury was taken to Albany for trial in a suit of ejection. A decision in his case would affect all others and Ethan Allen, was employed as general agent of the people of the Grants to attend the trial and de-fend their claims. He first procured a copy of Wentworth's commission, then employed Mr. Ingersoll an eminent Connecticut lawyer as counsel, and in June, 1770, they appeared in court at Albany. The whole proceedings proved to be a solemn farce; many of the judges and lawyers in that province were connected with the speculators and the case in hand was pre-determined before the trial commenced. The verdict was in favor of the New York complainant and it was with great difficulty that he could treat Attorney-General Kemp courteously when that officer called upon him the next morning. Kemp tried to flatter the sturdy pioneer, and then advised him to go home and persuade his Green Mountain friends tomake the best terms they could with their new landlords, at the same time reminding him that their case was a desperate one, for, "might often prevails over right." The suggestion thoroughly aroused the sleeping lion of Ethan Allen's nature, and he vehemently exclaimed, "The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills, and you shall understand it," said Ethan Allen with a frown.
When Allen reported to his constituents the results of his mission, they perceived the alternative to be - slavery or resistance. They did not long hesitate in their choice of evils. The news spread from hill to hill, from valley to valley and from hamlet to cottage, and the indignant people, as with one voice, expressed their determination to defend their rights at all hazards. They saw the door of justice violently closed against them and they resolved not to listen longer to fair words from their oppressors. The time for talking about charters and grants and jurisdiction had passed, and the bold mountaineers prepared to fight rather than yield. Suits for ejectment continued to be brought before the courts at Albany, to which the settlers paid no attention. Then sheriffs and civil magistrates were ordered to go into the Grants and execute the mandates of the law.
Now came the crisis. The parties had hitherto waged their contests by words, at a distance, now officers of the law and the people met face to face. Men from New York, already on the Grants under titles from the civil authorities there beheld the gathering storm and fled for shelter beyond the disputed boundary. The Green Mountain Boys met in council at Benn-ington and by unamimous vote, "Resolved to support their rights and property which they possessed under the New Hampshire Grants against the usurpations and unjust claims of the Governor and Council of New York by force as law and justice were denied them." This was the gauntlet of defiance which sheriffs and civil magistrates had the temerity to take up.
The sheriffs came with attendants; their opponents always outnumbered them and drove them away. The opponents were indicted as rioters, but the sheriffs found it as hard to catch the bodies of any of the settlers as it was to seize their property. Dunmore, then Governor of New York, a haughty hireling of the Crown, became very indignant. He issued a thundering proclomation and ordered the sheriffs to call out the posse comitatus - the power of the country - to aid them. Sheriff Ten Eycke of Albany, with seven hundred and fifty New York militia at his back, marched to arrest James Brakenridge. He found eighteen armed men in the house who defied him. He threatened to break in the door. "Attempt it, and you are a dead man."! exclaimed a burly voice from within. He was on the point of executing the threat, when he perceived three hundred armed settlers who had been concealed in ambush around him. A quick but bloodless retreat was effected and Sheriff Ten Eyck went back to Albany and reported the New Hampshire Grants in a state of rebellion.
Dunmore loved his ease, and of course loved peace. He attempted to gain by strategy wht he could not hope to effect by force. Bribes were offered; settlements of new lands in the Grants were promoted, so as to secure for New Yorkers a squatter sovereignty; and measures were taken to sow divisions among the moutaineers. The people had more to dread from these silent measures than from the strong arm of the law. The leaders perceived it and long before Samuel Adams or Dabney Carr invented that powerful engine of the Revolution, the Committee of Correspondence, the Green Mountain Boys had set the machine in motion. In every township they formed Committees of Safety and Correspondence and all over the Grants the most subtle vigilance was exercised.
The people aslo assembled in general convention and resolved that no man should be taken from the Grants by a New York officer without the permission of some Committee of Safety. They did more. They formed a general military association to assist in maintaining the spirit of that resolve of the Convention. And, Ethan Allen was chosen Colonel Commandant by unamimous consent. Seth Warner and Remember Baker and others of less note in history, were made Captains, and under these people were disciplined in the art of war. The bold hunters also enrolled themselves and devoted their sure rifles to the service of the people. Civil authority, in relation to the intruders was executed by martial force, and every stray offender from New York caught upon the disputed domain was summarily tried by a Committee of Safety, and punished as summarily, not in a way to imperil life or limb, but, as the sentence significantly declared, "chastised with the twigs of the wilderness." Many a poor wight departed the Grants with a receipt in full, thus legibly written upon his back attesting the payment of the penalty of trangression.
Colonel Ethan Allen now became a marked man. The winter and spring of 1772 was a memorable one in his life. He then wore a sword in defense of right. William Tryon, who had lately come from North Carolina where he had severely handled the Regulators, the opponents of oppression in that province, was now Governor of New York, and he regarded Allen as a traitor. The people regarded him as a patriot. His relative position to Governor and people made him both, and with energy he performed the acts of both traitor and patriot. With the rigor of martial law he enforced the expressed will of the people, opposing sheriffs here and driving off New York settlers there. Tryon offered twenty pounds sterling for the apprehension of Allen and the same for each of his chief associates. They were not apprehended. Then he offered one hundred and fifty pounds for Allen and fity for each of his six chief associates. They were not apprehended. They were not even intimidated. They were emboldened, and with ludicrous pomp, Allen offered a reward of five pounds to any person who would deliver the Attorney-General of New York to any officer of the military association of the Green Mountain boys.
These were certainly bold measures, and Colonel Ethan Allen frankly confessed that the con-duct of himself and associates, interpreted by the laws of New York or of well-ordered society, was certainly riotous. But he excused it with the plea that the oppressions of the strong, denying undoubted rights to the weak, had forced them to take the only method left them to defend their rights. They stood upon the soil they had purchased with money and improved by labor. They went not upon the domain of that strong oppressor, but stood only on the defensive; and he though it cruel and unjust for them to be branded as outlaws, and have a price upon their liberty.
One mild evening toward the close of April, 1772, the people of Bennington were alarmed by intelligence that Governor Tryon was moving up the Hudson River with an army to invade the Grants, chastise offenders and enforce submission. The news spread rapidly and soon the leading civilians and military men were assembled in convention. They took grave counsel together; resolved that "it was their duty to oppose Governor Tryon and his troops to the utmost of their power;" dragged two cannons and a mortar from Hoosie Fort to Bennington; called out the militia and made every preparation to give the expected invader a warm re-ception. But Tryon had no such belligerent intentions. He had heard of the fruitless expedition of sheriff Ten Eyck and had conceived the idea that the Regulators of the New Hampshire Grants were more formidable than the Regulators of the Haw and Eno. Instead of marching with power into their country, he sent them a mild proclomation and sweetly proposed a tilt in diplomacy. He promised protection to any deputation they might send to negotiate, excepting Ethan Allan and his associate outlaws. The proposition was agreed to. Two delegates went to New York bearing a letter from the people of the Grants to the Governor and Council, and also a firm but respectful protest, both drawn up by Ethan Allen. These contained a summary of the wrongs which they had suffered and abounded with much logic respecting the position they had assumed.
They contained a noble defense of the Green Mountain Boys and were highly honorable to the head and heart of our hero. The negotiations were friendly, and the brothers Fay went back to Bennington at about the middle of July, messengers of precious promises for good. The people gathered there from hill and valley, heard the good news and shouted lustily. They felt that they had achieved a triumph and now would come long days of peace. The old Hoosie cannon and one belonging to Bennington were brought out and made to thunder applause, and Seth Warner's company of Green Mountain Boys made a grand display and concluded with a feu de joie in the midst of loud huzzas from the excited multitude. That night was one of pleasant dreams all over the Bennington region.
Almost as early as the next day - dawn clouds of diffuculty appeared. Even while the Commissioners were in pleasant treaty, or while the Fays were hastening homeward with the good news, Colonel Ethan Allen and his armed Green Mountain Boys were executing the laws of the convention against an unlikely surveyor and some New York settlers. The former was caught in the wilderness exercising his profession in behalf of over-the-line speculators. They broke his instruments, passed sentence of perpetual banishment against him and promised him the dleights of suffocation by a halter, if they should ever catch him within the domains of the Grants again. Settlers from Otter Creek were as summarily dealt with at the same time. On the spot where Vergennes now stands, at the Falls of the Otter, a New Hampshire settler who owned a saw-mill there, had been driven off by tenants of Colonel Reed a New York speculator. Colonel Allen proceeded to regulate matters there. He gave the invading tenants notice to quit as soon as they could pack up their personal property. He then burned their tenements, destroyed the stones of a grist mill they had erected by pitching them over the Falls, and restored the saw-mill to its original owner.
The feu de joie at Bennington fell sweetly upon the ears of Tryon, but the harmony was soon disturbed by the discordant notes from Otter Creek. His anger was fiercely kindled, and he wrote a sharp letter of rebuke to the inhabitants of the Grants, and peremptorily ordered them to reinstate the New York settlers at the Falls. The people immediately assembled in convention at Manchester, and chose Colonel Allen for their secretary. In their behalf he wrote a firm but respectful answer to Tryon's letter, in which he justified the measures at the Falls, truly represented that the act took place before the return of the Commissioners to Bennington, and then told the Governor plainly that the New York settlers should not be reinstated. He also assured the Governor that if surveyors and settlers were still to be sent to the Grants, then the people of that domain must consider the negotiations of the Commissioners a nullity. Here, then, the old difficulties were fully renewed, and the people further resolved to expel, or otherwise punish, any person within the disputed district who should presume to accept an office, civil or military under the authority of New York.
Several persons were soon punished under the new regulation. One for accepting office from Tryon, and endeavoring to perform its functions, was "chastised" by a very large hickory "twig of the wilderness," to the amount of two hundred stripes; while a boasting, injudicious physician of Arlington, escaped with a whole skin, but with no less mortification. He had openly riduculed the Convention and the military force, declared himself a partisan of New York, defied the power of the authorities of the Grants and armed himself in defense of his defiant position. He was caught at some unguarded hours and con-veyed to the Green Mountain Tavern in Bennington for trial. In front of the tavern was a sign post twenty-five feet in height, on the top of which had been placed the stuffed skin of a huge catamount with its head toward New York. It had glaring glass eyes and the animals's own teeth grinned terribly toward those who might approach from that direction. The doctor being considered a better subject for jest than for anger, the court sentenced him to be tied in a chair and hoisted up to the side of the catamount there to remain for two hours the sport of the merry multitude. No doubt the author of "M.Fingal" remembered this case when he conceived the record of the punishment of the Tory constable:
|"Then from the pole's sublimest top|
The active crew let down the rope,
At once its other end in haste tied
And made it fast upon his waistband;
Till like the earth, as stretched on tenter
He hung, self-balanced on his centre.
Then upward all hands hoisting sail,
They swung him life a keg of ale,
Till to the pinnacles in height,
He vaulted like ballon or kite."
The authorities of New York were greatly perplexed. They properly regarded Ethan Allen as the chief in both civil and military affairs in the Grants, for his pre-eminent abili-ties were acknowledged, and he exerted an unbounded influence over the people. To secure his person was a desirable object, and several attempts were made by New Yorkers to win the Governor's offered reward by capturing him. On one occasion two sergeants and ten men came very near effecting that object while Allen and a single companion were in the neigh-borhood of the present Burlington. His own sagacious vigilance and the fidelity of a young girl saved him. On another occasion, some people of Duchess County formed a plan to seize him while he was on a visit to his friends in Salisbury in Connecticut. They intended to abduct him and carry him to the Poughkeepsie jail. The plot was timely discovered and the hero was saved for greater deeds at hand.
In the meantime the spirit of hostility increased and commotions, riots and bloodshed became quite common near the border. The Green Mountain Boys, under the judicious guidance of Ethan Allen, carefully acted on the defensive, and never pursued aggressors beyond the claimed limits of the Grants. At length, in the spring of 1774, the New York Legislature passed a most despotic law, entitled an Act for preventing tumultuous and riotous assemblies, and for punishing rioters. It empowered the governor and council to order "indicted rioters," as Ethan Allen and other leaders were called, to surrender themselves for trial within seventy days after the date of the order, or to be considered as convicted and sentenced to suffer death. The Supreme Court hving power given by the Act to order the execution whenever the offender should be arested, the same as if there had been an actual trial and a judicial sentence! This law, instead of intimidating the people of the Grants, united them in closer affiliation; and in a general convention, assembled at Bennington, they resolved to hold themselves in readiness, at a minute's warning to "defend those who, for their merit in the great and general cause, had been falsely denominated rioters." The proscribed persons also issued a manifesto, drawn up by Ethan Allen and signed by him and his associate "outlaws" which contained a logical defense of themselves and severe re-marks on the course pursued by their oppressors. "Printed sentences of death will not kill us," they said; "and if the executioners approach us, they will be as likely to fall victims to death as we;" for they had fully resolved, that, if any person should attempt to apprehend any of them or their friends, they would kill them on the spot. The people of the Grants then closed the door upon further parley or controversy, and armed themselves to fight for their leaders, their homes, and their vested rights. The quarrel was about to culminate in a bloody crisis.
While on that northern border a little storm of war was rising, the whole political atmosphere of the colonies was becoming black with a gathering tempest. All local troubles soon ceased to have paramount interest, for all eyes were turned anxiously toward the brooding darkness. The low, rumbling thunder, in colonial assemblies and in popular gatherings became more and more distinct. The lightning first leaped from the clouds at Lexington and the thunder-peal awoke a continent to arms. It is not our province to detail the opening events of that Revolution, which resulted in the freedom of thirteen Anglo-American colonies and gave birth to a new empire. Our hero was a prominent actor in an important episode in the opening of that great drama, and to that we will turn without preface.
The British Government perceiving the great importance of preserving Canada as a loyal colony when the inevitable contest should commence, had used the most energetic and extra-ordinary efforts to accomplish that object. The great concessions made to the Roman Catholic population, called the Quebec Act, and which deeply offended Protestant England, was the first of those efforts. Remarkable vigilance was everywhere exercised in that province by royal officers; and in order to keep open a free communication between Canada and the interior of the province of New York, the old fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point - the scenes of many struggles between the French and English twenty years earlier, wer strengthened and garrisoned. Those far-sighted patriots of Boston, Samuel Adams and Joseph Warren, also appreciated the importance of winning Canada to the Republican cause, or, in the event of a failure to do so, to acquire possession of those strongholds upon Lake Champlain.
Accordingly, almost a month before the skirmish at Lexington, they, as members of the Boston Committee of Correspondence, sent a secret agent into Canada to ascertain and re-port the political feelings of the people. He soon became convinced that fear alone kept the Canadians and especially those of British extraction, from joining the other colonies in their opposition; and from Montreal he sent urgent advice to his employers to take immediate measures to capture Ticonderoga. On his way north he had consulted with the Allens and other leaders of the people of the Grants, and they had agreed to undertake the enterprise themselves when the proper time should arrive. The whole matter was kept a profound secret, except among a few leading men; and yet, eight days after the affair at Lexington, a circumstance occurred which seemed to indicate a concert of action between the patriots of Massachusetts, Connecticut and the New Hampshire Grants.
At that time the minute-men of New England armed and unarmed, were rushing toward Boston to confine the British troops to that peninsula. The Colonial Assembly of Connecticut was in session and some leading members of that body conceived and concocted a plan for seizing Ticonderoga, and appropriating its cannons and other munitions of war to the use of the gathering army. They acted only as private citizens, but procured a loan of eighteen hundred dollars from the Assembly. They appointed Edward Mott and Noah Phelps a committee to proceed to the frontier towns, ascertain the condition of the fort and the strength of the garrison and, if possible induce Colonel Ethan Allen to join the expedition with his Green Mountain Boys. On their way they laid their plans before Colonel Easton and Mr. John Brown at Pittsfield in Massachusetts, and these men, afterward leaders of troops, accompanied the committee to Bennington. Easton enlisted about forty volunteers from his regiment of militia on the way, and these reached Bennington the following day. Colonel Allen promptly responded affirmatively, immediately assembled his Green Mountain Boys and sent detachments to watch the roads northward to prevent intelligence being conveyed to the doomed fortress.
At dusk on the 7th of May quite a little army gathered at Castleton, fourteen miles east of Skenesborough (now Whitehall), when Allen was chosen commander-in-chief, with Colonel Easton and Seth Warner for his lieutenants. At the same time a party was sent to Skenesborough to capture Major Skene (a son of the Governor), secure boats and hasten to join the invaders at Shoreham, opposite Ticonderoga. Another party was sent down the lake, beyond Crown Point, to secure boats and bateaux in that direction.
In the meantime, another scheme had been formed elsewhere for the same object. When intelligence of the bloodshed at Lexington reached New Haven, Benedict Arnold, captain of an independent company there, marched with them immediately to Cambridge. No doubt he had received some hint of the enterprise against Ticonderoga, for, on his arrival at Cambridge, he went before the Massachusetts Committee of Safety and proposed a similar expedition in the same direction. His representations coinciding with the advice of the secret agent in Canada made the Committee accept his proposition with eagerness. They granted him a colonel's commission and authorized him to raise a corps of troops not exceeding four hundred in number. Furnished with money and munitions of war, he went into the western counties of Massachusetts to raise his men. At Stockbridge he heard of the expedition under Ethan Allen, already on its march. He engaged others to enlist men, while he hastened forward with a single servant, joined the party at Castleton, and with a singular want of courtesy in his manner (for his ambition was really more powerful than his patriotism), he claimed the chief command by virtue of what he called his superior commission. This was objected to, for he came single-handed, without officers or troops; and the soldiers declared they would club their muskets and march homeward rather than serve under any but their chosen leader.
Making a virtue of necessity, the ambitious Arnold joined the party as a volunteer, and on the evening of the 9th, after stealthy marches, two hundred and seventy resolute men (of whom two hundred and thirty were Green Mountain Boys) were encamped on the shore of Lake Champlain, opposite Ticonderoga, while the garrison were totally unsuspicious of the presence of the enemy. On the previous day Phelps had gone forward, gained admission into the fort as an awkward inhabitant of the neighborhood who wished to be shaved and, asking many questions, obtained a great amount of necessary information and then returned to the camp.
The night - clear, starry and a little frosty, wore away, and yet the boats expected from Skeneborough or below did not arrive. With the few in possession, Allen with officers and eighty-three men, crossed the lake and landed beneath the steep shore under the Grenadier's Battery. Nathan Beman, then a shrewd lad, and afterward a famous wolf-hunter in the northern wilderness, consented to be their guide, for he was familiar with every part of the fort, where he played daily with the boys of the garrison. The day had almost dawned yet the boats had not returned with more troops. Delay would be dangerous, and Allen was about to proceed with the fourscore men, when Arnold declared with an oath, that he alone would lead the men into the fort. Allen as stoutly swore that he should not. Fortunately the prudence of others put an end to the dispute by a compromise, which allowed Arnold to march by the side of Allen, the latter, however, to be considered the chief commander.
Again Arnold was compelled to yield, and just as the east was brightening with the unfolding day the little band were drawn up in three ranks, upon the shore, a few rods from the fort. Stealthily but quickly they ascended the eminence to the sally-port. The sentinel snapped his fusee but it missed-fired and he retreated into the fort along the covered way, followed closely by the Americans who were thus guided directly to the parade within the area of the barracks. Another sentinel was felled by Allen's sword and as the invading troops rushed into the parade they gave a tremendous shout. The alarmed soldiers of the garrison leaped from their pallets, seized their arms and rushed to the parade, but only to be made prisoners by the intrepid Colonel Allen with young Beman at his side, ascended the steps to the door of the quarters of Delaplace, the commandant of the fort, and giving three loud raps with the hilt of his sword, he with a voice of peculiar power, ordered the captain to appear immediately or the whole garrison should be sacrificed. The commander and his wife both rushed to the door, when to their astonishment, they saw the face of an old acquaintance, for Allen and Delaplace had long been friends. With a frown the commander instantly demanded "what was his disturber's errand?"
Pointing to his armed men, before whom the whole garrison were quailing, Allen sternly replied, "I order you instantly to surrender." "By what authority do you demand it?" said Delaplace. "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" thundered Allen, and raising his sword over the head of the captain who was about to speak, ordered him to be silent and to surrender immediately. There was no alternative. Delaplace had about as much respect for the Continental Congress as Allen had for Jehovah and they re-spectively relied upon and feared powder and ball more than either. In fact, the Continental Congress was then but a shadow; for it had no existence until six hours after-ward, when it assembled in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, and its "authority" was hardly acknowledged in prospect, even by the armed patriots in the field. But the order was obeyed, the garrison of forty-eight men were made prisoners of war and sent to Hartford and more than a hundred iron cannon with mortars and swivels and ammunitions wer the spoils of the victory. These were afterward taken to Cambridge and used by the troops under Washington in driving the British from Boston the following spring.
Warner arrived, with the rear division, soon after the surrender of the fort; and 48 hours afterward he was in possession of Crown Point. Arnold, ambitious for fame, was like a chafed tiger. He saw the laruels resting solely on the Green Mountain Boys and for a moment his covetousness rose superior to his generosity. He asserted his right to the chief command of the garrison at Ticonderoga, but the troops disregarded his order. His anger flashed out in oathes and loud threats when the Connecticut committee clothed in semi-official authority formally installed Ethan Allen in command, and ordered him to keep it until he should receive orders from higher authority. Arnold sent a written protest to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety but that body confirmed the action of the Connecticut Committee. Arnold yielded, and, like a good patriot and sensible man he joined Allen in planning other enterprises.
The upper part of Lake Champlain was now in complete possession of the New Englanders, Major Skene and his people at Skenesborough had been captured by the party sent thither from Castleton, and with a schooner and several bateaux they were brought to Ticonderoga. These vessels formed the nucleus of a fleet on the lake and with these Allen and Arnold proceeded to capture a British armed schooner and some boats at St. John's on the Sorel. Arnold having been a seaman in his youth, was installed as a sort of commodore on the lake, and departed in the schooner. Allen followed in the bateaux. All were armed and provisioned from the spoils taken at Ticonderoga. The schooner outsailed the rest, and at six o'clock on the morning ot the 18th of May the little garrison at St. John's and the British armed schooner there were surrendered to Arnold. Informed that large reinforcements were approaching, Arnold departed with his booty and in the course of a few hours met the descending bateaux. Allen had with him one hundred Green Mountain Boys, and with these he resolved to proceed to St. John's, garrison the fort, and hold it, if possible as the key to Canada; for doubtless the idea of an invasion of that province had already assumed a tangible form in his mind.
He took possession of the fort and sent out a detachment to ambuscade the approaching re-inforcements, but soon learned the fact that their numbers were great, he prudently crossed to the east side of the river. There he was attacked by a large party the next morning and being compelled to fly to his bateaux, he hoisted sail and returned to Ticonderoga. Arnold assumed command at Crown Point and there he fitted out other naval expeditions on the lake during the summer.
These proceedings placed the authorities of Massachusetts and Connecticut in an awkward position. They had connived at these ostensibly private enterprises which had resulted so gloriously; yet, doubtful how the Continental Congreass might view the matter, each felt willing to let the other take the responsibility of further aggressive movements. Governor Trumbull of Connecticut was willing to assume that responsibility and he immediately enlisted four hundred men to garrison Ticonderoga and Crown Point. In the meantime he sent messengers to Philadelphia and New York to ascertain the feelings of the Continental Cogress and of the New York Provincial Convention. The captured forts were within that province and common courtesy demanded an interchange of sentiments. Congress heartily approved of all that had been done, and requested Governor Trumbull to send troops and the New York Convention to provision them. All this was done with alacrity, and soon Colonel Hinman was on his march to Ticonderoga with a requisite number of Connecticut soldiers.
Inspired by his successes, and prompted by noble motives, Colonel Ethan Allen now gave expression to a scheme for invading Canada, in a letter marked by great ability, written a fortnight before the battle of Bunker Hill, and addressed to the New York Provincial Con-vention. The current of his own feelings caused him to assume that the feuds that existed between the authorities of New York and the Green Mountain Boys would be forgotten and disappear in the efforts for the general good, and he wrote to them as brothers and compatriots. After alluding to what had been accomplished, and excusing himself for not sooner conferring with them on the pleas that "common fame reported" that there were "a number of overgrown Tories in the province, "whose treachery might have ruined the enter-prise, he said - "The key is ours yet, and, provided the colonies would suddenly push an army of two or three thousand men into Canada, they might make a conquest of all that would oppose them in the extensive province of Quebec, unless reinforcements from England should prevent it. Such a division would weaken General Gage or insure us Canada. I would lay my life on it, that with fifteen hundred men I could take Montreal. Provided I could be thus furnished, and an army could take the field, it would be no insuperble difficulty to take Quebec. This object should be pursued, though it should take ten thousand men, for England can not spare but a certain number of her troops; nay, she has but a small number that are disciplined, and it is as long as it is broad the more that are sent to Quebec the less they can sent to Boston or any part of the continent. And there will be this unspeakable advantage in directing the war into Canada, that, instead of turning the Canadians and Indians against us, as is wrongly suggested by many, it would unavoidably attach and connect them to our interest. Our friends in Canada can never help us until we first help them, except in a passive or inactive manner. There are now about seven hundred regular troops in Canada." Allen then laid before them a plan for such invastion, and concluded with a proposition to raise, himself, a regiment of Rangers, provided the Provincial Convention would agreee to commission the officers and put the troops under pay. "Probably, he said, "you may think this an impertinent proposal. It is truly the first favor I ever asked of the Government, and, if granted, I shall be zealously ambitious to conduct for the best good of my country and the honor of the Government."
This was the first public proposition to invade Canada. The Continental Congress chose rather to conciliate than to alarm or irritate the Canadians,and only the day before Allen wrote his letter, that body, by resolution, expressed a decided opinion that no scheme for the invasion of Canada ought to be countenanced. And it did seem "impertinent" for Allen to address such a letter to the authorities of New York. They were the successors of other authorities, which, only the year before, had pronounced him an outlaw, and placed him under legal sentence to death. By the Congress and the Convention his letter was considered a bold and injudicious production of an ambitious and reckless man. But in less than ninety days afterward the Continental Congress authorized an invasion of Canada and the whole people from Maine to Georgia who longed for freedom, approved of the measure. Colonel Allen had the honor of being a pioneer in that important movement, which, if it had been commenced when first proposed by him, before the British Government had concentrated its strength to repel invasion, might have resulted in an easy conquest of Canada, instead of such a disastrous failure as marked the campaign in the winter of 1775-1776.
On the arrival of Colonel Hinman at Ticonderoga, Colonel Allen's command ceased, and most of his men went home. With Seth Warner, he immediately went to Philadelphia to ask the Continental Congress to pay the Green Mountain Boys for their military services and to authorized him to raise a new regiment in the New Hampshire Grants. Their appearance in Philadelphia created a great sensation. Their heroism was known, and their exploits had been duly magnified. Crowds gazed at them as they walked along the streets, and the passage to Carpenter's Hall, where Congress was sitting, was filled with people anxious to get a glimpse of the Goliath of the Green Mountains who had defied the armies of Tryon. They were introduced upon the floor of Congress, and allowed to state their desires verbally. And their wishes were gratified.
The soldiers who assisted in capturing the Champlain fortresses were allowed the same pay as those in the Continental army just organized; and Congress asked the Provincial Convention of New York to first consult General Schuyler, and with his approval to authorize the raising of a regiment of Green Mountain Boys, "under such officers as the said Green Mountain Boys should choose." This accomplished, Ethan Allen and Seth Warner hastened to New York, and boldy presented themselves at the door of the Convention. The resolve of Congress had already been received, and was then under discussion. The Convention represented the same people who had elected the Assembly of the previous year, by whom Allen and Warner had been outlawed and sentenced to be hanged when caught.
Could they receive such men? To some it was a perplexing question. Some bowed to the authority of law as supreme, notwithstanding they had repudiated those law givers as "enemies of their country." Others could not quiet the suggestions of their consciences that these men were outcasts; but others, forgetting the past and looking only upon the recent brave and patriotic deeds of these men in the cause of liberty, vehemently asserted the injustice and impolicy of allowing ancient local feuds to divide brothers in a common and holy cause. The debate was suddenly cut short by Isaac Sears, the brave King Sears -the leader of the Sons of Liberty from the Stamp Act times, who moved that Ethan Allen should be admitted to the floor of the House. An overwhelming vote was given in the affirmative and the same privilege was granted to Seth Warner. They entered and both addressed the House; and when they had retired, the Convention proceeded to authorize the raising of a regiment. General Schuyler approved the measure and Ethan Allen carried the proclomation of that noble patriot to the N.H. Grants, announcing the pleasing fact that five hundred Green Mountain Boys were wanted for the war, and that they might choose their own officers below a colonel.
The regiment was soon raised, and Seth Warner was chosen Lieutenant-Colonel, it being understood, probably that Ethan Allen would receive appointment of Colone. A few days after his return he joined General Schuyler as a volunteer, at Ticonderoga and from thence sent a letter of thanks to the New York Provincial Convention in which he fellingly alluded to "the friendhsip and union that had lately taken place" between those who had been unhappily controverting for years. In conclusion he spoke of the fidelity and courage of the Green Mountain Boys and said, "I will be responsible, that they will reciprocate this favor by boldly hazarding their lives if need be, in the common cause of America."
General Schuyler's quick perception made him regard Colonel Allen as an exceedingly useful man, if he could be kept in subordination. He accepted him as a volunteer with some re-luctance, and he was chiefly employed as a pioneer among "the Canadians, with whom he was well acquainted. On arriving with his forces at Isle Aux Noir, near the foot of the lake, General Schuyler wrote an address to the people of Canada, especially intended for the French inhabitants, and commissioned Allen to bear it to them, and use his influence in winning them to the support of the Americans. It told them that the invading army was not directed against them, their religion or their property, but only against the British; and earnestly exhorted them to make common cause with the Americans in efforts to secure freedom. Allen first went to Chamblee, twelve miles below St. John's and, mingling with the most intelligent and influential inhabitants there, soon received assurances of their sympathy and aid, if success could be made to appear probable. To show their sincerity they furnished him with an armed escort through the forests, from place to place, and he everywhere found the people friendly.
He also secured expressions of friendship from the Caughnawaga Indians near Montreal; and after traversing the country between the Sorel and the St. Lawrence for eight days, he re-turned to the camp and reported to General Schulyer his belief that, should the American army invest St. John's and advance into Canada with a respectable force, the inhabitants would immediately join them. For his prudence, sagacity, industry and perseverence in this dangerous mission Colonel Ethan Allen was highly commended by General Schulyer.
At Isle Aux Noise General Schuyler sickened and was compelled to leave the command of the army with General Montgomery and return to his home at Saratoga. Montgomery was then besieging St. John's and he immediately sent Colonel Allen into Canada again to unite as many inhabitants as he could, in favor of the Americans and lead them to the Republic. He "preached politics," he said, and succeeded well as "an itinerant." Within a week he had enrolled and armed two hundred and fifty Canadians; and "as I march," he said, "they gather fast." He assured Montgomery that he could raise "one or two thousand in a week;" but that he preferred to assist in the siege, and would be with him "with five hundred or more Canadian volunteers" within three days.
With this object he was pressing forward with his recruits along the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence when he met Major Brown, who was out on the same errand, at the head of about two hundred Americans and Canadians. They held a secret conference and formed new plans, the result of which was a great disaster. Brown urged Allen to join him in an attempt to take Montreal by surprise, by which they would not only make the conquest of the remainder of the province easy, but would doubtless secure the person of Guy Carleton, the Governor then in that city, and controlling the movements of the Canadians and Indians in the British interest. The prize was tempting, its acquisition seemed easy, and Allen consented. He was to cross the St. Lawrence from Longueuil, a little below Montreal, and Brown was to cross from La Prairie, a little above the city, and at dawn the following morning they were to attack the town and garrison simultaneously at opposite points.
It was a murky night, the 24th of September, when the enterprise was undertaken. Allen procured some small canoes, and crossed with eighty Canadians and about thirty Americans. The passage was perilous for the wind was high, the waters were rough, and the vessels were frail. Three times each way these canoes had to pass before all were landed, and then the day dawned. Brown was to give thre huzzas as a signal of his landing. The sun came up among the clouds and yet no huzzas were heard. As yet Allen was undiscovered, except by persons passing to or from the city, and these were detained. To retreat was impossible without discovery, and then only a part could go. At length a man who had escaped, alarmed the town and garrison and soon armed men were seen gathering on the outskirts. Allen de-termined to fight and prepared for the conflict. Forty British regulars and two hundred Canadians fell upon the little band of invaders, yet they maintained the conflict almost two hours, fighting and retreating more than a mile. "I expected in a short time to try the world of spirits," says Allen, "for I was apprehensive that no quarter would be given to me and therefore had determined to sell my life as dear as I could." Hard pressed by overwhelming numbers, deserted by nearly every Canadian volunteer, and some of his brave Americans being killed and several wounded, he agreed to surrender on honorable terms, which were granted.
Only thirty-eight of his companions remained and these became his fellow prisoners. They were well treated by the British officers on the field, but when Allen was brought before the British petty-tyrant, General Richard Prescott who posessed no generous impulses, and that officer learned that his chief prisoner was the victor at Ticonderoga, he exhibited extreme passion, brandished his cane over Allen's head and theatened to beat him.
Insert: Richard Prescott
PRESCOTT, Richard, British officer, born in England in 1725; died there in October, 1788. He was appointed a major of the 33d foot, 20 December, 1756, and in May, 1762, became lieutenant-colonel of the 50th foot, with which regiment he served in Germany during the seven years' war. He was afterward brevetted colonel of the 7th foot, with which he came to Canada in 1773. On the reduction of Montreal by the Americans in 1775, Colonel Prescott, who had the local rank of brigadier-general, attempted to descend to Quebec with the British troops and the military stores, but was obliged to surrender to the Americans on 17 November In September, 1776, he was exchanged for General John Sullivan, in November he became colonel of his regiment, and in December he was third in command of the expedition against Rhode Island, where he remained in command of the British forces until he was made prisoner, 10 July, 1777, by Lieutenant-Colonel William Barton (q. v.). He was finally exchanged for General Charles Lee, and resumed his command at Rhode Island, but was almost immediately superseded by Sir Robert Pigott. He became a major-general, 29 August, 1777, and lieutenant-general, 26 November, 1782. His treatment of American prisoners was harsh and cruel. See " The Capture of Richard Prescott by Lieutenant-Colonel William Barton," an address at the centennial celebration of the exploit, by Jeremiah Lewis Diman.
At the same time he used coarse and unfeeling language, denouncing Allen as a rebel, and promising him death on the gallows at Tyburn. "I told him," says Ethan Allen, "he would do well not to cane me, for I was not accustomed to it and shook my fist at him, telling him that was the beatle of mortality for him, if he offered to strike." Prescott was greatly enraged, yet he feared his unarmed captive; so in violation of all honor and the common rules of war, he ordered his prisoner to be bound hand and foot in irons, and thrust into a confined portion of the Gaspe schooner of war. His irons were heavy shackles on wrists and ankles, fastened to a bar eight feet in length. A generous seaman lent him his sea chest to sit on and that was his only seat by day and bed by night and thus for five long weeks was this brave man fettered, and guarded by men with bayonets, while almost hourly he was subjected to coarse jokes or deliberate insults. His companions were fettered in pairs and suffered in the same way.
In the meantime, though feeble-handed in men and munitions of war, Montgomery pushed forward the siege of St. John's. He also sent a party to attack the garrison at Chamblee, twelve miles below. They were successful. One hundred men became their prisoners, and the spoils of victory were more than a hundred barrels of powder, with military stores and provisions. They also took the standard of the regiment to which the garrison belonged, and this, the first trophy of the kind, was sent to the Continental Congress, and placed conspicuously over the chair of the president of that body. At the same time Carleton was endeavoring to send relief to St. John's. He embarked quite a large number of troops at Montreal, with a view of landing them at Longueuil and marching to the Sorel. In this he was foiled by Colonel Seth Warner and three hundred Green Mountain Boys, who signally re pulsed him. On learning this event, some British troops at the mouth of the Sorel immediately fled to Quebec, and the commander at St. John's, despairing of relief from Carleton, surrendered to Montgomery. Richard Prescott and Carleton now became alarmed for the safety of Montreal, and fearing an attempt to rescue Ethan Allen and his fellow-prisoners, they sent them all down to Quebec. There Ethan Allen was transferred to another vessel and soon to a third, where he experienced humane treatment and the courtesy due to his rank, from Captain Littlejohn. He removed the galling irons from his prisoner, invited him to his own table, and in many ways proved the sincerity of his declaration that no brave man like Colonel Allen should be ill-used on board his ship.
A few days afterward Colonel Benedict Arnold, who had made a perilous journey across the country, by way of the Kennebec and Chaudiere, with a body of New England troops, suddenly appeared at Point Levi, opposite Quebec. His apparition shocked the people of that old French city as if a thunder-bolt had fallen from a clear sky. They had already heard of the fall of St. John's and the surrender of Montreal to Montgomery, and many regarded Quebec as in imminent danger.
The ship, Adamant was on the point of sailing for England with dispatches to the Ministry, and Carleton resolved to send his prisoners thither by the same vessel. They were placed in the charge of the notorious spy, Brooke Watson, then a merchant of Montreal and afterward Lord Mayor of London. They were also accompanied by Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus, and about thirty other Loyalists who had been driven from the Mohawk Valley. Under such a man, an din such company, the unhappy prisoners could expect no mercy. They were closely confined in irons in a small, unventilated apartment, where they suffered from sickness and other privations and were daily annoyed by palpable insults. Yet they were allowed sufficient food, and each a gill of rum a day.
Forty days they thus suffered, when the Adamant sailed into the harbor of Portsmouth, and there, for the first time, the prisoners were allowed to enjoy the fresh air and the blessed sunlight upon the deck. When intelligence of their arrival spread through the town great multitudes flocked to see them; and as the guard escorted them to Pendennis Castle, the streets, windows and the tops of houses were crowded with people anxious to get a glimpse of the famous leader of the Green Mountain Boys whose exploits on the shores of Lake Champlain had become known throughout the realm. Ethan Allen was, indeed a rough and curious specimen of a New Englander for he was dressed in the suit of Canadian clothes in which he was captured, which consisted of a short double-breasted fawn-skin jacket, vest of the same material, breeches of coarse sagathay, worsted stockings, a decent pair of shoes, two plain shirts, and red worsted cap. His beard andhair had grown long, shaggy and matted. He appeared more like a savage Esquimaux than a civilized man of Saxon blood.
see Map showing Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, England
Governor Hamilton, of Pendennis Castle, treated the prisoners kindly, and Colonel Allen with distinction. He dared not disobey orders by removing his irons, but he sent a break-fast and dinner every day from his own table,and occasionally a bottle of wine; while another gentleman sent him bountiful suppers. His stomach had never before been served so well; and people of every class, prompted by curiosity came to see him, for they regarded the captor of the renowned Ticonderoga as no ordinary man. All, however, agreed that he would probably be hanged, and this gave Allen some uneasiness. Yet he maintained his self-possession and charmed every person who came to see him by his bold and independent carriage, his fluency of language, and his display of strong native talent. He never lowered his high patriotic tone of sentiment when speaking of his country; and, with hands and feet manacled and high walls and glittering bayonets around him, he boldly proclaimed the determination of his brethren never to cease resistance to oppression until the hand of the oppressor was withdrawn.
Having reason to fear death on the gallows, Colonel Ethan Allen concluded to employ stratagem for effect on the policy of the Ministry. He obtained permission to write to Congress. As the letters must be seen by his jailers, it was concluded that he would speak of the hopelessness of the cause, the necessity of submission, flatter the Government by loyal words and acknowledgments of clemency and that he would advise them to cease rebellion and accept pardon. They were disappointed. He gave a truthful narrative of his cruel treatment; told how he was kept in irons in England like a felon, instead of being respected as an unfortunate prisoner of war; and requested Congress to refrain from the terrible retaliation in their power to exercise until they should be advised of the final action of the Government toward himself and fellow-prisoners. The letter was addressed in his bold handwriting to "The Illustrious Continental Congress."
"Do you think we are fools in England," said the officer to whom Allen handed the communication, "and would send your letter to Congress with instructions to retaliate on our own people? I have sent your letter to Lord North." That was precisely what the cunning prisoner desired. "This," says Allen, "gave me inward satisfaction, though I care-fully concealed it with a pretended resentment; for I found I had come Yankee over him, and that the letter had gone to the identical person I had designed it for." No doubt that letter had the intended effect; for it gave the Ministry knowledge of the situation of the prisoners, and the important fact that their countrymen possessed full power to retaliate any acts of violence which might be used against these unfortunate men.
The unjust treatment of these prisoners gave the Opposition in Parliament a powerful weapon, which they used against the Ministry with effect. They argued that they were either rebels and felons or else unfortunate prisoners of war; and added that it was too late, and altogether idle to talk of rebellion and propose to quell an insurrection by hanging a few insurgents, when a continent of such rebels was in arms. A rumor also went abroad that a writ of habeas corpus was about to be issued to set the prisoners free or to bring them to trial before a proper magistrate. The Ministry became alarmed by the rising clamors of the popular voice, and, yielding to the logic of events, changed their policy. They consented to consider Allen and his companions prisoners of war, and, as such, they were placed on board the Solebay frigate, of Sir Peter Parker's fleet, to be conveyed to Halifax. That fleet was then preparing for the expedition against the Carolinas which resulted so disastrously to the British, in the summer of 1776.
Allen was soon made to feel that neither clemency nor civil treatment were to be expected from Symonds, the commander of the Solebay. The first salutation which that officer gave to the captive Colonel was, "Go below, to the cable-tier and never again appear on deck, the place where only gentlemen may walk!" The indignant Colonel obeyed; but, two days afterward, having shaved and arranged his toilet as well as he could, he boldly appeared on deck. The commander was greatly enraged by this effrontery; nor was his anger abated when the prisoner told him coolly that he was Colonel Allen, and a "gentleman" and had perfect right to walk the deck. As usual, the cowardice of the petty tyrant compromised the matter, and, with an oath, he ordered the Colonel to be careful not to walk on the same side of the deck with himself and other officers. As an example of obedience to the crew Allen obeyed and always kept on the leeward side, but paced the planks with as much haughty dignity of demeanor as Symonds himself could possibly assume.
Parker's fleet rendezvoused in the harbor of Cork, Ireland, from whence it sailed for America toward the middle of February, 1776. While there, the prisoners experienced the proverbial generosity of the Irish people. As soon as it became known that Allen and his fellow-captives were on board the Solebay, several gentlemen of Cork combined in presenting each of the common prisoners with a good suit of clothes, an overcoat and two shirts; and to Ethan Allen they gave a sufficient quantity of broadcloth for two suits, also eight shirts and stocks (ready made), several pairs of silk and worsted hose, shoes, and two beaver hats,one of which was richly trimmed with lace. They also furnished him bountifully with sea-stores, and offered him fifty guineas in gold. He would accept only seven guineas because, he said, "it might have the appearance of avarice." To the other prisoners they also gave a good supply of tea and sugar. All of these things were taken on board by the second lieutenant during the absence of the commander. Symonds was exceedingly angry when informed of it. He swore that "the American rebels should not be feasted at that rate by the rebels of Ireland;" and then took from Allen all his liquors and distributed the tea and sugar of the common prisoners among his own crew.
A terrible storm compelled the fleet to return to Cork, where the prisoners were separated, and placed in different vessels. Allen remained in the Solebay and was fortunate enough to be permitted to employ the ship's tailor in making him a fine suit of clothes of his broad-cloth. Arrayed in these, with his silk stockings and fine laced hat, his really noble and dignified appearance seemed to inspire Symonds with a sentiment of respect and he treated his captive with more civility. The voyage was a long one, and they did not reach the American coast at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina until early in May. There the prisoners were reunited (except one who had died and another who had escaped by swimming ashore), and were placed on board the Mercury to be conveyed to Halifax.
Montague, the commander, was an ignorant, prejudiced brute and denied the unfortunate men every comfort. He even forbade the surgeon to attend them in sickness. Allen remonstrated with him but received in reply the assurance that their treatment was a matter of no moment, as they would all be hanged as soon as they arrived at Halifax, and that General Washington and the Continental Congress would soon share the same fate. "If you wait for that event," said Allen, with a voice and countenance full of severe rebuke, "you will die of old age."
On the voyage the vessel touched at Sandy Hook below the outward harbor of New York (Raritan Bay), in which a British fleet, under Admiral Howe, was moored. Washington then had possession of the city of New York and Governor Tryon and other royal officials were fugitives on board the flag-ship of Lord Howe, Tryon and the old Attorney-General Kemp, whom Allen had met at Albany during the bitter controversies between New York and the New Hampshire Grants, came on board the Mercury. They saw Allen but did not speak to him. "Tryon," he says, "viewed me with a stern countenance, as I was walking on the leeward side of the deck with the midshipmen;" and adds, "What passed between the officers of the ship and these visitors I know not; but this I know, that my treatment from the officers was more severe afterwards."
The prisoners arrived at Halifax at about the middle of June; and for six weeks they were confined on board a sloop in that harbor under the immediate command of the brutal Montague. They were half-starved; denied the services of a physician, though many were sick with the scurvy; and finally, the commander, to whom Allen had addressed several respectful letters, petitioning for some relief, forbade any more letters being brought to him from the "rebel." At length the Colonel found means to communicate with Governor Arbuthnot. The prisoners were immediately placed in Halifax jail, sufficient food given them and the attendance of a physician allowed. Still they suffered much. At first there were thirty of them crowded in a small room, some sick with scurvy. Soon some were sent to the hospital and others were sent to labor on the public works and by the close of August only thirteen of the captives taken with him at Montreal remained with Colonel Allen.
Among the prisoners whom Allen found in Halifax jail was James Lovell, of Boston, who had been carried thither when the British, evacuated that city in the preceding spring, because he was an influential patriot.
Insert: James Lovell's father, John Lovell was a Tory and was at Halifax at the same time his son James was a patriot prisoner there.
James Lovell afterwards became a member of the Continental Congress and active as one of the committee on foreign affairs. Although entitled to parole it had been withheld and with others who claimed the same privilege, he was kept in close confinement.
When Ethan Allen's friends heard of his arrival at Halifax they joined with those of Lovell in Massachusetts and of others from Connecticut, in efforts to procure their exchange. While these negotiations were going on, and partial arrangements were effected between General Washington and General Howe respecting the exchange of prisoners, Howe ordered those at Halifax to be sent to New York. This order produced a happy change in the condi-tion of the captives, for they were place on board the Lark frigate which was commanded by a gentle and humane man, Captain Smith. "When I was on deck," says Allen, "he met me with his hand, welcomed me to his ship, invited me to dine with him that day, and assured me that I should be treated as a gentleman, by himself and his ship's crew." This unexpected kindness made the big tears roll down the hardy hero's cheek and the emotions of gratitude made him speechless for a moment. As soon as he could command his voice, Colonel Allen assured the Captain that his kindness should be reciprocated, if any opportunity should allow the service. "This is a mutable world," said Captain Smith, "and one gentleman never knows but it may be in his power to help another." The opportunity was not long delayed, and the sentiment of the humane commander was signally verified.
There were about thirty American prisoners, besides Allen and Lovell on board the Lark, and among them was one who had recently been commander of an American armed schooner. A few days after leaving Halifax he had succeeded in forming a conspiracy, with part of the prisoners to kill Captain Smith, seize the vessel and divide among themselves almost two hundred thousand dollars of hard money, known to be on board. They had also enlisted some of the crew in their scheme. The chief conspirator revealed his designs to Allen and Lovell and solicited their co-operation in bringing over the remainder of the prisoners.
Allen did not allow a thought of the justification of the rules of war for such an infamous act to intrude itself, but imediately and most decidedly condemned the scheme as a base and wicked return for kind treatment. He assured the ringleader that he would peril his own life in defense of that of Captain Smith, and advised him to desist. The conspirators then solicited Allen to remain neurtral and let them proceed in their own way. This con-cession he peremptorily refused and promised them pardon and secrecy only on condition that they should solemnly pledge themselves to abandon the design instantly. They cowered beneath the rebuking glance of his stern eye, gladly accepted his terms and Colonel Allen had the pleasure of thus paying his debt of gratitude to the excellent Captain Smith.
Toward the end of October the Lark arrived in the harbor of New York and the prisoners were placed on board the Glasgow transport. Mr. Lovell was soon afterward exchanged and set at liberty, but Colonel Ethan Allen was only admitted to parole withing the limits of the city. He landed at about the first of December and a day or two afterward a scene occurred between him and Rivington, the "King's printer," the memory of which undoubted tradition has preserved.
Allen had been made acquainted with the course pursued by Rivington toward the Whigs, and the harsh manner in which, on several occasions, he had spoken of himself during his long captivity. Being free to act within the limits of his parole, he resolved to chastise the offending printer and made no secret of his resolution. Rivington was informed of it and was prepared for the reception of the wrathy Colonel. He saw him one day, just after dinner, come up the street and stop at his door. "I was certain the hour of reckoning had come," says Rivington, in his humorous account of the interview. "There was no retreat. He entered the store and asked of the clerk, "Does James Rivington live here?" He answered, "Yes, Sir." "Is he at Home?" He said he would see, and went up to my room to inquire what should be done. I had made up my mind. I looked at the bottle of Madeira - possibly took a glass. There was a fearful moment of suspense. I heardhim on the stairs. In he stalked. "Is yur name James Rivington?" "It is Sir, and no man could be more happy than I am to see Colonel Ethan Allen." "Sir, I have come - "Not another word, my dear Colonel, until you have taken a seat and a glass of old Madeira." "But sir, I dont think it proper - " "Not another word, Colone. Taste this wine; I have had it in glass for ten years. Old win, you know, unless it is originally sound, never improves by age." He took the glass, swallowed the wine, smacked his lips and shook his head approvingly. "Sir I come," "Not another word until you have taken another glass; and then my dear Colonel, we will talk of old affairs; and I have some droll event to detail." "In short," says Rivington, "we finished two bottles of Madeira and parted as good friends as if we never had cause to be otherwise."
The tender heart of Colonel Allen was sorely afflicted by the scenes of suffering which he beheld among the American prisoners in New York. The sugar-houses, the jail and old hulks in the harbor were used as prisons for the captives taken in the recent battles near Brook-lyn and Fort Washington. Privation, sickness, and death held high carnival there; and the picture of their sufferings, drawn by the unpolished pen of Colonel Allen chills the blood and makes the involuntary curse upon the inflictors rise to the lips and plead for utterance.
See List of 8,000 names of American Prisoners aboard the British Prison Ships:
These things are on the records of history; and we will here pass them by with the remark that all that Colonel Allen could do, in his own destitute condition, by his official influence for the relief of the sufferers, was done by him in full measure during his parole. He also suffered much for he became destitute of money and was not allowed communication with his friends in Vermont. Yet his stout heart was not moved by personal troubles, nor his zeal for liberty in the least subdued; and when a British officer of high rank came to him and spoke of his great fidelity, though in a wrong cause, and the desire of General Howe to show him great favors, by appointing him commander of a regiment of Loyalists, and then tried to dazzle him with brilliant prospects of official promotion, and the possession of large sums of money and broad acres of land by the thousands in whichever of the subdued colonies he might choose them, the inflexible patriot indignantly spurned the temptation, sayig in his own recorded language,
"That if by faithfulness I had recommended myself to General Howe, I should be loth, by unfaithfulness to lose the General's good opinion; besides that, I view the offer of land to be similar to that which the devil offered to Jesus Christ, to give him all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him, when, at the same time, the damned soul had not one foot of land upon the earth." "This, says Allen, "closed the conversation and the gentleman turned from me with an air of dislike, saying I was a bigot." Colonel Allen with a bigot's tenacity adhered to that bigotry which was, properly defined - true patriotism.
The bold and powerful stroke given to British power on the frozen banks of the Delaware, and which put many prisoners into the hands of the Americans, caused a slight lifting of the heel of oppression from the poor captives in New York. Allen was allowed to go to Long Island early in January, 1777, where his condition was quite tolerable by comparison. There, within prescribed limits, he remained until the following August, when under the false pretense that he had infringed his parole, he was conducted by a strong guard to New York, and imured in the provost jail. There he lay for three days, without a morsel of food, and exposed to the insults of Keefe, the sergeant of the guard, who stood at his door and administered prison law under the brutal provost marshal, Cunningham. At sunset on the third day, the sergeant gave him some boiled pork and a biscuit, and a week afterward he was transferred to a more comfortable apartment. There he remained in close confinement until the following May, sometimes treated to a day in the dungeon below because of his freedom of speech in the presence of Keefe. Soon after the capture of Burgoyne the fact became known to one of his fellow-prisoners in a room above. He communicated the news to Colonel Allen by thrusting a little billet through the open floor into his room. The over-joyed patriot could not suppress his emotions, and he shouted from his grated window to some British soldiers in the street, "Burgoyne has marched to Boston to the tune of Yankee Doodle!" For this he spent a night in the damp dungeon and was menaced with more severe punishment; but the fact which he had proclaimed was so significant of danger to scores of British officers in the power of the Americans that good treatment of Colonel Allen appeared to be wise policy.
Allen's captivity ended on the 3d of May, 1778, when he was taken to Staten Island and there, two days afterward he was exchanged for Col. Archibald Campbell of the British Army who was brought there by Elias Boudinot, Commissary of Prisoners. Campbell "saluted me," says Allen, "in a very handsome manner, saying that he never was more glad to see any gentleman in his life; and I gave him to understand that I was equally glad to see him, and was apprehensive that it was from the same motive." The all parted with friendly expressions; and Col. Sheldon of the Light Horse immediately escorted Colonel Allen to the head-quarters of the army at Valley Forge. Washington received him most cordially; and Allen poured out the gratitude of his full heart for the interest the Commander-in-Chief had taken in his behalf during his long and cruel captivity of thirty-one months.
He obtained permission from Washington to return to his home to recruit his health and strength. He then set off for the North in company with General Gates who was proceeding to Fishkill, to take command of the army on the Hudson River. Already the Continental Congress sitting at York, had honored Allen with a brevet commission of Colonel in the regular army, and awarded him back pay as lieutenant-colonel during his captivity.
Bearing these testimonials of his country's gratitude, the gallant soldier hastened homeward, everywhere receiving the most marked attention of people of all classes. Early in the evening of the last day of May he arrived at Bennington. His appearance there was unexpected, for his friends supposed he had gone to Valley Forge to join the army for actual service. The news of his arrival spread from house to house. The people of the neighborhood gathered around him with every expression of joy; and the Green Mountain Boys gave audibility to these expressions among the distant hills by firing cannons and shouting long and loud huzzas. At sunrise the next morning the whole country around was in motion; and Colonel Herrick, who had nobly seconded Stark in the battle near Bennington the previous year,
see battle map showing Bennington and the New Hampshire Grants
ordered furteen discharges of cannon - "thirteen for the United States and one for Young Vermont."
In that there was deep significance. During Allen's long captivity the people of the New Hampshire Grants had been making rapid political progress. They had, in convention at Westminster in January, 1777, declared themselves free an independent of New Hampshire, New York and all other sovereignties; adopted a State Constitution and organized a new government, under the title of VERMONT, in allusion to its chief physical feature, the GREEN MOUNTAINS. This movement had awakened the old feud between the inhabitants of that territory and New York. Governor Clinton, and other active men in the latter state, had from the beginning opposed the claims of Vermont to independence; and the new government of New York, established a few months later, reasserted the supremacy of that State over the territory east of Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River. The bloody enactments, and the claims to lands occupied the settlers, promulgated by the Colonial Assembly were not revived; and the matter assumed the features of a political question only. In that shape it was sufficiently important to array the Green Mountain Boys against New York; and hence the significance of that "one gun for Vermont."
Colonel Allen soon comprehended the state of affairs. He regarded Vermont as in the right position and immediately panoplied himself in her defense. The old colonial battleground again felt his tread, and his voice was more potent than every among his former companions and associates. He counseled great caution, for he saw fatal danger covered by the fair professions of New York; and he resolved to reject every proposal from whatever quarter which did not imply the absolute independence of Vermont.
He emboded this sentiment and recapitulation of past grievances in an address which he sent forth to the inhabitants of Vermont. Sagacity, logic, forecast, and patriotism marked that document and it met a hearty response. It was respectful but defiant; and closed with the peroration, "What enemy of the State of Vermont, or what New York land-monopolizer shall be able to stand before you in the day of your fierce anger!"
We cannot in the space allotted to this article, detail the progress of that controversy, and the important part which Colonel Ethan Allen performed in the drama until its close. It became exceedingly complicated, especially when British interference formed an essential element. We may only touch briefly such more luminous points as serve to exhibit the character of our hero in a proper light.
New Hampshire from which Vermont had separated, became a party in the quarrel, because several of its western townships had been at their own request, annexted to the latter state. The Continental Congress had been appealed to in the summer of 1778 for adjudication; and the Legislature of Vermont appointed Colonel Ethan Allen its agent to go before the Supreme National Council at Philadelphia for the special purpose of ascertaining the views of that body respecting the independency of the new commonwealth. He soon found his mission to be more difficult than he expected. Faction and sectional jealousies were rife in that old Congress. The New England delagates favored Vermont; those of New York, of course - opposed it; those of the Middle and Southern States were indifferent and some denied the power of Congress to act in the matter at all - affirming in the excess of their zeal for State Rights, that Vermont by its own act was irrevocably independent. Colonel Allen went home a wiser man, yet not with a satisfied spirit. While he felt certain that Congress would not deny the independence of Vermont, he felt quite as certain that the new state, as long as that independence was claimed, would be left exposed to invasions from Canada without material aid or general sympathy.
He immediately advised a settlement of all difficulties with New Hampshire, by giving back her truant townships; and he earnestly urged the inhabitants of the new State to adhere to their Declaration of Independence at all hazards. He also wrote and published in 1779, a treatise entitled "A Vindication of the Opposition of the Inhabitants of Vermont to the Government of New York, and of their Right to Form an Independent State." Its falchion blows aroused the ire of the people of New York; and John Jay wrote, "There is quaintness, impudence and art in it." "He might have added," says Sparks, "argument, and the evidences of a good cause."
Colonel Allen was now the great civil and military leader in Vermont. He was appointed General-In-Chief of the militia, and was continually engaged in public affairs. The people felt some irritation at the course of Congress; and their leaders, perceiving a disposition on the part of the other colonies to remain apathetic, at least, resolved to take measures for establishing an isolated and wholly independent sovereignity. This dispostion was observed by the British authorities in Canada and it was made a basis for reporting to the British Ministry that Vermont, without doubt, might be drawn over to the side of the Crown.
Machinery working for that important end was immediately put in motion. The leaders were to be approached cautiously, and by someone remote from high authority. The duty devolved upon Colonel Beverly Robinson, then commander of a corps of loyalists and who figured somewhat conspicuously some months later in the treason of Benedict Arnold. He wrote from New York to Ethan Allen in March, 1780. He allueded to the fact that they were both Americans; that he lamented the distresses of his native country; that he had been informed that Allen and other leading men in Vermont were opposed to the wild scheme of separation from Great Britain promulgated by the Continental Congress; that the people of that common-wealth might enjoy protection and happiness under Great Britain as a separate province, and asked Allen to communicate freely with him, as all matters between them should be shrouded in the most profoud secrecy.
The letter was sent by a British soldier, disguised as a farmer, who handed it to Allen in the streets of Arlington. Allen dismissed him with much courtesy and then laid the document before Governor Chittenden and other friends. Their sagacity perceived in this advance from the enemy a capital opportunity to serve the political interests of Vermont; and they resolved to pass the letter over in silence but to keep up a show of disaffection by coqueting with the British authorities in Canada. A friendly letter was accordingly dispatched by Governor Chittendon to General Haldimand in Canada proposing a cartel for an exchange of prisoners - some scouts from Vermont having been made captive. This proceeding was to cause a delay in any contemplated invasion of the defenseless frontier of Vermont, from the St. Lawrence or the lake. No reply was made; but soon a formidable British force appeared on Lake Champlain. The people were thoroughly alarmed and seized their arms to repel the invaders. To their surprise no hostilities were attempted. The British commander sent a flag to General Allen with aletter to Governor Chittenden, assenting to the proposed cartel and offering a truce with Vermont until the matter could be arranged.
General Allen was appointed to negotiate the preliminaries of the cartel. Wishing to make friends of the New York borderers, he insisted upon extending the truce into that province as far as the shores of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. The privilege was granted, and the enmity of the people of that region was so completely disarmed that a general desire to have their territory annexed to Vermont was expressed. The negotiations resulted satisfactorily to both parties; and, to the utter surprise of the people, the enemy's fleet moved down the lake and the Vermont military force was disbanded and sent home at the moment when all expected invasion, and conquest appeared so easy. At that time the British force in Canada was about ten thousand strong, while the Vermot militia did not exceed seven thousand. The whole secret was known only at that time to General Allen, his brother, Ire Allen (then a colonel of militia) and six other judicious friends who controlled the public affairs of the State. The winter soon afterward set in and nothing more was done until spring. Vermont was saved from invasion and the enemy rejoiced in the supposed advantage of having detached a discontented province from the others engaged in the revolt.
These movements were carefully reported to the British Ministry, and also gave uneasiness to Congress. Lord George Germain, Colonial Secretary, indulged in many pleasing dreams of the submission of the colonists, while sitting in his easy chair in London; and he wrote a congratulatory letter to Sir Henry Clinton, in New York on "the happy return of the people of Vermont to their allegiance," at the very time when events were hastily tending toward the discomfiture of Cornwallis and the overthrow of British power within the domain of the revolted colonies. The British officers in New York were also well acquainted with the movements of the Vermont leaders; and Colonel Robinson wondered why his letter had never been answered by General Allen. He finally wrote another in the same strain to that officer; and at about the same time Allen received notice of the appointment of commission-ers in Canada to arrange the cartel. Now as an opportunity to work upon the fears of Congress for the benefit of Vermont and General Allen used it adroitly.
He sent to that body the two letters from Robinson and the notice of Haldimand respecting the commission, together with a letter from himself in which he explained the mode by which the communications came into his hands and other matters in relation to the proposed cartel. Then in the most forcible language, he uttered an eloquent defense of the conduct of the inhabitants of Vermont, reiterated her claims to independent sovereignty and referred indignantly to the attempt of neighbors to not only abridge her rights but to destroy her existence. "I am confident," he remarked "that Congress will not dispute my sincere attachment to the cause of my country though I do not hesitate to say I am fully grounded in opinion that Vermont has an indubitable right to agree on terms of cessation of hostilities with Great Britain, provided the United States persist in rejecting her application for a union with them." He concluded his leter with these significant words: "I am as resolutely determined to defend the independence of Vermont as Congress are that of the United States; and, rather than fail, I will retire with the hardy Green Mountain Boys into the desolate caverns of the mountains, and wage war with human nature at large."
The coquetry with the British authorities in Canada continued during the remainder of the war. A correspondence carried on chiefly by Ethan and Ira Allen, was kept up and messengers from beyond the St. Lawrence came to them secretly, were detained until answers could be prepared and then as secretly were sent back. Colonel Ira Allen also made friendly visits to General Haldimand. Thus they amused the enemy, kept back invasion, made Congress uneasy, sustained their claims to independence, but were compelled to suffer the effects of suspicion concerning their patriotism. But these were all removed from their fair fame when peace came and concealment became no longer a necessity, and the escutcheons of Ethan and Ira Allen are as free from tarnish of wavering patriotism or inconsistency as those of any of the men of the Revolution whom we delight to honor.
Although appointed colonel in the Continental Army, Ethan Allan never entered upon the duties of his office. His time was fully employed with the civil and military affairs of Vermont. Soon after his return from his captivity, in 1778, he was elected to a seat in the State Legislature. How long he occupied that station, or how late in life he retained his military command, we have now no means of ascertaining for the record if ever made, has been lost. When rising peace blessed the land with its beams in 1782, he returned to the pleasant pursuits of the farmer, not, however, among his old friends of Bennington, but in a newer region of his beloved Vermont. For a short time he resided at Arlington and after wards at Sunderland. At length he settled in the vicinity of Oyster River, near the scene of some of his earlier exploits against New York intruders, where, with his brothers he had purchased large tracts of land. There he remained in the enjoyment of the quiet of agricultural life until his death, which occurred vey suddenly at Burlington from the effects of apolplexy in February, 1789. His funeral was largely attended and, as we have said at the commencement of this sketch he was buried within sound of the cascades of the Winooski.
Ethan Allen possessed a vigorous but partially cultivated intellect and his natural independence of thought often led his mind far away from the beaten tracks of human investigation. In religion he became a free-thinker; and in 1782 he gave expression to his opinions in a little book, entitled "Reason the only Oracle of Man, or a Compendious System of Natural Religion."
Ethan Allen's "Reason - the Only Oracle of Man"
See also, Ira Allen's History of Vermont and the Green Mountain Boys
Ethan Allen's book was published at Bennington two years later and attracted much attention, especially among the orthodox divines of New England who severely condemned it. While it possesses many striking and original thoughts, it exhibits remarkable crudity in their development; and the whole work may be regarded as a melancholy picture of the gropings of a benighted yet gifted spirit in the dark valley of human reason, un-aided by the light of Divine revelations, and following the will-o'-wisp of errant fancy. That his religious opinions were not grounded in absolute conviction, the scene at the death bed of his beloved daughter by his first wife, as related by tradition, fully attests. 20.
She was a lovely, pious young woman whose mother, then long in the spirit-land, had instructed her in the truths of the Bible. When she was about to die, she called her father to her bedside and turning upon him her pale face, lighted by lustrous blue eyes, she said with a sweet voice, "Dear father, I am about to cross the cold, dark river. Shall I trust to your opinions, or to the teachings of dear mother?"
These words, like a keen arrow, pierced the recesses of his most truthful emotions. "Trust to your mother!" and covering his face with his hands he wept like a child. Thus it is ever. There is a cell in the human sould in which lodges the germs of perennial faith in God and his revelations. When touched by the electric spark of conviction it springs forth into bloom and fruitfulness, defiant alike of the frosts of cold, un-believing reason, and the scorching heatof human philosophy.
In his private as in his public life Ethan Allen was always consistent, honorable and inflexibly honest. On one occasion he owed a citizen of Boston about one hundred and fifty dollars for which he had given his note. It was inconvenient for him to pay it at maturity. It was put in suit and he employed a lawyer to attend the court and have the matter postponed until he could raise the money. As the readiest way to postpone the matter the lawyer determined to deny the genuineness of the signature which would compel the holder to send to Boston for a witness. Allen happened to be in a remote part of the court-room when the case was called. He was utterly astonished when he heard the lawyer gravely deny the signature. With long and fierce strides he rushed through the crowd, and, confronting the amazed "limb of the law," he rebuked him in a voice full of wrath. "Mr. ____," he exclaimed, "I didnt hire you to come here and lie! "That's a true note; I signed it, I'll swear to it, and I'll pay it. I want no shuffling - I want time." The result was that the postponement was effected without further opposition.
Although prevented by a series of apparently unfortunate circumstances from taking a very active part in the general operations of the war for Independence, yet few men engaged in that struggle will be remembered with more affection and admiration as a patriot and hero than Ethan Allen. In private life he was consistent, kind, placable, but unyielding in his integrity and justice. Under his rough exterior of speech and manner lay the pure diamond of a noble nature. His life and services form a strange and romantic chapter in the annals of his country; and the memory of his deeds will always lend vitality to the patriotism of his his people.
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
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