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VERMONT MAINTAINS HER INDEPENDENCE-INTERNAL
AND EXTERNAL RESISTANCE
New Hampshire Towns annexed to the new Commonwealth.-It has previously been stated that, at the first meeting of the Legislature, sixteen New Hampshire towns applied for admission to the new State. At first there was little disposition on the part of Vermonters to listen to this petition. Most of the towns west of the mountains were greatly opposed to such union ; but many of those bordering on the Connecticut strongly urged annexation, and threatened in case of refusal to unite with these suppliant towns in establishing a new State.
One of the main arguments of the New Hampshire towns in favor of their right to join the new commonwealth was this: The province of New Hampshire, as originally granted to John Mason, extended only sixty miles inland ; all territory west of that, which had been added later, was by royal commission to the governors of that province. These commissions were no longer in force, now that the royal authority was overthrown ; and hence it was for the people of that section west of Mason's line to determine what government they should be under.
So much pressure was brought to bear upon the Assembly that it determined to submit the question to the consideration of the people of the State, who should instruct their representatives what action to take in their next session, to be held in Bennington the following June. The time between the two sessions was taken advantage of by securing the support of a majority of the representatives for this measure; so that when that Assembly met, a large majority voted in favor of annexation. Then an act was passed authorizing the towns to elect representatives to the Assembly; and it was further resolved that other towns might be admitted also, if they so desired.
The Dissolution. The New Hampshire Legislature protested to Governor Chittenden against this union, and also appealed to Congress to interfere. To learn the views of Congress concerning this matter, Vermont despatched Ethan Allen to Philadelphia ; and there Allen became convinced that Congress viewed the action so unfavorably that it would at least be policy on the part of Vermont to retrace her steps, if she desired to keep in the good graces of that body. Allen strongly recommended that the union be dissolved, and said that, in his opinion, if this were done, none of the members of Congress, except those from New York, would oppose Vermont's independence. Acting on his suggestion, the union was declared null and void in the early part of the following year (1779); but the act on the part of Vermont had been an unhappy one, for it aroused a feeling of unfriendliness on the part of New Hampshire, the ill effects of which lasted for many years.
The Frontier Line.- As all continental troops had been withdrawn from Vermont, a feeling of insecurity prevailed among the inhabitants of the State. To guard against invasion they built and strengthened forts as the need presented itself. In 1778 a stockade fort was built at Rutland and called Fort Ranger. This was strongly garrisoned and made the headquarters of the State forces, and from it scouts were constantly traversing the country to the northward. The next year forts Warner, at Pittsford, and Vengeance, at Castleton, were built and garrisoned by small forces. As the State was unable to guard an extended frontier, these three forts were constituted the frontier line of defense in western Vermont; and the inhabitants north and west of this line were warned to remove their families to the south of it.
On the east side of the mountains, forts were kept up for at least a part of the time at Newbury, Peacham, Corinth, Bethel, and Barnard, and at times in other places.
An Underground Room.-A Mrs. Story, of Salisbury, who had already retreated to Pittsford several times during the Revolution, at length became tired of being disturbed. She, therefore, with the aid of a neighbor, a Mr. Stevens, prepared for herself and family a safe retreat. By digging a hole into a bank just above the water of the Otter Creek, an entrance was effected into a spacious underground room. This served as a sleeping-room for the family. The entrance was covered by overhanging bushes; and, as the family went to their lodgings in a canoe after dark at night, and left before light in the morning, strict secrecy was maintained. Mrs. Story and her underground room occupy a prominent place in Thompson's The Green Mountain Boys.
Resistance in Cumberland County.-From the time the State government was organized, there were persons in the State who were opposed to its jurisdiction; and these were the most numerous in the southeastern part of the State, especially in the towns of Brattleboro, Halifax, and Guilford, the population of the last-named at that time numbering about three thousand and being the most populous town in the State.
Drafting the militia for service, raising taxes, or exercising any form of government under the authority of Vermont, met with serious opposition in that quarter. These towns had even gone so far as to form a militia, officered by men holding commissions under New York authority, for the purpose of opposing the State government, this being under the advice of Governor Clinton, of New York, who was quite lavish in his promises of protection to those who still adhered to New York ; but it is safe to say, the protection never came except in the way of assurances. In some towns there were two sets of town officers, one professing allegiance to New York and the other to Vermont; and there were frequent skirmishes between the two factions.
It soon became apparent that, if Vermont were to maintain her authority, it would be necessary to put down such opposition ; and Ethan Allen was sent with troops to that part of the State. He accomplished his mission most successfully, arresting between thirty and forty persons, who were brought to trial as rioters and fined according to their influence as leaders of the opposition. For several years trouble from this quarter continued to exist; and at times troops were sent to bring the offenders to subjection. Some of the leading offenders were hanished from the State, not to return on the penalty of death ; and many of their goods and estates were confiscated and sold to replenish the finances of the State.
An Attempt to arrange a Settlement.-Incensed by these acts on the part of the Green Mountain Boys, Governor Clinton, of New York, begged the interposition of Congress. Accordingly a committee of five was appointed to visit Vermont and to inquire into the reason for the disturbances and arrange an amicable settlement, if possible. Only two of the committee visited Vermont; and as it required three to act, no report was ever made of the visit to Congress.
Among other questions asked of Governor Chittenden by the committee was this : “If the lands were restored to you would you be willing to return under the jurisdiction of New York ?" Governor Chittenden answered as follows: “We are in the fullest sense as unwilling to be under the jurisdiction of New York as we can conceive America would be to revert back under the powers of Great Britain.” He also said that they would be willing to leave the settlement of their differences to Congress, if that body would give the Vermonters equal privileges with other States in supporting their cause.
Three States claim the Whole or Portions of Vermont. -Encouraged by the fact that Vermont had relinquished her claim to the annexed towns, the New Hampshire Assembly soon laid claim to the whole tract of land contained in Vermont and applied to Congress for a confirmation of her claim. New York also demanded of that body recognition of her title to the territory in question. It was firmly believed by many of Vermont's leading men that a plot was brewing between the two States to divide the bone of contention between them, making the Green Mountains the divisional line, as soon as Congress should decide in favor of New York, as it was strongly expected she would do.
Just at this juncture Massachusetts interposed, setting up a claim to a portion of the State on an ancient grant of the Plymouth Company, but whether to thwart the purpose of New York and New Hampshire or to secure a