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CHAPTER XXI

FURTHER ACTS OF VERMONT GOVERNMENT-HALDIMAND

CORRESPONDENCE-CLOSE OF WAR

A Further Division of Counties. In the early part of the year

1781 a new division of counties was made. The western part of the State was divided into two counties : Bennington, with its present limits, and Rutland, extending from that county to Canada. The eastern part was divided into three counties : Windham and Windsor, with present boundaries, and Orange, extending from Windsor County to Canada.

Vermont adds to her Strength.—Vermont was indeed in a trying situation. She was but little favored by Congress, and New Hampshire and New York were both striving by every means in their power to annihilate her jurisdiction. Well for the infant commonwealth, she had statesmen who were equal to the situation. They believed themselves in the right and did not hesitate to declare their independence of both the claiming States and of Congress; they boldly asserted that they had the right to even cease hostilities with Great Britain at any time, if they so desired, and that they cared no longer to continue to maintain an important frontier for the United States if they were not to be one of them, and could hope for nothing better in the end than to be divided between their covetous neighbors. The sixteen New Hampshire towns west of Mason's grant had not ceased to desire a union with the new State; and were now, with the addition of several other towns, for a second time admitted to her jurisdiction. About the same time the inhabitants of some of the towns of eastern New York presented a petition to the Vermont Legislature asking that they also might be admitted as a part of the new commonwealth. Left defenseless by their own government they wished to avail themselves of the better protection offered by Vermont. “Otherwise," said they, “ we will be compelled to leave our homes and go into the interior part of the country for safety.” To them also Vermont stretched forth a welcome hand, and that part of New York adjoining Vermont, and east of Hudson River and a line running from that stream north to the Canada line, was added to the new jurisdiction.

By these two unions, Vermont had doubled her territory, greatly weakening her adversaries, and increased largely both her population and resources. She further strengthened herself by disposal of her unappropriated lands to citizens in other States, thereby interesting them in the establishment of her independence. Nothing but this bold grasp upon the territory of her enemies could have so increased her importance and placed her in a position to demand the respect of friend and foe alike. No wiser policy could have been adopted to secure her independence of the claiming States, and she was equally wise in the manner by which she secured the safety of her inhabitants from the invasion of the British on the north. The next subject will treat of the latter.

The Haldimand Correspondence.—The geographical situation of Vermont, the fact that she was at variance with the neighboring States, and the knowledge of the oft-repeated refusal of Congress to admit her as an independent commonwealth, greatly encouraged the British in thinking that Vermont, at last exasperated by her treatment, might be induced to espouse the British cause, furnish troops for its aid, and either unite with Canada or make arrangements with the British to become a province of that nation. To that end they opened a correspondence with Ethan Allen in the spring of 1780, in a letter written by Colonel Beverly Robinson, inviting the people of Vermont to join the British cause and intimating that such a course would be much to their advantage.

Allen at once showed the letter to Governor Chittenden and a few other confidential friends, all of whom agreed that no notice should be taken of it.

In about a year another letter came from the same source, enclosing a copy of the first, which they supposed must have been miscarried, as no answer had been made to it. Neither did Allen answer this, but sent them both to Congress, with a letter of his own assuring that body of his sincere attachment to the cause of his country, but declaring that Vermont had a right to cease hostilities with Great Britain provided Congress persisted in rejecting her application for admission into the Union. He further declared, “I am as resolutely determined to defend the independence of Vermont as Congress that of the United States.”

The colonial troops, as has been stated, had been withdrawn from the State; New York had withdrawn her troops from Skenesboro, leaving no protection in that quarter; their own militia was insufficient to protect them against a hostile army of 10,000 men, organized for the purpose of invasion, upon their northern borders; they fully believed that support had been withdrawn to compel

them to place themselves under the protection of New York; they had no mind to accept any such protection, and knew full well that only adroit management on their part would save them and their homes from destruction. Therefore, they determined to bring about by strategy what they could not accomplish by force. They were farseeing enough to recognize the advantage that a negotiation with the British might be to them, and so invited not only correspondence, but personal interviews as well.

This correspondence was carried on with the utmost secrecy for nearly three years, and has always been known as the “Haldimand Correspondence," because the negotiations with Vermont were under the management of General Haldimand. It consisted, on the part of the British, in repeated trials to persuade the leading men of Vermont to abandon the American cause and declare themselves a British province, making most generous and noble offers to the State and to its leading men if they would but do so ; on the part of the Vermonters it consisted in answers and proposals which were intended to give the British strong hopes of ultimate success without coming to any definite agreement. They even went so far as to plan with the British a form of government for the consideration of the people, the British having strong expectations that it would in a short time be subjected to the people and without doubt be accepted by them.

This bit of strategy was known at the time to but few Vermonters, probably less than a dozen in number. Prominent among the leaders were Thomas Chittenden, Ethan and Ira Allen, Samuel and Moses Robinson, Jonas and Joseph Fay, and Samuel Safford. Through its means several scouts who had been taken prisoners in the spring

of 1780 and most of those who had been taken at Royalton were exchanged on most generous terms ; for three successive years a British fleet had passed up the lake without making any attempt to injure the people of Vermont, their designs being noticeably against New York; an army of 10,000 had been kept back —a State had been saved.

It is true the policy adopted occasioned the suspicion of both friend and foe. The fre. quent exchange of flags with Canada, and the evident friendliness of the British toward the people of the State, excited strong suspicions in other States, as well as in Vermont,

Ira Allen. that something wrong was going on. Ira Allen, distinguished for his civil rather than military service, and the man who Governor Chittenden said, “had done more good work for the State than any other two men,'

was much censured by Vermonters because of the prominent part played by him; even Warner and Stark suspected the leaders of disloyalty. Many firmly believed that it had been their intention to unite with Canada; but we cannot conceive how any unprejudiced person, acquainted with the characters of these leaders and their previous history, can for a single moment doubt their patriotism. In speaking of the men, Hiland Hall says:

“These men were among the most ardent patriots of the State, who during the whole revolutionary period and afterwards, so long as they lived, enjoyed the full confi

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