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Vermont Republic

Green Mountain BoysVermont was the first Republic in America under the rule of the people and remained a Republic for over fourteen years after the Declaration of Independence was signed by the thirteen colonies. Vermont was never a Colony of England or of any other power. The Battle of Bennington in 1776 was won by Vermont troops, and although they carried an early version of the S&S Vermonters make a point of stating that Bennington fell to independent Vermont troops and not to American ones, and a similar claim is often made (by Vermonters!) regarding the British defeat at Fort Ticonderoga. Vermont makes much of the fact that along with Texas and California Vermont entered the Union voluntarily as a sovereign state.

No remnants of colonial magnificence adorned her approach. No traditions of Old World aristocracy gave distinction to her presence or grace to her society. No potency in national politics attracted the parasites of the hour. The luxuries of wealth were unknown to her. For the elegance of high culture she had found little opportunity. Rustic and shy, but picturesque, shadowed by the memories of a trying experience, unconquerable in spirit, proud of her untarnished history, and half reluctant to surrender the independence that had cost so much and been cherished so long.

If there was a Vermont Republic flag, no record or description of it is extant. No act establishing such a flag appears on the early statute books. The records of the time have been searched in vain for any reference to such a flag. In 1895 a reward of ten dollars was offered, in a widely circulated journal, for “an authentic description of the flag of the Vermont Republic or of the flag of the Green Mountain Boys,” but the reward was never called for.

The people of Vermont, then called "the New Hampshire Grants", governed themselves by committees and conventions eight years before the colonies united to resist Great Britain. Their segregation from all the other provinces came about through no effort on their part. They had received the grants of their land from an authorized agent of the Crown, the Governor of New Hampshire, who, they had every reason to believe, had authority to grant the lands. Then, through an ancient grant and a fraudulent petition sent to the King by the authorities of the Province of New York, the King decided that the territory west of the Connecticut River was under the jurisdiction of New York.

The authorities of that province notified the settlers that they must take out new grants (at a great advance in price over what they had paid) or vacate. This they declined to do. There were no courts of justice before which they could try their cause except the courts of those claiming their property. In the one case they tried, the court refused to recognize their grants and they therefore decided to continue to govern themselves and protect their homes with their lives, if necessary.

This was the cause of the organization of a small body of men which almost from the beginning, in 1770, became famous. Their record cannot be equalled in American history. Ethan Allen became their leader and was designated "Colonel." All know how he and about eighty of his boys, captured the important fort of Ticonderoga in 1775. This was the first aggressive act of the Revolution and gave heart to the cause and showed the timid what a few intrepid men could do.

They ruled the Grants with an iron hand for five years, 1770 to 1775, but during all that time, although in many spirited contests, they never killed a person. It was called a mob, but where does history recall a similar mob, that neither killed nor plundered? It was a fine tribute paid the Green Mountain Boys by a brave general at the head of an army of trained soldiers, when Gen. Burgoyne wrote: "The Hampshire Grants, a country unpeopled and almost unknown in the last war, now abounds in the most active and the most rebellious race of men on the Continent and hangs like a gathering storm on my left." Nothing more need be related of them except to acknowledge that had it not been for them, what is about to follow could not have happened.

Previous to 1775, the settlers on the Grants, as far as any records show, had no idea of forming a separate colony or Republic. They wanted to be under the jurisdiction of New Hampshire, but were willing to remain under New York if their titles were recognized. They had struck the blow at Ticonderoga without thinking of the consequences as far as their situation was concerned.

On June 24, 1776, not knowing a Declaration was to be issued July 4 by the United States, a call was sent out "to warn the several Inhabitants of the N. Hampshire Grants on the West side, and to desire those on the east side the Range of Green Mountains, That they meet by their several delegates" at Dorset, July 24, 1776. In consequence of this call, July 24,1776, forty-nine persons being delegated from thirty-two towns met in Convention at Dorset. They resolved to make application to the inhabitants to form the Grants into a separate "District."

The use of this resolution by the Vermonters made New York furious and they appealed to Congress, which resolved, 30 June 1777, "That the independent government attempted to be established, can derive no countenance or justification from the act of Congress," etc. The Vermonters cared little, however, what Congress thought about it and used the resolution for all it was worth and it was worth much in securing signers to their agreement. The excuse, given in a resolution passed, changing the name from New Connecticut to Vermont, was that they had discovered a settlement on the Susquehanna River which had been given that name.

An election was ordered to be held in December, 1777, to elect representatives to meet in Bennington, in January, 1778. A Council of Safety was appointed to administer the affairs of the State until some other provision in that regard should be made. The first secretary was Ira Allen. The office was one of high dignity corresponding to that of Secretary of State, but with more authority as his signature was recognized as of equal authority with that of the President. The new State or Republic of Vermont was formed.

The greatest difficulty that confronted the new State and one that none of the other members of the Committee of Safety knew how to solve, was the raising of troops to defend the people who remained. Several of them thought a company might be raised. Thomas Chittenden offered all he had—one cow and his wife's gold chain — to help pay a company; but Ira Allen, by far the youngest member, advocated raising a regiment.

The committee of safety had scouts with Burgoyne and knew his every move. There would have been no Battle of Bennington, had it not been for Ira Allen. General John Stark, was commander of the New Hampshire forces that were successful at the Battle of Bennington in Vermont in 1777.

Daniel P. Thompson wrote many years ago of this critical time: "The independence of the colonies was, at that dark crisis, balancing as on a pivot; and the success of Burgoyne must seemingly have turned the scale against us. The success of Burgoyne, at the same time, hung on a pivot also; and the victory of Bennington, with all its numberless direct and indirect consequences, as now seems generally conceded, turned the scale of his fortunes when his success, otherwise, could scarcely have been doubtful. But the victory of Bennington would never have been achieved but for the decided and energetic movement of Vermont, which alone secured the co-operation of New Hampshire, or, at least, insured victory, when, otherwise, no battle would have been hazarded. And that essential movement of Vermont would never have been made but for the bold and characteristic project of Ira Allen."

After 1783, when Peace was declared, there was little incentive for Vermont to join the United States, for Vermont had no debt, and settlers were pouring in. Taxes were very light, owing to the masterly handling of the finances by Ira Allen who remained State Treasurer until the State was on a firm foundation. They coined their own money. While they never made a Treaty with a foreign power, they had independent trade relations.

Vermont could not be admitted as a member State of the U.S. until the other States claiming its territory relinquished their claims and recognized Vermont's independence. Massachusetts did so in 1781 and New Hampshire in 1782. New York held out for some time, but finally relinquished its claim to Vermont in 1790.

In 1791, Vermont joined with the United States. The Assembly of Vermont called a convention to consider the expediency of joining the Federal Union. The convention met at Bennington, January 6, 1791, and it was finally determined four days later, by vote of Ios yeas to 2 nays, to make application to the Congress of the United States for the admission of Vermont into the Union. On February 18, 1791, nine days after General Washington had submitted to Congress Vermont's petition, the approval of an act of that body was made, by which "Vermont shall be received and admitted on March 4, 1791", thus being the first State that was admitted into the Union, after the adoption of the Federal Constitution.

The Second Vermont Republic has never existed except as a concept in the minds of a few secessionists and separatists...

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Page last modified: 19-10-2017 15:23:42 ZULU