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THE LIBRARY 

OF 
THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 




ETHAN ALLEN 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

EDITED BY 

JARED SPARKS 



ETHAN ALLEN 

By 
JARED SPARKS 

WILLIAM ELLERY 

By 
EDWARD T. CHANNING 

Vol. 9 




HARPER & BROTHERS 

PUBLISHERS 
NEW YORK AND LONDON J902 



Add..- 



Gin. 



37? 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

LIFE OF ETHAN ALLEN 3 



LIFE OF WILLIAM ELLERY 133 

CHAPTER I 

His Birth, early Years, Marriage, and Pro 
fession 133 

CHAPTER II 

Mr. Ellery is elected to Congress. Signs the 
Declaration of Independence. His Services 
in the Old Congress. Extracts from his 
Diary. His Character as a Public Man . 151 

CHAPTER III 

Withdraws Himself from Public Life. His 
Writings. His Opinions on various Topics. 
Habits in his declining Years. His 
Death. Remarks on his Character .... 175 
iii 



LIFE 

OF 

ETHAN ALLEN 

BY 

JARED SPARKS 



ETHAN ALLEN 



THE first settlement of Vermont, and the early 
struggles of the inhabitants not only in subduing a 
wilderness, but establishing an independent gov 
ernment, afford some of the most remarkable 
incidents in American history. When we now 
survey that flourishing State, presenting in all its 
parts populous towns and villages, and witness 
the high degree of culture to which it has at 
tained, and which, under the most favored social 
organization, is usually the slow achievement of 
time, we can hardly realize that seventy years 
ago the whole region from the Connecticut River 
to Lake Champlain was a waste of forests, an 
asylum for wild beasts, and a barrier against the 
inroads of the savages upon the border settlers 
of the New England colonies. This change has 
been brought to pass in the first place by a bold 
and hardy enterprise, and an indomitable spirit of 
freedom, which have rarely been equalled ; and 
afterwards by the steady perseverance of an en 
lightened and industrious population, deriving its 



4: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

stock from the. surrounding States, and increasing 
rapidly from its own resources. To the historian 
, feKU -is ; fertile -and attractive theme. By the 
biographer it can only be touched, as bearing on 
the deeds and character of the persons, who have 
been the principal actors in the train of events. 

Among those, who were most conspicuous in 
laying the foundation upon which the independent 
State of Vermont has been reared, and indeed 
the leader and champion of that resolute band 
of husbandmen, who first planted themselves in 
the wilderness of the Green Mountains, was 
ETHAN ALLEN. He was a native of Connecti 
cut, where his father and mother were likewise 
born, the former in Coventry, and the latter in 
Woodbury. Joseph Allen, the father, after his 
marriage with Mary Baker, resided in Litchfield, 
where it is believed that Ethan and one or two 
other children were born. The parents after 
wards removed to Cornwall, where other children 
were born, making in all six sons and two daugh 
ters, Ethan, Heman, Heber, Levi, Zimri, Ira, 
Lydia, and Lucy. All the brothers grew up 
to manhood, and four or five of them emigrated 
to the territory west of the Green Mountains 
among the first settlers, and were prominent 
members of the social and political compacts into 
which the inhabitants gradually formed them 
selves. Bold, active, and enterprising, they es- 



ETHAN ALLEN. 5 

poused with zeal, and defended with energy, the 
cause of the settlers against what were deemed 
the encroaching schemes of their neighbors, and 
with a keen interest sustained their share in all 
the border contests. Four of them were engaged 
in the military operations of the Revolution, and 
by a hazardous and successful adventure at the 
breaking out of the war, in the capture of Ticon- 
deroga, the name of Ethan Allen gained a re 
nown, which spread widely at the time, and has 
been perpetuated in history. 

But, before we proceed in our narrative, it is 
necessary to state a few particulars explanatory 
of what will follow. Among the causes of the 
controversies, which existed between the colonies 
in early times, and continued down to the Revo 
lution, was the uncertainty of boundary lines as 
described in the old charters. Considering the 
ignorance of all parties, at the time the charters 
were granted, as to the extent and interior situa 
tion of the country, it was not surprising that 
limits should be vaguely defined, and that the 
boundaries of one colony should encroach upon 
those of another. A difficulty of this kind arose 
between the colony of New York and those of 
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. 
By the grant of King Charles the Second to his 
brother, the Duke of York, the tract of country 
called New York was bounded on the east by 



6 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Connecticut River, thus conflicting with the ex 
press letter of the Massachusetts and Connecticut 
charters, which extended those colonies westward 
to the South Sea, or Pacific Ocean. After a 
long controversy, kept up at times with a good 
deal of heat on both sides, the line of division 
between these colonies was fixed by mutual 
agreement at twenty miles east of Hudson s Riv 
er, running nearly in a north and south direc 
tion. This line was adopted as a compromise 
between Connecticut and New York, upon the 
consideration that the Connecticut settlers had 
established themselves so far to the westw r aid 
under patents from that colony, as to be within 
about twenty miles of the Hudson. The Mas 
sachusetts boundary was decided much later to 
be a continuation of the Connecticut line to the 
north, making the western limit of Massachusetts 
also twenty miles from the same river. This 
claim was supported mainly on the ground of the 
precedent in the case of Connecticut, and was 
long resisted by New York, as interfering with 
previous grants from that colony extending thirty 
miles eastward from the Hudson.* 



* See A State of the Right of the Colony of New 
York) ivith Respect to its Eastern Boundary on Connecti* 
cut jRtVer, Sfc. pp. 5, 7. 



ETHANALLEN. .7 

Meantime New Hampshire had never been 
brought into the controversy, because the lands 
to the westward of that province beyond Connec 
ticut River had been neither settled nor surveyed. 
There was indeed a small settlement at Fort 
Dummer on the western margin of the River, 
which was under the protection of Massachusetts, 
and supposed to be within that colony, till the di 
viding line between New Hampshire and Massa 
chusetts was accurately run, when Fort Dummer 
was ascertained to be north of that line, and was 
afterwards considered as being within the jurisdic 
tion of the sister colony. Such was the state of 
things when Benning Wentworth became gover 
nor of New Hampshire, with authority from the 
King to issue patents for unimproved lands within 
the limits of his province. Application was made 
for grants to the west of Connecticut River, and 
even beyond the Green Mountains, and in 1749 
he gave a patent for a township six miles square, 
near the northwest angle of Massachusetts, to be 
so laid out, that its western limit should be twenty 
miles from the Hudson, and coincide with the 
boundary line of Connecticut and Massachusetts 
continued northward. This township was called 
Bennington. 

Although the governor and council of New 
York remonstrated against this grant, and claimed 
for that colony the whole territory north of Mas- 



8 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sachusetts as far eastward as Connecticut River, 
yet Governor Wentworth was not deterred by this 
remonstrance from issuing other patents, urging in 
his justification, that New Hampshire had a right 
to the same extension westward as Massachusetts 
and Connecticut. Fourteen townships had been 
granted in 1754, when the French war broke out, 
and, by the peril it threatened on the frontiers, 
discouraged settlers from seeking a residence there, 
or vesting their property in lands, the title to 
which might be put in jeopardy, or their value 
destroyed, by the issue of the contest. Nor was 
it till the glorious victory of Wolfe on the Plain s 
of Abraham had wrested Canada for ever from 
the French power, secured these border territories 
against all further invasion from an ancient foe, 
and opened the prospects of a speedy and lasting 
peace, that the spirit of enterprise, perhaps of ad 
venture, combining with the hope of gain, revived 
a desire of possessing and settling these wild lands. 
Applications for new patents thronged daily upon 
Governor Wentworth, and within four years time 
the whole number of townships granted by him, 
to the westward of Connecticut River, was one 
hundred and thirty-eight. The territory including 
these townships was known by the name of the 
New Hampshire Grants, which it retained till the 
opening of the Revolution, when its present name 
of Vermont oegan to be adopted. 



ETHAN ALLEN. 9 

At what time Ethan Allen and his brethren 
emigrated to the Grants is uncertain. It was not, 
however, till after the reduction of Canada, and 
probably not till the peace between England and 
France had been concluded. Meantime among 
the inhabitants of the New England colonies, a 
ready market had been found for the lands, and 
settlers were flocking over the mountains from va 
rious quarters. Many persons had passed through 
those lands on their way to the army in Canada, 
and become acquainted with their value. The 
easy terms upon which the townships had been 
patented by Governor Wentworth enabled the 
original purchasers to dispose of shares, and single 
farms, at very low prices, thus holding out strong 
allurements to settlers. Apprehensions as to the 
validity of the title must also have induced the 
first proprietors to prefer a quick sale, with small 
profits, to the uncertain prospect of larger gains 
at a future day. By this union of policy and in 
terest the lands were rapidly sold, in tracts of 
various dimensions, to practical farmers, who re 
solved to establish themselves as permanent resi 
dents on the soil. Of this number were the Al 
iens, who selected their lands in the township of 
Bennington, to which they removed in company 
with several other persons from Connecticut. 

While these things were going on, the gover* 
nor of New York did not remain an idle spectator 



10 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

He wrote letters to the governor of New Hamp 
shire protesting against his grants, and published 
proclamations declaring the Connecticut River to 
be the boundary between the two colonies. But 
neither proclamations nor remonstrances produced 
conviction in the mind of Governor Wentworth. 
He continued to issue his warrants ; a population 
of hardy yeomanry was daily increasing in the 
New Hampshire Grants ; a formidable power was 
taking root there, nurtured by the local feelings, 
united objects, and physical strength of the set 
tlers ; and the government of New York thought it 
time to seek redress in a higher quarter, and appeal 
to the Crown as the ultimate arbiter in all contro 
versies of this nature. Accordingly the matter was 
brought before the King in Council, and his Majes 
ty decided by a royal decree, in the year 1764, 
that the Connecticut. River was the dividing line 
between New York and New Hampshire. In this 
decision all parties seemed to acquiesce. Gover 
nor Wentworth granted no more patents on the 
west side of the river, and the settlers showed no 
symptoms of uneasiness, as the only difference 
made in their condition by the royal decree was, 
that they \vere now declared to be under the ju 
risdiction of New York, whereas they had hitherto 
regarded themselves as under thai of New Hamp 
shire ; but this change they did not contemplate 
as a grievance, presuming their property and civil 



ETHAN ALLEN, 11 

rights would be as well protected by the laws of 
the one colony as by those of the other. 

But herein they soon discovered themselves to 
be in an error, and to differ widely in sentiment 
rom their more astute neighbors. Men learned 
n the law and of high station in New York had 
made it appear, that jurisdiction meant the same 
thing as right of property ; and since his Majesty 
had decided Connecticut River to be the eastern 
limit of that province, the governor and council de 
creed, that all the lands west of the said river ap 
pertained to New York, however long they might 
have been in the possession of actual occupants. 
This was a strange doctrine to men, who had paid 
their money for the lands, and by their own toil 
added ten-fold or a hundred-fold to their value ; 
who had felled the forests by the strength of their 
sinews, and submitted for years to all the priva 
tions and discomforts of the woodsman s life. In 
a tone of just indignation they said to these new 
masters, we will obey your laws, but you shall not 
plunder us of the substance we have gained by the 
sweat of our brows. The New York government, 
however, in conformity with their interpretation of 
the royal decree, proceeded to grant patents cov 
ering the lands on which farms had been brought 
to an advanced state of culture, houses built, and 
orchards planted, by the original purchasers and 
settlers. It is true that to all such persons was 



12 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

granted the privilege of taking out new patents, 
and securing a New York title, by paying the fees 
and other charges, which were greatly enhanced 
upon those paid at first to Governor Wentworth ; 
that is, in other words, they were allowed the right 
of purchasing their own property. This was a 
proposition perfectly comprehensible to the most 
illiterate husbandman. With a very few exceptions 
they refused to comply with it, alleging that they 
had bought their lands by a fair purchase, and had 
a just claim to a title, under whatever jurisdiction 
the King might think proper to place them ; that 
it was not their business to interfere with the 
controversies of the colonies about their respec 
tive boundaries, but it was their business, their 
duty, and their determination to retain and defend 
their lawful property. The case was aggravated 
by an order < f the governor and council of New 
York, calling on all the claimants under the New 
Hampshire grants to appear before them, the said 
governor and council, with the deeds, convey 
ances, and other evidences of their claims within 
three months, and declaring that the claims of all 
persons not presented within that time should 
DC rejected. This had no effect upon the set 
tlers, and of course their titles were looked upon 
as forfeited, and the lands they occupied as being 
the property of the colony of New York. 



rfTHAN ALLEN. 13 

It would seem, that certain speculators entered 
deep.y into the affair, influenced more by the lite 
ral construction or ambiguous meaning of charters 
and royal decrees, than by the power of the set 
tlers to support their claims, or the absolute justice 
of their cause. Hence repeated applications for 
large grants were made to the governor, which he 
was nowise inclined to refuse, since every new 
patent was attended with a liberal fee to himself. 
Foreseeing the mischiefs, that would result to them 
from this growing combination of powerful and in 
terested individuals in New York, the settlers de 
spatched one of their number to England as an 
agent in their behalf, instructed to lay their case 
before the King, and petition for relief. This 
mission was successful, so far as to obtain an order 
from the King in Council, July, 1767, command 
ing the governor of New York to abstain from 
issuing any more patents in the disputed territory, 
" upon pain of his Majesty s highest displeasure," 
till the intentions of the King on the subject should 
further be made known. 

This decision, having only a prospective effect, 
did not annul the grants already bestowed, and 
the New York patentees resolved to gain posses 
sion of the lands by civil process. Writs of eject 
ment were taken out, and served on several of the 
actual occupants. In a few instances the officers 
were resisted by the people, and prevented from 



14 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

serving the writs ; but, for the most part, the New 
Hampshire grantees inclined to meet their oppo 
nents on this ground, and refer the matter to a 
judicial tribunal. Ethan Allen, having already be 
come a leader among them, by his zeal in oppos 
ing the New York party and by the boldness oi 
his character, was appointed an agent to manage 
the concerns of the defendants before the court at 
Albany, to which the writs of ejectment had been 
returned. His first step was to proceed to New 
Hampshire, and obtain copies of Governor Went- 
worth s commission and instructions, by which he 
was authorized to grant the lands. He next went 
to Connecticut, and engaged the services of Mr. 
Ingersoll, an eminent counsellor of that day. When 
the time of trial arrived, these gentlemen appeared 
in Albany, and produced to the court the above 
papers, and also the original patents or grants to 
those persons on whom the writs of ejectment had 
been served. These papers were at once set 
aside, as having no weight in the case, since they 
presupposed that the boundary of New Hamp 
shire reached to the west of Connecticut River 
a point not to be admitted by any New York court 
or jury. The verdict was of course given for 
the plaintiffs. Indeed the whole process was an 
idle piece of formality. It being the theoretical 
and practical doctrine of the New York govern 
ment, that all Governor Went worth s grants were 



ETHAN ALLEN. 15 

illegal, and many of the judges and lawyers being 
personally interested in the subsequent New York 
patents, a decision adverse to their declared opin 
ion of the law, and to their private interests, was 
not to be expected. This was soon perceived by 
the people of the New Hampshire Grants, and no 
one of them again appeared in court, though sun 
dry other cases of ejectment were brought up, 
and decided against the occupants. As all their 
grants stood on precisely the same footing, a pre 
cedent in one case would necessarily be followed 
in the others. 

It is recorded, that after Allen retired from the 
court at Albany, two or three gentlemen interested 
in the New York grants called upon him, one of 
whom was the King s attorney-general for the 
colony, and advised him to go home and per 
suade his friends of the Green Mountains to make 
the best terms they could with their new landlords, 
intimating that their cause was now desperate, and 
reminding him of the proverb, that " might often 
prevails against right." Neither admiring the 
delicacy of this sentiment, nor intimidated by the 
threat it held out, Allen replied, " The gods of the 
valleys are not the gods of the hills." This la 
conic figure of speech he left to be interpreted by 
his visitors, adding only, when an explanation was 
asked by the King s attorney, that if he would 



16 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

accompany him to Bennington the sense should 
be made clear. 

The purpose of his mission being thus brought 
to a close, Mr. Allen returned and reported the 
particulars to his constituents. The news spread 
from habitation to habitation, and created a sud 
den and loud murmur of discontent among the 
people. Seeing, as they thought, the door of jus 
tice shut against them, and having tried in vain 
all the peaceable means of securing their rights, 
they resolved to appeal to the last arbiter of dis 
putes. The inhabitants of Bennington immediate 
ly assembled, and came to a formal determination 
to defend their property by force, and to unite in 
resisting all encroachments upon the lands occu 
pied by persons holding titles under the warrants 
granted by the governor of New Hampshire. 
This was a bold step ; but it was promptly taken, 
and with a seeming determination to adhere to it 
at any hazard, and without regard to consequen 
ces. Nor was this decision changed or weakened 
by a proposition on the part of the New York 
patentees, made about this time, which allowed to 
each occupant a fee simple of his farm, at the 
same price for which the unoccupied lands in his 
neighborhood were sold. The first purchasers 
still insisted, that this was requiring them to pay 
twice for their lands, and that in any view the 
proposal was not just, inasmuch as the value of 



ETHAN ALLEN. 17 

the unoccupied lands depended mainly on the set 
tlements, which had been made in their vicinity 
by the toil and at the expense of the original oc 
cupants. In short, the time for talking about 
charters, and boundaries, and courts of judicature 
was past, and the mountaineers were now fully 
bent on conducting the controversy by a more 
summary process. The wisdom or equity of this 
decision I shall forbear to discuss, and proceed to 
narrate some of its consequences. 

Actions of ejectment continued to be brought 
before the Albany courts ; but the settlers, de 
spairing of success after the precedents of the first 
cases, did not appear in defence, nor give them 
selves any more trouble in the matter. Next 
came sheriffs and civil magistrates to execute the 
writs of possession, and by due course of law to 
remove the occupants from the lands. At this 
crisis the affair assumed a tangible shape. The 
mountaineers felt themselves at home on the soil, 
which they had subdued by their own labor, and 
in the territory over which they had begun to ex 
ercise supreme dominion, by meeting in conven 
tions and committees and taking counsel of each 
other on public concerns. To drive one of them 
from his house, or deprive him of his hard-earned 
substance, was to threaten the whole community 
with an issue fatal alike to their dearest interests, 

and to the rights, which every man deems aa 
ix. 2 



18 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sacred as life itself. It was no wonder, therefore 
that they should unite in a common cause, which 
it required their combined efforts to maintain. 

As it was expected the sheriffs would soon 
make their appearance, precautions were taken to 
watch their motions, and give due notice of their 
approach. In the first instance, when the sheriff 
arrived at the house, on the owner of which he 
was to serve a writ of possession, he found it 
surrounded by a body of men, who resisted his 
attempts, and defeated his purpose. Complaints 
were sent to Lord Dunmore, then governor of 
New York, accompanied with the names of the 
leaders of this " riotous and tumultuous " assem 
blage ; and the governor forthwith published a 
proclamation on the 1st day of November, 1770, 
denouncing this presumptuous act, and command 
ing the sheriff of Albany county to apprehend the 
offenders, whose names had been mentioned, and 
commit them to safe custody, that they might be 
brought to condign punishment ; authorizing him 
to call to his assistance the posse comitatus, or the 
whole power of the county. But proclamations 
were of as little avail as writs of possession ; and 
the sheriff was never lucky enough to seize any 
of the rioters, who doubtless had the forethought 
to keep out of his reach. 

The next exploit was at the house of James 
Brackenridge, whose farm was within the township 



ETHAN ALLEN 9 

of Bennington, and on whom the sheriff came to 
serve a writ. The house was filled with armed 
men, who treated this civil officer with much dis 
respect, and set his authority at naught. A few 
days afterwards he returned with a posse, such as 
he could collect for the purpose ; but in this in 
stance he was again repelled by a still more nu 
merous party armed with muskets, which they 
presented at the breasts of the sheriff and his 
associates, and exhibited other attitudes of menace 
and contempt, against which these pacific mes 
sengers, armed only with the mandates and terrors 
of the law, did not think it prudent to contend. 
The rioters, as they were called, and perhaps by 
no very forced construction of language, came off 
a second time triumphant ; and thus the boldness 
of their resolutions received a new incitement. 
These examples, however, did not deter the civil 
officers from endeavoring to discharge their duty. 
They appeared in other places, and in one or two 
instances with success ; but they could not evade 
the vigilance of the people, who kept a watch 
ful eye upon their movements, and who, when 
they caught the intruders, resorted to a mode of 
punishment less perilous than that with powder 
and ball, but attended with scarcely less indignity 
to the unfortunate sufferers. This summary pro 
cess was denominated chastisement with the twigs 
of the wilderness, a phraseology too significant to 
need explanation. 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

As open war now existed, and hostilities hau 
commenced, the Green Mountain Boys, as the 
belligerents were denominated, thought it advisa 
ble to organize their forces and prepare for the 
contest in a manner woithy of the cause at stake. 
In all the feats of enterprise and danger, as well 
as in matters of state policy, Ethan Allen had 
hitherto been the cnie adviser and actor. It was 
natural, that, in arranging their military establish 
ment, the people should look up to him as the 
person best qualified to be placed at its head. lie 
was appointed colonel-commandant, with several 
captains under him, of whom the most noted weie 
Seth Warner and Remember Baker. Commjt- 
tees of safety were likewise chosen, and mcrasted 
with powers for regulating local affairs. Con 
ventions of delegates, representing the people, as 
sembled from time to time, and passed resolves 
and adopted measures, which tended to harmo 
nize their sentiments and concentrate their efforts. 

Thus prepared and supported, Colonel Allen, 
with a promptness and activity suited to his char 
acter, drew out his volunteers in larger or smaller 
numbers, as the exigency of the case required, 
and either in person, or by the agency of his cap 
tains, presented a formidable force to the sheriffs 
and constables wherever they appeared within the 
limits of the New Hampshire Grants. The con 
vention had decreed, that no officer from New 



ETHAN ALLEN 21 

York should attempt to take any person out of 
their territory on the penalty of a severe punish 
ment ; and it was also forbidden, that any survey 
or should presume to run lines through the lands, 
or inspect them with that intention. This edict 
enlarged the powers of the military commanders ; 
for it was their duty to search out such intruders, 
and chastise them according to the nature of their 
offence. A few straggling settlers, claiming titles 
under the New York grants, had ventured ovei 
the line of demarkation. These were forcibly 
dispossessed by detachments of Colonel Allen s 
men, frequently led on by him in person. The 
sheriffs and their posse comitatus continued to 
be pursued with unremitting eagerness, whenever 
they dared to set their feet on the forbidden 
ground. With these various affairs on his hands, 
it will readily be imagined that the commander 
of the Green Mountain Boys was not idle ; nor 
was it surprising, that he should attract the par 
ticular notice of the New York government. So 
many complaints were made of the riotous and 
disorderly proceedings of his volunteers and as 
sociates, such was the indignation of the New 
York party on account of the harsh measures 
adopted by them towards the persons, whom they 
seized as trespassers upon their property, and 
so entirely did they set at defiance the laws of 
New York, to which their opponents accounted 



22 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

them amenable, that the governor was tempted 
to try the virtue of another proclamation, in which 
he branded the deed of dispossessing a New York 
settler with the opprobrious name of felony, and 
offered a reward of twenty pounds to any person> 
who would apprehend and secure Allen, or either 
ol eight other persons connected with him, and 
mentioned by name. 

Whether this proclamation was thought too 
mild in its terms, or whether new outrages had 
added to the enormity of the offence, it is not 
easy to decide ; but another was promulgated, en 
larging the bounty for Allen to one hundred and 
fifty pounds, and for Seth Warner and nVe others 
to fifty pounds each. Not to be outdone by the 
authority of New York in exercising the preroga 
tives of sovereignty, Colonel Allen and his friends 
sent out a counter proclamation, offering a re 
ward of five pounds to any person, who would 
take and deliver the attorney-general of that 
colony to any officer in the military association of 
the Green Mountain Boys ; the said attorney 
having rendered himself particularly obnoxious to 
the settlers, by the zeal and pertinacity with which 
he had entered into the contest against them.* 
Notwithstanding the frequency of proclamations, 
it is believed that no person was apprehended la 

* Ira Allen s History of Vermoni, p 29. 



ETHAN ALLEN. 23 

consequence of them, which is a proof that the 
people of the parts of New York adjoining the 
New Hampshire Grants were more favorable to 
the settlers, than were the prominent men of the 
colony ; otherwise the allurement of the reward 
would have induced combinations for seizing in 
dividual offenders, particularly as the people were 
required by law to assist the sheriff in the execu 
tion of his office. Allen never denied, that the 
conduct of himself and his mountaineers, inter 
preted by the laws of New York, or the laws of 
any well ordered society, was properly called 
riotous ; but he contended, that they were driven 
to this extremity by the oppression of their stron 
ger neighbors, that no other means were left by 
which they could defend their property, and that 
under such circumstances they were perfectly jus 
tified in resorting to these means. They en 
croached not upon the possessions of other people, 
they remained on their own soil, and, if riots exist 
ed, they were caused by those, who came among 
them for purposes of molestation and injury. 
Viewing things in this light, he thought it hard, 
and with reason, that he should first be called a 
rioter, then a criminal rioter, and last of all be 
denounced to the world as a felon, with a price 
set upon his liberty, and threats of condign puo- 
ishment if he should be taken. 



24 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

But he was equally regardless of threats, and 
faithful in executing the Charge ieposed in him 
by his associates. Affairs had now been brought 
to such a stage, that it was the fixed determi 
nation of the settlers at all hazards to main 
tain their ground by expelling every person, who 
should presume to approach their territory under 
the auspices of the New York claimants. An 
incident occurred, which indicated the temper and 
spirit of the people. News came to Benning- 
ton, that Governor Tryon was ascending the 
North River with a body of British troops, who 
were on their way to subdue the refractory Green 
Mountain Boys, and to quell the disputes by an 
overwhelming force. This report at first produced 
alarm. The Committee of Safety and the military 
officers held a consultation. Their perilous situa 
tion was viewed in all its aspects, and it was final 
ly resolved, that, considering the measures they 
had already pursued, and that their vital interests 
required a perseverance in the same, " it was their 
duty to oppose Governor Tryon and his troops to 
the utmost of their power." They immediately 
proceeded to devise a plan of operations, by which 
a few sharp-shooters were to be stationed in a nar 
row pass on the road leading to Bennington, who 
were to lie concealed and shoot down the officers 
as they approached with the troops. These same 
marksmen were then tc hasten forward through 



ETHAX ALLEN. 25) 

tne woods, and join another party of their com 
rades at a similar position, where they were to <.x 
ercise their unerring skill with their rifles, and then 
retreat to the main body, who would be prepared 
to receive the invading troops, much disordered 
and dispirited as it was supposed they would be by 
the loss of officers. Colonel Allen despatched a 
trusty person to Albany, with instructions to wait 
the arrival of Governor Tryon s army, to take par 
ticular note of the officers, that he might know 
them again, and to ascertain all that he could as to 
the numbers of the enemy, the time of marching, 
and other useful intelligence. The messenger 
returned with the information, that the troops 
were wind-bound down the river, that they were 
destined for the posts on the Lakes, and had no 
designs upon Bennington. Although the people 
were thus relieved from the necessity of putting 
their valor to the test, yet their prompt and bold 
preparation for the onset was a pledge, that in no 
event could it have terminated to their dishonor. 

Affairs were proceeding in this train of civi, 
commotion and active hostilities, when Governoi 
Tryon, in a spirit of candor and forbearance hard 
ly to have been expected at that crisis, wrote a 
letter to the inhabitants of Bennington and the 
adjacent country, dated on the 19th of May, 1772, 
censuring the illegality and violence of their con 
duct, but at the same time expressing a desire to 



26 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

do them justice, and inviting them to send a de}>- 
utation of such persons as they might choose, whc 
should lay before him a full state of their grievan 
ces, and the causes of their complaints. To any 
deputies thu^ sent he promised security and pro 
tection, excepting Ethan Allen, Seth Warner, and 
three others, who had been named in his procla 
mation as offenders against the laws, and for ap 
prehending whom a reward had been offered. On 
receiving this letter the people of Bennington and 
the neighboring towns assembled by their commit 
tees, took the subject mtu consideration, and with 
out delay acceded to ,he proposal. They appoint 
ed two delegates. Stephen Fay and Jonas Fay, 
to repair to New York, and wrote a letter in 
answer to Governor Tryon s, briefly s Q tiing forta 
the grounds of their discontent and the reasons of 
their conduct, and referring to their agents for par 
ticular explanations. From the style and tone of 
the letter, it was obviously penned by Ethan Allen. 
Neither was the opportunity to be passed over, 
by Allen and his proscribed friends, of vindicat 
ing themselves against the aspersions cast upon 
them by their enemies, and the stigma of being 
pointed out to the world as rioters, abettors of 
mobs, and felons. They sent a joint despatch 
to Governor Tryon, in the nature of a protest 
against the treatment they had received, and in 
justification of their motives and acts. Allen was 



ETHAN AL.LEN. 27 

again the penman for his brethren, and, consider 
ing their provocations, and the degree of excite 
ment to which they had been wrought up, their 
remonstrance was clothed in language sufficiently 
respectful, breathing the spirit of men conscious of 
their dignity, and resolute in the defence of their 
rights, but ready to meet the awards of justice 
and abide by the decision of a fair and impartial 
tribunal. Some of their arguments are put in a 
forcible manner. " If we do not oppose the 
sheriff and his posse," say they, " he takes im 
mediate possession of our houses and farms ; if 
we do, we are immediately indicted as rioters ; 
and when others oppose officers in taking their 
friends so indicted, they are also indicted, and so 
on, there being no end of indictment against us 
so long as we act the bold and manly part and 
stand by our liberty. And it comes to this at 
last, that we must tamely be dispossessed, or op 
pose officers in taking possession, and, as a next 
necessary step, oppose the taking of rioters, so 
called, or run away like so many cowards and 
quit the country to a number of cringing, polite 
gentlemen, who have ideally possessed themselves 
of it already." 

Again ; " Though they style us rioters for op 
posing them, and seek to catch and punish us as 
such, yet in reality themselves are the rioters, the 
tumultuous, disorderly, stimulating faction, or in 



23 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

fine the land-jobbers ; and every violent act they 
have done to compass their designs, though ever 
so much under pretence of law, is in reality a vi 
olation of law, and an insult to the constitution 
and authority of the Crown, as well as to many of 
us in person, who have been great sufferers by 
such inhuman exertions of pretended law. Right 
and wrong are eternally the same to all periods 
of time, places, and nations ; and coloring a crime 
with a specious pretence of law only adds to 
the criminality of it, for it subverts the very 
design of law, prostituting it to the vilest pur 
poses." * 

These statements embraced the substance of 
iheir defence, considered in its theory and princi 
ples, although they were strengthened by a series 
of collateral facts and a combination of particu 
lars, which were all made to assume a bear 
ing favorable to the general cause. Governor 
Tryon received the deputies with affability and 
kindness, listened to their representations, and 
laid the matter of their grievances bjefore his 
council. After due deliberation the council re 
ported to the governor, that they wished him to 
give the people of the New Hampshire Grants all 
the relief in his power, and recommended that 

* Ethan Allen s Brief Narrative of the Proceeding* 
of the Government of New York. fyc. pp. 58, 62. 



ETHAN ALLEN. 29 

the prosecutions, on account of crimes with which 
they were charged, should cease till his Majesty s 
pleasure could be ascertained, and that the New 
York grantees should be requested till such 
time to put a stop to civil suits respecting the 
lands in controversy. This vote of the council 
was approved by the governor, and with this 
intelligence the deputies hastened back to their 
constituents, who hailed them as the messengers 
of peace and joy. They had never asked for 
more than was implied by these terms, being well 
persuaded, that, however the question of jurisdic 
tion might be settled, the King would never sanc 
tion a course of proceeding, which should deprive 
them of their property. The impulse of glad 
ness spread quickly to the cabins of the remotest 
settlers ; a meeting of the people was called at 
Bennington, where a large concourse assembled ; 
the minutes of the council and the governor s ap 
proval were read, and applauded with loud ac 
clamations, and for the moment the memory of all 
former griefs was swept away in the overflowing 
tide of enthusiasm for Governor Try on. The 
single cannon, constituting the whole artillery of 
Colonel Allen s regiment, was drawn out and dis 
charged several times in honor of the occasion; 
and Captain Warner s company of Green Moun 
tain Boys, paraded in battle array, fired three 
volleys with small arms ; the surrounding multi- 



30 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tudes at the same time answering each dischrage 
with huzzas, and every demonstration of delight. 
It was accounted a day of triumph to the heroes 
of Bennington, and a harbinger of tranquillity to 
the settlers, who had hitherto been harassed by 
the incessant tumults of the present, or the vexa 
tious uncertainty of the future. 

But unluckily this season of rejoicing was of 
short duration. It was indeed premature ; for al 
though the terms brought back by the commis 
sioners held out an appearance of reconciliation, 
yet the seeds of mischief were not eradicated, 
and they immediately began to spring up with 
their former vigor. The conciliatory resolve of 
the governor and council moreover contained an 
ambiguity, which seemed at first to escape the 
notice of the people, in the excess of their hi 
larity. The New York grantees were desired to 
cease from prosecuting any more civil suits, till 
the King s pleasure should be known ; but nothing 
was said about putting in execution the suits 
already decided in their favor, and no prohibition 
intimated against their taking possession of lands 
claimed in consequence of such decisions, or 
sending surveyors to fix boundaries and localities. 
Hence it is obvious, that all the actual sources of 
dissension and tumult remained in their full force. 

It was unfortunate, that an example occurred 
while the negotiation was pending. Soon after 



ETHAN ALLEN. 31 

the commissioners set off for New York, intelli 
gence was brought to Bennington, that a noted 
surveyor, employed by the New York claimants, 
had found his way into some of the border town 
ships, and was busy in running out lands. A 
small party rallied, with Colonel Allen at their 
head, went in pursuit of the surveyor, fell upon 
his track in the woods, overtook and seized him, 
intending to punish him in a manner suited to 
their ideas of the audaciousness of his offence 
They broke his instruments, examined and tried 
him before a court organized according to their 
manner, found him guilty, and passed sentence 
of banishment, threatening the penalty of death, 
should he ever again be caught within the limits 
of the interdicted territory. At this juncture they 
heard of the success of the mission to New York, 
which occasioned them to dismiss the surveyor 
without personal injury, and to rescind their harsh 
sentence. 

During this expedition Colonel Allen and his 
party also dispossessed the tenants of an intruder, 
near the mouth of Otter Creek, where, under the 
shield of a New York title, he had taken a saw 
mill and other property from the original settlers, 
and appropriated them to himself, adding tene 
ments and improvements for his laborers. Colonel 
Allen expelled the tenants, burnt their habitations, 
restored the sawmill to its first owner, and broke 



32 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the millstones of a gristmill, which he could not 
burn without endangering the sawmill. 

The fame of these exploits travelled with speed 
to New York, and kindled the anger of Gover 
nor Tryon and the members of his council. The 
governor wrote a letter of sharp rebuke to the 
inhabitants of the Grants, complaining of this con 
duct as an insult to government, and a violation 
of public faith. This letter was taken into con 
sideration by the committees of several townships 
assembled at Manchester, who voted to return 
an answer, which was drafted by Ethan Allen, 
secretary to the convention. In regard to the 
prominent points, Mr. Allen argued in behalf of 
his associates, that the public faith was not plight 
ed on their part, till after the ratification at Ben- 
nington of the terms brought back by their com 
missioners, and that the transactions so severe 
ly censured took place previously to that event. 
If there was any breach of faith in the case, it 
was declared to have been on the part of the 
land-jobbers in New York, who sent a surveyoi 
nto the disputed domain, while the commission 
ers were negotiating for a reconcilement of dif 
ferences. As to putting the intruders at Otter 
Creek again into possession, which the governor 
had demanded in a somewhat peremptory manner, 
they declined doing it, assigning as a reason that 
those persons were justly removed, and that the 



ETHANALLEN. 33 

governor could not fail to be of the same opinion 
when duly informed of facts. The assembled 
committees moreover declared explicitly, that, by 
the terms of reconciliation, they did not expect 
any settlements or locations would be attempted 
on the lands in question, till his Majesty s pleas 
ure should be known. If such were not the 
meaning and intent of the governor, in the pro 
posal he had sent by the commissioners, then 
their act of ratification was a nullity. 

To put the matter on this footing was at once 
to revive all the old difficulties ; for the governor 
had no power to stop the course of law, by pro 
hibiting those persons from taking possession of 
their lands, who had been confirmed in their 
claims by the regular decisions of the courts. 
All such claimants, and agents acting in their 
behalf, the settlers had determined to resist by 
force, and had given practical proofs of their reso 
lution, which were not to be mistaken. They 
had also resolved to pursue, 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. Like 
the Tories of the Revolution, these people were 
considered as the worst kind of enemas, and 
treated with uncommon severity. In an unlucky 
hour two or three of them accepted from Gov 
ernor Tryon commissions of justices of the peace, 
ix. 3 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and had the hardihood to act in their official 
dignity. The indignation and wrath of the Green 
Mountain Boys were roused. In one instance 
the unhappy delinquent was brought before the 
Committee of Safety, where the resolve of the 
convention was read to him, forbidding any one 
in the territory to hold an office under the colo 
ny of New York ; and then judgment was pro 
nounced against him, in the presence of many 
persons, by which he was sentenced to be tied 
to a tree, and chastised " with the twigs of the 
wilderness " on his naked back, to the num 
ber of two hundred stripes, and immediately ex 
pelled from the district, and threatened with death 
if he should return, unless specially permitted 
by the Convention. 

In the midst of these rigors, the mode of pun 
ishment was sometimes rather ludicrous than se 
vere. In the town of Arlington lived a doctor, 
who openly professed himself a partisan of New 
York, and was accustomed to speak disrespect 
fully of the convention and committees, espousing 
the cause of the New York claimants, and advis 
ing people to purchase lands under their title. He 
was admonished by his neighbors, and made to 
understand,, that this tone of conversation was 
not acceptable, and was requested to change it, 
or at least to show his prudence by remaining 
silent. Far from operating any reform, these 



ETHAiN ALLEN. 35 

hints only stirred up the ire of the courageous 
doctor, who forthwith armed himself with pistols 
and other weapons of defence, proclaiming his 
sentiments more boldly than ever, setting opposi 
tion at defiance, and threatening to try the full 
effects of his personal prowess and implements of 
warfare on any man, who should have the temerity 
to approach him with an unfriendly design. Such 
a boast was likely to call up the martial spirit 
of his opponents, who accordingly came upon the 
doctor at an unguarded moment, and obliged him 
to surrender at discretion. He was thence trans 
ferred to the Green Mountain Tavern, in Ben- 
nington, where he was arraigned before the com 
mittee, who, not satisfied with his defence, sen 
tenced him to a novel punishment, which they 
ordered to be put in immediate execution. 

Before the door of this tavern, which served 
the double purpose of a court-house and an inn, 
stood a signpost twenty-five feet high, the top 
of which was adorned with the skin of a cata 
mount, stuffed to the size of life, with its head 
turned towards New York, and its jaws distended, 
showing large naked teeth, and grinning terror to 
all who should approach from that quarter. It 
was the judgment of the court, that the contuma 
cious doctor should be tied in a chair, and drawn 
up by a rope to the catamount, where he was tc 
remain suspended two hours ; which punishment 



36 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was inflicted, in the presence of a numerous as 
semblage of people, much to their satisfaction 
and merriment. The doctor was then let down, 
and permitted to depart to his own house. 

On two or three occasions Colonel Allen was 
near being taken, in consequence of the rewards 
offered for him in the governor s proclamations. 
When he made excursions abroad, whether for 
military or other purposes, he commonly went 
armed with a musket and a brace of pistols. Be 
ing on a tour to the north, in company with a 
single friend, he one evening entered a house not 
many miles from Crown Point, in which, to his 
surprise and after it was too late to retreat, he 
found there were two sergeants and ten men. 
He was known to the sergeants, and soon had 
reason to suspect, that they intended to seize him. 
Putting the best face upon the matter, however, 
ind concealing his suspicions, he called for sup 
per, conversed in great good humor with the ser 
geants, asked them to drink with him, and the 
evening passed away merrily till bedtime. It 
then appeared, that there were no spare beds in 
the house, as they had all been taken by the first 
comers ; but these persons very civilly proposed to 
yield their claims to Colonel Allen, and pressed 
him with a show of earnestness to accept their 
offer. He declined it, with thanks for their cour 
tesy, declaring that he could not think of depriv- 



ETHAN ALLEN. 37 

in them of their rest merely for his personal 
accommodation, and that, as the weather was 
T/arin, he and his companion would seek lodgings 
in the barn. To hide their real design they left 
their guns behind. The sergeants accompanied 
them to the barn, saw them safely in their quar 
ters, wished them a good night s repose, and re 
turned to the house. By a previous concert a 
young girl in the family took the first opportunity 
unseen to carry the guns to the barn. The ser 
geants waited till they supposed the two travellers 
were asleep, and that there would be no danger 
from their pistols, and then stole softly out, flushed 
with the prospect of speedily entrapping the re 
nowned leader of the Green Mountain Boys. 
But their imaginary victory ended in disappoint 
ment. Colonel Allen, having succeeded in his 
scheme of deceiving his pursuers, had arisen and 
departed, and the night screened him from their 
search. 

At another time, while he was on a visit to his 
brother in Salisbury, Connecticut, a plot was laid 
by several persons, residing between that place 
and Hudson s River, to come upon him by sur 
prise, seize, and carry him to Poughkeepsie jail. 
This plot was accidentally discovered in time to 
defeat the designs of the conspirators. 

Meantime the spirit of hostility between the 
two parties continued to increase, the New York 



38 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

claimants being resolved to enforce their claims 
by all the power they could put in action, and the 
original settlers equally determined to resist ag 
gression by every species of force, which they 
could wield. Hence commotions, riots, mobs, 
and bloodshed were common occurrences, though 
the settlers adhered strictly to their declared prin 
ciple of acting on the defensive, never pursuing 
offenders beyond their own domain, but showing 
little mercy to those, who dared to violate their 
decrees, question then authority, and above all to 
step over the line of dernarkation as the agents of 
their enemies. At last the New York grantees, 
discouraged with this mode of conducting so fruit 
less a contest, combined their influence, and ap 
plied to the Assembly of that province for legisla 
tive aid. The result was a law, purporting to be 
an act for preventing tumultuous and riotous as 
semblies, and punishing rioters, which may safely 
be pronounced the most extraordinary specimen 
of legislative despotism, that has ever found a 
place in a statute-book. After naming Ethan Al 
len, Seth Warner, Remember Baker, and several 
others, as the principal ringleaders in the riots, 
the law empowers the governor and council to 
send out an order, requiring those persons, or any 
others indicted for offences, to surrender them 
selves for commitment to one of his Majesty s 
justices of the peace within seventy days from 



ETHAN ALLEN. 39 1 

the date of the order ; and in case the summons 
should not be obeyed, the person neglecting to 
surrender himself was to be adjudged and deemed 
as convicted, and to suffer death if indicted for a 
capital offence ; and moreover the Supreme Court 
was authorized to award execution, in the same 
manner as if there had been an actual trial, proof 
of guilt, and a judicial sentence.* 

On the same day that this law was enacted, 
the governor sent out another proclamation, offer 
ing a reward for apprehending and imprisoning 
Ethan Allen and seven of his associates, as if 
never tired of exercising this prerogative of his 
office, although hitherto without the least shadow 
of success. The object of the law and of the 
proclamation was to draw from their strong-holds 
the principal rioters, as they were called, and in 
flict upon them such punishments as would quell 
their opposition, and dishearten their followers. 
The effect was far otherwise. The committees 
of the several townships assembled in convention, 
and tDok up the subject with more calmness, than 
could have been anticipated under circumstances 
so irritating. They reviewed the causes of the 

* This act, certainly one of the most curious in the 
annals of legislation, was passed on the 9th of March, 
1774, and may be seen in Ethan Allen s Narrative of the 
Proceedings of the Government of New York, &fc., p. 23, 
And also in Slade s Vermont State Papers, p. 42. 



4:0 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

controversy, asserted anew their rights, affirmed 
that they were not the aggressors, that all the vio 
lence to which they had been accessory was fully 
justified by the laws of self-preservation, and that 
they were determined to maintain the ground they 
had taken, without fear or favor, at every hazard 
and every sacrifice. They closed their public 
proceedings by a resolve, that all necessary prep 
arations should be made, and that the inhabitants 
should hold themselves in readiness at a minute s 
warning to defend those among them, " who, for 
their merit in the great and general cause, had 
been falsely denominated rioters ; " declaring at 
the same time, that they would act only on the 
defensive, and that in all civil cases, and criminal 
prosecutions really such, they would assist the 
proper officers to enforce the execution of the 
laws. 

In addition to these public doings of the people 
at large by their representatives, the proscribed 
persons, at the head of whom was Ethan Allen, 
published a manifesto, to which they jointly af 
fixed their names, containing a defence of them 
selves and free remarks on the New York act 
and proclamation. To look for moderation as a 
shining quality in a paper of this kind, is perhaps 
more than would be authorized by the nature of 
the case, or the character of the individuals con 
cerned ; yet it expresses sentiments, which we 



ETHAN ALLEN. 41 

should be sorry not to find in men, whom we 
would respect, and in whom we would confide in 
the hour of peril. It speaks in a tone of deep 
complaint of the injuries they have suffered from 
the vindictive persecutions of their enemies, pro 
tests against the tyrannical abuse of power, which 
would arraign them as criminals for protecting their 
own property, and threatens retaliation upon all, 
who should attempt to put in execution against 
them the sanguinary edict of the New York As 
sembly. But in the midst of the sea of dangers, 
with which they seemed to be surrounded, they 
braced themselves up with the consolatory reflec 
tion, " that printed sentences of death will not 
kill us ; and if the executioners approach us, they 
will be as likely to fall victims to death as we." 
They furthermore proclaimed, that, should any 
person be tempted, by the " wages of unrighteous 
ness offered in the proclamation," to apprehend 
any of them or their friends, it was their deliber 
ate purpose to inflict immediate death upon so 
rash and guilty an offender. 

To this pitch of legalized infatuation on the 
one part, and of animosity and violence on the 
other, had the controversy attained by imbibing 
new aliment at every stage, when it was suddenly 
arrested by events of vastly greater moment, 
which drew away the attention of the political 
leaders in New York from these border feuds to 



42 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

affairs of more vital interest. The revolutionary 
struggle was on the eve of breaking out, and the 
ferment, which had already begun to agitate the 
public mind from one end of the continent to the 
other, was not less active in New York than in 
other places. From this time, therefore, the 
Green Mountain settlers were permitted to remain 
in comparative tranquillity. Several years elapsed, 
it is true, before they released themselves entirely 
from the claims of their neighbors, and established 
their independence on an undisputed basis ; yet 
they always acted as an independent community, 
assumed and exercised the powers of a separate 
body politic, and secured at last, to the fullest 
extent, their original demands and pretensions. 
Ethan Allen had a large share in bringing the 
contest to its happy termination ; but before we 
proceed any further with this subject, it is neces 
sary to follow him through a different career, and 
trace the series of incidents, which befell him in 
the war of the Revolution. 

At this point in our narrative, however, it is 
proper to turn our attention for a moment to a 
literary performance by Ethan Allen, which had 
some influence in its day, and which is still valua 
ble for the historical matter it embodies. Having 
zealously embarked in the cause of the Green 
Mountain Boys, to which he was prompted both 
by interest and ambition, he applied his vigorous 



ETHAN ALLEN. 43 

mind to a thorough investigation of the subject 
He pursued his researches into the ancient char 
ters, followed out their bearings upon each other 
in regard to boundary lines, studied the history of 
the colonies, and thus collected a mass of authen 
tic materials, which, with an account of recent 
events known to him personally, he compiled into 
a volume extending to more than two hundred 
pages. He, who in this work shall expect to 
find flowers of rhetoric, or a polished diction, 
or models of grammatical accuracy, or the art of 
a practised writer, will be disappointed ; but, 
clothed in the garb of an unformed style and con 
fused method, there are many sagacious remarks 
and pertinent expressions, many strong points of 
argument stated with force, if not with elegance, 
many evidences of a mind accustomed to observe 
and think, draw its own inferences, and utter its 
sentiments with a fearless reliance on its own re 
sources and guidance.* 

* The work is entitled A Brief Narrative of the Pro 
ceedings of the Government of New York, fyc., printed at 
Hartford, 1774. The supplementary part contains a 
reply to a pamphlet published a short time before in New 
York, by authority, entitled A State of the Right of the 
Colony of Neiv York, with Respect to its Eastern Boun 
dary, 4"c. It is hardly necessary to observe, that the par 
ticulars of the present memoir have thus far been chiefly 
derived from these two publications ; to which mav be 
added Ira Allen s History of Vermont 



44 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Early in the year 1775, as soon as it was made 
manifest by the attitude assumed on the part of 
the British government against the colonies, and 
by the conduct of General Gage in Boston, that 
open hostilities must inevitably commence in a 
short time, it began to be secretly whispered 
among the principal politicians in New England, 
that the capture of Ticonderoga was an object 
demanding the first attention. In the month of 
March, Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren, 
as members of the Committee of Correspondence 
in Boston, sent an agent privately into Canada, 
on a political mission, with instructions to ascer 
tain the feelings of the people there in regard to 
the approaching contest, and to make such reports 
as his observations should warrant. Faithful to 
his charge, and vigilant in his inquiries, this agent 
sent back intelligence from Montreal, and among 
other things advised, that by all means the garri 
son of Ticonderoga should be seized as quickly 
as possible after the breaking out of hostilities, 
adding that the people of the New Hampshire 
Grants had already agreed to undertake the task, 
and that they were the most proper persons to be 
employed in it. 

This hint was given three weeks anterior to the 
battle of Lexington, and how far it influenced 
future designs may not be known ; but it is certain, 
that, eight days after that event, several gentle- 



ETHANALLEN. 45 

men at that time attending the Assembly in Hart 
ford, Connecticut, concerted a plan for surprising 
Ticonderoga, and seizing the cannon in that for 
tress, for the use of the army, then marching from 
all quarters to the environs of Boston. Although 
these gentlemen were members of the Assembly, 
yet the scheme was wholly of a private nature, 
without any overt sanction from the authority of 
the colony. A committee was appointed, at the 
head of which were Edward Mott and Noah 
Phelps, with instructions to proceed to the fron 
tier towns, inquire into the state of the garrison, 
and, should they think proper, to raise men and 
take possession of the same. To aid the project, 
one thousand dollars were obtained from the treas 
ury as a loan, for which security was given. 

On their way the committee collected sixteen 
men in Connecticut, and went forward to Pitts- 
field, in Massachusetts, where they laid open their 
plan to Colonel Easton and Mr. John Brown, 
who agreed to join them, and they proceeded in 
company to Bennington. Colonel Easton, being 
in command of a regiment of militia, proposed 
to engage some of them in the expedition, and 
enlisted volunteers as he passed along, between 
forty and fifty of whom reached Bennington the 
next day. As no time was to be lost, a council of 
war was immediately called, in which it was voted 
that Colonel Ethan Allen should send out par- 



46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

ties to the northward, secure the roads, and pre 
vent intelligence from passing in that direction. 
This was accordingly done. Colonel Allen s 
Green Mountain Boys having been collected as 
speedily as possible, the little army marched, and 
arrived at Castleton on the evening of the 7th 
of May. 

Here another council of war was held, and 
Ethan Allen was appointed the commander of the 
expedition, James Easton the second in com 
mand, and Seth Warner the third. Being thus 
organized they proceeded to fix a plan of opera 
tions. It was decided that Colonel Allen and the 
principal officers, with the main body of their 
forces, consisting of about one hundred and forty 
men, should march directly to Shoreham, oppo 
site to Ticonderoga. A party of thirty men, 
commanded by Captain Herrick, was at the same 
time to move upon Skenesborough, take Major 
Skene * and his people into custody, seize all the 
boats that could be found there, and hasten with 
them down the Lake to meet Colonel Allen at 
Shoreham. Captain Douglass was also despatched 
to Panton, beyond Crown Point, in search of 
boats, which were to be brought to Shoreham, 
as it was supposed the boats at that place would 

* The son of Governor Skene, who was likewise 
called Major Skene, and who was at this time absent 
in England. 



ETHAN ALLEN 47 

be inadequate to the transportation of the troops 
across the Lake 

The position now occupied was nine miles from 
Skenesborough, and twenty-five from Ticonderoga 
by the route to be traversed. Just as these ar 
rangements were settled, the men selected for 
each party, and the whole prepared to march, 
Colonel Arnold arrived from Massachusetts, hav 
ing been commissioned by the Committee of Safe 
ty of that colony, without any knowledge of what 
had been done in Connecticut, to raise men and 
proceed on the same enterprise. He brought no 
men with him, but had agreed with officers in 
Stockbridge to enlist and send forward such as 
could be obtained, making all haste himself to 
join the expedition, which he did not hear was 
on foot till he came to that town. A difficulty 
now arose, which threatened for the moment to 
defeat the whole scheme. Arnold claimed the 
command of all the troops, by virtue of his com 
mission from the Massachusetts Committee of 
Safety, averring that this was a superior appoint 
ment to that of any other officer concerned, and 
demanding the preference as his right. The ru 
mor soon got to the ears of the soldiers, who 
broke out into vehement clamors, and were on 
the point of a mutiny, declaring that they would 
serve under no officers except those with whom 
they had engaged, and that they would club 



48 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

their muskets and march home. The flame was 
quenched by the prudent conduct of Colonels 
Allen and Easton ; and when Arnold discovered, 
that his pretensions met with no favor either from 
the men or their leaders, he yielded to necessity 
and agreed to unite with them as a volunteer. 

The march was pursued according to the orig 
inal plan, and Colonel Allen arrived without mo 
lestation on the shore of the Lake opposite to 
Ticonderoga. It was important to have a guide, 
who was acquainted with the grounds around the 
fortress, and the places of access. Allen made 
inquiries as to these points of Mr. Beman, a far 
mer residing near the Lake in Shoreham, who 
answered, that he seldom crossed to Ticonderoga, 
and was little acquainted w r ith the particulars of 
its situation; but that his son Nathan, a young lad, 
passed much of his time there in company with 
the boys of the garrison. Nathan was called, 
and appeared by his answers to be familiar with 
every nook in the fort, and every passage and 
by-path by which it could be approached. In 
.he eye of Colonel Allen he was the very person 
to thread out the best avenue ; and by the con 
sent of the father and a little persuasion Nathan 
Beman was engaged to be the guide of the party. 
The next step was to procure boats, which were 
very deficient in number, as neither Captain Her- 
rick nor Captain Douglass had sent an) from 



ETHAN ALLEN. 4 

Skenesborough or Panton. Eighty-three men 
only had crossed, when the day began to dawn ; 
and while the boats were sent back for the rear 
division, Colonel Allen resolved to move imme 
diately against the fort. 

He drew up his men in three ranks, addressed 
them in a short harangue, ordered them to face to 
the right, and, placing himself at the head of the 
middle file, led them silently but with a quick 
step up the heights on which the fortress stood, 
and before the sun rose he had entered the gate 
and formed his men on the parade between the 
barracks. Here they gave three huzzas, which 
aroused the sleeping inmates. When Colonel 
Allen passed the gate, a sentinel snapped his fu 
see at him, and then retreated under a covered 
way. Another sentinel made a thrust at an offi 
cer with a bayonet, which slightly wounded him. 
Colonel Allen returned the compliment with a 
cut on the side of the soldier s head, at which he 
threw down his musket and asked quarter. No 
more resistance was made. Allen demanded to 
be shown to the apartment of Captain Delaplace, 
the commandant of the garrison. It was pointed 
out. and Colonel Allen, with Nathan Beman at 
his elbow, who knew the way, hastily ascended 
the stairs, which were attached to the outside of 
the barracks, and called out with a voice of thun 
der at the door, ordering the astonished captain 

ix. 4 



50 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

instantly to appear, or the whole garrison should 
be sacrificed. Started at so strange and unex 
pected a summons, he sprang from his bed and 
opened the door, when the first salutation of his 
boisterous and unseasonable visitor was an order 
immediately to surrender the fort. Rubbing his 
eyes and trying to collect his scattered senses, the 
captain asked by what authority he presumed to 
make such a demand. " In the name of the 
Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress," 
replied Allen. Not accustomed to hear much of 
the Continental Congress in this remote corner, 
nor to respect its authority when he did, the com 
mandant began to speak ; but Colonel Allen cut 
short the thread of his discourse by lifting his 
sword over his head, and reiterating the demand 
for an immediate surrender. Having neither per 
mission to argue nor power to resist, Captain 
Delaplace submitted, ordering his men to parade 
without arms, and the garrison was given up to 
the victors.* 

* The facts respecting Nathan Beman were related 
to me by a gentleman, who received them from Nathan 
Beman himself. Whether this exploit of his boyhood 
was the only one performed by him during the war, I 
Know not ; but his martial aptitude was displayed in 
another career, he having been for many years a noted 
fiunter of wolves, on the northern borders of New York 
between Lakes Chaaiplain and Ontario. 



T H A N A L L E A 51 

This surprise was effected about four o clock in 
the morning of the 10th of May. Warner crossed 
the Lake with the remainder of the troops, and 
inarched up to the fort. The whole number of 
men under Colonel Allen, as reported by the 
committee on the spot, in a letter to the Pro 
vincial Congress of Massachusetts, dated the day 
after the assault, was one hundred and forty from 
the New Hampshire Grants, and seventy from 
Massachusetts, besides sixteen from Connecticut. 
The prisoners were one captain, one lieutenant, 
and forty-eight subalterns and privates, exclusive 
of women and children. They were all sent to 
Hartford, in Connecticut. The principal ad van 
tage of the capture, except that of possessing the 
post, was one hundred and twenty pieces of can 
non, also swivels, mortars, small arms, and stores. 
The cannon only were of much importance. 

As soon as the prisoners were secured, and the 
bustle of the occasion had a little subsided, Colo 
nel Allen sent off Warner with a detachment of 
men to take Crown Point. Strong head-winds 
drove back the boats, and the whole party re 
turned the same evening. The attempt was re 
newed a day or two afterwards, and proved suc 
cessful A sergeant and eleven men, being the 
whole garrison, were made prisoners. Sixty-one 
good cannon were found there, and fifty-three un 
fit for service. Previously to this affair, Colonel 



52 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Allen had sent a messenger to Captain Remem 
ber Baker, who was at Onion River, requesting 
him to join the army at Ticonderoga with as large 
a number of men as he could assemble. Baker 
obeyed the summons ; and when he was coming 
up the Lake with his party, he met two small 
boats, which had been despatched from Crown 
Point to carry intelligence of the reduction of Ti 
conderoga to St. John s and Montreal, and solicit 
reinforcements. The boats were seized by Baker, 
and he arrived at Crown Point just in time to 
unite with Warner in taking possession of that 
post. 

Thus the main object of the expedition was at 
tained ; but the troubles of the leaders were not at 
in end. No sooner had the fort surrendered, than 
Arnold assumed the command, affirming that he 
was the only officer invested with legal authority. 
His pretensions were not heeded, and although IIP 
was vehement and positive, yet it was in vain to 
issue orders, which nobody would obey ; and final 
ly he consented to a sort of divided control be 
tween Colonel Allen and himself, he acting as a 
subordinate, but not wholly without official consid 
eration. He had behaved with bravery in the as 
sault, marching on the left of Colonel Allen, and 
entering the fortress side by side with him. When 
the Connecticut committee perceived his design 
they repelled it upon the principle, that the gov 



E T H A N A L L E N . .53 

ernment of Massachusetts had no concern in the 
matter, that the men from that colony under Col 
onel Easton were paid by Connecticut, and that 
he could be considered in no other light than a 
volunteer. The same committee installed Colo 
nel Allen anew in the command of Ticonderoga 
and its dependencies, which by a formal commis 
sion they authorized him to retain, till Connecticut 
or the Continental Congress should send him in 
structions. A narrative of the particulars was 
despatched by an express to the Provincial Con 
gress of Massachusetts, who confirmed the ap 
pointment, and directed Arnold not to interfere. 

The party that went to Skenesborough came 
unawares upon Major Skene the younger, whom 
they took prisoner, seizing likewise a schooner and 
several batteaux, with all which they hastened to 
Ticonderoga. Allen and Arnold now formed a 
plan to make a rapid push upon St. John s, take a 
king s sloop that lay there, and attempt a descent 
upon the garrison. The schooner and batteaux 
were armed and manned ; and, as Arnold had been 
a seaman in his youth, the command of the 
schooner was assigned to him, while the batteaux 
were committed to the charge of Allen. They 
left Ticonderoga nearly at the same time, but the 
wind being fresh the schooner outsailed the bat 
teaux. At eight o clock on the evening of the 
17th of May, Arnold was within thirty miles of 



54 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

St. John s ; and, as the weather was calm, he fitted 
out two batteaux with thirty-five men, leaving the 
schooner behind and proceeding to St. John s, 
where he arrived at six o clock the next morning, 
surprised and took a sergeant and twelve men. and 
the king s sloop of about seventy tons with two 
brass six-pounders and seven men, without any 
loss on either side. The wind proving favorable, 
he stayed but two hours and then returned, tak 
ing with him the sloop, four batteaux, and some 
valuable stores, having destroyed five batteaux, 
being all that remained. He was induced to has 
ten away, because large reinforcements were mo 
mentarily expected from Montreal and Charnblee. 
About fifteen miles from St. John s he met Col 
onel Allen, pressing onward with his party. A 
salute of three discharges of cannon on the one 
side, and three volleys of musketry on the other, 
was fired, and Allen paid Arnold a visit on board 
the king s sloop. After inquiring into the situa 
tion of things, Allen determined to proceed to 
St. John s and keep possession there with about 
one hundred men. He arrived just before night, 
landed his parly, and marched about a mile to 
wards La prairie, where he formed an ambuscade 
to intercept the reinforcements hourly expected 
But finding his men greatly fatigued, and ascer 
taining that a force much superior to his own was 
-on its approach, he retired to the other side of the 



ETHAN ALLEN. 5& 

river. In this position he was attacked early in 
the morning by two hundred men, and driven to 
his boats, with which he returned to Ticonderoga. 
His loss was three men taken prisoners, one of 
whom escaped in a few days. 

While this train of events was in progress, 
Colonel Easton had repaired to Massachusetts 
and Connecticut, instructed by Colonel Allen and 
the committee to explain to the governments of 
those colonies the transactions attending the cap 
ture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and to 
solicit aids to secure these conquests. Since the 
affair had begun in Connecticut, the Provincial 
Congress of Massachusetts seemed well inclined 
to let that colony have both the honor and burden 
of maintaining the acquisitions, which had been 
gained under her auspices, and wrote to the gov 
ernor of Connecticut, disclaiming all motives of 
interference, and recommending the business to 
his special charge. Governor Trumbull immedi 
ately prepared for sending up a reinforcement of 
four hundred men. But in truth, neither party 
was ambitious of assuming the responsibility of 
further operations, till the views and intentions of 
the Continental Congress should be known. Mes 
sengers were accordingly despatched to Philadel 
phia ; and also to the Convention of New York, 
in which province the conquered posts were situate 
Policy as well as courtesy required that New 



56 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

York should be consulted, since the cooperation 
of that colony was essential to the harmony and 
success of any future measures. The Continen 
tal Congress approved what had been done, and 
requested Governor Trumbull to send a body of 
troops to Lake Champlain, sufficient to defend 
the garrisons of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, 
till further orders from the Congress, and at the 
same time desired the Convention of New York to 
supply the said troops with provisions. This ar 
rangement was carried into effect, and one thou 
sand troops were ordered to march from Connect 
icut under the command of Colonel Hinman. 

Meantime Allen and Arnold kept their stations, 
the former as commander-in-chief at Ticonderoga, 
and the latter at Crown Point, where he acted 
the part rather of a naval than of a military officer, 
having under his care the armed sloop and schoon 
er, which had been taken, and a small flotilla 
of batteaux. Some of Colonel Allen s men went 
home, but others came in, both from the New 
Hampshire Grants, and from Albany county, so 
that his numbers increased. A few men also 
joined Arnold, whom he had engaged in Massa 
chusetts, when he crossed the country to execute 
the commission of the Committee of Safety. 

Flushed with his successes, and eager to pursue 
them, Colonel Allen began to extend his views 
more widely, and to think of the conquest of 



vr 



ETHAN ALLEN. 57 

Canada. Persuaded that such an undertaking 
was feasible j and foreseeing its immense impor 
tance to the cause in which the country was now 
openly embarked, he wrote the following letter to 
the Provincial Congress of New York. 

" Crown Point, 2 June, 1775. 
" GENTLEMEN, 

" Before this time you have undoubtedly re 
ceived intelligence, not only of the taking of the 
fortified places on Lake Champlain, but also of 
the arrned sloop and boats therein, and the taking 
possession of a schooner, which is the property of 
Major Skene, which has been armed and manned, 
and of the conversion of them, with a large train 
of artillery, to the defence of the liberty and the 
constitutional rights of America. You have like 
wise undoubtedly been informed, that the expedi 
tion was undertaken at the special encouragement 
and request of a number of respectable gentle 
men in the colony of Connecticut. The pork 
forwarded to subsist the army by your directions 
evinces your approbation of the procedure ; and, 
as it was a private expedition, and common fame 
reports that there is a number of overgrown To 
ries in the province, you will the readier excuse 
me in not taking your advice in the matter, lest 
the enterprise might have been prevented by their 
treachery. It is here reported, that some of them 



58 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

have been converted, and that others have lost 
their influence. 

" If in those achievements there be any thing 
honorary, the subjects of your government, name 
ly, the New Hampshire settlers, are justly enti 
tled to a large share, as they had a great majority 
of the soldiery, as well as the command, in mak 
ing those acquisitions ; and, as you justify and 
approve the same, I expect you already have or 
soon will lay before the grand Continental Con 
gress the great disadvantage it must inevitably be 
to the colonies to evacuate Lake Champlain, and 
give up to the enemies of our country those inval 
uable acquisitions, the key either of Canada or of 
our own country, according to which party holds 
the same in possession, and makes a proper im 
provement of it. The key is ours as yet, and 
provided the colonies would suddenly push an ar 
my of two or three thousand men into Canada, 
they might make a conquest of all that would op 
pose them, in the extensive province of Quebec, 
unless reinforcements from England should pre 
vent 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 
insuperable difficulty to take Quebec. 



E T H A N A L L E N 59 

" This object should be pursued, though it 
lould 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 disci 
plined, and it is as long as it is broad, the more 
.hat are sent to Quebec, the less they can send to 
Boston, or any other part of the continent And 
there will be this unspeakable advantage in di 
recting the war into Canada, that, instead of turn 
ing 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. 

" It may be thought, that to push an army into 
Canada would be too premature and imprudent 
If so, I propose to make a stand at the Isle-aux- 
Noix, which the French fortified by intrenehments 
the last war, and greatly fatigued our large army 
to take it. It is about fifteen miles on this side 
of St. John s, and is an island in the river, on 
which a small artillery placed would command it. 
An establishment on a frontier, so far north, would 
not only better secure our own frontier, but put it 
in our power better to work our policy with the 
Canadians and Indians, or, if need be, to make 
incursions into the territory of Canada, the sam 



60 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

as they could into our country, provided they had 
the sovereignty of Lake Champlain, and had 
erected head-quarters at or near Skenesborough. 
Our only having it in our power, thus to make 
incursions into Canada, might probably be the 
very reason why it would be unnecessary so to 
do, even if the Canadians should prove more 
refractory than I think for. 

" Lastly, I would propose to you to raise a 
small regiment of rangers, which I could easily 
do, and that mostly in the counties of Albany and 
Charlotte, provided you should think it expedient 
to grant commissions, and thus regulate and put 
them under pay. Probably 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. I am, Gentlemen, &tc. 

" ETHAN ALLEN." 

In forming an estimate of this letter, it is to be 
remembered, that no person had as yet ventured 
publicly to recommend an invasion of Canada. 
It had in fact hitherto been the policy of Congress 
to give as little offence to the Canadians as possi 
ble, this course being thought the most likely to 
conciliate their friendship. A resolve passed that 
assembly, the day before the above letter was 



ETHANALLEN. 61 

written, expressing a decided opinion, that no 
colony or body of colonists ought to countenance 
any incursion into Canada. The same sentiments 
had been declared in a public manner by the New 
York Provincial Congress. Ethan Allen s letter, 
therefore, had little chance of meeting with favor 
from the persons to whom it was addressed. The 
merit of being the first to suggest plans, which 
were afterwards adopted by the national councils, 
as of great political moment, was nevertheless 
due to him. Before the end of three months 
from the date of his letter, an expedition against 
Canada was set on foot by Congress, and sec 
onded by the voice of the whole nation. Colonel 
Allen s advice was deemed bold and incautious 
when it was given, but subsequent events proved, 
that its basis was wisdom and forethought; and 
had it been heeded, and a competent force pushed 
immediately into Canada, before the British had 
time to rally and concentrate their scattered for 
ces, few in numbers and imperfectly organized, 
there can be no reasonable doubt, that the cam 
paign would have been successful, instead of the 
disastrous failure, w r hich actually ensued, and 
which may be ascribed more to the wavering 
sentiments and tardy motions of Congress in pro 
jecting and maturing the expedition, than to any 
defect in the plan or in the manner of its execu 
lion. 



62 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

As Colonel Allen knew it was at this time the 
prevailing policy to secure the neutrality of the 
Canadians, he made no hostile demonstrations 
towards Canada, after the prudent measure in 
conjunction with Arnold of seizing all the water- 
craft at St. John s ; unless the sending of a recon 
noitring party over the line may be considered a 
belligerent act. It is evident, however, that he 
did not look upon it in that light ; for when his 
party of four men returned, and reported that 
they had been fired upon by about thirty Canadi 
ans, he interpreted it as a breach of peace on the 
side of the assailants. Embracing this as a fit 
opportunity, he wrote a paper, combining the two 
properties of a complaint and an address, which 
was signed by him and Colonel Easton, and de 
spatched to a confidential person at Montreal, 
with directions to have it translated into French 
and circulated among the people. The idea of 
neutrality was put forward in this paper, as the 
one which the Canadians ought to cherish, since 
they had no direct interest in taking part with the 
English, and certainly no cause for joining in a 
quarrel against their neighbors of the other colo 
nies. 

The troops from Connecticut under Colonel 
Hinman at length arrived at Ticonderoga, and 
Colonel Allen s command ceased. His men chief 
ly returned home, their term of service having 



ETHAN ALLEN. 



expired. He and Seth Warner set off on a jour 
ney to the Continental Congress, with the design 
of procuring pay for the soldiers, who had served 
under them, and of soliciting authority to raise a 
new regiment in the New Hampshire Grants. In 
both these objects they were successful. By an 
order of Congress they were introduced on the 
floor of the House, and they communicated ver 
bally to the members such information as was 
desired. Congress voted to allow the men, who 
had been employed in taking and garrisoning 
Ticonderoga and Crown Point, the same pay as 
was received by officers and privates in the Amer 
ican army ; and also recommended to the Provin 
cial Congress of New York, that, after consulting 
with General Schuyler, " they should employ in 
the army to be raised for the defence of Amer 
ica those called Green Mountain Boys, under 
such officers as the said Green Mountain Boys 
should choose." This matter was referred to the 
government of New York, that no controversy 
might arise about jurisdiction, at a time when 
affairs of vastly greater moment demanded the 
attention of all parties. 

Allen and Warner repaired without delay to tne 
New York Congress, presented themselves at the 
door of the hall, and requested an audience, the 
resolve of the Continental Congress having al 
ready been received and discussed. An embar- 



64 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

rassing difficulty now arose among the members, 
which caused much warmth of debate. The per 
sons, who asked admittance, were outlaws by an 
existing act of the legislature of New York, and, 
although the Provincial Congress was a distinct 
body from the old assembly, organized in oppo 
sition to it, and holding its recent principles and 
doings in detestation, yet some members had 
scruples on the subject of disregarding in so pal 
pable a manner the laws of the land, as to 
join in a public conference with men, who had 
been proclaimed by the highest authority in the 
colony to be rioters and felons. There was also 
another party, whose feelings and interest were 
enlisted on the side of their scruples, who had 
taken an active part in the contest, and whose 
antipathies were too deeply rooted to be at once 
eradicated. On the other hand, the ardent friends 
of liberty, who regarded the great cause at stake 
as paramount to every thing else, and who were 
willing to show their disrespect for the old assem 
bly, argued not only the injustice but tyranny of 
the act in question, and represented in strong 
colors the extreme impolicy of permitting an 
cient feuds to mar the harmony and obstruct the 
concert of action, so necessary for attaining the 
grand object of the wishes and efforts of every 
member present. In the midst of the debate, 
Captain Sears moved that Ethan Allen should 



ETHAN ALLEN. 65 

be admitted to the floor of the House. The mo 
tion was seconded by Melancton Smith, and was 
carried by a majority of two to one. A similar 
motion prevailed in regard to Seth Warner. 

When these gentlemen had addressed the 
House they withdrew, and it was resolved, that 
a regiment of Green Mountain Boys should be 
raised, not exceeding five hundred men, and to 
consist of seven companies. They were to choose 
their own officers, except the field-officers, who 
were to be appointed by the Congress of New 
York ; but it was requested that the people would 
nominate such persons as they approved. A lieu 
tenant-colonel was to be the highest officer. The 
execution of the resolve was referred to General 
Schuyler, who immediately gave notice to the in 
habitants of the Grants, and ordered them to pro 
ceed in organizing the regiment. 

Meantime Allen and Warner had finished their 
mission, and returned to their friends. The com 
mittees of several townships assembled at Dorset 
to choose officers for the new regiment. The 
choice fell on Seth Warner for lieutenant-colonel, 
and on Samuel SafFord for major. This nom 
ination was confirmed by the New York Con 
gress. Whether Colonel Allen declined being a 
candidate, or whether it was expected that the 
regimeat would ultimately have a colonel, and 
that he would be advanced to that post, or wheth 

ix. 5 



66 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

er his name was omitted for any other reason, I 
have no means of determining. At any rate he 
was not attached to the regiment, and in a few 
days he joined General Schuyler at Ticonderoga 
as a volunteer. He wrote a letter of thanks to 
the New York Congress in the following words. 
" When I reflect on the unhappy controversy, 
which has many years subsisted between the gov 
ernment of New York, and the settlers on the 
New Hampshire Grants, and also contemplate the 
friendship and union that have lately taken place, 
in making a united resistance against ministerial 
vengeance and slavery, I cannot but indulge fond 
hopes of a reconciliation. To promote this salu 
tary end I shall contribute my influence, assuring 
you, that your respectful treatment not only to 
Mr. Warner and myself, but to the Green Moun 
tain Boys in general in forming them into a bat 
talion, is by them duly regarded ; and I will be 
responsible, that they will reciprocate this favor 
by boldly hazarding their lives, if need be, in the 
common cause of America." 

Knowing the value of Colonel Allen s experi 
ence and activity, General Schuyler persuaded 
him to remain in the army, chiefly with the view 
of acting as a pioneer among the Canadians. In 
pursuance of this design, as soon as the army 
reached Isle-aux-Noix, an address to the people 
of Canada was written by General Schuyler, the 



ETHAN ALLEN. 67 

drift of which was to convince them that the inva 
sion was exclusively against the British, and m no 
degree intended as an encroachment on the rights 
and liberties of the ancient inhabitants. On the 
contrary they were invited to unite with the 
Americans, and participate in the honorable enter 
prise of throwing off the shackles of an oppres 
sive government, asserting the claims of justice, 
arid securing the enjoyment of freedom. This 
address was committed to the hands of tiihan Al 
len, who was instructed to proceed wiih u into 
Canada, make it known to the inhabitants ii) such 
a manner as his discretion should dictate, and as 
certain as far as he could their temper and senti 
ments. 

He went first to Chamblee, where he found 
many persons friendly to the American cause, and 
among them several men of the first respectability 
and influence. He was visited by these gentle 
men, and by the militia captains in that neighbor 
hood, who seemed well disposed to join with the 
Americans, if there was any chance of their com 
ing forward in such numbers as to hold out a prob 
ability of success. They furnished Colonel Allen 
with a guard, who constantly attended him under 
arms, and escorted him through the woods. He 
sent a messenger to the chiefs of the Caghnawaga 
Indians, proffering to them peace and friendship. 
They returned the compliment by delegating two 



68 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

of their tribe, with beads and a belt of wampum, 
to hold a conference with Colonel Allen and con 
firm the friendly disposition of the Caghnawagas. 
The ceremony was performed with much parade 
and solemnity, according to the Indian manner. 
After spending eight days on this mission, travers 
ing different parts of the country between the So- 
rel and St. Lawrence, and conversing with many 
persons, Colonel Allen returned to the army at 
Isle-aux-Noix. The result of his observation was, 
that, should the American army invest St. John s, 
and advance into Canada with a respectable force, 
a large number of the inhabitants would immedi 
ately join in arms with the Americans ; but till 
such a movement should be made, it was not like 
ly that there would be any open indications of 
hostility to the British power. His conduct in 
executing this service was approved by General 
Schuyler. 

Just at this time the command of the Canada 
expedition devolved on General Montgomery, who 
advanced to St. John s, and laid siege to that 
garrison. Colonel Allen was immediately de 
spatched to retrace his steps, penetrate the coun 
try, and raise as many of the inhabitants as he 
could to unite in arms with the American forces. 
He had been absent a week, when he wrote aa 
follows to General Montgomery. 



E T H A N A L L E N 69 

." I am now at the parish of St. Ours, four 
leagues from Sorel to the south. I have two hun 
dred and fifty Canadians under arms. As I 
march, they gather fast. There are the objects 
of taking the vessels in the Sorel and General 
Carleton. These objects I pass by to assist the 
army besieging St. John s. If that place be ta 
ken, the country is ours ; if we miscarry in this, 
all other achievements will profit but little. I am 
fearful our army will be sickly, and that the siege 
may be hard ; therefore I choose to assist in con 
quering St. John s. You may rely on it, that I 
shall join you in about three days with five hun 
dred or more Canadian volunteers. I could raise 
one or two thousand in a week s time, but I will 
first visit the army with a less number, and, if ne 
cessary, go again recruiting. It is with the advice 
of the officers with me, that I speedily repair to 
the army. God grant you wisdom and fortitude 
and every accomplishment of a victorious general." 
Unluckily these anticipations were blighted in 
their bloom. In an evil hour Colonel Allen was 
induced to change his judicious determination of 
joining General Montgomery without delay, and 
to give ear to a project, which proved the ruin of 
his bright hopes, and led him into a fatal snare. 
He hac marched up the eastern bank of the 
St. Lawrence as far as Longueil, nearly oppo 
site to Montreal, and was pressing on towards 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

St. John s, according to the tenor of his letter. 
Between Longueil and Laprairie he fell in with 
Major Brown, who was at the head of an ad 
vanced party of Americans and Canadians. Brown 
requested him to stop, took him aside, and pro 
posed to unite their forces in an attack on Mont 
real, representing the defenceless condition of 
the town, and the ease with which it might be 
taken by surprise. Relying on the knowledge 
and fidelity of Brown, and ever ready to pursue 
adventures and court danger, Colonel Allen assent 
ed to the proposal, and the plan was matured on 
the spot. Allen was to return to Longueil, pro 
cure canoes, and pass over with his party in the 
night a little below Montreal ; and Brown at the 
same time was to cross above the town, with about 
two hundred men, and the attack was to be made 
simultaneously at opposite points. 

True to his engagement, Allen crossed the river 
on the night of the 24th of September, with 
eighty Canadians and thirty Americans, and land 
ed them undiscovered before daylight, although 
the canoes were so few and small, that it waf 
necessary to pass back and forth three times 
in conveying over the whole party. The wind 
was high and the waves rough, which added to 
the peril of an adventure sufficiently hazardous 
in itself. The day dawned, and Colonel Allen 
waited with impatience for the signal of Major 



E T H A N A L L E N . 71 

Brown s division having landed above the town. 
He set guards in the road to stop all persons that 
were passing, and thus prevent intelligence of hi? 
approach from being carried into Montreal. When 
the morning was considerably advanced and no 
signal had been given, it was evident that Major 
Brown had not crossed the river. Colonel Allen 
would willingly have retreated, but it was now 
too late. The canoes would hold only one third 
of his party. A person detained by his guard 
had escaped and gone into the town, and present 
ly armed men were seen coming out. He posted 
his men in the best manner he could, and pre 
pared to maintain his ground. About forty Brit 
ish regulars, two or three hundred Canadians, and 
a few Indians, constituted the assailing force. The 
skirmish continued an hour and three quarters, 
when Colonel Allen agreed to surrender to the 
principal British officer, upon being promised hon 
orable terms. His men had all deserted him in 
the conflict, except thirty-eight, who were in 
eluded in his capitulation. Seven of these wer6 
wounded. They were treated civilly by the offi 
cers while marching into Montreal, and till they 
were delivered over to General Prescott, whose 
conduct is described as having been peculiarly 
harsh, and in all respects unworthy of an officer 
of his rank. His language was coarse and his 
manner unfeeling. After conversing with his pris 



72 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

oner, and asking him if he was the same Colonel 
Allen, who had taken Ticonderoga, he burst into 
a passion, threatened him with a halter at Tyburn, 
and ordered him to be bound hand and foot in 
irons on board the Gaspee schooner of war. In 
this situation Colonel Allen wrote the following 
letter to General Prescott. 

HONORABLE SIR, 

" In the wheel of transitory events I find my 
self a prisoner and in irons. Probably your Hon 
or has certain reasons to me inconceivable, though 
I challenge an instance of this sort of economy of 
the Americans during the late war towards any 
officers of the Crown. On my part, I have to 
assure your Honor, that when I had the command 
and took Captain Delaplace and Lieutenant Fel- 
ton, with the garrison at Ticonderoga, I treated 
them with every mark of friendship and gener 
osity, the evidence of which is notorious even 
in Canada. I have only to add, that I expect 
an honorable and humane treatment, as an offi 
cer of my rank and merit should have, and sub 
scribe myself your Honor s most obedient humble 
servant. 

" ETHAN ALLEN." * 

* The account of the capture of Ticonderoga, which 
has been given above, and of the subsequent events of 



ETHAN ALLEN. <O 

No answer to this letter was returned. Colonel 
Allen s irons were massive, and so fastened as to 
give him constant pain. He was handcuffed, and 
his ankles were confined in shackles, to which was 
attached a bar of iron eight feet long. In this 
plight he was thrust into the lowest part of the 
ship, where he had neither a bed nor any article 
of furniture, except a chest, on which by the favor 
of some humane sailor he was allowed to sit, or 
lie on his back, the only recumbent posture that 
his irons would suffer him to assume. His com 
panions in arms, who capitulated on the same 
terms as their leader, were fastened together in 
pairs with handcuffs and chains. 

For more than five weeks the prisoners were 
kept in this manner on board the Gaspee, treated 
as criminals, and subject to every indignity from 
the officers, and from .persons who came to see 
them out of curiosity. After the repulse of Gov 
ernor Carleton at Longueil, by Warner and his 
brave Green Mountain Boys, the state of affairs in 
Montreal began to put on a more doubtful aspect. 
It was deemed advisable to send off the prisoners, 

Colonel Allen s life till he was taken prisoner, has been 
drawn entirely from original manuscripts, in the public 
offices of Massachusetts and New York, and among 
General Washington s papers. The particulars respect 
ing his captivity are chiefly gathered from his own " Nar 
rative" written and published shortly after his release. 



74 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

that there might be no danger of a rescue, in case 
of the sudden approach of General Montgomery s 
army, which might be daily expected. 

In a short time Colonel Allen found himself at 
Quebec, where he was transferred to another 
vessel, and then to a third, a change most favora 
ble to his health and comfort. Captain Littlejohn, 
the commander of the last vessel, was particular 
ly civil, generous, and friendly, ordering his irons 
to be knocked off, taking him to his own table, 
and declaring that no brave man should be ill 
used on board his ship. Unhappily this respite 
from suffering was of short continuance. Arnold 
appeared at Point Levi, on the 9th of November, 
with an armed force, descending from the forests 
,ike an apparition of enchantment in some fairy 
tale. The news of the surrender of St. John s 
and the capitulation of Montreal to General Mont 
gomery came soon afterwards. These events 
were looked upon as the harbinger of greater dis 
asters, in the downfall of Quebec, and the con 
quest of the whole province. In anticipation of 
the fate of St. John s and Montreal, a vessel of 
war, called the Adamant, had been got in readi 
ness to carry despatches to the government. The 
prisoners were put on board this vessel, and con 
signed to the charge of Brook Watson, a mer 
chant of Montreal. Several other loyalists were 
passengers, and among them Guy Johnson 



ETHANALLEN. 75 

Under his new master, Colonel Allen soon dis 
covered, thai he was not to expect the urbanity 
and kindness of Captain Littlejohn. His hand 
curTs were replaced, and he and thirty -three other 
prisoners, manacled in the same manner, were 
confined together in a single apartment, enclosed 
with oak plank, which they were not suffered to 
leave during the whole passage of nearly forty- 
days. Where there is so much to censure in the 
hardened insensibility, which could inflict suffer 
ings like these on prisoners, whose only crime was 
their bravery, it should be mentioned as one soften 
ing feature, that as much provision was served to 
them as they wanted, and a gill of rum a day to 
each man ; so that the negative merit of not add 
ir*g starvation to confinement, insults, and chains, 
should be allowed to have its full weight. The 
name of Brook Watson had already become noto 
rious. Three or four months previously to his 
sailing for England, he had been at New York 
and Philadelphia, visited many persons of distinc 
tion, especially members of the Continental Con 
gress, and conducted himself in such a manner as 
to leave the impression, that he was a warm friend 
to the American cause. Immediately after his re 
turn to Montreal, letters written by him to persons 
m General Gage s army at Boston were inter 
cepted, which proved him to have deserved tbe 
character rather of a spy than a friend. He had 



76 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

art, insincerity, and talent. He was the same 
Brook Watson, who was afterwards Lord Mayor 
of London. 

It was a joyful day for the prisoners when the 
Adamant entered the harbor of Falmouth. Theii 
long and close confinement had become extremely 
irksome and painful. They were now brought 
on deck, and permitted to breathe the fresh air, 
and were cheered with the light of day. In a 
short time the) were landed, and marched to 
Pendennis Castle, about a mile from the town. 
Great crowds were attracted to witness so novel a 
sight ; and if all the prisoners were habited in the 
costume of Colonel Allen, it is no wonder that 
their curiosity was excited. While he was on his 
recruiting tour he had clothed himself in a Cana 
dian dress, consisting of a short, fawn-skin, double- 
breasted jacket, a vest and breeches of sagathy, 
worsted stockings, shoes, a plain shirt, and a red 
worsted cap. In this garb he was taken ; and, as 
it had never been changed during his captivity, 
he was exhibited in it to the gazing multitudes ot 
Falmouth. Robinson Crusoe on his island could 
hardly have presented a more grotesque appear 
ance. The people stared, but no insult was 
offered to the prisoners on their way to the castle. 

In this new abode they found their condition 
much improved, being lodged in an airy room, 
and indulged with the luxury of bunks and straw 



ETHANALLEN 77 

Their irons were still kept on, but they were 
kindly treated, and furnished with fresh and 
wholesome provisions. Colonel Allen was par 
ticularly favored by the commandant of the cas 
tle, who sent him a breakfast and dinner every 
day from his own table, and now and then a bot 
tle of wine. Another benevolent gentleman sup 
plied his board with suppers, and in the article of 
good living his star of fortune had probably nev 
er been more propitious. The renown of his ad 
venture at Ticonderoga had gone before him ; and 
as that fortress had a notoriety in England, on ac 
count of its importance in former wars, the man 
who had conquered it was looked upon as no com 
mon person, though now in chains and stigmatized 
with the name of rebel. He was permitted to 
walk on the parade-ground within the walls of 
the castle, where many respectable people from 
the neighborhood paid him a visit, and conversed 
with him on various topics. His bold and inde 
pendent manner, fluency of language, and strong 
native talent, contrasted with the singularity of his 
appearance, in his Canadian dress and hand 
cuffs, awakened the surprise and contributed to 
the amusement of His auditors. Though in bond 
age, and completely at the mercy of his ene 
mies, he was eloquent on the theme of patriotism, 
coasted the courage and firmness of his country 
men, and pledged himself that they would never 



78 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

cease to resist oppression, till their just claims 
were allowed, and their liberty secured. These 
political harangues, if they had no other effect, 
served to lighten the weight of his chains, and 
to give a seeming impulse to the leaden wings of 
time. 

Notwithstanding the comparative amelioration of 
his circumstances, Colonel Allen s mind was not 
perfectly at ease in regard to the future. General 
Prescott s hint about his gracing a halter at Ty 
burn rested upon his thoughts, and gave him some 
uneasiness amidst the uncertain prospects now 
before him. But despondency and fear made no 
part of his character, and, even when hope failed, 
his fortitude was triumphant. Prepared for the 
worst that might happen, he bethought himself of 
trying the effect of a stratagem. He asked permis 
sion to write a letter to the Continental Congress, 
which was granted. He depicted in vivid colors 
the treatment he had received from the beginning 
of his captivity, but advised the Congress not to 
retaliate, till the fate that awaited him in Eng 
land should be known, and then to execute the 
law of retaliation not in proportion to the small 
influence of his character in America, but to the 
extent demanded by the importance of the cause 
for which he had suffered. The despatch was 
finished, and handed over for inspection to the 
officer, who had permitted him to write. This 



ETHAN ALLEN. 79 

officer went to him the next day, and repri 
manded him for what he called the impudence of 
inditing such an epistle. " Do you think we are 
fools in England," said he, " and would send your 
letter to Congress with instructions to retaliate on 
our own people ? I have sent your letter to Lord 
North." This was precisely the destination for 
which the writer intended it, and he felt a secret 
satisfaction that his artifice had succeeded. He 
wished the ministry to know his situation and his 
past sufferings, and to reflect, that his countrymen 
had it in their power to retaliate in full measure 
any acts of violence meditated against his person. 
A letter on these subjects, written directly to a 
minister by a prisoner in irons, would not have 
been forwarded. 

Whatever ideas the ministry may have enter 
tained when the prisoners were landed, it was soon 
perceived that lenient measures were the most ad 
visable. The opposition made a handle of an act 
so outrageous, as that of treating as malefactors 
and chaining men, who had been taken bravely 
fighting in a cause, for which a whole continent 
was in arms ; and it was now too late to talk of 
hanging the revolted colonists on the plea of re 
bellion. Moreover it was known, that St. John s 
and Montreal had surrendered to Montgomery, 
and that the very officers, who had captured these 
men and sent them to England, were in the hands 



80 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

of the Americans. It was furthermore rumored, 
that certain gentlemen had resolved to try the ef 
fect of the Habeas Corpus act in setting the pris 
oners at liberty, or at least in bringing them to a 
trial before a proper magistrate, to ascertain wheth 
er they were legally guilty of any offence, which 
justified their confinement. To silence popular 
clamor, and prevent rash consequences, the gov 
ernment determined to regard them as prisoners 
of war, and to send them back to America. For 
this purpose they were ordered on board the Sole- 
bay frigate, where their irons were taken off, after 
they had worn them about three months and a 
half. 

Just at this time the grand armament was pre 
paring to sail from Ireland, under Sir Peter Par 
ker and Lord Cornwallis, with troops to act against 
North Carolina, according to a plan formed by the 
ministry in consequence of the representations of 
Governor Martin, that a numerous body of loyal 
ists was ready to take up arms in that colony, as 
soon as they should be encouraged by the cooper 
ation of a sufficient force from Great Britain. The 
troops were to be put on board in the harbor of 
Cork, where the vessels destined for the expedi 
tion rendezvoused, and among them the Solebay 
frigate. From the captain of this ship Colonel 
Allen had early proofs, that the prisoners were to 
expect neither lenity nor civil treatment. His 



ETHANALLEN 81 

first salutation was to order them in an imperious 
tone to leave the deck, and never appear there 
again, adding that the deck was the " place for 
gentlemen to walk." Allen was conducted down 
to the cable-tier, where he was left to accommo 
date himself as well as he could. Being ill of a 
cold, and his health much impaired by his late 
sufferings, the natural buoyancy of his spirits failed 
him in this comfortless abode, and he felt himself, 
as he has expressed it, " in an evil case," imagin 
ing his enemies to have devised this scheme of 
effecting, by a slow and clandestine process, what 
it was impolitic for them to do in the open face 
v/ day with the eyes of the public upon them. 

His despondency, however, gradually wore off 
and, two days afterwards, wanting fresh air and 
exercise, he resolved to try the experiment of 
appearing on deck, having washed, shaved, and 
adjusted his dress in the best manner his scanty 
wardrobe would allow. The captain saw him, 
and demanded in an angry voice, if he had not 
been ordered not to come on deck. Colonel 
Allen replied, that he had heard such an order 
from him, but at the same time he had said, 
" the deck was the place for gentlemen to walk," 
and, as he was Colonel Allen and a gentleman, 
he claimed the privilege of his rank. Whether 
Muenced by this kind of logic, or by some other 
reason, the captain contented himself with utter 

ix. 6 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ng an oath, and cautioning the prisoner never to 
be seen on the same side of the ship with him. 
There was encouragement even in this harsh greet 
ing, since it did not amount to an absolute prohi 
bition ; and, by taking care to keep at a proper 
distance from the captain, he was afterwards per 
mitted to walk the deck, though sometimes ca 
priciously and rudely ordered off. His condition 
below was somewhat amended by the generosity 
of the master-at-arms, an Irishman, who offered 
him a place in a little berth fitted up for himself 
with canvass between the decks, in which he was 
kindly allowed by the occupant to remain till the 
ship arrived in America. 

When it was known at Cork, that Colonel 
Allen and his fellow-prisoners were in the harbor 
on board the Solebay, several gentlemen of that 
city determined to convey to them substantial 
evidences of their sympathy. A full suit of 
clothes was sent to each of the privates ; and 
Colonel Allen s wardrobe was replenished with 
fine broadcloth sufficient for two suits, eight shirts 
and stocks ready made, several pairs of silk 
and worsted hose, shoes, and two beaver hats, 
one of which was richly adorned with gold lace. 
Nor did the bounty of the philanthropists of 
Cork end here. Although they had clothed ihe 
naked, they did not consider the work of benero- 
lence finished till they had fed the hungry 4, 



ETHAN ALLEN. 83 

profuse supply of sea-stores came on board for 
Colonel Allen, consisting of sugar, coffee, tea, 
chocolate, pickled beef, fat turkies, wines, old 
spirits, and other articles suited for a voyage. 
Each of the privates also received tea and sugar. 
Added to this, a gentleman visited Colonel Allen, 
in behalf of the donors, and offered him fifty 
guineas, which, after the other tokens of their 
munificence, he declined to accept, retaining 
only seven guineas as a relief in case of pressing 
necessity. 

The above articles were admitted on board by 
the second lieutenant, while his superiors were on 
shore ; but when the captain returned and was 
informed what had been done, he was angry, and 
swore that " the American rebels should not be 
feasted at this rate by the rebels of Ireland." 
He took away all the liquors, except a small 
quantity, which was secreted by the connivance 
of the second lieutenant, and he appropriated to 
the use of the crew all the tea and sugar, that 
had been given to the privates. The clothing 
they were permitted to keep. 

The fleet put to sea from Cork on the 13th 
of February, consisting of forty-three sail, with 
about two thousand five hundred troops. The 
weather was fine, and the effect was beautiful af 
the ships sailed out of the harbor ; but they had 
been at sea only five days, when a terrible storm 



84 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

arose, which raged with unabated violence for 
twenty-four hours, dispersed the fleet, and shat 
tered several of the transports so much, that they 
were obliged to put back to Cork and the south 
ern ports of England. The Solebay received no 
essential injury, and she proceeded on her voy 
age. Before they left Cork the prisoners were 
divided and assigned to three different ships. 
This gave their leader some uneasiness, for they 
had been brave, and true to the cause in which 
they suffered, and had borne all their calamities 
with a becoming fortitude. It turned out, how 
ever, that they were better treated on board the 
other ships, than they had been while with him 
The only incident worthy of being commemo 
rated, which happened to Colonel Allen during 
the voyage, was the change of his Canadian 
costume for one fabricated from the superfine 
broadcloths received in Cork. This metamor 
phosis was effected by the aid of the captain s 
tailor, whose services were granted on this oc 
casion as a special favor. Clad in his new suit 
with his silk stockings and laced hat, the prisoner 
made a more respectable figure on deck, and 
enjoyed privileges, which at first had been denied. 
It was with some regret, therefore, that, after 
his arr val at Cape Fear River, in North Caro 
lina, he found himself transferred to the Mercury 
frigate, the captain of which he describes as 



ETHAN ALLEN. 85 

tyrannical, narrow-minded, and destitute of the 
common feelings of humanity. The only con 
solation in this change of circumstances was, that 
his original companions in captivity were brought 
together again on boarc 1 this ship, except one 
who had died on the passage from Ireland, and 
another who had escaped by an extraordinary 
exertion of swimming, after the fleet arrived on 
the coast, and who safely reached his home in 
New England. The captain ordered the purser 
not to let the prisoners have any thing from his 
store, and forbade the surgeon s attending them 
in sickness. Every night they were shut down 
in the cable-tier, and indeed they passed a miser 
able existence both day and night, being told, 
when they complained of such treatment, that it 
was a matter of little consequence, as they would 
be hanged when they arrived in Halifax. 

The Mercury sailed from Cape Fear River on 
the 20th of May, and touched at the Hook off 
New York the first w r eek in June. At this time 
General Washington with the American army had 
possession of New York, and the British ship 
ping lay in the outer harbor near the Hook. The 
Mercury remained here three days, during which 
time Governor Try on, and Mr. Kemp, the attor 
ney-general of New York under the old gov 
ernment, came on board. Tryon eyed Allen, 
as they were walking on different parts of the 



86 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

deck, but did riot speak to him. It is natural 
to presume, that the late governor saw with a 
secret satisfaction the man in safe custody, who 
had caused him so much unavailing trouble in 
writing proclamations. Kemp was the same at 
torney, whom Allen had met at Albany, when 
he attended the court thare as agent for the 
patentees of the New Hampshire Grants. No 
man had been more active in pressing the New 
York claims, or in stirring up persecutions against 
the Green Mountain Boys ; and of course no 
one had acquired among them a more odious 
notoriety. This accidental meeting with Ethan 
Allen must have called up peculiar associations 
in the minds of both the governor and the attorney- 
general. 

The Mercury arrived in Halifax after a short 
passage from New York. The prisoners were 
put into a sloop, then lying in the harbor, and a 
guard watched them day and night. In this 
confinement they were served with so scanty an 
allowance of provisions, that they suffered cruelly 
from the distress of hunger, which, added to at 
tacks of the scurvy, made their condition more 
deplorable than it had been at any former time. 
They were still under the direction of the captain 
of the Mercury, to whom they wrote letter after 
letter, imploring medical aid and other assistance, 
out in vain. The captain was deaf to their calls, 



ETHAN ALLEN. 87 

took no notice of their complaints, and, to get rid 
of their importunities, he ordered the guards to 
bring him no more letters. Their case seemed 
now reduced to the verge of despair. Allen re 
solved, however, to make one more effort. He 
wrought so far upon the compassion of one of the 
guards, as to persuade him to take a letter di 
rected to Governor Arbuthnot, which was faith 
fully communicated. Touched with the claims of 
humanity, the governor immediately sent a sur 
geon to the prisoners, with instructions to admin 
ister such relief to the sick as was necessary, and 
also an officer, to ascertain and report the grounds 
of their complaint. This officer discharged his 
duty well, and the result was, that the next day 
they were removed from their dismal quarters on 
board the prison-sloop to the jail in Halifax. 

To seek the asylum of a jail is not a usual ex 
periment for attaining happiness. In the present 
instance, however, it was a fortunate one for the 
sufferers, inasmuch as it was the means of reliev 
ing them from the pains of hunger, and procuring 
for them the attendance of a physician. In other 
respects their condition was little amended, since 
more than thirty persons were shut up in one 
room, several of them in various stages of sick 
ness, with hardly a single accommodation, that 
could in any manner contribute to their comfort ur 
convenience. Some of Allen s fellow-prisoners 



88 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

had been sent to the hospital, and others employed 
in the public works, so that only thirteen of those 
taken in Canada now remained with him. 

Among the American prisoners, whom Allen 
met in Halifax jail, was Mr. James Lovell of 
Boston, a gentleman eminent for his learning and 
character, who, after his release, was many years 
a member of the Continental Congress. His zeal 
in the cause of his country, and frankness in avow 
ing his sentiments, had made him an object of 
suspicion and odium to the British commander in 
Boston, where he was first imprisoned ; and, when 
that city was evacuated, he was carried into cap 
tivity, and locked up in the jail of Halifax in the 
same apartment with prisoners of the lowest class. 

There were now together four American offi 
cers, besides Mr. Lovell, who, by the custom of 
war and the practice then existing in regard to 
British prisoners taken by the Americans, had a 
right to their parole ; but this was never granted. 
They were kept in close confinement till orders 
came from General Hovve to send them to New 
York. Partial negotiations had commenced be 
tween General Washington and General Howe 
for the exchange of prisoners, and certain princi 
ples had been laid down, by the mutual agree 
ment of the parties, as a basis upon which to pro 
ceed. Moreover Congress had instructed Gene 
ral Washington to make a special application in 



ETHAN ALLEN. 

favor of Mr. Lovell and Colonel Allen, propos 
ing to exchange Governor Skene for the former,, 
and an officer of equal rank for the latter. The 
legislature of Connecticut had also interfered in 
behalf of Allen, and eighteen of the prisoners 
taken with him, who were natives of that State, 
and solicited Congress and the Commander-in- 
chief to use all practicable means for effecting 
their release. The same had been done by the 
Massachusetts legislature in the case 0." Mr 
Lovell. 

After the intelligence of Allen s being in Hali 
fax reached his friends, a project was formed by 
his brother, Levi Allen, to visit him there and at 
tempt to procure his liberty. The State of Con 
necticut voted money to pay the expense of this 
enterprise, but the arrival of the prisoners in New 
York rendered it unnecessary. 

The Lark frigate, on board of which were Mr. 
Lovell, Colonel Allen, and their companions, 
sailed from Halifax about the middle of October. 
Luckily they found themselves at last under an 
officer, Captain Smith, who treated them with 
the politeness of a gentleman, and with the feel 
ings of a man capable of sympathizing in the 
distresses of the unfortunate. The first interview 
is thus described by Colonel Allen. " When I 
came on deck, he met me with his hand, wel 
comed me to his ship, invited me to dine with 



90 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

him that day, and assured me that I should oe 
treated as a gentleman, and that he had given 
orders that I should be treated with respect by 
the ship s crew. This was so unexpected and 
sudden a transition, that it drew tears from my 
eyes, which all the ill usages I had before met 
with were not able to produce ; nor could I at 
first hardly speak, but soon recovered myself, and 
expressed my gratitude for so unexpected a favor, 
and let him know, that I felt anxiety of mind in 
reflecting, that his situation and mine was such, 
that it was not probable it would ever be in my 
power to return the favor. Captain Smith re 
plied, that he had no reward in view, but only 
treated me as a gentleman ought to be treated 
He said, this is a mutable world, and one gentle 
man never knows but it may be in his power to 
help another." 

An opportunity soon occurred of verifying this 
last remark. They had not been at sea many 
days, when it was discovered that a conspiracy 
was on foot to destroy the captain and the prin 
cipal officers, and seize the ship. An American 
captain, who had commanded an armed vessel, 
and been recently taken prisoner, was the chief 
conspirator. He revealed his designs to Colonel 
Allen and Mr. Lovell, requesting their coopera 
tion in bringing over the other prisoners, about 
thirty in number, and telling them that several ol 



ETHAN ALLEN. 91 

the crew were ready to join in the plot. It was 
known that there were thirty-five thousand pounds 
in money on board, and the plan of the conspir 
ators was to take the ship into an American port, 
where they expected to divide the booty accord 
ing to the usual rules of captures. Without wait 
ing to discuss the laws of war, or to reason about 
the infamy and criminality of such an act with 
men, who were prepared to execute it, Colonel 
Allen declared with his usual decision and vehe 
mence, that he would not listen a moment to such 
a scheme, that, in its mildest character, it was a 
base and wicked return for the kind treatment they 
had received, and that he would at every personal 
hazard defend Captain Smith s life. This rebuff 
was unexpected by the conspirators, and it threw 
them into a distressing dilemma, since the fear of 
detection was now as appalling to them as the 
danger of their original enterprise. They then 
requested him to remain neutral, and let them 
proceed in their own way, but this he peremp 
torily refused ; and he finally succeeded in quell 
ing the conspiracy, by adhering to his resolution, 
and promising, that, as he had been consulted in 
confidence, he would not divulge the matter, if 
the leaders would pledge themselves instantly to 
abandon th.i design. In the present state of things 
they were glad to accept such terms. At the 
conclusion of this affair Colonel Allen was forci 
bly reminded of the words of Captain Smith. 



92 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Before the end of October the Lark frigate 
anchored in the harbor of New York> and the 
prisoners were removed to the Glasgow transport. 
Mr. Lovell was exchanged in a few days for Gov 
ernor Skene ; and Colonel Allen, after remaining 
four or five weeks in the transport, where he met 
with very civil usage, was landed in New York 
and admitted to his parole. Here he had an 
opportunity of witnessing the wretched condition 
and extreme sufferings of the American prisoners, 
who had been taken in the battle on Long Island 
and at Fort Washington, and who were left to 
perish of hunger, cold, and sickness in the church 
es of New York. He speaks of these scenes as the 
most painful and revolting, that could be conceived. 
Indeed numerous concurring testimonies have es 
tablished it as a fact, of which not a shadow of doubt 
can now be entertained, that human misery has 
seldom been seen in such heart-rending forms or 
under circumstances so aggravating. The motives 
of the enemy for practising or permitting cruelties 
so little consonant to the dictates of humanity, the 
customs of civilized warfare, and every principle 
of sound policy, are not a fit theme of inquiry in 
this narrative. The fact itself is an indelible stain, 
deep and dark, in the character of Sir William 
Howe, which no array of private virtues, of mill 
tary talents, or public acts, will hide or obscure. 
The picture drawn by Allen, colored as it may be 



ETHAN ALLEN 93 

by the ardor of his feelings, is vivid and impres 
sive, and its accuracy is confirmed by the declara 
tions of several other persons, who also related 
what they saw. 

While he was on his parole in New York, a 
British officer of rank and importance sent for him 
to his lodgings and told him that his fidelity, 
though in a wrong cause, had made an impression 
upon General Howe, who was disposed to show 
him a favor, and to advance him to the command 
of a regiment of loyalists, if he would join the ser 
vice, holding out to him at the same time brilliant 
prospects of promotion and money during the war, 
and large tracts of land at its close. Allen repli 
ed, " that if by faithfulness he had recommended 
himself to General Howe, he should be loth by 
unfaithfulness to lose the general s good opinion ; 
and as to the lands, he was by no means satisfied, 
that the King would possess a sufficient quantity 
in the United States at the end of the war tc 
redeem any pledges on that score. The officer 
sent him away as an incorrigible and hopeless sub- 
ject. 

In the month of January, 1777, he was direct 
ed with other prisoners to take up his abode 
on the western side of Long Island, being stiL 
on parole, and allowed the usual freedom under 
such circumstances within certain prescribed limits, 
Here he remained in a condition of comparative 



94 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

comfort till August, when he was suddenly appre 
hended, environed with guards, conducted to the 
provost-jail in New York, and put into solitary 
confinement. This act was on the pretence of 
his having infringed his parole, which he affirmed 
was untrue, and the whole proceeding unjust and 
malicious. But the cause was now of little mo 
ment, since he was chiefly concerned with the 
effect. For the space of three days he was im 
mured in his cell without a morsel of food. The 
sergeant, who stood at the door, refused to be 
moved by offers of money or appeals to his com 
passion, and repelled every advance with a sol 
dier s oath and the brief reply, that he would 
obey his orders. The pains of hunger became 
extreme, but they were at last assuaged ; and in a 
few days he was transferred to another apartment 
of the jail, where he found himself in company 
with more than twenty American officers. 

From this place he was not removed till the 
end of his captivity. After being shut up for 
more than eight months in the provost-jail, a con 
finement of which the prisoners were ever accus 
tomed to speak with disgust and horror, the dav 
of liberty dawned upon him. 

Neither his countrymen generally, nor the su 
preme council of the nation, had at any time lost 
sight of his sufferings, or ceased to express their 
sympathy. Congress had on several occasions 



ETHAN ALLEN. 95 

proposed his exchange ; but it was prevented after 
his arrival in New York by the difficulties, which 
embarrassed and defeated all attempts for effecting 
a general cartel between Washington and Howe. 
It was finally agreed, that he should be exchanged 
for Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell ; and on the 3d 
of May, 1773, he was taken from prison and con 
ducted under guard to a sloop in the harbor, and 
thence to Staten Island. Here he was politely 
received by the British commander, and kindly 
treated for two days, when Colonel Campbell ar 
rived from Elizabethtown, under the charge of 
Mr. Elias Boudinot, the American Commissary 
General of prisoners. It may easily be conceived 
that the meeting was one of mutual congratulation 
and joy. The two released captives drank a glass 
of wine together in celebration of the event, and 
Colonel Allen returned immediately with Mi 
Roudinot to Elizabethtown. 

His feelings, on once more touching the soil 
ind breathing the air of freedom, will be left to 
the imagination of the reader. He was now re 
stored to his country, the object of a patriotic de 
votion, that neither the cruelty nor the entice 
ments of the enemy could diminish ; in whose 
cause he had suffered a captivity of two years 
and seven months, under all the rigor of chains, 
hunger, and harsh usage. Insensibility made no 
part of his nature, and the soul must be callous 



96 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

indeed, that would not thrill with emotion at the 
recollections of the past, the realities of the pres 
ent, and the visions of the future, that now throng 
ed upon his mind. 

Notwithstanding the strong associations and ten 
der ties, which drew him towards his home and 
friends, the impulse of gratitude was the first he 
obeyed. The lively interest taken in his condi 
tion by the Commander-in-chief, and his efforts to 
procure his release, were known to him, and he 
resolved to repair without delay to head-quarters, 
and express in person his sense of the obligation. 
The army was at Valley Forge, and as he ad 
vanced into the country on his way to that place, 
he was everywhere greeted by the people with 
demonstrations of strong interest, not unmixed 
with curiosity at seeing a man, the incidents of 
whose life had given him renown, and whose fate 
while in the hands of the enemy had been a sub 
ject of public concern. General Washington re 
ceived him cordially, and introduced him to the 
principal officers in camp, who showed him many 
civilities. 

Having thus discharged a duty, which he oe- 
lieved to be demanded by justice and gratitude 
as the first fruit of his liberty, and having remained 
a few days only at Valley Forge, he turned his 
face towards the Green Mountains, and hastened 
to join his family and former associates. From 



ETHAN ALLEN. 97 

Valley Forge to Fishkill he travelled in company 
with General Gates, who was proceeding to take 
command of the army on the North River. In 
the evening of the last day of May, Colonel Al 
len arrived in Bennington, unexpected at that 
time by his friends, and a general sensation was 
immediately spread throughout the neighborhood . 
The people gathered around him, and, with a de 
light which could be realized only under circum 
stances so peculiar, he witnessed the joy that 
beamed from every countenance, and heard the 
accents of a hearty welcome uttered by every 
voice. It was a season of festivity with the Green 
Mountain Boys, and the same evening three can 
non were fired, as an audible expression of their 
gladness. Nor did the scene of hilarity end with 
that day. The next morning Colonel Herrick, 
who had distinguished himself by his bravery un 
der the veteran Stark in the battle of Bennington, 
ordered fourteen discharges of cannon, " thirteen 
for the United States and one for young Ver 
mont," as a renewed and more ample compliment 
to the early champion and faithful associate of the 
Green Mountain Boys. 

Congress was equally mindful of the services 
and of the just claims of Colonel Allen. As soon 
as he was released from captivity, they granted 
him a brevet commission of colonel in the Conti 
nental army, " in reward of his fortitude, firmness, 

ix. 7 



98 AMERICAN UIOGRAPHT. 

and zeal in the cause of his country, manifested 
during the course of his long and cruel captivity, 
as well as on former occasions." It was more 
over resolved, that he should be entitled, during 
the time he was a prisoner, to all the benefits and 
privileges of a lieutenant-colonel in the service of 
the United States. That is, he was to receive 
the pay and other emoluments of that rank. As 
the brevet commission of colonel did not entitle 
him to pay, he was allowed seventy-five dollars 
a month from the date of that commission, till he 
should be called into actual service. How long 
this allowance was continued, I have no means ol 
ascertaining. It does not appear, that he ever 
joined the Continental army. From the above 
proofs, however, it is evident, that the proceed 
ings of Congress in regard to him were generous 
and honorable, manifesting at the same time a 
proper sense of his past sufferings, and respect for 
his character. 

During his absence, important changes had 
taken place in the affairs of the New Hampshire 
Grants. The inhabitants had made a gradual 
progress in maturing and establishing a new form 
of government, having declared their territory 
an independent State, under the name of Ver 
mont, framed and adopted a new constitution, 
and organized the various branches of govern 
ment by the election of a governor and other civil 



ETHAN ALLEN. 99 

officers. In effecting these objects they had en 
countered numerous obstacles, both from the in 
ternal distractions caused by the invasion of Bur- 
Coyne s army, and from the machinations and 
adverse influence of external foes. The embers 
of the old feud with New York were stirred up 
afresh, when the people of Vermont presumed to 
talk of independence and a separation from that 
State. Governor Clinton, and several other prom 
inent individuals in New York, had been warmly 
enlisted at an early day against the pretensions 
of the Green Mountain Boys ; and although they 
were far from abetting or vindicating the rash 
measures of the colonial administration, yet they 
were strenuous in asserting the supremacy of 
New York over the whole territory as far as 
Connecticut River, and in demanding from the 
people an obedience to the laws of that State. 
Hence it followed, that the controversy was only 
narrowed in its extent, but not at all changed 
in its principles. 

Ethan Allen arrived just in time to buckle on 
his armor, and enter with renovated vigor into a 
contest, in which he had been so conspicuou3 
and successful a combatant from its very begin 
ning, and with all the tactics of which he was 
perfectly familiar. Governor Clinton, by the 
authority of the New York Legislature, had 
recently sen; out a proclamation, reprobating and 



100 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

annulling the bloody statute heretofore mentioned^ 
acknowledging that attempts contrary to justice 
and policy had been made to dispossess the ori 
ginal patentees of their lands, and putting forth 
certain overtures for a reconciliation of differences, 
but taking care to assert the absolute power of 
New York over the persons and property of such, 
as did not choose to accept these proposals. Ac 
cording to the tenor of these overtures, the pa 
tents of the governor of New Hampshire were 
all to be confirmed, but a continuance of the quit- 
rents was claimed from the purchasers, as under 
the colonial system, and the unsettled lands were 
reserved as the property of the State. 

The grand feature of the proclamation was the 
assumption of supremacy, and this was the point 
most essential to the people of Vermont, since it 
struck at the root of their political existence. 
The overtures were dressed up in such a manner, 
as to have a plausible appearance, and to be 
likely to lead astray those persons, who thought 
less of preserving their political rights, than of 
the immediate security of their possessions. The 
more wise and wary, however, took the alarm, 
and among these was Ethan Allen. He saw a 
fatal danger lurking beneath a show of proffered 
indulgences and fair professions. The cautious 
Trojan distrusted the Greeks even in their acts 
of apparent generosity; and the leader of the 



ETHAN ALLEN. 1Q1 

Green Mountain Boys looked with an eye of 
equal suspicion on the spontaneous advances of 
the New Yorkers. In short, every proposal, 
corne from what quarter it might, which did not 
imply the entire independence of Vermont as a 
separate State and government, was in his view to 
he disdained and repelled. 

In this spirit he wrote an address to the inhab 
itants of Vermont, stating briefly the grounds of 
their claims to the privilege of self-government, 
and exhorting them not to relax for a moment in 
their efforts to attain the end for which they had 
struggled so long and so hard. A large part of 
his address was taken up in animadverting on 
Governor Clinton s proclamation, in which, as 
with a good deal of ingenuity and force he made 
it appear, the ov ^rtuj-qs of New York held out to 
them nothing wliich* they did not already possess, 
and would deprive* tberK of ,tfpV; d,ea- est of earthly 
treasures, their liberty! His argumen ts and his 
mode of stating them were suited to the people, 
whom he addressed, and without doubt produced 
the desired effect of confirming their confidence in 
themselves, and inciting them to union and perse 
verance. 

Sometimes he touches on personal incidents. 
Alluding to the bloody act of proscription, which 
nad been passed under Governor Tryon, he ob 
serves ; " In the lifetime of that act I was called 



102 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

by the Yorkers an outlaw ; and afterwards by the 
British I was called a rebel ; and I humbly con 
ceive, that there was as much propriety in the 
one name as the other ; and I verily believe, that 
the King s commissioners would now be as willing 
to pardon me for the sin of rebellion, provided 
I would afterwards be subject to Britain, as the 
legislature above mentioned, provided I would be 
subject to New York ; and I must confess I had 
as lief be a subject of the one as the other, and it 
is well known I have had great experience with 
them both." 

In his concluding remarks on the overtures in 
the proclamation he says, still addressing himself 
to the people ; " The main inducement I had in 
answering them was, to draw a full and convinc 
ing proof from" the same, that rthe" shortest, best, 
and most eligible, I had almost said the only pos 
sible way of -vacating ilicfee New York inter 
fering grants, is to maintain inviolable the su 
premacy of the legislative authority of the inde 
pendent State of Vermont. This, at one stroke, 
overturns every New York scheme, which may 
be calculated for our ruin, makes us freemen, 
confirms our property, and puts it fairly in our 
power to help ourselves in the enjoyment of the 
great blessings of a free, uncorrupted, and virtu 
ous civil government. You have fought, bled, and 
hitherto conquered, and are as deserving of these 



ETHAN ALLEN. 103 

good fruits of your valor, hazard, and toil, as any 
people under heaven. 

" You have experienced every species of op 
pression, which the old government of New York, 
with a Tryon at their head, could invent and in 
flict ; and it is manifest, that the new government 
are minded to follow in their steps. Happy is it 
for you, that you are fitted for the severest trials. 
You have been wonderfully supported and carried 
through thus far in your opposition to that govern 
ment. Formerly you had every thing to fear 
from it ; but now, you have little to fear, for your 
public character is established, and your cause 
known to be just. In your early struggles with 
that government you acquired a reputation of 
bravery ; this gave you a relish for martial glory, 
and the British invasion opened an ample field for 
its display, and you have gone on conquering and 
to conquer until tall grenadiers are dismayed and 
tremble at your approach. Your frontier situa 
tion often obliges you to be in arms and battles ; 
and by repeated marching, scoutings, and manly 
exercises, your nerves have become strong to 
strike the mortal blow. What enemy of the 
State of Vermont, or what New York land-mo 
nopolizer, shall be able to stand before you in 
the day of your fierce anger ! " 

By harangues like this, abounding more in 
strong and pointed expressions, than in good taste 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

or a graceful diction, he wrought upon the minds 
of the people, and inclined them to his wishes. 
But it should be said to his praise, considering the 
scenes he passed through, that on no occasion did 
he encourage or countenance laxness in govern 
ment, or disobedience to the laws and magistrates, 
recognised as such by the people themselves. 
" Any one," he remarks, "who is acquainted with 
mankind and things, must know, that it is impos 
sible to manage the political matters of this coun 
try without the assistance of civil government. 
A large body of people destitute of it, is like a 
ship at sea, without a helm or mariner, tossed by 
impetuous waves. We could not enjoy domes 
tic peace and security, set aside the consequences 
of a British war and the New York strife, with 
out civil regulations. The two last considerations 
do, in the most striking manner, excite us to 
strengthen and confirm the government already 
set up by the authority of the people, which is the 
fountain of all temporal power, and from which 
the subjects of the State of Vermont have already 
received such signal advantages." These senti 
ments he avowed repeatedly, and even when he 
was stirring up and leading out the mobs of Ben- 
nbgton, he always declared it was in self-defence, 
the result of a necessity forced upon them by their 
enemies ; and he never ceased to recommend or 
der, good faith, and submission to the laws, as es 



ETHAN ALLEN. 105 

sential to the prosperity and happiness of the 
community. 

We here discover, in fact, the explanation oi 
the successful progress of the people in rearing up 
a political fabric, which became solid and durable, 
although for several years they were apparently 
in a state of confusion, if not of anarchy. But 
this was more in appearance than reality. There 
were no internal broils or commotions, thai in any 
degree disturbed the general order of society. 
United in one great object of resisting a common 
foe, and impelled by the same interests and aims, 
they had few motives for dissensions among them 
selves ; and this union not only pointed out the 
necessity of rules of government, but afforded 
opportunities to frame and adopt them in such a 
manner, that they were acceptable and efficient. 
The inhabitants of the Grants were mostly na 
tives of the New England colonies, and possessed 
a similarity in their sentiments and habits, which 
enabled them to harmonize the more easily in reg 
ulating public concerns. 

Committees of safety and conventions were 
the contrivances to which they resorted, for set 
ting in motion and sustaining the machinery of 
government. These were organized on the strict 
est republican principles, being created and con 
siiiuted by the people themselves, acting at first 
voluntarily in their individual capacity, and agree 



106 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ing to be controlled by the voice of a majority 
Upon this basis the committees were intrusted 
with all the power requisite to form regulations 
for local purposes. The conventions attained the 
same objects in a broader sphere, and with higher 
authority. The system was peculiarly felicitous 
m being adapted to communities of every descrip 
tion, and to small numbers as well as large. Its 
principles were likewise the elements of the best 
constructed governments ; and hence the people 
were gradually trained up in the art of self-con 
trol, and qualified to assume and maintain the 
character of an independent State, even while em 
barrassed by the hostility and interference of the 
neighboring powers. It is remarkable, that the 
plan of conventions and committees, which was 
adopted by all the States at the beginning of the 
Revolution, had previously been eight years in 
practice among the first settlers of Vermont. 

Considering the part, which Ethan Allen had 
acted before his captivity, and the consistency of 
his conduct, it was to be expected, that he would 
embark with his accustomed zeal in a cause, 
which had now acquired a new importance, and 
especially as it was still involved in the old quarrel 
with New York. As his countrymen had not for 
gotten the military rank to which they raised him 
in the season of their former perils, nor the servi 
ces he rendered at the head of the Green Moun- 



ETHAN ALLEN. 107 

tain Boys, and were disposed to profit again by his 
sword, as well as by his pen and his counsels, he 
was, soon after his return, appointed general and 
commander of the militia of the State. A stron 
ger proof of confidence could not have been 
shown, more particularly at this time, when an in 
vasion of the British from Canada might at any 
moment be apprehended, and when the delicate 
relations subsisting between Vermont and two 
adjoining States threatened an ultimate resort to 
arms as a possible consequence, either to quell 
internal factions, or to resist aggressions from 
abroad. 

Meantime an incident occurred, which encum 
bered the affairs of Vermont with other difficul 
ties. For certain political reasons, sixteen town 
ships in the western parts of New Hampshire, 
bordering on Connecticut river, formed a combi 
nation to desert from that State and join them 
selves to Vermont. They sent a petition for that 
purpose to the Vermont legislature ; but it was at 
first no farther acted upon than to refer it to the 
people At the next meeting of the legislature 
it was found, that a majority of the legal voters 
was in favor of admitting the sixteen townships. 
Hence a new enemy was raised up, and the 
field of discord enlarged. The governor of New 
Hampshire wrote a spirited protest to the gover 
nor of Vermont, claiming the sixteen townships 



108 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

as a part of that State, and deprecating such an 
unwarrantable dismemberment. He wrote at the 
same time to the Continental Congress, demand 
ing their interference in a matter of vital moment, 
not only to New Hampshire, but to every State 
in the Union, should such a disorganizing act be 
tolerated as a precedent. 

The Vermont Assembly saw their error too late 
to retract it, since they had referred the subject 
to the people, and were bound to abide by their 
decision. To set the thing in as fair a light as it 
would bear, however, they appointed General 
Allen a special agent to proceed to Philadelphia, 
and explain to Congress this point and others 
requiring explanation, and endeavor as far as 
possible to ascertain the views of the members in 
regard to the independence of Vermont, and what 
was to be expected from the future delibera 
tions of that body. 

Furnished with proper instructions, General 
Allen repaired to Philadelphia, and applied himself 
to the duties of his mission. He soon discovered 
the undertaking to be surrounded with more diffi 
culties, than he had anticipated. Distinct from 
the absolute merits of the case, there were in 
Congress party divisions, emanating from various 
sources, which prevented any union of action or 
sentiment on the subject of Vermont. The New 
England members were mostly in favor of granting 



ETHAN ALLEN. 109 

independence. Thia was not less the dictate of 
sound policy, than of the natural feelings of at 
tachment to people closely allied to themselves 
and their constituents. Another State in the 
bosom of New England would of course strength 
en the power and influence of the whole in the 
general scale. It was to be presumed, therefore, 
that the New England Spates would second the 
claims of Vermont: rior vras this presumption 
weakened by any hereditary good will, that had 
formerly existed becween those States and New 
York. 

Unfortunately New Hampshire, for the reasons 
above stated, had been induced to deviate from 
the line of her neighbors, under the apprehension 
that her interests were in jeopardy. She was in 
deed meditating ambitious projects of her own, 
and forming a design to defeat the pretensions of 
Vermont, by extending her jurisdiction as far as 
Lake Champlain, and drawing the whole territory 
within her limits. She thus placed herself in ri- 
valship with New York, in hostility to Vermont, 
and at variance with the other adjoining States. 

Taking these considerations into view, and the 
known enmity of the New York members, Gen 
eral Allen s prospects of carrying back a satisfac 
tory report to his friends were faint and discour 
aging. The southern delegates were indifferent, 
or only adhered to one side or the other as a 



110 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

means of exerting a party influence. It is doubt 
less true, also, that several members were con 
scientiously opposed to any decision by Congress, 
believing the question not to come within the 
powers intrusted to that assembly. They ar 
gued, that the subject could not right fully be 
brought before them in any shape, except in 
obedience to special instructions from the respec 
tive States. Others again denied the power of 
Congress to interfere at all, affirming that Ver 
mont was in fact independent, and had a right to 
set up such a scheme of government as she chose. 
This was a short mode of settling the controver 
sy, but it would hardly satisfy the scruples of New 
York, or the aspiring hopes of New Hampshire. 

On his return from this mission, General Allen 
presented a report to the legislature of Vermont, 
containing the result of his observations, in which 
he gave it as his opinion, " that the New York 
complaints would never prove of sufficient force 
in Congress to prevent the establishment of the 
State of Vermont," and advised the legislature by 
all means to recede from the union with the six 
teen townships, since it could never be approved 
by Congress without violating the articles of con 
federation, by which the rights and original extent 
of each State were guarantied. On this topic he 
spoke with decision and force. 

In addition to the general objects of his mission, 



ETHAN ALLEN. Ill 

the visit to Congress was not without advantage 
to himself and his constituents. It made him 
intimately acquainted with the views of the dele 
gates in Congress, and with the arguments used 
by various individuals and parties. He ascertained 
likewise how far policy and individual bias on the 
one hand, and a regard for the absolute merits of 
the question on the other, operated in giving a 
complexion to the national councils. 

This knowledge had an important influence on 
the future proceedings of Vermont. General Al 
len turned it to an immediate account, and he 
wrote a treatise vindicating the course hitherto 
pursued by Vermont, and maintaining the justice 
of her claim to set up such a form of government, 
as the people themselves should judge most con 
ducive to their prosperity and happiness.* Mr. 
Jay said of this book, in writing to a member of 
Congress when it first appeared, " There is quaint- 
ness, impudence, and art in it." He might have 
added, argument and the evidences of a good cause. 

In these unwearied labors for the defence of 
the rights and dignity of the State, and in super 
intending its military affairs as commander of the 

* The tract was entitled, A Vindication of the Oppo 
sition of the Inhabitants of Vermont to the Government of 
New York, and of their Right to form an Independent 
State. It was published in 1779, by order of the Gover 
nor and Council, or with their approbation. 



112 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

militia, General Allen s time was fully employed. 
It was at this period, that the British generals in 
America began to meditate the scheme of bringing 
Vermont into a union with Canada, by taking ad 
vantage of the disputes, which had continued so 
long and waxed so warm, that it was supposed 
Vermont had become alienated from Congress 
and the opposing States, and would be ready to 
accept tempting overtures from the British. This 
idea received encouragement from the circum 
stance, that Congress afforded but a slender de 
fence to the frontiers of Vermont, although the 
governor of Canada was in condition to make a 
descent with a force sufficient to bear down any 
opposition, that could be interposed by the whole 
strength of the State. The first step was to bring 
over some of the leaders ; and as Ethan Allen was 
the most conspicuous of these, and also the mili 
tary chieftain, the attempt was made upon him. 
That his views might be ascertained on this sub 
ject, the following letter was written to him by 
Beverly Robinson, colonel of a regiment of loyal 
Americans, or, in other words, refugees adhering 
to the British cause and embodied in the British 
army. 

New York, March 30th, 1780. 

" SIR, 

" I am now undertaking a task, which I hope 
you will receive with the same good intention, that 



ETHAN ALLEN. 113 

inclines me to make it. I have often been inform 
ed, that you and most of the inhabitants of Ver 
mont are opposed to the wild and chimerical 
scheme of the Americans, in attempting to separ 
ate this continent from Great Britain, and to estab 
lish an independent State of their own ; and that 
you would willingly assist in uniting America again 
to Great Britain, and restoring that happy consti 
tution we have so wantonly and unadvisedly de 
stroyed. If I have been * ghtly informed, and 
these should be your sentiments and inclination, 
I beg you will communicate to me without reserve 
whatever proposals you would wish to make 
to the Commander-in-chief, and I here promise 
that I will faithfully lay them before him accord 
ing to your directions, and I flatter myself I can 
do it to as good effect as any person whatever. I 
can make no proposals to you until I know your 
sentiments ; but I think, upon your taking an ac 
tive part, and embodying the inhabitants of Ver 
mont in favor of the crown of England to act as 
the Commander- in-chief shall direct, that you 
may obtain a separate government under the 
King and constitution of England, and the men 
be formed into regiments under such officers as 
you shall recommend, and be on the same ooting 
as all the provincial corps are here. 

"I am an American myself, and feel much 
for the distressed situation my poor country is in 

ix. 8 



114: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

at present, arid am anyious to be serviceable to 
ward restoring it to peace, and that mild and good 
government we have lost. I have therefore ven 
tured to address myself to you on this subject, 
and 1 hope you will see it in a proper light, and 
be as candid with me. 1 am inclinable to think 
that one reason why this unnatural war has con 
tinued so long is, that all the Americans, who 
wish and think it would be for the interest of this 
country to have a constitutional and equitable con 
nexion with Great Britain, do not communicate 
their sentiments to each other so often and so free 
ly as they ought to do. 

" In case you should disapprove of rny hinting 
these things to you, and do not choose to make 
any proposals to government, I hope you will not 
suffer any insult to be offered to the bearer of 
this letter ; but allow him to return in safety, as 
I can assure you he is entirely ignorant of its 
contents ; but if you should think it proper to 
send proposals to me, to be laid before the 
Commander-in-chief, I do now give you my word, 
that, if they are not accepted, or complied with 
by him, of which I will inform you, the matter 
shall be buried in oblivion between us. I will 
only add, that if you should think proper to send 
a friend of your own here, with proposals to the 
general, he shall be protected and well treated 
here, and allowed to return whenever he pleases. 



F. THA.N ALLEN. 115 

I can add nothing further at present, but my best 
wishes for the restoration of the peace and happi 
ness of America. I am, &c. 

" BEVERLY ROBINSON." 

This letter, artful and plausible as it was, made 
no impression upon the patriotism of Ethan Allen. 
Although written in February it was not received 
till July. He immediately sent back the messen 
ger, and in confidence communicated the letter to 
the governor and a few other friends, who all 
agreed with him, that it was best to pass it over in 
silence. That they might not be outdone, how 
ever, in the allowable stratagems of war, they be 
thought themselves to turn to a profitable purpose 
this advance on the part of the enemy. The 
British were expected soon to appear on Lake 
Champlain in great force, and it was a thing of 
essential importance in the present difficult con 
dition of Vermont, to ward off the impending 
danger. Several prisoners from this State were 
now in Canada, and it was advised that the gov 
ernor should write to the commander in Canada, 
proposing a cartel for an exchange. A letter was 
accordingly despatched with a flag. The object 
was to produce delay, and by a finesse to lead the 
enemy to pursue their ideas of drawing Vermont 
over to their interest. While this should Le 
fostered, it was not probable they would attack 
tlie people, whom they wished to ror.r ilinm. 



116 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

No answer was returned, till the enemy s fleet 
was seen coming up the Lake in a formidable 
attitude, spreading an alarm far and wide, and 
apparently threatening an immediate invasion. 
Many persons took their arms and marched to 
the frontier. But no hostile acts were committed. 
The commander on board the fleet sent a flag to 
General Allen, with a letter to the governor of 
Vermont, assenting on the part of General Hal- 
dimand, commander-in-chief of the British army 
in Canada, to the proposal for an exchange of 
prisoners, and offering a truce with Vermont till 
the cartel should be arranged. 

This preliminary negotiation of a truce was 
conducted by General Allen. In defining the 
extent of territory, which the truce should cover, 
he included all the settlements as far west as the 
Hudson River. To this extension the British 
officer objected, as not being within the bounds of 
Vermont. Such an arrangement would moreover 
prevent the expedition up the Lake from acquir 
ing honor, or attaining any ostensible object ; 
whereas, if not hampered with the truce, it might 
act with some effect on the frontiers of New 
York. This was a strong motive for insisting, 
that the truce should be confined strictly within 
the limits of Vermont, but as General Allen was 
unyielding, the officer gave way, and it was defin 
itively settled as reaching to Hudson s River. 



ETHAN ALLEN. 

This was a dictate of sound policy, as appeared 
in the subsequent history of Vermont. It had a 
conciliatory effect upon the inhabitants of that 
part of New York included in the truce. Their 
antipathy was disarmed, and at one time they 
even courted a union with Vermont. 

As this was a secret arrangement, and not then 
made known publicly, the people were surprised 
to see the fleet retreating down the Lake, and the 
military disbanded and going home. Commission 
ers were appointed by the governor of Vermont 
to meet others from Canada, and settle the terms 
of a cartel. The season was so far advanced, 
however, that they were obstructed in their voy 
age across the Lake by the ice, and obliged to 
return. Nothing was done during the winter. 
The advantage thus far gained by Vermont was, 
that a campaign of the enemy on her borders had 
been rendered ineffectual. As a compensation, 
the British supposed they had made good pro 
gress in detaching from Congress the affections 
of a discontented province, and winning them 
over to the King. 

As these transactions were well known to the 
enemy in New York, Colonel Robinson was con 
cerned not to have received an answer to nis 
letter. Thinking it might have miscarried, al 
though he had sent a duplicate and triplicate, 
or assuming such a supposition as a pretence for 



118 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

writing again, he despatched a second letter to 
Ethan Allen, dated February 2d, 1781. In this 
was enclosed a fourth copy of the first, and it 
contained the following paragraph. 

" The frequent accounts we have had for three 
months past, from your part of the country, con 
firms me in the opinion I had of your inclination 
to join the King s cause, and assist in restoring 
America to her former peaceable and happy con 
stitution. This induces me to make another trial 
in sending this to you, especially as I can now 
write with more authority, and assure you that 
you may obtain the terms mentioned in the above 
letter, provided you and the people of Vermont 
take an active part with us. I beg to have an 
answer to this as soon as possible, and that you 
will, if it is your intention, point out some method 
of carrying on a correspondence for the future ; 
also in what manner you can be most serviceable 
to government, either by acting with the northern 
army, or to meet and join an army from hence. 
I should be glad if you would give me every in 
formation, that may be useful to the Commander 
in-chief here." 

Shortly after receiving this second epistle, Gen 
eral Allen sent them both to the Continental 
Congress, accompanied by one of his own, in 
which he expressed in very emphatical language 
his sentiments in regard to the interests of Ver- 



ETHAN AL.LEN. 119 

mont, and the unjustifiable attempts of the adjoin 
ing States to abridge her rights and even destroy 
her existence. Having explained the mode in 
which the letters came into his hands, and men 
tioned his having shown the first to Governor 
Chittenden and other gentlemen, he proceeds as 
follows. 

11 The result, after mature deliberation, and con 
sidering the extreme circumstances of the State, 
was, to take no further notice of the matter. 
The reasons for such a procedure are very obvious 
to the people of this State, when they consider 
that Congress have previously claimed an exclu 
sive right of arbitrating on the existence of Ver 
mont, as a separate government ; New York, New 
Hampshire, and Massachusetts Bay at the same 
time claiming this territory, either in whole or 
in part, and exerting their influence to make 
schisms among her citizens, thereby, in a consid 
erable degree weakening this government, and 
exposing its inhabitants to the incursion of the 
British troops, and their savage allies from the 
province of Quebec. It seems those governments, 
regardless of Vermont s contiguous situation to 
Canada, do not consider that their northern fron 
tiers have been secured by her, nor the merit of 
this State in a long and hazardous war ; but have 
flattered themselves with the expectation, that this 
State could not fail (with their help) to be des- 



120 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

olatecf by a foreign enemy, and that their exor- 
oitant claims and avaricious designs may at some 
future period take place in this district of country. 

" I am confident that Congress will not dispute 
my sincere attachment to the cause of my coun 
try, though I do not hesitate to say, I am fully 
grounded in opinion, that Vermont has an indubi 
table right to agree on terms of a cessation of 
hostilities with Great Britain, provided the Unit 
ed States persist in rejecting her application for 
a union with them ; for Vermont, of all people, 
would be the most miserable, were she obliged to 
defend the independence of the united claiming 
States, and they, at the same time, at full liberty 
to overturn and ruin the independence of Ver 
mont. I am persuaded, when Congress consider 
the circumstances of this State, they will be the 
more surprised, that I have transmitted to them 
the enclosed letters, than that I have kept them in 
custody so long ; for I am as resolutely determin 
ed to defend the independence of Vermont, as 
Congress are that of the United States ; and 
rather than fail, I will retire with hardy Green 
Mountain Boys into the desolate caverns of the 
mountains, and wage war with human nature at 
large. - 

The concluding words of this paragraph may 
be considered as characteristic of the writer ; but 



ETHAN ALLEN. 121 

the sentiments expressed in the letter, respecting 
the allegiance due from Vermont to the United 
States, were unquestionably entertained by all the 
principal men of that State. Independence was 
their first und determined purpose ; and, while they 
were neglected by Congress, and, like another 
Poland, threatened with a triple partition between 
the adjoining States, they felt at liberty to pursue 
any course, that would secure their safety, and 
conduct them towards their ultimate object. It 
was on this principle, that they encouraged ad 
vances to be made by the British, and not that 
they ever had the remotest intention of deserting 
the cause of their country, or submitting in any 
manner to the jurisdiction of the English govern 
ment. 

While the war continued, however, these nego 
tiations with the enemy were carried on with 
much address, and so successfully as to prevent 
any further hostilities from Canada. A corre 
spondence was kept up, which was known only to 
a few persons, and was chiefly managed by Ethan 
Allen and his brother Ira Allen. Messengers 
came to them secretly with letters, and waited in 
concealment till consultations were held, and an 
swers prepared, with which they returned to Can 
ada. This was a slow process, but it served to 
amuse the enemy, and keep their hopes alive. 
While this could be done, Vermont was safe from 



122 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

attack, and had only to apprehend the artifices of 
those, who were striving by the weapons of the 
civil power to annihilate her freedom. 

The English ministry had at one time san 
guine expectations from the prospect of affairs 
in this quarter. I have seen two letters from 
Lord George Germain to Sir Henry Clinton, one 
written in February and the other in June, 1781, 
wherein the minister congratulates the comman- 
der-in-chief on the happy return of the people of 
Vermont to their allegiance, and represents it 
as an important event. He adds, that, should 
Washington and the French meditate an irruption 
into Canada, they would find in Vermont an in 
surmountable barrier to their attempts ; and also 
that General Haldimand would undoubtedly send 
a body of troops to act in conjunction with the 
people, secure the avenues through the country, 
and, when the season should admit, take posses 
sion of the upper parts of the Hudson and Con 
necticut Rivers, and cut off the communication 
between Albany and the Mohawk country. Again 
he observes, that, should the people of Vermont 
be menaced by a detachment from Washing 
ton s army, General Haldimand would have for 
ces ready to throw in among them, by which 
they would be relieved from any fears of the 
resentment of Congress, and see it to be their 
wisest and safest course to return to their loyalty. 



ETHAN ALLEN. 123 

Such were the vagaries of Lord George Ger 
main in his office at Whitehall, even within a 
few months of the capitulation at Yorktown. And 
in truth they present a very just specimen of the 
strange reveries, surprising ignorance, or wilful 
blindness of that minister, in regard to American 
affairs, during the whole war. 

General Allen was not entirely occupied with 
the duties of his military station. At the next 
election after his return from captivity, he was 
chosen a representative to the Assembly of his 
State. How long he continued in public life as a 
legislator, or how long he retained the active com 
mand of the militia, I have not been able to as 
certain. When peace was restored, however, he 
seems to have resumed his agricultural habits, and 
devoted himself to his private affairs. He was a 
practical farmer, accustomed to labor with his own 
hands, and submit to the privations and hardships, 
which necessarily attend the condition of pioneers 
in a new country. 

In this retirement he published a work on a 
series of topics very different from those, which 
had heretofore employed his pen.* He says in 

* Tne book is entitled, Reason the only Oracle of 
Man, or a Compendious System of Natural Religion. 
It was published at Bennington, in the year 1784. The 
preface is dated July 2d, 1782. 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the Preface, that he had been from his youth ad 
dicted to contemplation, and had from time to 
time committed his thoughts to paper. This Dook 
purports to be the result of his lucubrations / re 
vised, arranged, and prepared with much labor 
for the press. In its literary execution it is much 
superior to any of his other writings, and was evi 
dently elaborated with great patience of thought 
and care in the composition. It is nevertheless 
a crude and worthless performance, in which truth 
and error, reason and sophistry, knowledge and 
ignorance, ingenuity and presumption, are min 
gled together in a chaos, which the author de 
nominates a system. Some uf the chapters on 
natural religion, the being and attributes of God, 
and the principles and obligations of morality, 
should perhaps be excepted from this sweeping 
remark ; for, although they contain little that is 
new, yet they are written in a tone, and express 
sentiments, which may screen them from so heavy 
a censure. 

Founding religion on the attributes of the 
Deity and the nature of things, as interpreted 
by reason, the author takes it for granted, that 
there is no necessity for a revelation, and therce 
infers, that the Christian Revelation and miracles 
are false ; and he argues against the Old Tes 
tament upon the same principles. Historical 
facts and internal evidence, the only basis ot 



ETHAN ALLEN. 125 

correct reasoning on this subject, are passed over 
in silence. There is no proof that the author 
ever examined them. It must be allowed, how 
ever, that he mistook some of the errors of 
Christian sects for the true doctines of revealed 
religion, and that his views, as to the reality and 
nature of the system itself, were perverted by 
this misapprehension. 

If we may judge, also, from various passages 
in this book, some of his biographers have not 
done him strict justice in regard to his religious 
opinions. They have affirmed, that he believed 
in the metempsychosis of the ancients, or the 
transmigration of souls after death into beasts, 
or fishes, and that " he often informed his friends, 
that he himself expected to live again in the 
form of a large white horse." If he was absurd 
and frivolous enough to say such a thing in con 
versation, he has certainly expressed very differ 
ent sentiments in his writings. No person could 
declare more explicitly his belief in a future state 
of rewards and punishments, and p. just retribu 
tion, than he has done in the following passages 
contained in this book. 

"We should so far divest ourselves," he ob 
serves, " of the incumbrances of this world, which 
are too apt to engross our attention, as to acquire 
a consistent system of the knowledge of our duty, 
and make it our constant endeavor in life to act 



126 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

conformably to it. The knowledge of the being, 
perfections, creation, and providence of God, and 
the immortality of our souls, is the foundation of 
our religion." Again, " As true as mankind now 
exist and are endowed with reason and under 
standing, and have the power of agency and pro 
ficiency in moral good and evil, so true it is, that 
they must be ultimately rewarded or punished 
according to their respective merits or demerits ; 
and it is as true as this world exists, and rational 
and accountable beings inhabit it, that the distri 
bution of justice therein is partial, unequal, and 
uncertain ; and it is consequently as true as that 
there is a God, that there must be a future state of 
existence, in which the disorder, injustice, oppres - 
sion, and viciousness, which are acted and trans 
acted by mankind in this life, shall be righteously 
adjusted, and the delinquents suitably punished." 

To what extent these doctrines bear out the 
charge of a belief in the transmigration of souls, 
let the reader judge. 

After the publication of the above work, I have 
not found recorded any events in the life of Ethan 
Allen, which are sufficiently important to be com 
memorated ; unless it be the circumstance of his 
having been solicited, by Shays and his associates, 
to take command of the insurgents in Massachu 
setts. He rejected the proposal with disdain, 
sending back the messengers who brought it, with 



ETHAN ALLEN. 127 

a reprimand for their presumption, and at the 
same time writing a letter to the governor of 
Massachusetts, in which he expressed his abhor 
rence of the insurrection, and assured the gover 
nor that his influence should be used to prevent 
any of its agents and abettors from receiving 
countenance or taking refuge in Vermont. This 
was conformable to all his previous conduct ; for, 
notwithstanding the scenes of turbulence in which 
he was often engaged, it should be remembered 
to his honor, that he was ever, in theory and 
practice, a firm supporter of civil government 
when founded in equity and the rights of the peo 
ple. So rigid was he in his patriotism, that, 
when it was discovered that one of his brothers 
had avowed Tory principles, and been guilty of a 
correspondence with the enemy, he entered a 
public complaint against him in his own name 
and petitioned the court to confiscate his property 
in obedience to the laws of the State. 

Before the end of the war, General Allen re 
moved from Bennington, which had long been his 
place of residence. He \vas next for a short time 
an inhabitant of Arlington, afterwards of Sunder- 
land, and finally he settled himself in the vicinity 
of Onion River, where he and his brothers 
had purchased large tracts of land. He was 
twice married. His second wife, and children 
by both marriages, survived him. Through life 



128 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

he possessed a robust constitution, and uncom 
monly good health ; but his career was suddenly 
terminated by an apoplexy, at Burlington, in 
the year 1789. 

We have thus sketched the principal incidents 
in the life of a man, who holds a place of some 
notoriety in the history of his times. His character 
was strongly marked, both by its excellences and 
defects ; but it may safely be said, that the latter 
were attributable more to circumstances beyond 
his control, than to any original obliquity of his 
mind or heart. The want of early education, 
and the habits acquired by his pursuits in a rude 
and uncultivated state of society, were obstacles 
to his attainment of some of the higher and better 
qualities, which were not to be overcome. A 
roughness of manners and coarseness of language, 
a presumptuous way of reasoning upon all sub 
jects, and his religious skepticism, may be traced 
to these sources. Faults of this stamp, and oth 
ers akin to them, admit of no defence, though, 
when viewed in connexion with their causes, 
they may have claims to a charitable judgment. 
Had his understanding been weak, his temper 
ament less ardent, his disposition less inquisitive, 
and his desire of hotiorable distinction less eager, 
the world would probably never have heard of 
his faults ; the shield of insignificance would have 
covered them ; but it was his destiny to be con- 



ETBAN ALLEN. 129 

spicuous, without the art to conceal or culture to 
soften his foibles. 

Yet there is much to admire in the character 
of Ethan Allen. He was brave, generous, and 
frank, true to his friends, true to his country, con 
sistent and unyielding in his purposes, seeking at 
all times to promote the best interests of man-kind, 
a lover of social harmony, and a determined foe 
to the artifices of injustice and the encroachments 
of power. Few have suffered more in the 
cause of freedom, few have borne their suffer 
ings with a firmer constancy or a loftier spirit. 
His courage, even when apparently approaching 
to rashness, was calm and deliberate. No man 
probably ever possessed this attribute in a more 
remarkable degree. He was eccentric and am 
bitious, but these weaknesses, if such they were, 
never betrayed him into acts dishonorable, un 
worthy, or selfish. His enemies never had cause 
to question his magnanimity, nor his friends to 
regret confidence misplaced or expectations dis 
appointed. He was kind and benevolent, hu 
mane and placable. In short, whatever may have 
been his peculiarities, or however these may have 
diminished the weight of his influence and the 
value of his public services, it must be allowed, 
that he was a man of very considerable impor 
tance in the sphere of his activity, and that to no 
individual among her patriot founders is the State 
ix. 9 



130 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

of Vermont more indebted for the basis of her 
free institutions, and the achievement of her in* 
dependence, than to ETHAN ALLEN. 



LIFE 

OF 

WILLIAM ELLERY 

BY 

EDWARD T. CHANNING 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 



CHAPTER I. 

His Birth, early Year*, Marriage and 
Profession. 

THERE are men, who exercise an important 
influence within a limited sphere, in a thousand 
nameless ways, and, it may be, without a distinct 
consciousness of it, on their own part, or that of 
others, who pass out of life with not one strong 
result, one striking manifestation of their minds to 
make them of public importance. The most that 
can be said of them is, that some " invisible vir 
tue " was communicated by them to others, im 
parting, perhaps, a healthy action to the minds of 
the young, or encouraging useful enterprises, or 
finding its way to the abodes of the humble, 
erring, and weak, to inspire them with prudence 
and self-respect, and a sense of justice and de 
cency, and thus gradually giving a tone to manners 
and opinions in the neighborhood. Events may 
rail them to important public stations, and connect 



134 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

them with the history of their country ; but they 
remain precisely the same men. Their sphere is, 
indeed, wider and more conspicuous than before ; 
their objects are larger, and more force is evolved ; 
but the men and their influence are unchanged. 
Vanity cannot unsettle their estimate of them 
selves. Ambition cannot mislead them to under 
take offices, which they know do not belong to 
them. Conspicuous actions are still to be per 
formed, and dizzy heights to be held, by others ; 
while to them is left the more obscure, but im 
perishable power of character, wisdom, and faith 
ful diligence. It is of a man like these, that some 
notices are here offered. 

Mr. Ellery s information respecting his paternal 
ancestors, and the time and circumstances of their 
leaving the mother country, was very limited, 
though he had given some attention to the subject. 
The first of the name in New England, it is 
believed, arrived a little after the middle of the 
seventeenth century ; and, towards the close, we 
find one branch of the family in Bristol, Rhode 
Island. His father, William Ellery, was born 
there, October 31st, 1701, and graduated at Har 
vard College in 1722. He was afterwards a 
wealthy merchant of Newport, and seems to have 
enjoyed the confidence of the people, as he was 
elected to the offices of Judge, Assistant, and 
Deputy-Governor. His piety, and attachment to 



WILLIAM ELLERT. 135 

civil and religious liberty, and his many private 
virtues, are commemorated in a still legible epi 
taph in Latin.* He died March 15th, 1764 
leaving several children. 

WILLIAM, his second son, was born in Newport 
December 22d, 1727, and, with his elder brother, 
was entered at Harvard College, probably in 
1743. Little is known of his college life besides 
the frolics and jests in which he had his full share, 
and which he used to relate in a most diverting 
style. His love of the Latin classics was no 
doubt formed at the College. His never-ceasing 
attention to them, and to the nicest points in the 
grammar and prosody of the language, is no slight 
indication of early taste and habits. And what 
ever defects there may have been in the former 
modes of teaching at that seminary, it is not dis 
puted, that there was a diligent instruction of 
young men in the ancient tongues. It may seem 
premature to speak, in this connexion, of what 
was most observable in his literary preferences of 
after life ; but we have reason to think, that these 

* This inscription was written by President Stiles of 
Yale College, for many years a clergyman in Newport, 
It was submitted to the revision of Dr. William Knee- 
land, of Cambridge, and Mr. James Lovell, of Boston ; 
whose letters on the subject are somewhat curious, as 
specimens of what might now be deemed the elegant 
pedantry of our fathers 



136 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

were established at an early period ; and that even 
ihen, Horace was his favorite among the Roman 
poets, and that in English literature he inclined 
strongly to the writers of Queen Anne s time. 
Thougn this may have been partly owing to acci 
dent, or the fashion of the day, yet there seemed 
to be an almost natural direction of his mind 
towards writers who abounded in wit, in strong 
sense closely and pointedly expressed, and in 
observation of mankind. It was a taste that he 
never lost ; but it did not interfere with his liberal 
study and admiration of English and Latin litera 
ture generally, nor of the French, to which his 
attention was drawn later in life. 

His residence at Cambridge was important to 
him in more than a literary point of view. He 
was received into the excellent society of the 
place, where he became attached to the lady 
whom he afterwards married, and intimate with 
the family of Judge Trowbridge, her near con 
nexion. The scenes of his early studies and first 
affection grew dearer to him with his years, wheth 
er as the witnesses of his blessings or afflictions. 
There are but few events in one s domestic history 
more beautiful, more memorable, than his annual 
visits to this his second home, till he had passed 
his eightieth year. It was not merely a return to 
his literary haunts and the friends of his youth, to 
be welcomed to the boundless hospitality of the 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 137 

times. The sources of interest were multiplied 
and deepened. A married daughter resided there. 
With some of his descendants he could recall his 
early days at the College. And, as we shall pre 
sently see, the place was further endeared to him 
by sorrow. 

He took his first degree in 1747 ; and he loved 
the College ever afterwards with the feelings of an 
English scholar for his Alma Mater. The recol 
lection of his room-mate, many years after their 
separation, draws from him a warm expression of 
old college attachment. In a letter to Mr. An 
drew Oliver, of Salem, in 1771, he says; "I 
have already about fifty subscribers to the propo 
sals you sent me for the publication of your Essay 
on Comets , and hope to procure more. It would 
give me great pleasure to encourage genius in any 
gentleman ; especially in a gentleman with whom 
I once had the happiness to be intimately con 
nected. This alone would have been a sufficient 
inducement to me to promote the subscription; 
but when to this is added the request of my old 
chum, the thought of obliging him lays me under 
a necessity to do it." 

From Cambridge, Mr. Ellery returned to his 
native town, to settle himself for life ; and, proba 
bly, he entered soon upon business as a merchant, 
the favorite pursuit of his family. Newport, at 
that time, was a wealthy commercial capital, and 



138 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

a place of frequent resort for strangers, not merely 
for its delightful climate and rural and ocean scen 
ery, but also for its liberal, and, perhaps, too 
luxurious hospitality. Down to the revolution, it 
offered every encouragement to a young man en 
tering on business, to say nothing of its attractions 
to one of a social temper. In October, 1750, Mr. 
Ellery was married to Ann Remington, of Cam 
bridge, daughter of Jonathan Remington, one of 
the Justices of the Superior Court of Massachu 
setts. The connexion was deemed imprudent by 
his father, in one so young, who had yet to make 
his way in the world ; but the coolness that fol 
lowed was removed upon the birth of a grand 
child ; and the wife, who seems to have been first 
received to his affection for the child s sake, be 
came, by her kindness and good sense, his pride 
and comfort till death. She was an excellent 
woman, prudent, affable, and hospitable, ever 
watchful over her children, and careful that her 
husband should find no place so agreeable to him 
as his home. 

An anecdote of his married life is remembered, 
which, in one respect, is illustrative of the kind of 
social habits of the day, and of more importance 
as concerns ins own character and happiness. It 
was his custom to spend his evenings with a party 
of young friends at some place of convivial resort ; 
and it is enough to say of their amusements, that 



WILLIAM ELLERT. 139 

they were any thing but intellectual, and just suited 
to make one s home the last place he would look 
to for his pleasures, and, of course, the very place 
where duty itself must soon become irksome. It 
was an essential part of domestic economy at that 
time, for the matron to note upon the margin or 
blank leaves of her almanac, any of the memora 
ble occurrences in the daily experience of the 
household. One day his wife had recorded, as its 
most precious event, and with expressions of ten 
derness and gratitude, that her husband had passed 
the evening with her and her children. This, not 
many days after, fell under his eye ; but he said 
not a word. If there was any upbraiding, it was 
all from his own heart. The same evening, he 
returned to his usual haunt, and at once announced 
to his friends that he had come to take his parting 
cup with them, and that, hereafter, he should 
seek his evening pleasures at home. Some disbe 
lieved, others scoffed ; could this be true of a 
man of his gaye v y and spirit ? But their surprise 
and boisterous ridicule he was prepared for, and, 
true to his purpose and word, he left them, and 
was ever after a thoroughly domestic man. And 
such was the effect of his resolution upon them, 
that, in no long time, the party was broken up, 
and succeeded by pleasant meetings in each other s 
families. 

He often told this little incident, as if it had 



140 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

deeply moved him. He had connected it indisso- 
lubly with a beloved wife, whbm he too early lost ; 
and, when he spoke of it, there was a tremulous- 
ness upon his lip, and a placidness of expression, 
which denoted his never-ceasing gratitude ana 
love. Fifty years after her death, he says of her, 
" You read, in the grave-yard in Cambridge, the 
epitaph of your grandmother, a woman dear to 
me and to all who were acquainted with her. 
Alas ! I was too early deprived of her society ; 
and it was not a single arrow that pierced my 
heart. In the same year, my father was taken 
away." She died in Cambridge, September 7th, 
1764, at the age of thirty-nine ; and her husband 
returned to his home and children a sorely stricken 
and bowed-down man. 

Mr. Ellery used, in later life, to speak of him 
self as having turned his attention to many pur 
suits, and, with the usual event, of doing very 
well in none. For several years after his mar 
riage, he was engaged, to some extent, in mer 
chandise, and, during part of the time, he was 
naval officer of the Colony Me gave up his first 
line of business in the time of embarrassing reve 
nue acts and of non-importation agreements, when 
there was little or nothing for him to do, but to 
join, heart and hand, as he did, with the " Sons of 
Liberty." On the possible advantages of a life 
of various employments, as preparing one for 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 141 

widely differing stations, and discovering some hid 
den powers, it would not be advisable to speculate, 
while speaking of a man whose urgent advice was 
to keep to a single business, and learn to love it 
and seek distinction in it, and whose own habits 
inclined more and more with his years to steady, 
systematic application. 

A passage from one of his letters, of so recent 
date as 1818, shows that he early formed a taste 
for gardening, the favorite occupation and amuse 
ment of his later years. " I wish you to inquire 
for, and procure an ear or two of Canadian corn, 
of some of your gentlemen-farmers who may have 
planted it. I will plant it the next season. The 
improvements that are making in your large and 
rich State, in agriculture and horticulture, and in 
the breed of various species of beasts, will not 
only be very advantageous to it, but may be so to 
our poor little State. I was among the first who 
followed the example, that was set before us by 
some European gardeners, who were imported into 
this town when I was a young married man ; and, 
in consequence of our rival exertions, ten times as 
great a quantity of vegetables was raised upon the 
same quantity of ground annually, as had ever 
been raised before. What is it that somebody 
said, in commendation of him, who should make 
two spires of grass grow where only orje grew 
before ? ; 



142 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

In 1767, Mr. Ellery was married a second time 
and in 1770 he began the practice of the law 
Nothing is known of his preparatory studies foi 
the new profession, nor of the amount of practical 
skill he may have acquired from serving as clerk 
of one of the courts during the two preceding 
years. It is clear that he thought modestly of his 
qualifications; for, in 1771, he writes thus to 
Henry Marchant, then in London, who had left 
his legal business in charge of Mr. Ellery. " If I 
had time, 1 would let you know what happened at 
the Superior Court ; let it suffice you, that your 
friend stood forth and pleaded two causes success 
fully, alone, and assisted in three others. Bravo, 
say you ; I say, Bravissimo." And, not long after, 
in consulting his eminent legal friends in Cam 
bridge upon some involved case, he writes ; " With 
regard to most of the questions, I am pretty well 
satisfied ; but, as they respect a matter of consider 
able importance, I would not choose to give my 
advice without first consulting some person learned 
m the law, and hearing his opinion." Though 
not a man of extravagant expectations, he yet had 
great alacrity of spirits, and was not given to de 
spondency in any view of things ; so that we can 
easily conceive of him in the gloomy state of pub 
lic affairs, and the doubtful promise of his own, as 
entering with all his might upon a wholly new 
course of life, and as awakened to a new sense of 
nis powers by the pressure of public danger 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 143 

His letter-books at this period show that he was 
in considerable practice, and that he received bus>- 
ness from gentlemen in several of the other Colo 
nies as well as from his neighbors. This corre 
spondence is not confined to professional topics ; a 
place is found for private and political concenw, 
and for exceedingly characteristic reflections upon 
any matter that happened to draw his attention. 

One cause, in which he was employed, deserves 
a little notice, as it shows how deeply he had 
entered into the all-engrossing question of liberty, 
and how thoroughly the spirit of revolution had 
wrought itself into his most responsible judgments. 

An action had been brought before the court at 
Providence, by David Hill, against gentlemen of 
the New York Committee of Inspection, to re 
cover damages for goods of Hill s, which had been 
burnt, and for which he held the committee re 
sponsible. Mr. Ellery was retained in the defence 
by several of them, and two or three passages in 
his letters will give a pretty clear view of the case 
and the advocate. 

September 27th, 1771, he says ; " With regard 
to the suit brought against you and the other gen 
tlemen of the late Committee of Inspection at 
New York, I would observe, that if you can prove, 
by disinterested witnesses, that you told Hill, that 
you did not order nor command him to store his 
goods, and that you did not take charge of them, 



144 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

but only believed they would be quite safe in 
Platt s Louse till the opinion of the committee 
was known (agreeably to what you write me) ; I 
think it will be impossible that Hill should evu* 
recover a judgment against you. And, indeed, if 
you had actually ordered the goods to be stored ; 
considering the situation of our public affairs, the 
necessity which there then seemed to be that non 
importation agreements should be entered into, in 
order to effect a repeal, if possible, of an oppres 
sive act, laying duties on certain articles of com 
merce ; considering that non-importation agree 
ments were almost universal through the Colonies, 
and that Hill carried goods into New York (know 
ing that, at that very time, there subsisted such an 
agreement among the merchants of your city,) 
with mercenary views, and attempted to violate 
resolves entered into for the common benefit ; 
considering these and many other things which 
might be offered, he deserved, in my opinion, to 
lose his goods, and I believe a jury will think so ; 
however illegal it may be to force a man s goods 
from him, by means whereof they might be bum 
ed." " You may depend upon my exerting my 
self in your behalf, in this suit particularly ; for 
the cause of liberty is a cause which I alwavs 
have had close at heart, and I once had the honor 
to be of a committee of the Sons of Liberty in 
this place." 



WILLIAM ELLERT 145 

The plaintiff recovered, however, ooih in the 
lower court and on the appeal ; but Mr. Ellery 
ascribes his failure to any thing but a bad cause. 
"It would have given me great pleasure," he says 
to his clients (April, 1772), " to have succeeded 
in this cause, particularly, because it is in some 
sort the cause of liberty ; and if it had been tried 
while the spirit of freedom was vigorous in every 
part of the community, even at Providence, we 
had come off triumphantly." 

Though his exertions and trouble in this suit 
had been great, and so acknowledged, there was 
yet some misunderstanding about his compensa 
tion. In another letter, a few months after, he 
details his services and claims, and closes with 
some vivacity. 

" That you should think I was to expect only 
this sum from you," said he, " and charge liberty 
with my extra trouble, was more than surprising 
to me ; it was really shocking. The cause of 
liberty, however unsuccessful her advocates may 
have been, or how r ever rewarded, is still a glorious 
cause ; a cause which I originally engaged in from 
no pecuniary views, but from principles, the seeds 
of which are implanted in all human kir.d ; the 
love of society and the love of country. I re 
joice that I had a share, however small it misfit 
be, in the repeal of the Stamp Act. The non 
importation agreement I wished well to, oecausa 

ix. 10 



146 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

I imagined it would have demolished the reve 
nue acts, by which our trade is restricted ara 
embarrassed. And I have reason to thiiik t 
would have fully answered that purpose, if it had 
been adhered to only six months longer I am 
very sorry that any gentlemen, who were con 
cerned in that agreement, should be sufferers 
thereby ; especially I lament, that any of the 
Committee of Inspection of New York should 
suffer by an unjust judgment in this Colony ; and, 

if it will give you, Sir, and Messrs. 

any satisfaction under your ill-success, to withdraw 
my claim to a gratuity for my extra trouble, I will 
readily do it, and am your and their assured friend 
and humble servant." 

It was said before, that this series of business 
letters was of a very mixed character ; and though 
it may interrupt what little of narrative there is in 
this memoir, yet one or two extracts may be in 
serted here, if they serve no other purpose than 
to show his manner of thinking and writing in 
middle life. They are taken from two letters to 
his old friend, William Redwood, then residing in 
Philadelphia ; and, in these, as in his later corre 
spondence, we may see how freely he follows out 
any present train of thought, and falls into any 
form of speech that offers itself. He never had 
fne faintest shade of affectation. He might be 
reserved, where it was proper; but, with his 
friends, he was a cordial, plain-spoken man. 



WILLIAM ELLERT. 147 

"February llth, 1113. "I had determined, be- 
tore I took up my pen, not to have said a word or. 
this sorrowful subject, lest I might thereby open 
and cause thos^ wounds to bleed afresh, which the 
lenient hand of time might have begun to close; 
but friendship for you and your children hath 
constrained me to express some ideas, which have 
arisen in my mind, to utter some portion of my 
grief, and to mingle my te&rs with yours on thi* 
melancholy occasion. 

" I can and do sincerely sympathize with you, 
for 1 have myself passed through some of tht 
severest scenes of affliction. Amidst vhoss scene? 
I had all the comfort which the advbe, coiidol 
ence, and wishes of my friends could impart. L 
was not small, and I thanked them for it. Bi>- 
tears are a debt we owe to departed friends. The} 
are a debt to nature ; and a debt to nature is a 
debt to God. It ought to be, it must be paid ; 
and they will flow, till time dispels those clouda 
which feed them, and dries up every source of 
grief. 

" We are not, however, to abandon ourselves to 
sorrow. In such melancholy seasons, we are to 
avoid solitude, mix with the company of our 
friends, engage ".i business, or pursue some inno 
cent amusement. Otherwise, we may, perhaps, 
while we are paying the tribute which friendship 
demands, pay the great debt \vhich we ourselves 



148 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

owe to nature. Last Friday, old P H 

discharged that debt, and this afternoon I shaL 
attend his funeral. To-morrow, I may be, perhaps, 
as joyful as ever, be engaged in company or in 
business, in discharging or collecting debts of a 
different kind from those before mentioned ; I may 
be collecting some for you. How strange is our 
state ! how incongruous is man ! " 

The following passage from a letter written in 
his ninetieth year, on a similar occasion, may be 
read in connexion with that we have just quoted. 

" Nothing new can be alleged to improved 
minds, in the way of consolation, under the afflict 
ing dispensations of a merciful and beneficent 
Providence. Such know, that God doth not wil 
lingly afflict, that those he loves he chastens ; that, 
to those who seek his protection and support, he 
will grant that protection and support, which the 
nearest and dearest friends cannot give ; that he, 
who hath formed us for society, and established 
the relationships and connexions of human life, 
hath so constituted us, that, when we are bereaved 
of relatives, we must lament, and those with whom 
we are connected ought to participate in our grief, 
and endeavor to alleviate it. But it would be vain 
to attempt to stop its current, as vain as it would 
oe to attempt to stop the flowing tide. The mind 
is employed almost entirely with reflections on 
the happiness it has lost, and thinks but little, if 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 149 1 

at all, of the happiness which the object of its 
bereavement has gained. If this were duly con 
sidered, would it not go far wO lighten the oppress 
ed heart ? It certainly would, says reason ; but 
few there are that reason, or can reason amidst the 
deep gloom of grief. To use a scripture expres 
sion, the light shineth in the darkness, but the 
darkness comprehendeth it not." 

We return to the series of letters of an early 
date, to give one more passage, which bears some 
what on the times. 

" November 14^, 1773. But I cannot bid you 
adieu in this solemn manner. Totus mundus agit 
histrionem. The famous Jacob Bates hath lately 
exhibited here his most surprising feats of horse 
manship, in a circus or enclosure of about one 
hundred and twenty feet in diameter, erected at 
the east end of Mr. Honyman s field. The num 
ber of spectators was from three to seven hun 
dred. He exhibited four times, and took half a 
dollar for a ticket. A mountebank doctor, who 
lately came into America from some part of Eu 
rope (Great Britain, I believe), and who is ex 
pected here, is now haranguing daily, from a 
wagon, to the good gaping people of Connecticut, 
and, while they are gaping, he is picking their 
pockets. Strolling players we have had amone 
us. I expect that, in a few years, Drury Lane 
and Sadler s Wells, fee., will be translated into 
America 



150 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHX. 

u I wish, while we are encouraging the impor 
tation of the amusements, follies, and vices of 
Great Britain, America would encourage the intro 
duction of her virtues, if she have any ; for I am 
sure, by thus countenancing her follies and vices, 
we shall lose the little stock of virtue that is left 
among us. This I am very clear in, that exhibi 
tions of players, rope-dancers, and mountebanks 
(I must confess, indeed, there is something manly 
and generous in the exhibitions ot Mr. Bates ; for 
a well-formed man, and a weP-shaped, well- 
limbed, well-sized horse, are fine figures, and in 
his manage are displayed amazing strength, reso 
lution, and activity,) have a more effectual ten 
dency, by disembowelling the purse, and enfeo- 
bling the mind, to sap the foundations of patriotism 
and public virtue, than any of the yet practised 
efforts of a despotic ministry.* But it will be in 
vain to talk against these things, while there are 
a hundred fools to one wise man." 

* Our old Congress took the same view of this matter. 
Mr. Ellery was absent, however, on a visit to his family, 
at the time the following Resolutions passed that body. 
They remind one of the religious and republican rigors 
duiing the civil wars cf England. October 12th, 1778. 
Whereas true religion and good morals are the only 
solid foundations of public liberty and happiness ; Re 
solved, that it be, and it hereby is, earnestly recom 
mended to the several States to take the most effectual 
measures for the encouragement thereof, and for the 
suppressing of theatrical entertainments, horse-racing, 



\\JLLIAM ELLERT. 151 



CHAPTER II. 

Mr. Ellery is elected to Congress. Signs tht 
Declaration of Independence. His Services 
in the Old Congress. Extracts from his 
Diary. His Character as a Public Man. 

FROM nothing that has yet been said, could we 
gather that Mr. Ellery, in general estimation, was 
one of the foremost men in the Colony, or be led 
to expect, that, in a most critical period of the 
revolution, he would be charged with a great 
public trust. He had held no political or judicial 
office, and, probably, had not been distinguished 
as a jurist or merchant. But he was known to 
the people for his firmness, and good sense, and 
devotion to the public cause. And his sense of 
the worth of freedom could be the more relied on, 

gaming, and such other diversions as are productive of 
idleness, dissipation, and a general depravity of princi 
ples and manners." 

October 16th, 1778. Whereas frequenting play-houses 
and theatrical entertainments has a fatal tendency to 
divert the minds of the people from a due attention to 
the means necessary for the de^nce of their country 
and the preservation of their liberties ; Resolved, that 
any person holding an office under the United States, 
who shall act, promote, encourage, or attend such plays, 
shall be deemed unworthy to hold such office, and shall 
be accordingly dismissed." 



152 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

as it did not spring from eager sympathy with the 
sudden excitements of the day, but from principles 
which his experience and reflection had prudently 
developed and confirmed. It was a deep-seated 
passion, and a moral preference. To forward po 
litical liberty was, in his view, to follow every 
individual to his own home and heart with a bles 
sing. The social state was to be sustained and 
amended, by interesting every man in the good 
of the whole as his own private good ; and his 
country was to be the object of affection, as the 
protected sphere of an individual s usefulness, 
honor, and peace. 

According to his own strong language at the 
time, he placed his obligations to uphold liberty, as 
high as those that bound him to his wife and chil 
dren. Still he was no dreamer about men s rights 

O 

as separated a hair-breadth even from their duties ; 
but he was for placing man where he could best 
feel and do his duty. From the little that has 
been already stated, it is plain, that he had shown 
himself a public-hearted man in the first struggles 
of his countrymen against encroachments upon the 
rights of the colonies. He had been upon impor 
tant committees, whose business was to procure 
the repeal of oppressive revenue acts, and was ac 
quainted with active spirits in other colonies, who 
were preparing themselves and the people for a 
separation from the mother country, if that choice 



\VILLIAM ELJLERT. 153 

should alone be left. In short, the plain man of 
business had inspired a general confidence in his 
fitness for a high civil trust, let the aspect of affairs 
be ever so variable and perplexing. 

Mr. Ellery appeared, for the first time., as del 
egate of Rhode Island, in the memorable Con 
gress of 1776. His instructions are dated May 
4th of that year. He took his seat on the 14th ; 
and, with his venerable colleague, Stephen Hop 
kins, set his name to the Declaration of Indepen 
dence. 

The personal responsibility of this measure was 
as clear to his mind, as if the hand of the King s 
officer were already upon him for the treason. 
But it may be said of him, as truly as of any 
man, that, however his temper might be softenea 
or his opinions modified by time and religion, he 
never changed with his condition or duties. He 
looked at them fully and distinctly ; he knew that 
he had pledged himself to a great and doubtful 
question ; and he sustained himself equally, and 
always moved with a firm and cheerful spirit. He 
placed himself by the side of Charles Thomson, 
the Secretary, and observed the expression and 
manner of each member, as he came up to sign 
the Declaration. He used to describe this scene 
with great spirit. Its interest was wholly moral 
Nothing could be less indebted to show or cere 
mony. He looked on inter tly, and with a feeling 
that the men were equal to the crisis. 



154 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Mr. Ellery was in Congress from 1776 to 1786, 
with the exception of the years 1780 and 1782. 
In one point of view, the station of a delegate 
might seem, in itself, of no inconsiderable dignity 
and weight ; for while, in the revolt of a single 
city or nation, power would most likely fall into 
the hands of one or a few leaders, to whom all 
other agents would be strictly subordinate, the 
members of our revolutionary Congress were rep 
resentatives of distinct sovereignties, and no one 
acknowledged a superior. Still, the points of 
their official weakness were numerous, so that, 
without personal address and influence, a delegate 
would be of very little consideration ; and there 
were so many ways of exercising talent and influ 
ence, which could find no place in the history of 
the times, that his most meritorious services might 
often attract no attention. 

For instance, besides advising and cooperating 
with his associates, he must be powerful at home, 
in order to bring his own State to a hearty support 
of the recommendations of Congress. It might 
be his task to contend with petty jealousies, nar 
row views, and political rivals among his constitu 
ents ; and if he carried his point, still no fame 
could attach to this almost domestic agency. A 
trust like his required him to be fit for various 
business, both within the House and out of it ; and 
he was not to think a moment of himself or his 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 155 

relebrity, if he could but sustain a great, though 
laboring cause, and its all-provident and sorely 
tried leader. 

The journals of Congress bear testimony to Mr. 
Ellery s constant employment upon some of the 
most important committees, and in a great variety 
of business ; but here, too, it is often difficult to 
ascertain his views or services. The debates are 
not reported. We may read his motions, his 
votes, his appointments on committees and their 
reports ; and from the kind of subjects given in 
charge to him, we may sometimes infer what opin 
ion was entertained of his capacity for public 
business. But we must be often ignorant whether 
he took a leading part in regard to measures, with 
which his name is connected; and sometimes,where 
it is known that he did, his merits could not be 
understood, without entering more largely than 
would be proper here into historical details : as in 
the instance of the questions relating to the New 
Hampshire Grants, and to the recognition of that 
territory as a State, in which he was distinguished 
for his exertions in behalf of the claims of Ver 
mont. 

It will be sufficient to name one or two of the 
more important committees of which he was a 
member, and which of themselves might have 
given him full employment ; and, as nothing is 
known now in relation to his services upon these, 



156 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

oeyond what the journals testify, perhaps 
this meagre enumeration might have been spared / 
and the reader left to infer his public course of 
action from what is known of the man, the times, 
and the body to which he belonged. 

Not long after his first election to Congress, 
October llth, 1776, we find him placed upon the 
Marine Committee. As he came from a com 
mercial State, whose waters and capital were foi 
a time subjected to the enemy, and always of 
importance to our own resources and operations, it 
was to be expected that our naval affairs would be 
brought under his particular notice, and his atten 
tion appears to have been directed to them for a 
large part of the time he was in Congress. Three 
years afterwards, October 28th, 1779, upon a re 
port of the Marine Committee respecting the Navy 
Department, a Board of Admiralty was establish 
ed to superintend the naval and marine affairs of 
the United States, to consist of three Commission 
ers, not members of Congress, and two members 
of Congress. Mr. Ellery was elected to this 
Board, December 8th, 1779, and it was at tho 
same time resolved, that all matters heretofore re 
ferred to the Marine Committee, be transmitted to 
the Board of Admiralty. June 23d, 1780, he was 
elected a Commissioner of this Board ; his term 
as delegate having recently expired. 

By a resolution of Congress, January 30th,, 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 1~7 

1777, a standing committee of five members was 
appointed to hear and determine upon appeals 
brought against sentences passed on libels in the 
Courts of Admiralty in the respective States ; and 
Messrs. Wilson, Serjeant, Ellery, Chase, and Sher 
man were chosen. It is needless to dwell upon 
the necessity of such a junsdiction somewhere, or 
the difficulty of arranging a system, that would 
inspire confidence abroad, and yet not alarm the 
jealousy of the several States. These, and other 
points, are considered in a report by a committee 
of three, of which Mr. Ellery was one, March 6th, 
1779. 

The part he took in relation to a memorial of 
certain inhabitants of Bermuda is of little public 
importance, but appears to be somewhat illustra 
tive of his character. Those islanders were suf 
fering deeply from want of provisions, for which 
they seem to have depended upon the revolted 
colonies; and to these they now came, though 
politically estranged, to implore relief. On the 
23d of April, 1779, Mr. Ellery, as chairman of a 
committee to whom their memorial had been re 
ferred, reported a state of facts, and their opinion 
" that, so long as Bermuda shall continue to be 
guarded by British ships and garrisoned by British 
soldiers, how powerfully soever humanity may 
plead in their behalf, and the disposition of Con 
gress incline them to relieve the distresses of Ber- 



158 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

muda, yet sound policy and the duty they owe to 
their constituents, will constrain them to refuse a 
compliance with the request of the memorialists." 
The sympathies of Congress were strongly with 
the islanders, and, upon the question to agree to 
the report, the States were divided. 

Mr. Ellery was a thoroughly kind-hearted man, 
but, in the combat of feeling with duty, he sought 
to give the victory to the right side, and he was 
always slow to revise a carefully formed opinion. 
The memorial was recommitted to the same gen 
tlemen, who reported, May 7th, " that, from a 
reconsideration of the deplorable circumstances of 
those unhappy persons who are deprived, as it 
hath been represented to your committee, of the 
means of supplying themselves with bread, which 
are allowed to other inhabitants who openly profess 
their attachment to the enemies of these States, 
they are of opinion " that it be recommended to 
certain States, which are named, to permit the 
exportation of corn to those Islands. Mr. Ellery 
did not agree with the other gentlemen of the 
committee in this report ; for, upon a substitute 
being moved by Mr. Burke, and seconded by Mr. 
Morris, " that the memorialists be informed, that 
Congress deem it highly inexpedient to grant the 
prayer of their memorial," he voted for the sub 
stitute, which was adopted by nine States, and 
afterwards passed as a resolution. 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 150 

For reasons before stated, it would not be worm 
while to insert further particulars from the jour 
nals, which would give but equally imperfect 
information as those already mentioned. It may 
not be deemed improper, however, to offer an 
abridged account of the proceedings in relation to 
a matter of some moment to the Rhode Island 
delegation, and which engaged a good deal of the 
attention of Congress. It would be gratifying to 
know, from full reports, what Mr. Ellery urged in 
defence of himself and his colleague. 

May 13th, 1784, a controversy about the right 
of the Rhode Island delegates to their seats 
arose upon a Report of the Committee of Quali 
fications, which stated that they were elected on 
the first Wednesday of May, 1783 ; that the law 
of the State required the delegates to be chosen 
annually on the first Wednesday of May ; that an 
act of that State, passed in 1777, empowered its 
delegates to represent the State in Congress until 
they should have due notice of their reelection, 
or until delegates, appointed in their room, should 
take their seats in Congress, the act directing the 
election of delegates for one year to the contrary 
notwithstanding ; that none of the present dele 
gates took their seats until the 30th of June, 1783, 
and that by the fifth of the Articles of Confed 
eration it is agreed, " that delegates shall be an 
nually appointed, in such manner as the legislature 



160 AMERICAN BIOGRAPH1 

of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress v- 
<he first Monday in November in every year. 
Whereupon the committee were of opinion, " First, 
that no State has a right to empower its delegates 
to sit in Congress more than one year, under one 
appointment; and, secondly, that the year for 
which the said delegates of Rhode Island were ap 
pointed, had expired." On the question to agree 
to the first clause, it was resolved unanimously in 
the affirmative. The question on the second clause 
was lost, four States in the affirmative, two in the 
negative, and three divided. Mr. Ellery, it seems, 
contended, that the act of 1777 gave him a rignt, 
under the Confederation, to sit after a year from 
the time of his election had expired, so that he did 
not exceed the term of a year after first taking his 
seat in Congress. 

The subject was kept before Congress, in the 
form of objections to the Rhode Island members 
speaking, voting, &c., till the 24th of May, when 
the delegates of Virginia and South Carolina 
submitted a long statement of their views of the 
matter, in which they protest against the right of 
Mr. Ellery, and Mr. Howell, his colleague, to vote 
till their competency to act is declared by an 
affirmative vote of Congress. " Still, however," 
they say, " reduced, by the perseverance of Mr. 
Ellerv and Mr. Howell, to the alternative of stop 
ping the business of the United States at a very 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 161 

critical moment, or proceeding to act with them, 
thev have judged it most advisable to prefer the 
latter; under a determination, on all questions 
where the interest of the Union at laige, or that 
of the States they represent, may be materially 
affected, to have it stated by the yeas and nays, 
the manner in which they are carried ; saving to 
themselves, and to the States they represent, the 
right they may have to invalidate all acts passed 
in Congress, wherein the voices of Mr. Ellery and 
Mr. Howell are deciding on the question." 

They further protest against "such acquiescence 
in the conduct of those gentlemen, which they 
deem to be irregular and unjustifiable," being 
considered as a precedent ; and conclude with 9 
resolution, to the effect, that when any State shal^ 
object to the credentials of a person claiming to be 
a member, such credentials shall be submitted to 
the Committee of Qualifications, who shall report 
a state of facts merely ; and seven States agree 
ing that the credentials are sufficient, the claim 
shall be good ; and if seven States shall not so 
agree, he shall not be permitted to sit in Congress. 

Mr. Howell immediately made a motion, sec 
onded by Mr. Ellery, that the consideration of the 
foregoing motion be postponed in order to take up 
the following; "Whereas, the question on the 
report of the Committee of Qualifications, on the 
credentials of the delegates of Rhode Island, was 

IX. 11 



162 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

taken and lost on the 15th instant ; and whereas, 
since that period, the said delegates have been 
continually called to order, and have not been 
permitted to speak or vote in Congress without 
interruption from some members ; Resolved, that 
after delegates shall have been received as mem 
bers into Congress on sufficient credentials for one 
year, such delegates, so admitted, shall not be 
excluded the House, but by the voices of seven 
States." The question to postpone was lost, as 
was the question to agree to the resolution of the 
delegates of Virginia and South Carolina ; so the 
members from Rhode Island retained their seats 
without further molestation. 

One would not have supposed, that our old 
legislators could find time to talk about a mere 
point of style. The following anecdote, however, 
was recalled to Mr. Ellery in 1818, by some re 
marks upon the Life of Patrick Henry. " I was 

in Congress with Mr. , of Virginia. He 

undertook to ridicule New England compositicn, 
because it abounded in monosyllables. I asked 
him whether the motions and reports of the New 
England delegates were not intelligible. He said 
yes, but they did not sound well. Soon after, he 
was of a committee of which I was one, and as 
he was the first chosen, he draughted the report. 
He cautiously avoided monosyllables, and the re 
port consisted of sonorous, sesquipedalian words. 



WILLIAM ELLERT 163 

a connecting particle. After Secretary 
Thomson had read it, I stepped to him and asked 
him whether he understood the report ? ( No ; it 
consists of a number of long, sounding words, 
without any connecting ones to show its significa 
tion. I believe the Virginians are getting into a 
more simple style." 

Mr. Ellery was in the habit of keeping a mi 
nute diary of his journeys to and from Congress. 
Five of these, for three successive years, remain, 
and abound in particulars as to roads, distances, 
taverns, innholders, fare, expenses, the private 
houses where he had a right to claim hospitality, 
or at which he was compelled to seek it ; and 
moreover one would think that every conversation 
he held, everybody he met, every incident that 
befell him, was here recorded. One or two of 
them have accounts appended, between him as 
delegate, and the State of Rhode Island, which 
might startle a reader who was unacquainted with 
the state of the currency in those days. His jour 
neys were on horseback ; and a few extracts from 
one of these diaries will give some idea of the 
travels of a member of Congress in former timss.* 

* The Diary ia entitled, " Journey from Dighton, in 
Massachusetts Bay, to York, in the State of Pennsyl 
vania, begun October 20th, 1777, and concluded Novem 
her 5th." He travelled in company with his son-itt 
law. Mr. Dana, delegate from Massachusetts. 



164 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



" October 24^A. The weather was lowering, and 
that, and the prospect of hearing something of the 
Newport Expedition, detained us at Judge Potter s, 
(South Kingston.) This day, had a confirmation 
of the glorious news of the surrendry of the Colonel 
of the Queen s Light Dragoons, [Burgoyne,] with 
his whole army. Learn hence, proud mortals, 
the ignominious end of the vain boaster. Gave a 
spur to S. by lettler." 

" November 1st. We spent the Sabbath at 
Hartford. In the afternoon heard Mr. Strong 
preach a good sermon ; and most melodious sing 
ing. The psalmody was performed in all its parts, 
and softness, more than loudness, seemed to be 
the aim of the performers. In the evening, wait 
ed upon Governor Trumbull, and was pleased to 
find so much quickness of apprehension in so old a 
gentleman. Connecticut has collected and order 
ed taxes to the amount of one hundred thousand 
pounds more than she had issued. Brave spirits ! 

" November 3d. To Litchfield, where we lodg 
ed with General Wolcott, and were kindly enter 
tained. He had lately returned from the northern 
army, where he commanded a number (three hun 
dred, I think,) of volunteers, which he had collect 
ed by his influence. He gave us an account ot 
the surrendry of " the menacing meteor, which, 
after a most portentous glare, had evaporated into 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 165 

smoke,"* and gave it as his opinion, that the 
army under General Gates, at the time of the 
capitulation, did not exceed twelve thousand men 

" November 5th. We intended, when we left 
Litchfield, to have gone to Peekskill, and there 
to have crossed the North River ; but when we 
got to Danbury, were dissuaded from it by the 
person at whose house we breakfasted, who told 
us that there were tories and horse-stealers on that 
road. This account, and it being so late in the 
forenoon that it was impossible to reach Peeks- 
kill by night, and not being able to procure a 
lodging in Danbury, occasioned us to take the 
Fishkill route. Accordingly we set off, baited at 
the foot of Quaker Hill, about seven miles, and 
reached Colonel Ludinton s, eight miles from the 
foregoing stage, at night. Here, mens meminisse 
horret! we were told by our landlady (the Colonel 
was gone to New Windsor), that there was a 
guard on the road between Fishkill and Peekb- 
kill, that one of the guard had been killed, about 
six miles off, and that a man, not long before, had 
oeen shot at on the road to Fishkill, not more 
than three miles from their house, and that a 
guard had been placed there for some time past, 
and had been dismissed only three days. 

" We were now in a doleful pickle, not a male 

* " See Governor Livingston s Speech to the Assun 
bly, in a Fishkill paper." 



166 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in the nouse but F. D., his man, and W. E., and 

no lodging for the first and last, but, in a lower 
room, without any shutters to the windows or 
locks to the doors. What was to be done ? What 
could be done ? In the first place, we fortified our 
stomachs with beef-steak and some strong drink, 
and then went to work to fortify ourselves against 
an attack. F. D. asked whether there were any 
guns in the house. Two were produced ; one of 
them in good order. Nails were fixed over the 
windows, the gun placed in a corner of the room, 
a pistol under each of our pillows, and the hanger 
against the bed-post. Thus accoutred and prepar 
ed at all points, our heroes went to bed. Whether 
F. D. slept a wink or not, W. E. cannot say ; for 
he was so overcome with fatigue, and his animal 
spirits were so solaced with the beef, &c., that 
every trace of fear was utterly erased from his 
imagination, and he slept soundly from evening till 
morning. 

" It rained and snowed through the next d*y. 
We continued at Ludinton s until the afternoon ; 
when, (Nov. 6th,) the fire -wood being gone, we 
mounted, and set off for Adriance s. Just as we 
mounted, it began to snow ; however, we pushed 
on, and soon reached that stage, (it being but five 
miles,) in tolerable order. We were ushered into 
a room, where there was a good fire, drank a dish 
of tea, and were entertained during great part o* 



WILLIAM ELLERT. 167 

the evening with the music of the spinning- wheel 
and wool-cards, and the sound of the shoemaker s 
hammer ; for Adriance had his shoemaker s bench, 
his wife her great wheel, and their girl her wool- 
cards, in the room where we sat. This might be 
disagreeable to your delicate macaroni gentry ; but, 
by elevating our voices a little, we could, and did 
keep up conversation amidst the music ; and the 
reflection on the advantages resulting from man 
ufactures, joined to the good nature of our landlord 
and his wife, made the evening pass off very 
agreeably. Indeed, if the house of Adriance was 
more convenient than it is, I could enjoy myself 
there, as well as at Johnston s in Bethlehem. 

" November 1th. Breakfasted at Adriance s, and 
set off for Fishkill, where we arrived at noon 
Could get no provender for our horses but at the 
continental stables. Waited upon General Put 
nam, who was packing up, and just about setting 
off for White Plains. Chatted with him awhile, 
and then put off for the continental ferry at the 
North River. In our way to the ferry, we met 
President Hancock, in a sulky, escorted by one 
of his secretaries, and two or three other gentle 
men, and one light-horseman. This escort sur 
prised us, as it seemed inadequate to the purpose 
either of defence or parade. But our surorise 
was not of long continuance ; for we had not rode 
far, before we met six or eight light-horsemen on 



168 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

the canter, and, just as we reached the ferry, a 
boat arrived with as many more. These, with the 
light-horsemen and the gentlemen before mention 
ed, made up the escort of Mr. President Hancock. 
Who would not be a great man ? I verily believe 
that the President, as he passes through the 
country thus escorted, feels a more triumphant 
satisfaction than the Colonel of the Queen s 
Regiment of Light Dragoons, attended by his 
whole army, and an escort of a thousand militia. 

" November Wth. Crossed the Delaware with 
General Fermoy, without making ourselves known 
to him. From Easton, we rode in the rain to 
Bethlehem, for the sake of good accommodation, 
and were visited by Mr. Ettwein, one of the min 
isters of the Moravian Society, who had been so 
kind as to show me the public buildings when I 
was at Bethlehem the last June. When Congress 
were here in their way to York, they ordered that 
the house of the single women should not be 
occupied by the soldiery, or in any way put to 
the use of the army ; and that as little disturb 
ance as possible should be given to this peaceful 
society ; which Mr. Ettwein took notice of with 
great gratitude. A number of sick and wounded 
were here, a considerable quantity of baggage, 
and guards ; and a number of light-horse were 
at Nazareth, feeding on the hay and grain of the 
society ; this I found was disagreeable to them, 



WILLIAM ELLERT. 169 

but at the same time perceived that they did not 
choose to complain much, lest their complaints 
should be thought to proceed not so much from 
their sufferings, as from a dislike to the American 
cause This people, like the Quakers, are prin 
cipled against bearing arms ; but are unlike them 
in this respect, they are not against paying such 
taxes as government may order them to pay for 
carrying on the war. 

" November l%th. Rode to Levan s where we 
lodged. The forepart of this day was rilled with 
snow squalls, which proved peculiarly irksome to 
Mr. Dana s servant, whose surtout was stolen from 
him the evening before, at Johnston s, by some 
soldier. The afternoon was comfortable, but the 
evening was windy, and exceeding cold. The 
room in which we sat and lodged admitted the 
cold air at a thousand chinks, and our narrow bed 
had on it only a thin rug and one sheet. We 
went to bed almost completely dressed, but even 
that would not do. It was so cold that I could 
not sleep. Our fellow-lodgers suffered as much as 
we did ; and, if they had read Tristram Shandy s 
chapter of curses, and had remembered it, would 
have cursed our landlady through his whole cata 
logue of curses What added to the infamous- 
ness of thi* tavern, was the extreme squalidity of 
the rooms, beds, and every thing. 

" November 13th. Met Mr. Samuel Adams 



170 AMERICAN BICGRAPHT. 

and Mr. John Adams about nine miles from Le- 
van s and hard by a tavern. They turned oack 
to the inn, where we chatted, and ate bread and 
butter together. They were, to my great sorrow, 
bound home. I could not but lament that Con 
gress should be without their counsels, and myself 
without their conversation. 

" November 14th. Crossed the Schuylkill, 
dined near the town of Ephrata, and lodged at 
Letidz, a little Moravian settlement. We lodged 
in clover. We slept in cabins about three feet 
wide. A straw-bed was at the bottom, a feather 
bed on that, sheets, a thin, soft feather-bed sup 
plied the place of blankets, and a neat calico cov 
erlet covered all ; and our lodging-room was kept 
warm during the night by a neat earthen stove 
which in form resembled a case of drawers. 

" November \5th. Crossed Anderson s Ferry 
and in the afternoon reached Yorktown, and so 
finished our journey of four hundred and fifty 
miles." 

But it is time to return to Mr. Ellery s char 
acter as a public man. To insist upon the esti 
mation in which he was held by able men in 
f^ongress, as a claim to present respect, might 
->etray some distrust of his merits, or a weak de 
sire to obtain for him a traditional reputation, when 
positive instances of his public services could not 
be adduced. It is true, nevertheless, that strong 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 171 

testimony was borne to the useful part he acted, 
by those who were fittest to judge. He had 
their confidence, for the same prudent, straight 
forward, practical view of affairs, and for the same 
consistent, independent, decided conduct, which 
would be the first things to speak of, in a general 
view of his mind and character. He was perfectly 
intelligible in word and deed ; and hence the very 
man to be trusted at all times, even by those who 
did not act with him. If men followed or avoided 
him, it was not from any false view they had 
taken, but for some distinct reasons which he, in 
all honesty, had given them. 

Besides the respect and confidence, which 
his abilities and character obtained, his social 
spirit and powers of conversation, the wit, pleas 
antry, and good-humored satire, which cou*d en 
liven a party of friends at their lodgings, or sweep 
away the fallacies and whims of members in a 
debate, brought him into delightful intimacy with 
leading men of the country, whom he met for the 
first time in Congress. There were times, even 
in the sittings of that body, when illuminating wit 
or confounding ridicule was needed to repress 
arrogance, or come in aid of sound but powerless 
argument ; and on one occasion of the kina an 
eminent delegate from Massachusetts expressed nis 
regret most emphatically, that Mr. Ellery was j^t 
there to take the business into his hands. 



172 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The men and the times furnished him with stores 
of anecdotes, often as fall of wisdom as of mirth, 
which he afterwards made free use of in conversa 
tion, and thus agreeably acquainted his young 
friends with less observed, but material points 
in the history of the period, and the habits and 
characters of our statesmen. These recollections 
we shall not venture to set down. 

He was much annoyed by diffidence, in his ear 
ly attempts to speak in Congress, and was always 
free to tell of his embarrassment and failures. 
When he was once congratulated upon having said 
the very thing, and in just the way it should be 
stated, he was able indeed to conceal his surprise, 
but never had it been greater ; for it seemed to 
him, that, while he was up, he had known nothing, 
and, as might be expected, he had sat down very 
little satisfied with himself. But he was deter 
mined not to yield a particle to weakness or 
awkwardness ; and in time he became, not indeed 
an orator, but an easy and useful debater, and 
always had something to say to the purpose, when 
he felt himself called upon. 

His connexion with our Independence, and his 
public services in general, seem never to have 
dwelt much upon his mfrid. He was indifferent, 
one would have supposed, to the distinction which 
the mere act of signing the Declaration has been 
thought to confer ; and as to putting forth any 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 173 

claims to consideration, he could not understand 
tne thing. Upon some allusion having been made 
by a correspondent, to one who had publicly vin 
dicated his claim to be among the signers, he 
replied ; " My name is there, and I believe in 
every list that has been printed. If it had not 
been inserted in any of them, I question whether 
I should have taken the same pains to establish 
the fact, as he has done. I should have left it to 
others, I believe, to prove it." 

Again, in 1819, he writes: "Tell Mr. William 
S. Shaw, that I thank him for the volume * he sent 
me. It brought to my mind transactions, quorum 
pars minima fui, and which deserved to be re 
corded. But I do not thank him for entertaining 
an opinion of me, so far above my merit. It is 
too late for me to write memoirs of my own times, 
times which tried men s souls, times in which 
Mr. Adams took an active part, and whose pub 
lications respecting them are now and ever will 
be honorable to him." 

It is not known whether any of his private or 
official letters from Congress remain. He says, 
1815, "You have discovered a large bundle of 
letters, written by me to your father [from Con 
gress]. Have mercy upon them. I was a whig 

* " Novanglus and Massachusettensis ; together with 
Mr. John Adams s Letters to Mr. Tudor " 



174 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

then. Now I am called a tory. They must not 
be shown to any one. 1 am afraid they are full of 
fire. * I am glad to find, that, having passed 
through many fiery trials, I am now happy in my 
tranquil apartmert, with but little of the inflam 
mability, which my whiggism excited ; but still a 
staunch friend to political liberty, and that liberty 
with which the Gosptfl has made us free." 

* These letters were afterwards destroyed, in conse 
quence of his request to his friends, that none of his 
correspondence should be preserved. In the general 
destruction of his own papers at the same period, it is 
aot known how the letter-books and journals used Is. 
this memoir, escaped 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 175 



CHAPTEE III. 

Withdraws Himself from Public Life. His 
Writings. His Opinions on various Top 
ics. Habits in his declining Years. His 
Death. Remarks on his Character. 

MR. ELLERY left Congress and public life for 
ever, at the close of 1785. In common with oth 
ers, he had suffered losses during the war. His 
dwelling-house had been burnt by the enemy, and 
his family driven into the interior. The resources 
of a profitable profession had been cut off, and 
the current of trade and wealth turned from his 
native town. And at the age of nearly sixty, he 
had yet to provide for his children, and, under 
circumstances almost disheartening, to begin life 
again as a man of business. 

In April, 1786, he was elected by Congress Com 
missioner of the Continental Loan -Office for the 
State of Rhode Island; and, upon the adoption of 
the Federal Constitution, 1790, he was appointed 
Collector of the Customs for the District of New 
port. This office he held till his death. 

During the period of embarrassment and agita 
tion, arising from a depreciated currency, from op 
position to the new Constitution, and sympathy 
with revolutionary France, he contributed largely 



176 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to the journals of the day, without his name, in 
behalf of order, public faith, and an efficient gov 
ernment. His writings attracted much attention, 
and, as might be expected, involved him in the 
party hostilities of the time. He could not well 
avoid giving offence, but he never allowed himself 
to be disturbed by the assaults he provoked, and 
to some extent he had the satisfaction of seeing 
his object accomplished. For many years before 
his death he abstained wholly from the press, and 
from taking any active part in politics; not even 
attending town meetings. And though he was 
charged with abusing his influence to put down an 
administration, that " kept him in office and gave 
him his bread," or, as it was sometimes said, by 
whose favor " he had become rich ;" yet, in a pri 
vate memorandum, he says ; " To all this and many 
more lies printed in that paper, Job answered not a 
word." 

It remains to speak of him in his closing years. 
It may be supposed, that we are entering upon a 
distinct era, in which, though he may be still rec 
ognized, he must yet be materially changed; that 
his course must be henceforth downward; and 
that, with the general feeling of tenderness and 
veneration for the old, we have now only to ob 
serve the decay of what we may have admired in 
its strength. Such an anticipation, with respect to 
the aged, is so common, as to be thought natural. 
But, after all that has been written of old age, is 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 1V7 

its true value, and the character it may and ought 
to possess, enough considered? Some speak of a 
man in years as an object of condescending admi 
ration, that he should have lived so long ; and he, 
in turn, may be pleased with this distinction, and 
even live the longer for it, as if to protract and aug 
ment the honor. 

Sometimes, we make old age picturesque, with 
its wintry snows and reposing apathy. The har 
vest is ended, the earth is sealed ; there is to be 
no more growth. Or it is a noble pile, time-honor 
ed, time-worn, and falling into slow decay. There 
is to be no more splendor or cheerfulness, no 
more of life as it has been, within those walls. 
Or, again, we make old age sentimental. It is pas 
sively and gratefully receiving cheerful tendance 
from the young; it is patiently recounting its ex 
perience, and distilling its long-treasured wisdom ; 
and the children are gathered round the bed of 
the patriarch for his blessing. And are these the 
best lights and positions in which we may look on 
those, who are approaching the appointed bounda 
ries of time ? 

There is yet another view of age, in which it 
appears as a highly moral and intellectual state of 
man. It may be granted that the senses have lost 
much of their quickness ; but the imagination, now 
freed from distracting excitement, is as able and 
disposed as ever to shape anew the materials they 

ix. 12 



178 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

have supplied, either for its own solace and de 
light, or for the more beautiful expression of 
thought and emotion. At the very season when 
mere animal existence is less a blessing, and the 
animal spirits have almost ceased to excite and 
sustain, and passion is no longer to stimulate and 
crave and be fed, the imagination still lives to ani 
mate the purely intellectual exercises, to preserve 
or restore the early love of natural beauty, to keep 
the affections warm and old remembrances distinct ; 
and indeed to give the mind much of the light and 
vivacity of youth. 

It is the period of acquisition, as well as of 
contemplation. A long experience of life has not 
yet furnished all, nor the best, that can be obtained. 
Keflection shows that much has been falsely val 
ued, and that the methods of pursuit have often 
been wrong ; so that even a little that is seen and 
meditated upon in the later day, may be worth 
more than masses of crude opinions, fancies, and 
purposes, which occupied the supposed vigor of 
life. The mind was often stationary then, from 
the all - surrounding pressure of outward things, 
which seemed to make it intensely active, because 
they wholly engrossed it; but now it may be 
truly said to be advancing by a power from with 
in. The effort is not merely to keep what has 
been purchased, and not to recede from a point 
that has been gained. Life is better even now 



WILLIAM ELLEKY. 179 

than a mere resistance of evils. The future is 
entered upon as offering higher studies, and as a 
corrector of the past, and with a religious feeling 
of the importance of the days that remain, as 
close-bordering on the endless pursuits of another 
state of action. The temper is softened and spir 
itualized. Active engagements are still pursued 
for the good of others, when the motives of self 
have become feeble. Intimacy with the young 
is cherished from sympathy with their exuberant 
spirits, and from a desire to be strengthened by 
their fresh-growing thoughts, and from a prophetic 
interest in the life that is before them ; an inti 
macy of perfect equality, except that the aged 
bend to the young, and give more than they re 
ceive. Add to such considerations as these, the 
blessing of a good nervous system, and health 
scarcely interrupted or impaired to the end, and 
some idea may be formed of Mr. Ellery in his clos 
ing years. 

An imperfect view of his course of life, and the 
direction of his thoughts during this period, may 
be had from some passages in his letters. They 
are taken from a correspondence begun, when he 
was past eighty, with a young relative, and con 
tinued with unabated spirit to the last month of 
his life. 

"May 6th, 1811. I feel disposed to gratify 
your wishes in every respect ; but I have not time, 



180 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

were I capable, to write a discourse on old age. 
The comfort of old age doth not depend upon the 
refined speculations of Cicero; much less on the 
stern, unaccommodating, inhuman system of Zeno. 
It depends, (I wish I could say it by experience,) 
in one word, upon conformity to the will of God. 
The means of reaching it, under God, are tem 
perance, moderate exercise in the open air, going 
to bed and getting up early, sound sleep, and equa 
nimity. 

"I do not think, notwithstanding the afflictive 
dispensations of Providence in the loss of friends, 
and the diseases and irritability to which old age is 
frequently subject, that it is so undesirable a con 
dition as some have represented it to be. I speak 
for myself, and of my present state. What it will 
be, God only knows. As to employment of time, 
I have experienced such instruction and delight in 
reading, and investigating truth, that I mean, as 
long as my mind is capable of bearing it, to keep 
it in exercise, and doze as little as possible. Blessed 
be the man who invented printing. For this im 
portant art, I am thankful to that gracious Being 
from whom all our blessings flow. 

" There are, who think that the miseries of life 
are greater than its joys. I am not one of them. 
When I consider the numerous objects, which our 
beneficent Creator has formed, and how nicely they 
are contrived and adapted to please our senses and 



WILLIAM ELLEKT. 181 

our appetites ; the pleasure that may be derived 
from investigating their internal structure and final 
causes ; the discoveries which natural philosophy 
has made and is making ; the improvements in arts 
and advances in sciences, and in the philosophy of 
the mind ; the profit and delight which attend 
reading and social conversation ; and compare the 
sources of pleasure, which kind Providence has fur 
nished, to entertain and instruct us in our pilgrim 
age, with the miseries of life ; as well as my short 
views of either will admit, it appears to me that 
the latter are but just enough to constitute this a 
probationary state, a palcestra to prepare us, by 
the exercise of virtue and piety, for a mode of ex 
istence in which they, who act according to the 
will of God, will enjoy uncontrasted and eternal 
felicity." 

Of his views on many disputed points of the 
ology, perhaps no one can speak with perfect con 
fidence ; and to call him by the name of any sect 
of Christians would probably describe very inade 
quately his entire, individual belief. He regularly 
worshipped with Congregationalists, but was never 
connected with a church. He studied the Bible 
diligently and reverently, and acquainted himself 
with the opinions and reasons of hostile theologi 
ans. He sought the views, especially, of Christians 
of any name, whose minds seemed to be under the 
true influence of religion, or who expressed rather 



182 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

how they were moved by their own study of divine 
truth, than how they were instructed or accustomed 
to believe. 

He was a sincere advocate of religious freedom 
and of a spirit of charity; and felt no uneasiness 
about controversy, so long as inquiry was left per 
fectly open, and diversity of opinion was unattend 
ed by a defaming, persecuting zeal. " I believe," 
said he, " if party names were entirely disused, there 
would be more harmony among Christians. With 
too many, when a religious treatise is offered to 
their perusal, the first question is, Who wrote it ? 
and, that answered, the next is, Is the author a 
Calvinist, an Arminian, Socinian, Arian, &c. ? And 
if the writer be of different sentiments from the 
person to whom the book is presented, or be brand 
ed with an opprobrious name, it is either refused 
a reading, or read with such prejudice as to ren 
der it useless, or worse than useless, to the bigoted 
reader. I heard a sensible minister of the gospel 
inveigh, in a sermon, against the Hopkinsians, as 
he called them, in such a bitter manner, that I dare 
say one half, at least, of his congregation, would 
have avoided any writing of Dr. Hopkins, as they 
would a most venomous serpent. And yet I 
don t in the least doubt that this same minister, 
if he had heard the first Episcopal clergyman in 
Newport declare from the pulpit, that the breath 
of a Dissenter was infectious, would have severely 
reprobated it." 



WILLIAM ELLEEY. 183 

No more particular statement need be made of 
his political sentiments, than that he was a whig of 
the Revolution, and a federalist of Washington s 
times. A passage may be inserted to show what 
he thought of Napoleon, at a period (1812) when, 
even in this country, his course was regarded with 
very differing opinions and hopes. 

"Notwithstanding the encouraging account Lord 
Cathcart has given, I should not be surprised to 
hear that Bonaparte was in possession of Peters 
burg. The superiority he has over the Russians, 
both in the number of his soldiers and the skill of 
his officers, will, I am afraid, overcome their obsti 
nate resistance to his progress. I wish I may be 
mistaken, and that Heaven may put a hook in his 
jaws and draw him back, confounded with disgrace, 
and the overthrow of his immense army. How 
long this dreadful scourge will be suffered to lay 
waste and destroy, the Lord only knoweth. It is 
matter of consolation, and even of joy, that the 
Lord reigneth." 

Again, in 1814. "The important news from 
France has excited in me high exultation. But 
while I rejoice, I cannot but feel some anxiety 
about the event of the last struggle for empire 
the Leviathan will make. The conflict must be 
violent on which such vast events depend. He 
must either preserve his dominion, or submit to 
such terms as the victorious allies shall please to 



184 AMEKICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

grant him. What an alternative for a creature 
whose ambition is insatiable ! I feel such indig 
nation against this monster, that I could almost 
say ; Satia teipsum sanguine quern sitisti. But it 
would be more Christian - like to contemplate the 
amazing events, which Providence in a few years 
has produced, and to leave vengeance to that 
Being whose offspring we all are, to whom ven 
geance belongs, and who is as merciful as he is 
just, than to judge others or indulge a spirit of 
revenge." 

He had a religious abhorrence of war, and in 
deed an aversion to fierce contentions of all kinds. 
He cherished this feeling and expressed it, and 
observed, with great interest, the efforts that were 
making in his later days for the abolition of wars. 
"Peace and liberty," said he, "are the great ob 
jects of my delight. Such a reformation in the 
morals of the nations as will put an end to war, 
appears to me to be distant. Eighteen hundred 
years have passed away since the birth of Jesus, 
and still it seems that two thirds of our race are, 
and have been long, involved in the grossest idol 
atry, superstition, and stupidity ; and what length 
of time it will take, according to experience, to 
eradicate bad habits and plant and establish good 
ones, may be worth considering. However grad 
ual may be the growth of Christian knowledge 
and moral reformation, yet, unless it be begun, 



WILLIAM ELLEBY. 185 

unless the seeds are planted, there can be no tree 
of knowledge, and, of course, no fruit. The at 
tempt to Christianize the heathen world, and to 
produce peace on earth and good -will towards 
men, is humane, Christian, and sublime; and, if 
persevered in, will, I don t doubt, in due time be 
successful." 

Mr. Ellery, as Chairman of a Committee of 
Congress, (October, 1783,) reported the following 
resolution in honor of his fellow-citizen, General 
Greene; "That two pieces of the field ordnance 
taken from the British army at the Cowpens, 
Augusta, or Eutaw, be presented by the Com 
mander-in-chief of the armies of the United States 
to Major-General Greene, as a public testimonial 
of the wisdom, fortitude, and military skill, which 
distinguished his command in the Southern depart 
ment," &c., with a memorandum to be engraved 
thereon to the effect of the resolution. In 1813, 
another of his fellow - citizens and a townsman 
achieved a memorable naval victory ; and Mr. 
Ellery expressed but the universal feeling, when 
he said, " Captain Perry s exploit on Lake Erie is 
glorious." But neither pride in his native State, 
nor gratitude for the services of warriors, could 
reconcile him to the modern style of applauding 
military prowess and skill. Had age and retire 
ment, and love of peace, made htm view such 
things differently from what he had done as a 



186 AMEKICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

public man in 1783? Or was there a simplicity in 
the honors he had offered to Greene, at variance 
with our later methods of distinguishing warlike 
exploits ? 

"I don t like," said he, "puffing, boasting, 
swelling language, inflated and towering encomi 
ums ; nor hanging many swords about our brave 
navy officers. It would make them look too 
much like French petits maitres, with a dozen 
watches and their glittering chains suspended 
about them. The Greeks and Romans did not 
so honor their heroes. It did not require numer 
ous committees to invent new decorations for the 
illustrious achievements of their gallant officers. 
Their honorary badges, though simple, uniform, 
and cheap, were as great a stimulus to ambition, 
and as highly valued by victors, as any that mod 
ern refinement has invented. It would indeed 
seem, that in our large towns the contest is, which 
of them shall excel in costly exhibitions of ap 
plause ; which excites a silly emulation among 
them, and I should think would be to a warrior of 
laudable ambition, rather an object of ridicule than 
an incentive to glory. To provide for the support 
of those, who are disabled in fighting for their 
country, and for the families of those who fall in 
battle, is humane and beneficent, and therefore 
ought to be the principal object in making col 
lections on account of victories obtained; but it 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 187 

eems in some places that what is collected is to 
be expended first in honoring the hero, and the 
remainder in the beneficent manner mentioned. 
The republican spirit with which we set out is, in 
every respect, almost entirely lost in imitating the 
refinements, the fashions, of the old countries in 
Europe." 

After receiving some account of a distinguished 
foreigner, who was residing here, he says ; " I 
never had the pleasure of being in company with 
him. I recollect to have read, in Mr. Walsh s 
Review, the piece you say he wrote. I should 
like to hear him talk. His love of children enun 
ciates a softness of heart. His love of flowers does 
not indicate a fine taste, although it be not incom 
patible with it. I know some girls, who are very 
fond of plants, whose taste is not highly refined. 
Perhaps he views them with a philosophic eye. 
But how he can reconcile his inattention to dress 
with that attention, (if I may be allowed the ex 
pression,) which nature has manifested in the 
formation and decoration of flowers, I don t know. 
There is something naturally or affectedly singular 
in many men of genius ; and some philosophers, as 
well as poets, have shown an offensive disregard to 
their personal appearance. Perhaps, by contrast 
ing a slovenly exterior with the exact order of 
their superior faculties and endowments of mind, 
they think to exalt our opinion of the latter. 



188 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

They reverse the description which, according to 
Milton, Adam gave of Eve ; * in outward show 
elaborate, of inward, less exact. " 

A few passages are added, relating wholly to 
his employments. " I should have answered 
your letter sooner, but I have been much en 
gaged in fitting out a hired revenue cutter, on 
her second cruise, and in contracting for the 
building of a permanent cutter here for this sta 
tion. Besides this and some official business, I 
have this winter read two vast volumes, containing 
sermons of Isaac Barrow; also Stewart s Philo 
sophical Essays, and some light pieces. The first 
work treats its subjects in the fullest and most 
comprehensive manner, and I do not regret the 
time I spent in reading it. The Philosophical 
Essays require almost too much attention for my 
old head, but they please me. I am about to 
read Calvin s Institutes. I think I can read 
books of theology without being over -influenced 
by names. What appears to me to be right I 
shall embrace, and reject the chaff and stubble." 

" I wish my eyes would admit my writing or 
reading in the evening; but I am thankful that 
they still will allow me to write or read in the 
day-time without much difficulty. In the even 
ing I take my post as usual in the southwest cor 
ner of the parlor, while N. occupies the north 
west angle, sometimes working, sometimes read- 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 189 

ing. "We seldom see company in that part of our 
day, so that I have abundant time for reflecting 
on what has passed the preceding part of the day, 
and on what is to be done the next, &c. &c. ; and 
for recollecting and reflecting on the past scenes 
of my life. Many of them were highly pleasing, 
and by frequently calling them up, my conception 
of them continues still vivid, and I cherish the re 
membrance of them with great delight. I wish 
they were all of this color." 

" I wish I were not compelled to write so many 
official letters; I then could write oftener and 
with less interruption to my friends. I wish your 
office were as frequently visited by clients as my 
house is by applicants of various sorts, and for 
various purposes; and that I could hear their 
hardships and complaints with your patience. I 
get rid of them as well as I can ; and commonly, 
when they find fault with the laws, I refer them to 
the Legislature ; and if I can convince them, that 
I am governed by the laws, without censuring 
those who made them, I think myself well off. 
A Collector s office is a very troublesome one, 
and if it did not furnish me and my children with 
the necessaries of life, I would resign it at once." 

" I have business enough to take up much of 
my time; the rest I give to reading. Indeed, 
my almost only idle time, if the time of sleep can 
be called so, is in bed. To that I repair about 



190 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

nine, and leave it about five. So goes away my 
time; but not without thoughts of my existence, 
when time shall be swallowed up by eternity. 
Vive et floresce" 

Thus uniform and serene was his life ; cheerful, 
employed, and heaven - directed. If home is the 
natural retreat of age, he did not seek it for in 
dolent repose, and because he abhorred the pub 
lic walk. He had the faculty of making him 
self happy within doors. He would keep there 
through the winter, if it were severe ; and with 
his books near him he would read and talk with 
out any flagging of spirits; and when the spring 
came, he would recommence his slow walks 
abroad, looking just the same as when he had 
shut himself up. In the summer clouds, the 
ocean, the country, the soft air, and his little gar 
den, he seemed to find increase of delight. The 
opening of the year was delicious to him; and 
with it came the words of Milton to Hartlib, as if 
they were a part of the season itself, or at least 
of his own ever -returning sensation. "In those 
vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm 
and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness 
against nature not to go out and see her riches, 
and partake in her rejoicing with Heaven and 
earth." His regular and simple habits, his mod 
erate exercise when the days were pleasant, and 
his prudent seclusion in winter, with his never- 



WILLIAM ELLEBY. 191 

failing employments, carried him along from year 
to year, with little perceptible diminution of vigor, 
and none of spirits, or memory, or mental force. 

Thus it was with him till about eighteen months 
before his death, when he speaks of suffering at 
times from " strange rheumatic paroxysms." And 
from the following passage in a letter, dated March 
30th, 1819, he seems to be put on his guard by 
the warnings of age. " I received the Doctor s 
letter with his recipe, for which I returned him 
my hearty thanks ; but I have not yet taken any 
part of the medicine he prescribed. For, although 
I can easily recommend medicines to others, noth 
ing but pressing necessity can bring me to take 
them myself ; and at present I am tolerably well, 
and expect that, when the warm weather comes, 
my health will be restored. March has, as long 
as I can remember, been a trying month to the 
bodies of men ; and the last, although the weath 
er has been variable, has yet been unusually cold. 
I have been particularly careful of myself, and 
mean to be so the whole of the spring. But 
there is no fence or guard that can secure us 
against the infirmities of old age. They must 
come, and it is our duty to bear them with pa 
tience, and not murmur at the condition on which 
long life is held." 

His letter of January 22d, 1820, the last in 
the series from which extracts have just been made, 



192 AMERICAN BIOGKAPHY. 

is in the clear, compact hand of his early days, 
and marked with his usual affection, humor, and 
attention to minute concerns of himself and of 
others. He had a little before ordered the pur 
chase of Pascal s " Provincial Letters," with a cau 
tion that he wanted only the original ; and he now 
requests, that Fenelon s "Directions for the Con 
science of a King " should be sent. He says, how 
ever, that the rheumatic affection still afflicts him 
at times, and that his hands are so feeble that he is 
obliged to use a little copy of Virgil, from which 
he cites several verses that bore upon some point 
of prosody. 

On Thursday, February 10th, the pain in his arm 
suddenly increased, attended with alarming symp 
toms ; and, at the close of the week, his strength 
was fast sinking. He could no longer read; but 
a recent publication, about which he felt much 
curiosity, was read to him on Friday, and he lis 
tened with great interest, and spoke of the work 
the next day. On Monday his clergyman was 
with him an hour, and, though very feeble, he 
conversed a great deal, in his usual manner, on 
various subjects. They spoke of the prospect of 
death, and he said it was an event which for 
two years he had been fully prepared for, and 
even desired. Tuesday morning he rose and part 
ly dressed himself, but was so weak as to be 
obliged to lie down again immediately. The 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 193 

sician found his pulse almost gone. Wine was 
given, and he seemed to revive. The Doctor said, 
" Your pulse beats very well." " Charmingly," he 
replied ; but it was a last effort of nature. He 
then lay in silence, except saying once that he 
knew he was dying, and in two hours he expired, 
February loth, 1820, in the ninety -third year of 
his age. 

In person he was of moderate height, with large, 
well -formed head and features. His countenance 
was thoughtful and attentive, his utterance slow 
and impressive, and his step measured and firm. 
His dress was of the plainest sort, but becoming 
his years, and just so far conformed to modern 
style as to show that he was free from eccentrici 
ty, and observant of what was passing, and yet suf 
ficiently wedded to old usages not wholly to sur 
render a regard to comfort. His manners were 
cordial and delicate, with less of formality than 
was commonly seen in our ancestors of the high 
est class. 

An attempt has here been made to give some 
account of one of our public men of the last cen 
tury. Very little has been insisted upon as consti 
tuting the prominent qualities of his character, or 
the leading principles of his conduct; but, for the 
most part, the reader has been left to estimate his 
powers, motives, and general cast of mind, as he 
would do those of one who, to a certain extent, 

ix. 13 



194 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

had been brought under his own observation. Lit 
tle has been said of him in his private relations ; 
and there were points in his intellectual character 
which could not be known clearly but to those 
who were personally acquainted with him. A few 
recollections of him are added, as he appeared in 
advanced age, and which are chiefly illustrative of 
a studious and contemplative mind, moved and di 
rected by religious principle. 

The first thing to be observed is, that his char 
acter was not the growth of an originally well- 
ordered spirit, or of inborn meekness, nor shaped 
by propitious circumstances in his outward con 
dition. It bore the marks of habitual self -in 
spection and self - resistance. And, from his own 
account, this discipline was not very seriously 
commenced till somewhat late in life. The most 
signal triumph in this warfare was over pride in 
all its forms and directions. Humility was the 
virtue which he seemed to prize as the most com 
prehensive and most productive. The contest was 
not chiefly against thinking highly of himself in 
comparison with others ; for he was not accustom 
ed to make such comparisons. His effort was 
to bring every thought and desire into subjec 
tion before God, and to find security and motive 
in a fixed sense of his deficiencies and his obli 
gations. It is not easy to give an idea of the 
influence of this constant study of humility. It 



WILLIAM ELLEKY. 195 

was his light and strength. It cleared and simpli 
fied the purpose of human life. It gave him more 
and more the command of his faculties, and the 
exercise of his affections, and the power of de 
voting himself to duty. It enabled him to mod 
erate his expectations, to meet events without sur 
prise, and to value what was good to its height. It 
showed him of how little worth are too many of 
our favorite objects, how ignorantly we estimate 
calamities, on what false principles men are com 
monly pronounced great, and how monstrous is ar 
rogance or oppression in a mortal. 

This moral warfare, though strict and unremit- 
ted, never threw an air of constraint or austerity 
upon his intercourse with others, as is sometimes 
the case with men the most conscientious, but of 
weak minds or morbid dispositions, who dread the 
approach of sin the moment they fall into the 
natural current of their affections. His whole 
manner was marked with decision, composure, and 
ease. It seemed as if his spirits were kept elas 
tic by his constant guard over them, and that he 
became more truly what nature had formed him 
to be, by what some might call his resistance of 
nature. His very kindness and gentleness had 
none of the inertness of mere good temper, but 
were animated by an active, cherished principle of 
love, which discriminated its objects and was all 
alive for the happiness of another. With the ut- 



196 AMERICAN BIOGKAPHY. 

most variety in his familiar conversation, one never 
felt, that in its transitions, its mirth, its gravity, 
the tone of his mind was undergoing great changes, 
and that he was putting off one character to assume 
another. The elements were mingled and the same 
spirit prevailed. In the midst of important reflec 
tions and occupations, he could amuse himself with 
a certain perception of the ludicrous, or descend to 
what passes for levity ; and yet the feeling of rev 
erence or seriousness was not lessened in himself or 
others. Without confounding things, he made no 
false rule of separating those, which he could not 
find to be hostile. 

As moral motives and restraints increase intel 
lectual power, we may ascribe to these in part his 
activity of mind to the last day of his long life, as 
well as the constant employment which he imposed 
upon himself as a duty. He held himself responsi 
ble for the right application of his powers and 
means for the acquisition of wisdom; taking the 
word in its widest sense. He did not call one men 
tal exercise an amusement, and another a study, to 
indicate that one only was useful and involved obli 
gation ; but, in the lighter and severer occupations 
of his life, he sought equally to keep in mind, that 
he was to do or obtain some good. 

In the pursuit of truth, he seemed more anxious 
for the certainty, than the amount or variety of re 
sults. It was no evidence, however, that he thought 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 197 

he had attained to certainty, because he gave over 
farther study of a subject. For, though reluctant 
to leave a point unsettled and own that it was be 
yond his power, yet he could believe, that, as to 
himself at least, the bounds of knowledge were set, 
and thus it became a duty to acquiesce even in 
ignorance. He was not fond of indulging in con 
jectures, that he might fill the void where he 
had in vain looked for satisfying truth ; nor was 
he unhappy because of the uncertainties, which 
cannot be cleared up in an imperfect state of 
being. 

His method of investigating subjects was to fol 
low them into their minutest particulars and rela 
tions ; not at all to exercise his ingenuity or amuse 
a speculative turn of mind, but because it gratified 
his curiosity ; and, moreover, patient examination 
was necessary for him to arrive at results, which 
some appear to command by instant inspection ; 
or, at any rate, the strength of his convictions de 
pended upon his seeing the whole ground. He 
could refine and discriminate without being vision 
ary, or undecided, or taking only partial views ; and, 
if he was fond of particulars, he did not stop at 
them. There was something almost characteristic 
in his good judgment, his reasonable way of look 
ing at any subject, and assisting others to find out 
what they should think and do in any doubtful 
case. No one after consulting him would sav, 



198 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

How original are his opinions, how shrewd, unex 
pected, or oracular. It appeared rather as if both 
parties had been deliberately passing over some fa 
miliar ground and recalling their experience, than 
carefully judging of something wholly new; so 
calm and well-weighed were his thoughts, and so 
connected and complete the consideration he gave 
to the matter. 

His feelings, and wishes, and every extraneous 
or accidental circumstance, were as if they did not 
exist, in his sober-minded search of truth. Or 
rather, the very influences, that are most apt to mis 
lead, did but sound the alarm to him to be single- 
hearted ; and his power of discerning was only made 
the keener, if he had the least apprehension that 
his examination might be crossed by any thing 
foreign to the subject before him. Thus, as an 
adviser, he not only inspired confidence and threw 
light upon the present question, but indirectly he 
taught one the true mode of inquiry whenever 
he should be in doubt. He had the plainest com 
mon sense, and the most prudent judgment in com 
mon affairs ; and not so much from having lived 
long in the world, as from his right temper of 
mind and his habit of going far into the reason of 
things. 

Still there was often something in his method 
of pursuing truth, or defending a position, or treat 
ing the opinions of another, which, to one not 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 199 

well acquainted with him, might argue unfairness 
or unreasonableness. This was particularly the 
case when he was amusing himself with the efforts 
of his antagonist, or seeing how many aspects a 
subject might have to different minds, especially 
if disturbed by opposition. He loved, when he 
found a man easily satisfied with his own views 
of a subject, to state, in the most innocent manner 
possible, some difficulties which he had himself 
encountered, and saw no way to overcome, and 
probably deemed invincible. Thus a vulgar error, 
perhaps, or some established phrase or saying, 
which appeared to him to have no meaning, and 
yet led others to think that in using it they said 
and meant a great deal, was unexpectedly brought 
into suspicion ; and topics of a far graver charac 
ter were seen to have difficulties, which had es 
caped a careless eye, or a too easy faith. To ar 
rest another s mind suddenly by verbal distinctions 
or fatal doubts is not commonly thought to be a 
very amiable mode of manifesting a love of truth ; 
but in him it was exceedingly amusing, and always 
of service to others. The most vexatious point 
in his character as a disputant was, that he would 
not be prevailed upon to say distinctly that he was 
defeated. But a man is not always convinced be 
cause he has no more to say ; and some might be 
rash enough to think that a principle was over 
thrown, because its advocate had surrendered. 



200 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

He was, no doubt, thought by many to be a 
man of strong prejudices, and to take pleasure in 
differing from others ; both from his tenacity, 
where he had once made up his mind, and from his 
reluctance to receive what was current, or reprobate 
what was not, till he had looked into it himself. 
Many would charge him with holding opinions 
because he did not condemn them, or of rejecting 
them when he was only on the search. As soon 
as one came to understand him and his methods 
of proceeding, the utmost confidence was felt in 
the faithfulness of his inquiries, and the sincerity of 
his convictions. Besides, it was seen, that he did 
not expect or wish others to adopt opinions as his. 
On the contrary, while you admired the compla 
cency of his own assurance, you knew that it was 
only to be gained for yourself by examination as 
fair and thorough as his; no matter whither your 
inquiry might lead you. He would not think the 
worse of you for coming to a different result from 
himself; and he cared nothing for a man s agree 
ing with him, unless he saw that he did so from 
the work, which his own mind had done. How 
was truth to be helped by the multitude of wit 
nesses repeating each other ? 

This honesty or fairness of his mind was its 
great distinction, and an explanation of his char 
acter. It was a proof of his moral and intellect 
ual vigor. It was the fruit of a victory in which 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 201 

we could see what had been resisted. It was a 
religious principle. It ran through all his studies 
and experience, restraining him from injustice, 
and compelling him to condemn injustice ; open 
ing the way through ancient errors of whatever 
kind, and for the admission of light from what 
ever quarter; and making it absolutely impossible 
that he should be a partisan or idolater in any 
thing. 

He was not anxious to proclaim his sentiments. 
He could enjoy them by himself. It was a great 
point to be satisfied in his own mind, and this was 
a duty that he and every man owed to himself. 
It brought serenity, and gave motive and confi 
dence to further research. As the minds of men 
were so variously constituted, the declaration of 
his private judgments might be of little moment. 
It was of far greater importance to put others 
upon doing what none can do for them ; procuring 
the peace and assurance of an intelligent faith in 
all things. And as his own mental habits and 
state were the result of discipline, he was taught 
forbearance. He knew the difficulties of truth, 
and the warring principles in man ; and if himself 
immovable, he yet judged not others. For a man 
of decided character, he was remarkably gentle and 
unreproving. 

His kindness and warmth of affection may be 
seen in his intercourse with his young connexions. 



202 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

They were not sent to him to learn wisdom, nor 
did he court them, and seek to increase his 
honors by the number of his youthful disciples. 
There was no outward fascination, and nothing 
unusual in his modes of life. A plain man in 
years, living in retirement, and obtruding his wish 
es and opinions upon no one, drew the young to 
him as if he were their dependence; and they 
felt that they owed to him, not only some of their 
best -remembered seasons of pleasure, but, in no 
small degree, the direction and coloring of their 
thoughts. 

He was connected with their minds, not as a 
sage authority to be recalled to sanction an opin 
ion, or as a repository of doctrines from which 
they were to draw; for in any new train of reflec 
tions, which they could not possibly trace to him, 
his image was likely to be revived, his probable 
view of the subject to be suggested, his provoking 
objections, his moderate approval, his pretended 
misconception, and his sincere interest. He was 
not their teacher, but their elder companion. He 
never talked to them about himself, unless the sub 
ject or some pertinent story made it unavoidable ; 
and this abstemiousness on a point, where the old 
are apt to be self-indulgent, was owing to his good 
taste and his preference of other matter, and not 
to his being for ever on his guard against the com 
mon infirmity of age. 



WILLIAM ELLERY. zUd 

The desire to serve them, though uppermost in 
his mind, had little or nothing to do with the terms 
on which they met ; and it was so with his pater 
nal love for them, which never interfered with 
their coming together as equals. Not, however, 
that there was a treaty or secret understanding, 
that for the time there was to be no dignity on 
one side and no deference on the other ; but be 
cause all thought of form was lost in perfect kind 
ness of feeling, and in the satisfaction of talking 
freely, and getting all the good and pleasure pos 
sible from observing the processes of youthful 
minds, and listening to the experience and ma 
tured judgments of an elder one. And even here 
it was observable, that, with all his experience 
and maturity, his conversation was far from being 
a repetition of some old lesson of life; for his 
mind was freshly exercised upon the immediate 
topic, and his thoughts, however ripened, had every 
mark of recentness. 

He had no anxiety to conceal from the young 
his imperfections and mistakes, and certainly no 
wish to pass for more than he was worth. This 
was not the way to make them value truth, or 
understand human life, or do justice to his opin 
ions or advice. He was without reserve on all 
points where he thought his experience could do 
them any good. If they were engaged in studies 
that were little familiar to him, he would do what 



204 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

he could to keep company with them, and en 
courage them to talk about any thing that occu 
pied them, and invite them in their turn to enter 
with him into his own favorite inquiries, so that 
nothing should separate them or weaken their in 
timacy. 

He would read the new literary works they 
praised, however uncongenial they might be with 
his early and abiding preferences, and sometimes 
show very little respect to the passages they ad 
mired, till it seemed to be growing a matter of 
serious difference ; but it ended with amusing ex 
planations or concessions ; and perhaps they had 
been taught, however roughly, that such was their 
own way of using those, who differed from them 
on the all-important questions of taste. His own 
line of active duties presented little for a letter 
or conversation, and was accordingly but little 
spoken of; but their engagements always offered 
something for inquiry, encouragement, sympathy, 
or advice; and when he saw any thing to blame, 
he spoke plainly and earnestly, and suffered no 
weakness of affection to conceal or impair the 
force of what he thought it his duty to say. If 
they neglected his admonitions and disappointed 
his expectations, his regret was unmingled with 
selfishness, and his affection unabated. They might 
need it the more. 

The great charm of this familiar intercourse 



WILLIAM ELLERY. 205 

with him may be found in the naturalness of his 
character and manners. His society gave one the 
feeling of home; and when separated from him, 
a letter or the remembrance of him was like restor 
ing one to his home. All his experience of men, 
his studies, his sufferings, his settled devotional feel 
ing, his decided tone of sentiment, his deliberate 
consideration of subjects, and his weight of years, 
impaired not in the least the frankness, the humor, 
the simplicity of his conversation, or his power 
of self-forgetfulness, and of entering heartily into 
whatever belonged to the present moment. 

It will not be thought strange, then, that in his 
death he should have been mourned more than the 
young ; and that even at this late day, in attempt 
ing to speak of him as a public man, the private, 
domestic interest of former years has so clung to 
me, that I have felt much more as if I were with 
him at his fireside, than relating the little that is 
known of his active life. 



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