The Vermont Republic

The origin of the Vermont Republic lies in the so called New Hampshire Grants, land granted by the governor of New Hampshire from 1749 to 1764. These claims were disputed by New York and eventually the grants were struck down by the British Board of Trade in 1764 and further invalidated by the New York Supreme Court. Disputing these claims, Ethan Allen led a group of settlers/militia men called the Green Mountain Boys to defend themselves from New York militiamen and British soldiers attempting to enforce the property claims. They were able to successfully keep the New Yorker’s out of the territory and maintained order in the area. Ethan Allen brought the Green Mountain Boys to the aid of the fledgling American Revolution by sacking Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, later by leading American troops in the failed 1775 invasion of Canada.
In the meantime, the New Hampshire Grants declared independence as the Republic of New Connecticut (later Vermont) in 1777. The constitution was very liberal, abolishing slavery and giving universal male suffrage as well as guarantees common to the United States Bill of Rights (freedom of the press, religion, right to bear arms, etc). During the Revolutionary War it generally held to a policy of neutrality between the British and Americans, acting as a safe haven for dissenters from both armies. However in the Battle of Bennington in 1777, the Green Mountain Boys came to the aid of the Americans in a town near the border of Vermont, defeating a force of British and Hessian soldiers. On the other hand, Ethan Allen (returning to Vermont after his release from captivity in 1778) was involved in controversial negotiations between Vermont and Great Britain known as the Haldimand Affair. The proposal was for Vermont to join the British Empire again. Allen met with the Governor of Quebec, Fredrick Haldimand, in 1781, but the negotiation was thwarted by the end of the war. Vermonters switched to working towards eventual union with the United States, which was achieved in 1791 as the first post Constitution state, winning Vermont the recognition of self government the Green Mountain Boys originally fought to defend.
The Vermont Republic is important to secessionist history because it incorporates the ideas of community, political autonomy, and secession. The actual secession was represented by the 1777 Vermont Constitution, which separated Vermont from the iron grips of New York and New Hampshire. Both New York and New Hampshire tried to incorporate Vermont into their states post American Revolution. The importance of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys to the state of Vermont is unparalleled by any other entities throughout the state’s history. A bold claim, I know, but the state of Vermont would not exist as we know it today without the action of secession, it would just be part of New York or New Hampshire. In our project we are going to attempt to trace the seeds of secession that sprouted prior to the Revolutionary War and bloomed throughout the beginning of the war, eventually leading to the Vermont Republic. We will pay particularly close attention to the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, with an emphasis on why they decided that secession was the correct action. That will include their definition of community and secession personified in the writings of leading figures within the Green Mountain Boys such as Ethan Allen. There is roughly a twenty year period of successful secession and independence that was traded in for semi-autonomy. We think the Vermont Republic is a good example of a successful secession movement driven by a simple desire to owe no allegiances or bow to no throne (to quote the Song of the Vermonters).
By: Tony Mastrantonio and Nate Schnittman

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