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THE following pages are intended to embody and illustrate a portion of the more romantic incidents which actually occurred in the early settlements of Vermont, with the use of but little more of fiction than was deemed sufficient to weave them together, and impart to the tissue a connected interest. In doing this, the author has ventured, for the sake of more unity of design, upon one or two anachronisms; or, in other words, he has brought together, or nearly so, some incidents, connected with the portions of the two different periods embraced in the work, viz. the New York controversy and the revolution — which occurred at intervals. Other than this, he is sensible of no violations of historical truth. Without consulting, as perhaps he should, the models to be found in the works of approved writers in this department of literature, he has endeavored to give a true delineation of the manners and feelings of those among whom the scene is laid, together with the deeds and characters of some of the leading actors in the events he has attempted to describe, as gathered from the imperfect ublished histories of the times, from the private papers to which he as had access, and more particularly from the lips of the few aged relics of that period who actively participated in the wild and stirring scenes which peculiarly marked the settlement of this part of the country. . How far he has succeeded in the attempt it is for the public, not for him, to decide. THE AUTHOR. MonTRELIER, MARCH, 1839.
THE events which transpired in the early settlement of Vermont, and especially during the seven years immediately preceding our great struggle for national independence, deserve a conspicuous place in what has been termed the romance of history. The situation in which the settlers found themselves placed, about the beginning of the last mentioned period, was one very peculiarly calculated to arouse the individual feelings of men, and raise their minds to that pitch of desperate excitement, when, spurning all further restraints, they, like the pent fires of the earth, break through the barriers that circumscribe the ordinary course of human action, and leap at once into the arena of daring deeds and chivalrous exploits. They had derived the titles to their lands from patents made under the authority of the British crown, and issued by the royal governor of New Hampshire, — to which province it was then generally understood their territory unquestionably belonged. A claim to this territory, however, was soon set up by the government of New York: and in the process of time certain statesmen of the latter province, corruptly combining with influential land speculators, procured, by their intrigues at the British court, a decree, establishing Connecticut river as the boundary line between the two belligerent provinces, and thus throwing the whole of the disputed territory within the governmental jurisdiction of New York. In a change of jurisdiction merely, the settlers of the New Hampshire Grants, as this tract of country was then usually designated, would have doubtless peaceably acquiesced. But when, by one of the most bold and singular perversions of law and justice to be found on record, the tribunals of New York decided this decree to have a retrospective operation, so as to involve the titles of the lands as well as the jurisdiction of the territory, the voice of the indignant settlers unitedly rose from every part of their Green Mountains, in loud and determined remonstrances: for this decision, which was of itself a legal paradox, going to destroy the right of property already irrevocably granted by the crown — the very same source of power by which it was now proposed a new right, with new conditions, should be , irrevocably established—subjected them to the exasperating alternative of either relinquishing their farms, which they had once honestly purchased and paid for, with all those improvements that had cost them so much labor and privation, or of purchasing and paying for them again on such terms as those who do to be their new masters might choose to exact. The latter, with their limited pecuniary resources, they at once saw that it would be utterly impossible for most of them to do; while to the former their proud spirits would never for a moment brook the thought of submitting. Paying, therefore, after they had vainly exhausted every argument in petition and remonstrance to the governor and his council, and as vainly attempted to defend a few of the first suits brought for the possession of their farms before his obsequious tribunal; paying, we say, no further attention to the summonses to quit, which now poured thickly upon them, they soon found their secluded settlement invaded by the greedy swarms of their cormorant foes, attended by sheriffs, each with a large armed posse for a forcible ejection of the inhabitants, and surveyors with their assistants for laying out and locating the unoccupied territory. Having thus found that peaceable measures were wholly unavailing, the now aroused and determined settlers unanimously resolved on resistance, and immediately put themselves in an attitude to carry their resolution into effect. An independent organization was accordingly established throughout the Grants, consisting of committees of safety, as they were termed, appointed to act as provisional courts for trying offenders, supervising the public concerns in their respective towns, and generally to serve, it is believed, as delegates to the general convention which, from time to time, assembled to consult on the public welfare, and make such regulations and decrees as the exigencies might require; while to enforce these orders and decrees, and to defend the settlers from aggressions of the New York authorities, military associations were formed, the members of which soon became generally known by the appellation of the Green Mountain Boys. And although the shedding of blood was generally avoided by them in repelling these intruders upon their soil, yet punishment of some kind was sure, on the commission of every offence, to be promptly administered. These punishments were various and singular—sometimes extremely ingenious and laughable. The most common mode, however, consisted in the application of the beech rod, or the Beech Seal, as they were pleased to term it, in allusion to the emblem of the great seal of New Hampshire, of which their parchment deeds, probably, bore the impress; while this novel method of applying it, they humorously contended, was but to confirm their old titles. In this spirited manner was the contest commenced and continued by the settlers; and although armed forces were several times sent into the Grants to aid the authorities in ejecting the inhabitants, and although all the leaders of the latter were indicted and outlawed as felons by the courts of New York, and proclamation after proclamation issued by the governor of that province, offering large rewards for the delivery of those marked for the punishment of death, and teeming with denunciations against all those who should offer further resistance; yet so united were the people, and so determined the character of their opposition, that their baffled antagonists were never able to accomplish but the most insignificant results for their years of labor, in endeavoring to effect a foothold in the territory of Vermont, while the whole controversy exhibited to the world the singular spectacle of a few thousand poor settlers, thinly scattered over a wilderness of a hundred miles in extent, successfully resisting, for a series of years, the authority of a province, apparently determined on their subjugation, and possessing perhaps fifty times their population and resources.
Having thus glanced at the leading features of this embittered controversy, (out of the events of which a large portion of the following story is woven), to enable the reader more readily to understand many of the allusions he may find in the progress of the tale, we will now proceed with the narration.