17. Animosities with the Yorkers Deepen
The fame of the exploits of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys at Bolton and New Haven traveled with speed to New York, and kindled the anger of Gov. Tryon and the members of his council. The governor wrote a letter of sharp rebuke to the inhabitants of the Grants, complaining of this conduct as an insult to the government and a violation of public faith.
This letter was taken into consideration by the committees of several townships assembled at Manchester, who returned an answer of a conciliatory though at the same time of a bold and decided character. They declared that their conduct could be no breach of the public faith, because none was plighted until July 15 when the proposition of Gov. Tryon was accepted by the meeting at Bennington, and these transactions had happened previous to that date. The settlers on the Grants said that if there could be any breach of faith in the matter it would be on the part of the New York claimants, who had been the first aggressors by undertaking to survey and take possession of the disputed domain; that if such conduct was not forbidden by the terms proposed by Gov. Tryon and accepted by the settlers, then they had wholly misunderstood the terms implied by his proposals, and been deceived in their acceptance of them. They never had consented, and never could consent, to terms by which their property was to be abandoned to the mercy of the New York land jobbers.
In regard to restoring the tenants of Col. John Reid of Pawlet to their possessions, they declined doing so, not doubting that the governor of New York when he came to understand that they were really intruders without leave or right on previous settlers under New Hampshire, would approve of their conduct.
The meeting which adopted this answer to Gov. Tryon was held at Manchester on Aug. 27, 1772. Although the forms of civility were presented in the correspondence, it was evinced that the governor of New York construed the treaty which had been entered into in such a manner that it afforded the settlers no security whatever, that the parties even then were back to their precise situation previous to the negotiation.
This abortive attempt at reconciliation was indeed attended with the usual effects of unsuccessful negotiation. The animosity of the parties toward each other was increased, and the breach between them made still wider.
A committee of deputies from the towns on the west side of the mountain which met at Manchester on Oct. 21, 1772, not only confirmed all the previous resolutions for resisting the Yorkers, but adopted others still more hostile. To strengthen their interests in the Grants, the New York government had recently adopted the policy of appointing several of the prominent settlers to office. In some instances these flattering notices of the government were attended with their anticipated success, and the individuals thus noticed became the advocates and supporters of the authority by which they had been honored.
To counteract this policy of an insidious enemy it was decreed by the convention that no person residing on the Grants should accept or hold office under New York. On conviction before a proper tribunal of Green Mountain Boys, the offender was to be punished in the discretion of the court; but not capitally for the first offense. The punishment under this decree, which continued in force for several years, was usually by whipping and banishment; the whipping in the expressive language of the Green Mountain Boys being called "the application of the beach seal," or as Ethan Allen sometimes put it, "a castigation with the twigs of the wilderness."
This convention also appointed James Breakenridge and Jehiel Hawley of Arlington their agents or commissioners to go to England and seek redress from the Crown against the encroachments of New York. They journeyed to England in the winter of 1772-3 and were favorably received by the ministry; but the subject of taxing the colonies, which then engrossed the principal attention of the government, and produced the revolution commencing in 1775, prevented any decisive action for the settlers. The mission was in fact (and was generally supposed from this circumstance above) attended with no important results.
Before proceeding further in our account of the New York controversy it may be proper to say a few words about the names by which the respective parties were known.
Before the declaration of the Independence of Vermont in 1777, the territory bore the name of "the New Hampshire Grants," sometimes abbreviated to "Hampshire Grants," or simply to the word "Grants." The people of the territory were at first distinguished by the title of "New Hampshire grantees." When in 1771-72 they began to raise a military force to resist the attempts of the New York government, and this military unit took upon itself the name of "Green Mountain Boys" in derision of the threat of the governor of New York "that he would drive them into the Green Mountains." This name was afterwards sometimes applied to the whole body of the people. The New York authorities called their opposers "rioters," "the mob," "the Bennington mob," and so forth, while they in turn were styled by the settlers as "land jobbers," "land thieves," etc., though their common name was that of "Yorkers."
The name "Vermont" was not used until the state assumed its independence in 1777. It originated with Dr. Thomas Young of Philadelphia, a fast friend of the New Hampshire grantees, who was the author of several publications against the claims of New York. The name is derived from the two French words verd, green, and mont, mountain, and is said to have been proposed by him to perpetuate the memory of the Green Mountain Boys, who had then become famous in the controversy with Great Britain, as well as in that with New York.