19. The ÔBennington MobŐ Prevails in Clarendon
In order either to terrify or force the Durhamites, so-called, new settlers of Clarendon, into a compliance with their wishes, Allen and Baker with about 100 armed men made a visit to Clarendon in the fall of 1773. The persons against whom the expedition was principally intended, having notice of the approach of the hostile force, made their escape and were not to be found. The party remained in town several days, visiting the inhabitants and exhorting them to repent of their New York attachments.
After making sundry demonstrations of violence, and threatening much greater in case of future neglect to comply with their reasonable requests, Allen and his party returned home. No serious injury was inflicted on the inhabitants or their property, the sole object of the expedition being to terrify them out of their connection with the Yorkers.
The leaders of the Durhamites fled to New York and laid before the Governor and Council a full statement of the outrages committed by Allen and his party, which they called "the Bennington mob." Among papers lodged with the Governor and Council there is still on file an original letter written by Col. Allen to the inhabitants of Clarendon on his return from the expedition, which as being characteristic of the man and of the time is inserted below. It is without date, but is marked "read in councel July 11, 1774," and was doubtless written during the previous December.
Copy of Col. Allen's letter.
"To Mr. Benjamin Spencer, Mr. Amos Marsh and the people of Clarendon in general —
"Gentlemen: On my return from what you called the mob I was concerned for your welfare, fearing that force of our arms would urge you to purchase the New Hampshire title at an unreasonable rate though at the same time I know not but that after the force is withdrawn you will want a third army. However on proviso you incline to purchase the title aforesaid it is my opinion that you in justice ought to have that at a reasonable rate, as new land was valued at the time you possessed them. This with sundry other arguments in your behalf I laid before Capt. Jehiel Hawley and other respectable gentlemen of that place (Arlington) and by their advice and concurrence I write you this friendly epistle, unto which they subscribe their names with me, that are disposed to assist you in purchasing reasonably as aforesaid; and on condition Col. Willard or any other person demand exorbitant price for your lands we scorn it, and will assist you in mobbing such avaricious persons, for we mean to use force against oppression and that only. Be it New York, Willard or any person it is injurious to the Rights of this district.
"From yours to serve,
(The letter was also signed by Jehiel Hawley, Daniel Castle, Gideon Hawley, Reuben Hawley, and Abel Hawley)
"Furthermore we are of opinion this letter communicates the general sense of our grants."
In the winter of 1774 the New York grantees, among whom were the persons who fled from Clarendon and vicinity, as stated previously, combined their influence and applied to the assembly for legislative aid against the Green Mountain Boys. The result was a law purporting to be an act for preventing tumultuous and riotous assemblies, and punishing rioters, which may safely be pronounced the most extraordinary specimen of legislative despotism that has ever formed place in a statute book.
After naming Ethan Allen, Seth Warner, Remember Baker, Robert Cochran, Peleg Sunderland, Silvanus Brown, James Breakenridge, and John Smith 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 offenses to surrender themselves for commitment to one of His Majesty's justices of the peace within seventy days from 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 offense; and moreover the Supreme Court was authorized to award examination, in the same manner as if there had been an actual trial, proof of guilt, and a judicial sentence.
This law was enacted on March 9, 1774, and on the same day the governor sent out another proclamation offering a reward of 100 pounds cash for the apprehension of Allen and Baker, and 50 pounds for apprehending either of the other persons accused, who are described as "principal ringleaders of the Bennington mob." The object of the law and of the proclamation was to draw from their strongholds the principal rioters, as they were called, and inflict upon them such punishment as would quell their opposition and dishearten their followers. The effect was far otherwise.