Alexander Hamilton Papers

Continental Congress Motion on Vermont, 5 December 1782

Continental Congress
Motion on Vermont1

[Philadelphia] December 5, 1782

Whereas it appears to Congress by authentic documents that the people inhabiting the district of Country on the West-side of Connecticut River commonly called the New Hampshire Grants, and claiming to be an independent state, in contempt of the authority of Congress and in direct violation of their resolutions of the 24th. of September 1779 and of the 2d. of June 1780,2 did, in the month of September last, proceed to exercise jurisdiction over the persons and properties of sundry inhabitants of the said district professing themseves to be subjects of and to owe allegiance to the State of New York; by means whereof divers of them have been condemned to banishment, not to return on pain of death and confiscation of estate, and others have been fined in large sums and otherwise deprived of property. Therefore

Resolved that the said acts and proceedings of the said people, being highly derogatory to the authority of the United States and dangerous to the confederacy, require the immediate and decided interposition of Congress for the protection and relief of such as have suffered by them, and for preserving peace in the said district, until a decision shall be had of the controversy relative to the jurisdiction of the same.

Resolved that the people inhabiting the said district claiming to be independent; be and they are hereby required without delay to make full and ample restitution to Timothy Church, Charles Phelps, Henry Evans, William Shattuck and such others as have been condemned to banishment and confiscation of Estate or have otherwise been deprived of property since the first day of September last for the damages they have sustained by the acts and proceedings aforesaid; and that they be not molested in their persons or properties on their return to their habitations in the said district.3

Resolved, that the United States will take effectual measures to enforce a compliance with the aforesaid resolutions in case the same shall be disobeyed by the people of the said district.

Resolved that no persons holding commissions under the state of New York, or under the people of the said district claiming to be independent exercise any authority over the persons and properties of any inhabitants in the said district, contrary to the forementioned resolutions of the 24th. of September 1779 and the 2d. of June 1780.

Resolved that a copy of the foregoing resolutions be transmitted to Thomas Chittendon Esquire of Bennington4 in the district aforesaid to be communicated to the people thereof.5

AD, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

1The motion was introduced by Thomas McKean of Delaware, and seconded by H.

2Vermont (the New Hampshire Grants) was formed from lands claimed by New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Before the Revolution, New York successfully asserted its claim and governed the area. For several years settlers in the New Hampshire Grants had objected to policies of the New York officials and Assembly. In January, 1777, independence was proclaimed, and in July of the same year a convention adopted a constitution for the new state. Vermont then requested permission to join the union. Congress was disposed to ignore the request, but the relentless pressure of New York forced some decision. On September 24, 1779, a resolution passed Congress recommending that the disputant states empower it to settle all boundary and land disputes (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XV, 1096–97). None of the states involved in the controversy was willing to give Congress the power, and during the next years the question of Vermont’s independence and the claims of New York and New Hampshire were frequently debated; but no decisive action was taken. On June 2, 1780, Congress resolved that the people in the New Hampshire Grants “are strictly required to forbear and abstain from all acts of authority” over inhabitants of the area; it also resolved that when representatives from nine states were present in Congress that Congress would “proceed to hear and examine into and finally determine the disputes between the three States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay and New York … and the people of the district aforesaid” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XVII, 482–84). In the fall of 1782, New York again tried to obtain a favorable decision, but a committee report of October 17 expressed only a wish for a peaceful settlement. The subject was brought up intermittently between that time and December 5.

3These men, who were New Yorkers living in Vermont, endeavored to support the authority of New York. According to a petition sent on February 24, 1786, to Governor George Clinton and the New York legislature, the “lawless usurpers of Vermont drove them from their homes, confiscated their estates, and banished them” (E. B. O’Callaghan, ed., The Documentary History of the State of New-York [Albany, 1851], IV, 1014–15). In a report on a letter from Governor Clinton and petitions from Charles Phelps, William Shattuck, and Henry Evans, a committee of Congress had proposed on November 14 that it be recommended to the officials of Vermont “to make full and ample satisfaction to Charles Phelps, William Shattuck, and Henry Evans, and to all others in a similar predicament, for the damages which they have sustained in person and property, in consequence of the measures taken against them in the said district” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 724). Congress rejected the committee’s proposal.

4Chittenden was the governor of Vermont. Having moved from Connecticut and taken up residence in the disputed region in 1774, Chittenden soon played an important part in the establishment of the new state; he was president of the council of safety, helped draw up the constitution of Vermont, and, in March, 1778, was elected its first governor.

5After debate on a motion to strike out the clause which empowered the United States to “take effectual measures to enforce a compliance with the aforesaid resolutions,” the motion was passed without amendment.

Index Entries