James Madison Papers

Notes on Speech regarding Vermont Lands, 6 October 1780

Notes on Speech Regarding Vermont Lands

MS (New-York Historical Society). In James Duane’s hand.

In Congress Fryday Evning 6th Octobr 1780.1

Mr. Maddison. Expressed his surprize that the Motion shoud be represented as unfair or indirect.2 That he intended it to bring the true Question before Congress; for that if the District in Question was comprehended within the Jurisdiction of one or more of the United States, it must necessarily follow, that the Inhabitants coud have no Right to set up an independant State. That it had been clearly proved to lie within New York or New Hampshire; for as these States were bounded upon each other there coud be no Room between them for another Jurisdiction. That Congress by the original Union of the States must have a Superior deciding [?] power over the states and that3

2According to James Duane’s notes on the debate, Samuel Huntington and Theodorick Bland, Jr., opposed JM’s motion on the ground that it “was an indirect and unfair manner of deciding the Question” since “the new State” of Vermont had not been heard on its own behalf, and New York and Connecticut had each demonstrated that the other had no rightful title to the lands at issue. Bland concluded his speech by unsuccessfully moving that JM’s resolution be replaced by one declaring the people of Vermont to be “an Independent State.” The Duane notes are in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 408–9.

3Without completing his summary of JM’s speech, Duane began his notes on that of Richard Howly (Ga.). Howly evidently argued that, although neither New York nor New Hampshire had rightful jurisdiction over the Vermonters, “the critical Situation of our Affairs,” demanding the harmonious co-operation of the states “to oppose their common Enemy,” made it premature and inexpedient for Congress to decide so controversial an issue at that time. Following his note on Howly’s remarks, Duane added only, “Mr. Ingersole [Jared Ingersoll] That.” Judging from the Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 909, the debate ended, with no vote taken on JM’s motion, “when a letter, of 2, from Ira Allen and Stephen R. Bradley, was read.” These Vermont agents informed President Huntington that their commission had expired on 1 October, that they were returning to their “state,” and that it would co-operate in winning U.S. independence. They closed the letter by affirming that, since Vermont had “many papers more authentic than those that have been exhibited … to shew our right to sovereignty,” Congress should postpone rendering judgment upon the issue (NA: PCC, No. 40, I, 579). Congress did not again turn its attention to the question until 20 July 1781.

Index Entries