Motion on Letter of Vermont Agents
MS (NA: PCC, No. 36, I, 289). Docketed: “Motion of Mr J Jones Seconded by Mr. Madison[.] Negatived April 20h 1782.” This motion, presented by Jones, is in JM’s hand.
[20 April 1782]
Jonas Fay. M. R. & I. T.1 styling themselves Agents and Delegates from the State of Vermont having2 in a letter dated the 19th. instant informed Congress “that in consequence of the faith of Congress pledged to them, in and by a resolution of the 20th. of Augst. last, and by official advice from sundry Gentlemen of the first Characters in America, the Legislature of Vermont have been prevailed upon to comply, in the most ample manner, with the resolution aforesaid”3
Resolved That the Secy. be directed to apply to the said J. F. M. R. & I T. and request them to communicate to him the sd. official advice together with the names of the Gentlemen from whom the same was recived.4
1. Jonas Fay, Moses Robinson (1742–1813), and Isaac Tichenor (1754–1838). See Motion Concerning Documents on Vermont, 3 April 1782, editorial note, and nn. 2, 4, 5. Robinson, a lawyer, a militia colonel in Vermont, and a leader of its movement for statehood, had come to Bennington from Massachusetts in 1761. From 1777 to 1785 he served on the governor’s council of the “independent republic” and, during most of the years from 1778 to 1789, as its first chief justice. While he was governor, 1789–1790, he shared prominently in the activities resulting in Vermont’s admission to the federal union in 1791. He was one of his state’s first two United States senators. Upon his resignation from the Senate in 1796, the General Assembly chose as his successor Isaac Tichenor, also of Bennington. A native of New Jersey and a Princeton alumnus, Tichenor had studied law in Schenectady before settling in Vermont in 1777. In 1781 he had been elected to the Vermont House of Representatives and was its speaker in 1783–1784. From 1786 to 1791 he was a member of the Council of State, and from 1791 to 1796 a judge of the Supreme Court of Vermont. Tichenor’s brief term as United States senator was terminated by his election in 1797 as governor, an office which he occupied until 1807 and in 1808–1809. He served again in the Senate from 1815 to 1821.
2. At first JM wrote, and deleted after “having,” “this day day informed.”
3. The agents’ letter, dated 19 April, was read in Congress on the following day (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 203). To make the words of the opening clause of the quotation conform with the motion, JM changed “their” to “the” and “us” to “them.” Otherwise, except for insignificant differences in punctuation and capitalization, he quoted correctly from the agents’ letter (NA: PCC, No. 40, II, 285).
In this letter to President John Hanson, after expressing disappointment because of the “unexpected delay” by Congress in honoring its promise of 21 (not 20) August 1781, the agents requested a speedy reply, because they planned to leave Philadelphia “to morrow Morning.” The “delay” had begun on 17 April, when the committee, with George Clymer as chairman, recommended that Congress acknowledge “the State of Vermont, as free, sovereign and independent” and initiate negotiations with her about “the terms and mode” of her admission into the federal union. Thereupon, the “first Tuesday in October next,” “the third Tuesday in June,” and “Monday next” were voted down successively as the date to be assigned for debating the committee’s report. By favoring only the first of the three motions, JM made evident his wish to delay a settlement of the issue as long as possible. He apparently was as eager to postpone a recognition of Vermont’s independence and to embarrass its advocates as he and his fellow delegates from Virginia had been to hasten a vote on the Boudinot committee’s report and to demonstrate that its chief advocates were land speculators (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 185–90; JM to Pendleton, 2 April, n. 2; Motion To Amend Lee’s Motion on Western Lands, 18 April 1782, n. 1). The report of the Clymer committee was not again before Congress until 5 November 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 713–14).
4. The roll call recorded on the back of the manuscript shows that only New York, Virginia, and South Carolina supported the motion. Theodorick Bland opposed it but was outvoted by Jones, Lee, and JM (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 205).