George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Chittenden, 15 January 1781

From Thomas Chittenden

State of Vermont. Arlington 15th January 1781


I am exceeding unhappy when I view the critical Situation of the Interest of the United States, and the great Evils which attend the people in this Quarter, by the unhappy internal Broils and Contentions caused by the Disputes between them and the several adjacent States, which prevents that Line of Correspondence with Your Excellency, necessary to make the Common Inter[e]st become mutual, And which I am not insensible puts it out of your Excellency’s power, to hold such Correspond as I presume from your known Humanity and warm Attachment to the Liberties of Mankind, would be otherwise granted with pleasure.

Notwithstanding, I esteem it my Duty to inform your Excellency of the perseverance of the Inhabitants of this State in the grand Cause of Liberty, in which they have embarked, and of the high Estimation they entertain of your Excellency’s emminent Services as Commander in Chief of the American Arms (not to flatter.)—I am wanting in Language to express their feelings, I can only assure your Excellency that, nothing impedes their Willingness to support your Excellency in the important Trust of Commander in Chief, at the Risque of every thing dear to them, but a Want of being assured at the End, of sharing equal priviledges with the United States.

It gives me pain to give your Excellency any Intelligence which may in the least add to your Burden, But Duty to my Country, and Self preservation, makes it become necessary to present an Official Account of our Situation in this Quarter, so far as Respects the Interest of the common Cause; for which I refer your Excellency to the inclosed Letters, which are Copies of those sent as therein specified, and will give a particular Relation of the Subject.1

I can only mention further to your Excellency that, many Prisoners (Inhabitants of this State) are in the Custody of the Enemy in Canada, and that Notwithstanding we have taken more than three Times the Number from them, it is at present out of our p⟨ow⟩er to return equal Numbers, having delivered su⟨ch⟩ p⟨ri⟩soners so taken from time to time, to ⟨the⟩ United States—We are about settleing a Cartel for the Redemption of our Men in Canada as before mentioned,2 must therefore beg your Excellency’s Indulgence with a sufficient Number of Prisoners to answer such an Exchange, should the Commissioners appointed for that purpose agree—Should this proposal meet your Excellency’s Approbation, a Return of the Number shall be immediately transmitted, and a Compliance with any reasonable Requisition that may be necessary to compleat a matter so earnestly wished for, by Sir, Your Excellency’s most Respectful & most Obedt Humbl. Servant

Thos Chittenden

LS, DLC:GW; copy (incomplete), VtHi. The first page of the copy is missing; the copy is docketed 13 January. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman described Chittenden as “Titular Govr of Vermont” on the docket of the LS. No reply from GW to Chittenden has been found.

1In the enclosed copy of his lengthy letter to Samuel Huntington dated 25 July 1780 at Bennington, Vt., Chittenden asserted the independence of Vermont but proposed a union with the United States. He denied Congress’s authority to judge of the state’s independence and stated that the people of Vermont had a right to make a separate peace with Great Britain. If Congress refused Vermont’s offer of union, Chittenden declared his intention to write the executives of the states individually to propose union (see DLC:GW; see also Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 2:254–57).

In the enclosed copy of his letter to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., dated 12 Dec. 1780 at Bennington, Chittenden proposed an alliance and confederation with Connecticut and explained Vermont’s inability to repel an expected British invasion from Canada (see DLC:GW; see also Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 2:274–75).

2For earlier correspondence regarding the prisoner cartel, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 31 Oct.–1 Nov. 1780, and n.4.

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