A Few Lawless Vagabonds

Ethan Allen, the Republic of Vermont, and the American Revolution

David Bennett

This is an account of the three-way relationship between Ethan Allen, the Republic of Vermont (1777-1791) and the British in Canada during the American Revolution, a work of
political and military history. Ethan Allen was a prime mover in the establishment of the Republic , then led the fight to maintain its independence from the "predatory states
Date Published :
June 2014
Publisher :
Illustration :
8pp illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612002408
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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A Few Lawless Vagabonds is an account of the three-way relationship between Ethan Allen, the Republic of Vermont (1777–1791) and the British in Canada during the American Revolution, a work of political and military history. Ethan Allen was a prime mover in the establishment of the Republic (though he was a captive of the British, 1775–1778), then led the fight to maintain its independence from the “predatory states” of New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts; from the American Continental Congress; and from British attacks on the new state. In order to defend Vermont’s independence, Ethan Allen engaged in secret, unlawful negotiations with the British in Canada, aimed at turning Vermont into a “separate Government under the Crown.”

The attempts of the Allen family to maintain Vermont’s independence from its neighbors were successful: Vermont became the 14th State in 1791. A Few Lawless Vagabonds is the first systematic attempt, using archival sources, to show that the Allens were utterly serious in their aim to turn Vermont into a Crown colony, a project which came close to becoming an open, public issue late in 1781. The Ethan Allen that emerges is not as a warrior hero of the American Revolution but as a successful Vermont nationalist who is justly celebrated as the principal founder of the State of Vermont, a rare combination of patriot and betrayer of the public trust. The British leaders who were Ethan’s opposite numbers emerge in turn as thoroughly capable military officers and diplomatic negotiators: Sir Henry Clinton, Sir Guy Carleton and Sir Frederick Haldimand.

About The Author

DAVID BENNETT was educated at Christ's Hospital School and Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, where he took history and philosophy. He holds a Ph.D in philosophy from McGill University. He spent much of his working life in the labor movement, ending his career in 2006 as National Director of Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress. He is widely published in the areas of workplace health and environmental protection and has published several articles, op-ed pieces and reviews on the Second World War.


A Note on Sources

CHAPTER l The “Fronter”
CHAPTER 2 Controversy: The New Hampshire Grants
CHAPTER 3 Ethan Allen and the Assault on Ticonderoga, May 10, 1775
CHAPTER 4 The Capture of Ethan Allen at Montreal, September 25, 1775
CHAPTER 5 Carleton’s Campaign of 1775–1776
CHAPTER 6 The British Incursion into Vermont, 1777
CHAPTER 7 The Republic of Vermont
CHAPTER 8 Defending the Republic: New York, New Hampshire and the Continental Congress
CHAPTER 9 Defending the Republic: The British Raids from Canada
CHAPTER 10 The Haldimand Negotiations, Phase 1: July 1780 to December 1781
CHAPTER 11 The Haldimand Negotiations, Phase 2: January 1782 to April 1783
CHAPTER 12 The Political Philosophy of Ethan Allen
CHAPTER 13 Ethan Allen: Endgame and Assessment

Appendix: Seth Warner’s Letter to General Montgomery


"A different angle on the history of Ethan Allen has come out this year, and it will surprise those who look on Ethan as an untarnished hero."

- The Rutland Herald

"an outstanding work, a major contribution to early vermont history and a must read for anyone seriously interested in the latest research on Ethan Allen and his associates"

- Walloomsack Review

"…lays out a three way relationship between Allen, the British in Canada during the ARW and the Republic of Vermont…delves into archival sources to reveal how Ethan and other members of the Allen family were very serious about turning Vermont into a crown colony. Their efforts came close to becoming an open and public issue in late 1781...The Ethan Allen who emerges from this 276 page hardcover book still ranks as an opportunistic war hero. But he was a unique combination of patriot and betrayer of the public trust. His Fight was for Vermont's autonomy,not the independence of the American Colonies as a whole. The businessman, farmer, land speculator, philospher , writer and politician's greatest success was as an ardent Vermont seperatists. Allen is justly celebrated as the prinicipal founder of the Green Mountain State.

- Toy Solder & Model Figure

"...a very scholarly book...the history is covered closely and well, it is easy to be swept up in the fervor of the times. I recommend this book to those who want to know much more about a little known but interesting facet of our early nation."

- San Francisco Book Review

"...may be the best American Revolutionary War era book to come out in years... exhaustive research challenges many previous researchers... Historians and biographers alike will be impressed with the author's depiction of Allen and his efforts to ensure Vermont's sovereignty ...a must read for all those with an interest in the period of American Revolutionary."

- Military Review

"…presents close readings of early documents as well as secondary sources on Vermont and Allen. .. Insightful, viewing Vermont's history with fresh eyes and offering original analysis…reveals continuing power of Ethan Allen on the imagination, even in the face of criticism.

- Vermont History

"weaves together several little told but quite interesting stories to give us an informative and revealing look at one of the heroes of the American Revolution and that curious corner of in the Revolutionary War, the self-proclaimed “Republic of Vermont.” Bennett’s account does not stop with the capture of Ticonderoga, where most accounts of Allen’s life more or less end. He carries the story of Allen and the “Republic” of Vermont through the Revolutionary War, during which there were British campaigns and raids against the mountaineers, as well as efforts by both New York and New Hampshire to claim the territory, and battles not only in the field but also in Congress, and even gives a thoughtful little essay on “The Political Philosophy of Ethan Allen.” In the process he touches upon English colonial policy, disputed land claims, “state” rivalries, contemporary religious thought, local loyalties, woodland warfare, frontier “democracy,” Patriot, Royal, Vermont policy and strategy, and more. From Bennett’s account, Allen emerges less as an American patriot than as a Vermont patriot, as well as a successful businessman and self-promoter. An very interesting book."

- The NYMAS Review

"A Few Lawless Vagabonds has much to praise. Bennett’s command of the primary-source material from archives in Ontario and Vermont is impressive. His methodology of extracting goals from actions rather than assuming Allen’s place as a hallowed Paul Revere-like figure is also laudable. Military historians will take an interest in his chapters on the seizure of Fort Ticonderoga and of John Burgoyne’s southerly thrust in 1777, which Bennett calls “sheer folly” (p. 13). His analysis of the Haldimand Negotiations is the most exhaustive and compelling to date... Bennett does an excellent job highlighting the fierce competition between colonies and states for land and resources. The author reminds us that British North America and the Confederation-era United States were composed of mini-settler empires that were frequently at odds with each other. His book illuminates the strength of David C. Hendrickson’s argument in Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding (2003) that the Constitution of 1787 was a “peace pact” between rival states on the verge of civil war. By focusing on Ethan Allen, his brothers, and their allies, enemies, and potential friends, Bennett resurrects a Revolutionary-era world fraught with myriad hopes, aspirations, political philosophies, and intriguing possibilities."

- H-Net Reviews

"...makes an interesting assessment on Ethan Allen’s character and commitment (or lack-there-of) to the Continental Cause; appearing instead as staunch supporter of Vermont’s future as an independent and thriving powerhouse."

- The Colonial Review

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