Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THOMAS CHITTENDEN, VERMONT. 2 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO THOMAS CHITTENDEN, VERMONT. 2 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO THOMAS CHITTENDEN, VERMONT.2
Philadelphia, 1 January, 1782.
I received your favor of the 14th of November, by Mr. Brownson. You cannot be at a loss to know why I have not heretofore, and why I cannot now, address you in your public character, or answer you in mine; but the confidence, which you have been pleased to repose in me, gives me an opportunity of offering you my sentiments, as an individual wishing most ardently to see the peace and union of his country preserved, and the just rights of the people of every part of it fully and firmly established.
It is not my business, neither do I think it necessary now, to discuss the origin of the right of a number of inhabitants to that tract of country, formerly distinguished by the name of the New Hampshire Grants, and now known by that of Vermont. I will take it for granted, that their right was good, because Congress by their resolve of the 7th of August imply it, and by that of the 21st are willing fully to confirm it, provided the new State is confined to certain described bounds. It appears therefore to me, that the dispute of boundary is the only one which exists, and that, this being removed, all further difficulties would be removed also, and the matter terminated to the satisfaction of all parties. Now, I would ask you candidly whether the claim of the people of Vermont was not for a long time confined solely, or very nearly, to that tract of country which is described in the resolve of Congress of the 21st of August last, and whether, agreeably to the tenor of your own letter to me, the late extension of your claim upon New Hampshire and New York was not more of a political manœuvre, than one in which you conceived yourselves justifiable. If my first question be answered in the affirmative, it certainly bars your new claim; and, if my second be well founded, your end is answered and you have nothing to do but withdraw your jurisdiction to your old limits, and obtain an acknowledgment of independence and sovereignty, under the resolve of the 21st of August, for so much territory as does not interfere with the ancient established bounds of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. I persuade myself you will see and acquiesce in the reason, the justice, and indeed the necessity of such a decision.
You must consider, Sir, that the point now in dispute is of the utmost political importance to the future union and peace of this great country. The State of Vermont, if acknowledged, will be the first new one admitted into the confederacy, and, if suffered to encroach upon the ancient established boundaries of the adjacent ones, will serve as a precedent for others, which it may hereafter be expedient to set off, to make the same unjustifiable demands. Thus, in my private opinion, while it behoves the delegates of the States now confederated to do ample justice to a body of people sufficiently respectable by their numbers, and entitled by other claims to be admitted into that confederation, it becomes them also to attend to the interests of their constituents, and see, that, under the appearance of justice to one, they do not materially injure the rights of others. I am apt to think this is the prevailing opinion of Congress, and that your late extension of claim has, upon the principles I have above mentioned, rather diminished than increased the number of your friends, and that, if such extension should be persisted in, it will be made a common cause, and not considered as only affecting the rights of the States immediately interested in the loss of territory, a loss of too serious a nature not to claim the attention of any people.
There is no calamity within the compass of my foresight, which is more to be dreaded, than a necessity of coercion on the part of Congress; and consequently every endeavor should be used to prevent the execution of so disagreeable a measure. It must involve the ruin of that State against which the resentment of the others is pointed.
1 I will only add a few words upon the subject of the negotiations, which have been carried on between you and the enemy in Canada and in New York. I will take it for granted, as you assert it, that they were so far innocent, that there never was any serious intention of joining Great Britain in their attempts to subjugate your country; but it has had this certain bad tendency; it has served to give some ground to that delusive opinion of the enemy, upon which they in a great measure found their hopes of success, that they have numerous friends among us, who only want a proper opportunity to show themselves openly, and that internal disputes and feuds will soon break us in pieces; at the same time the seeds of distrust and jealousy are scattered among ourselves by a conduct of this kind. If you are sincere in your professions, these will be additional motives for accepting the terms, which have been offered, and which appear to me equitable, and thereby convincing the common enemy, that all their expectations of disunion are vain, and that they have been worsted in the use of their own weapon,—deception.1
As you unbosomed yourself to me, I thought I had the greater right of speaking my sentiments openly and candidly to you. I have done so; and if they should produce the effects, which I most sincerely wish, that of an honorable and amicable adjustment of a matter, which, if carried to hostile lengths, may destroy the future happiness of my country, I shall have attained my end, while the enemy will be defeated in theirs. Believe me to be, with great respect, Sir, &c.2
[2 ]Mr. Chittenden had been chosen Governor of Vermont by the people of that territory, in February, 1778, and he acted as such during the Revolution.
[1 ]“I was induced to take the matter up just now from an apprehension that things might be carried to extremes, and from having received lately a very confidential letter from him, in which he discloses all their political manœuvres, which he protests have been in reality innocent and only meant to alarm the other states. This letter I have shewn to a number of my friends, members of Congress and others, and they have advised me to write to Mr. Chittenden, in my private character, give him my opinion of the unjustifiableness of the extension of their claim, and advise him to accept the terms offered by the resolve of the 21st of last August. This I have done fully and forcibly, and perhaps it may have some effect upon Mr. Chittenden and the leaders in Vermont.”—Washington to Major-General Schuyler, 8 January, 1782.
[1 ]“I am in possession of a deal of intelligence similar to that furnished by Capt. Edgar, and am at a loss to know whether the Vermontese are playing a merely political or a guilty game. I have reason to think the former. I am now endeavoring to get all our prisoners in Canada exchanged, and if any of them, after they are released, can throw light upon a number of transactions, which I confess are mysterious, they will be made use of for that purpose.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 15 December, 1781.
[2 ]“Every information tending to prove, that the affairs respecting the Grants may be speedily and happily accommodated, gives me singular satisfaction. I will flatter myself, that both the articles of intelligence you have received are well grounded, and that it will be the unremitting effort of every one, who is well effected to the general cause, to prevent the horrors of civil discord in any part of the United States. It has been intimated, that some of the enemy’s shipping and armed vessels have been detained by the ice in Lake Champlain in such a manner, that they might be destroyed and the cannon &c. brought off. If the fact is so, I will thank you for as early and explicit information as possible, that measures may be taken accordingly. The destruction of those vessels would, I think, greatly impede any future incursions from that quarter.”—Washington to Philip Schuyler, 29 January, 1782.