2

In November 1782 the Preliminary Articles of Peace between Britain and the United States were signed. They specified where the boundaries of the United States were. I have two questions:

(1) Did anybody ever attempt to define the boundaries of the United States before that?

(2) Vermont was included within the boundaries. Some things about this are crystal-clear:

  • Vermont was then under a government that denied that Vermont was a part of the United States, after Vermont's petitions to be admitted as the 14th state had been repeatedly denied due to vehement objections from New York.
  • New York's government adamantly insisted Vermont was a part of New York (as King George III ruled it was, in an order-in-council on July 20, 1764).
  • When Vermont became the 14th state in 1791, its constitution of 1786 continued in effect and the governor and all other officers of the state of Vermont simply continued their terms of office that were already underway. This makes it appear that some at least tacit retroactive recognition to official acts of the state of Vermont before its admission to the Union was at work. Indeed, the act of Congress admitting Vermont to the Union called the already existing entity that had applied for admission "the State of Vermont".
  • The New York legislature's act of March 6, 1790, consenting to Vermont's admission, said they were consenting to a new state being formed within the existing boundaries of New York, and that their claim to Vermont would not be renounced unless Congress decided to admit Vermont to the Union. Thus New York was carefully avoiding any retroactive recognition. (However, the following October, when the negotiations on the boundary were concluded (on which New York's consent was contingent) the commissioners of New York proclaiming the successful conclusion of the negotiations referred to "the community actually exercising independent jurisdiction as 'the State of Vermont' ". Thus the commissioners acknowledged that the de-facto situation existed.)

One must surmise that one reason why the American diplomats in Paris felt they had to insist on the inclusion of Vermont within the boundaries of the U.S.A. was that one of the thirteen states claimed Vermont, and the peace negotiations in Paris were no occasion to make decisions about that particular dispute, nor about the boundaries of Vermont. So my question is: What, if anything, was actually said about Vermont during the deliberations and negotiations in Paris?

2

Bearing in mind the dates already mentioned in the OP, and the fact that the British evacuation of New York City did not occur until November 25, 1783, there was no functioning government of New York during the negotiations, nor had there been since the evacuation of Manhattan by Washington's army on November 16th, 1776.

Vermont was a center of fighting between the colonies and British Quebec due to the water route through Lake Champlain. The exigencies of war lead them to organize themselves, in 1777, though the Continental Congress refused to recognize this self-generated status due to complaints from the exiled government of New York.

The Haldimand negotiations(1781) went nowhere, and Haldimand said Mr. Allen was evasive, and the British concluded that the Vermonter's were primarily interested in gaining leverage in negotiations with the government of New York over future statehood. In the meantime, British and Indian raids were stopped.

Returning to the negotiations, which were conducted by a committee of three in Paris , none of the colonies were directly involved in the negotiations. The committee represented the interests of the Nation: here is a transcript of the treaty. The states are listed in article 1st; no mention is made of Vermont, for the Continental Congress never recognized it as a state; it only achieved this status years later, in 1791.

The boundaries are listed in article 2d, and are geographical.

Many of the boundaries were slightly revised by later negotiations, especially following the Jay Treaty of 1794 (signed 18 August 1795). By the terms of this treaty the Indian Wars of the Northwest Territories were ended, and the British evacuated Detroit and many other western posts which were to have been evacuated according to the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1783). But the affairs of Vermont had been concluded earlier, and the British were to return to their area during the War of 1812.

  • I nowhere said Vermont petitioned for statehood in 1786. The only mention of the year 1786 was in connection with the 1786 constitution of Vermont, which superseded the 1777 constitution of Vermont. I think the exigencies of war might have had less to do with the Vermont declaration of independence than did the fact that in 1777 Vermonters could no longer hope for justice from England in their complaints against the government of New York. Vermont actually asked for admission to representation in Congress in 1777 and several times after that, one of which was in 1782. – Michael Hardy May 24 '16 at 23:10
  • 1
    I removed the incorrect reference to the OP. – Peter Diehr May 24 '16 at 23:43
  • I don't think it's altogether accurate to say the Haldimand negotiations went nowhere. They led to a truce between Vermont and Britain in 1780, which lasted for the rest of the war. – Michael Hardy Sep 26 '16 at 2:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.