Forty-two years have passed since the appearance of an academically respectable biography of Vermont's patron figure (clearly not a patron saint), Col. Ethan Allen of Sunderland and Burlington. Burlington historian Willard Sterne Randall has now given us "Ethan Allen: His Life and Times".
It's a lively, readable biography of a remarkable American, a man of whom author Stewart Holbrook remarked, "riot and tumult and followed in his wake."
How one views Ethan depends a lot on one's own preferences. Boozer, brawler, blasphemer, bully. "Lover of liberty and property." Bold, brave, hot headed, intemperate, philosopher, pamphleteer, commanding presence.
Remarkably self-educated, a friend of scientific inquiry and calumniator of Puritan divines.
Military hero, foolish adventurer, scourge of Tories, prisoner of war, author of the second most widely read work of the revolutionary era (after Paine's "Common Sense"), "A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen's Captivity". Successful and failed businessman, absentee father, enthusiastic land speculator. Duplicitous negotiator (with the British). Father of independent Vermont. Randall's work gives ample coverage to all these features and more.
It portrays Ethan not only as he saw himself heroic but as others saw him, ranging from George Washington to the Albany Junto to his British captors in England.