What, then, can modern Vermonters take away from Ethan Allen's rambunctious life? Let's select just three aspects.
First, Ethan's audacious capture of the Crown's largest fortress in North America, Ticonderoga, was the first offensive act by the American
colonists. Ethan's startling, bloodless victory over King George's mighty empire thrilled patriots throughout the 13 colonies.
Second, Ethan proved himself a skillful and duplicitous negotiator with Congress and the British governor in Montreal. Using the possibility of independent Vermont rejoining the British Empire, and a threatened expansion of "Greater Vermont" into New York and New Hampshire, Ethan kept the British waiting for Vermont's return to the empire, while at the same time luring Congress into admitting independent Vermont to the American confederation. This was a major diplomatic achievement.
Finally, Ethan clearly understood the crucial importance of property ownership to liberty and self-government. He learned this from visiting the Hudson Valley of New York, where hundreds of thousands of mostly Dutch farmers lived as feudal serfs on the vast manors of the Schuylers, Livingstons, and Van Rensselaers.
John McClaughry is vice president of Vermont's Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).