Entering Vermont from New York in 1791, James Madison noted in his journal that the houses were larger, more substantial and closely settled, the fields "full of corn and potatoes, flax to make linens, wheat and clover and half a dozen grass crops for feeding livestock." What a difference from the threadbare tenant farmers and ramshackle hovels of feudal New York.
The first two points are historical. The third, the importance of freehold ownership, is very much contemporary. Ethan's allies of 1777 began Vermont's first constitution, still in effect, by declaring "that all men have natural and unalienable rights, amongst which are enjoying and defending life and liberty [and] acquiring, possessing and protecting property."
That hallowed constitutional right to property has been under attack in Vermont for the past 40 years. One can only imagine what Ethan Allen, come back from the grave, would say and do about the land use control schemes so favored by the pretty people who long ago supplanted the frontier freeholders who erected this little republic out of the northern wilderness.
A good guess would be: "Before those villains and schemers steal the property rights of freeborn Vermonters, I will make Montpelier as desolate as Sodom and Gomorrah, by God!"
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).