Today’s my birthday! My name is Jon (my parents call me Jonathan), and I just turned 12 years old. My father, who is one of the delegates to the “Grand Convention” here in Windsor, asked if I’d like to come along to the opening meeting. No question about that – this was a chance to see some of the most important men in the Vermont Republic!
Things hadn’t been easy these first few years since we moved up from Connecticut. I was only six years old when my father purchased land in the New Hampshire Grants, as much of the region was then called. My parents worked hard to improve their small farm, and their efforts paid off. Father is now regarded as one of Windsor’s most successful citizens. In fact, he had been elected as a delegate to the current convention because of his high standing in the community.
We seated ourselves on the (rather hard) meeting house benches. Soon, the speaker called the meeting to order and declared that the convention “to form a constitution for the State of Vermont” was officially convened. The date of July 2, 1777 was entered into the record.
The Reverend Aaron Hutchinson spoke next. I had heard Mr. Hutchinson speak on other occasions and knew that sometimes his sermons could be a little boring. But on this special day, I did my best to pay attention. The Reverend had a long list of complaints against New York and Great Britain. The Reverend’s sermon was going on and on, and I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. Finally, the preacher concluded his remarks. The delegates then began their discussions about the business at hand – to write a constitution that would set up an official government and to state the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. But, that’s a story to tell at some future time!
Father spent the next several days in committee sessions, and reported (much to my mother’s pretended consternation) that it was usual to end the day at Mr. Elijah West’s tavern across the road. There the delegates could continue discussions while sipping some of Mr. West’s refreshing cider and ale. By July 8th, much of the Constitution had been written, but a few small details still needed to be worked out. The convention once again adjourned to Mr. West’s tavern.
Just for something to do, my best friend Caleb and I decided to walk into town. The afternoon was very hot and muggy, and we could hear a storm in the distance.
Suddenly a horse and rider raced past us and stopped in front of the tavern. The man stumbled into the building, nearly colliding with a lady who was standing near the doorway. We ran to see what all the excitement was about and arrived just in time to hear the rider deliver his message – the British had invaded Vermont!
I could see that the delegates were greatly alarmed by this report. Some of them were from towns not far from where the British had last been seen. One gentleman declared that he was leaving immediately to protect his family and farm. Another said that the Constitution must be finished before anyone left. Most of them knew it would be very difficult to get all the delegates back together again. No one could decide what to do.
The matter was taken out of their hands. A tremendous thunderstorm suddenly hit the town. The violent lightning and heavy rain made it impossible to leave the tavern. The delegates decided to make the best of things and get back to work. And so, they concluded their business and adopted the new Constitution for Vermont right there at Mr. West’s tavern. I knew I had witnessed an extraordinary event.