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Vermont’s rebellious folk hero: Ethan Allen

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Little is known of founding father Ethan Allen beyond his bold predawn attack on Fort Ticonderoga during the American Revolution. But the roots of this fire­­brand’s leadership extend deep below his exploits with the Green Mountain Boys, his band of Vermont volunteers. Executive Leadership is pleased to welcome Ethan Allen:

EL: What is the driving force behind your leadership?

Allen: Ever since I reached manhood, I have felt such a passion for liberty that the tyrant’s attempt to enslave America thoroughly electrified my mind and fully determined me to take part with my country.

EL: You seem to have a particular talent for inspiring others. How do you do it?

Allen: I do not coerce them but allow them to choose their path freely. The boys themselves made a choice between valor as the first heroes of the Revolution, and risk of capture and deportation to England.

EL: What did you tell them?

Allen: “Friends and fellow soldiers, you have been a scourge and terror to arbitrary power. Your valor has been famed abroad. I now propose to advance before you and in person conduct you through the wicket-gate; for we must this morning either quit our pretensions to valor or possess ourselves of this fortress in a few minutes. I do not urge it on any contrary to his will.”

EL: Is it true that you once swore at the Salisbury selectmen and threatened them with a bullwhip?

Allen: I defended my honor. I swore by Jesus Christ and wished I might be bound down in hell with old Beelzebub a thousand years in the lowest pit and that every little insipid devil should ask why I was lying there if it should ever be said that I made a promise and did not keep it.

EL: There’s a lot of folklore about you, as if it weren’t enough that you influenced Thomas Paine and played a central role in gaining statehood for Vermont. Because your writings incited the “Bennington Mob,” you are accused of flouting the law.

Allen: I shall make no apology for writing those pamphlets and if occasion shall in future require, will freely do it again.

EL: When the British took you prisoner, you were not in the least bit cowed. It was unclear whether the rules of war extended to your style of Indian warfare.

Allen: I rejected their dishonorable and in­­­humane treatment. The commander asked me whether I was that Col. Allen who took Ticonderoga. I told him I was the very man.

EL: Didn’t George Washington himself try to save you from such miserable confinement?

Allen: Gen. Washington wrote to Gen. Howe that I had been taken prisoner near Montreal and objected to the fashion in which I was treated, without regard to decency, humanity or the rules of war. He informed the enemy that I had been thrown into irons and treated as a common felon.

EL: But they shipped you to London anyway and put you on trial.

Allen: I continued to treat them with scorn and contempt. Such conduct I judged would have a more probable tendency to my preservation than concession and timidity.

EL: Then they put you back on a ship to America.

Allen: Resistance gives me courage.

Sources: Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, Willard Sterne Randall, W.W. Norton & Co., and the ­Vermont Historical Society.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Warren Crocker Herrick December 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Sounds like Ethan Allen was a strong conservative who would be opposed to the kind of tyrannical big government we have today.

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