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’sextend 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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