Benjamin Carpenter, Esquire (1725-1804)
By John L. Carpenter, of New Hampshire
Literally written in stone, his marble epitaph boldly declares...
Sacred to the memory of the
Hon. Benjamine CARPENTER, Esq.
Born in Rehoboth, Mass. A.D. 1726
A magistrate in Rhode Island in 1764.
A public teacher of righteousness
An able--eble advocate to his last for Democracy
And the equal rights of a man.
Removed to this town A.D. 1770,
Was a field officer in the Revolutionary War.
A founder of the first constitution and government of Vermont.
A councilor of censors in A.D. 1794.
A member of the council, and Lieut. Governor of the state in A.D. 1779.
A firm professor of Christianity in the Baptist church 50 years. Left
this world and 146 persons of lineal posterity.
March 29, 1804
Aged 78 years, 10 months and 12 days
with a strong
Mind and a full faith of a more
Glorious state hereafter.
Stature about six feet--weight 200
Death had no terror.
But on May 11, 1725 in the Providence of Massachusetts, within the boundary of Bristol County and the 58 year old town of Swansea, a young male child was born to Edward Swanzey & Elizabeth Louise (Wilson) Carpenter. This child was their first son, a fourth generation Carpenter child born in America of an English immigrant named William Carpenter who came to America in 1638. The baby was named Benjamin, the name of both his paternal and maternal grandfathers, two uncles and a few first cousins. He would lack formal education, but hard work and character made up for it with un-common good sense and a belief in God to know what was right.
What caused this young Benjamin to stand out in history? Was it because at age 50, then a pillar of the decade old society of Guilford, New York that he became a revolutionary, a field officer in a revolution defying his King?
Or was this six foot plus, well-built man a traitor to the State of New York before, during and after the gaining of American Independence? But, one states traitor was another's founding father, for in 1777 he helps found the Vermont Republic.
The Vermont Republic declared it self independent on January 15, 1777 and wrote its constitution, that Carpenter help write, that July in Windsor Tavern. Later the Republic would mint its own copper coinage and currency, and operated a postal service. Carpenter would serve in his state republic as needed.
Despite the Continental Congress refusal to recognize that the Vermont Republic had declared its independence from New York and New Hampshire, the Green Mountain Boys – those of the former New Hampshire Grants - supported and fought for American Independence. Carpenter, despite honorably serving in the revolution as a field officer, helping to write the laws of Vermont, had the New York authorities had issue several warrants for his arrest to face treason charges. All before the actual fighting with the British was completed in 1783.
New York State authorities sent out at least three different militia groups to arrest Carpenter and others to face treason charges. This was because Thomas Chittenden, the governor of the Vermont Republic, Ethan Allen, his brother Ira Allen & Joseph Fay, who were supported by Carpenter and others were involved in the Haldimand Affair, aka the Vermont Negotiations that started in 1781.
While the primary reason was to negotiate over the exchange of prisoners, the British purpose was to purport the independence of Vermont under British protection (rule) to undermine any success of the American movement for Independence.
This prisoner negotiation was because of the October 1790 Royalton Raid by a British Regiment and 300 of their Mohawk partners. This raid was in retaliation of an attack on Canada by the Green Mountain Boys of the Vermont Republic. The towns of Royalton, Sharon and Tunbridge, along the White River in the east central Vermont were burned along with any fall crops the invaders could find.
The secret negotiation was elaborated and likely modified before the "to be leaked letters" were sent. The letters were sent by the British Governor of Quebec and by his Loyalist spy, Justus Sherwood of Vermont. These secret letters reached the American Continental Congress with caused some concern. For some New Yorkers, the drum beat call of treason was declared.
To be fair, Carpenter and others of Vermont had mostly stopped shy of lethal force by refusing New York legal claims in the Green Mountains before the Revolution. New York appointed politicians, judges, surveyors, settlers and others were removed or denied in Vermont since the early to mid 1770s.
Even after the Vermont Republic declared its independence, New York & New Hampshire refused to recognize and the Continental Congress ignored their declaration of Independence. The Vermonters and Carpenter fought for America and themselves. They saw themselves as Americans, but not as Yorkers or Hamps and were willing to fight for their independence.
The larger war of American Independence may have stopped a civil war between Vermont and the states of New York & New Hampshire.
Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o'er our land ye shall rule o'er our graves;
Our vow is recorded, our banner unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!
This was the last stanza of John Greenleaf Whittier's ballad poem: The Song of the Vermonters. And these words had been around for years in Vermont before it was printed in 1779.
By 1783 and the coming conclusion of the war, New York was becoming demanding all of Vermont again while New Hampshire and even Massachusetts were making lesser claims on Vermont land. Vermont had counter claims of land. The efforts by New York encouraging Vermonters return to the fold were beginning to have an impact delaying the call of Vermont statehood. For Vermonters, the situation was becoming dire. Members of the Vermont Republic were being hunted, including Carpenter. The Vermont Republic began holding thieves, malcontents and agitators from other states. Tension began to mount.
Just after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolution in September, in December of 1783 Carpenter "to his great damage" was taken prisoner by the "Yorkers" and carried away into prison. New York's third effort in calling out the militia to arrest Carpenter for treason finally worked by using Carpenter's own brother Hiram against him. Hiram was given money and land for his efforts in Vermont, while Vermont later denied the land then fined Hiram for his efforts.
Virginian James Madison, then a member of the Continental Congress, with William Samuel Johnson from Connecticut (but representing Vermont) secured the release of Carpenter and others by May of 1784. Many promises were made, many ignored and prisoners from both sides were released. All charges of treason against Carpenter and others were eventually dropped.
The Vermont Republic still claimed independence and allegiance to the United States, but their land was still claimed by others states, primarily the powerful Yorkers. Carpenter and the Vermont Republic were still in limbo under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. They could not join the United States because they were excluded under those articles and New York in particular refused to recognize them. This situation contributed to a crisis and a need for a stronger central government.
Over the next several years, the status quo was maintained without further bloodshed. It took people like Carpenter forgiving his brother and willing to work toward a better future.
In 1787, a constitutional convention was held. James Madison declared then that Vermont would be the 14th State. In 1788, the US Constitution was ratified and the first Senate, House of Representatives and President took office in 1789. By May 29, 1790 the ratification of the United States Constitution were completed by the thirteen original states.
On October 17, 1790, New York released claim to Vermont and a treaty is signed which Carpenter helps to write. This opens the way for Vermont's admission to the Union and the Federal Republic of the United States of America.
On January 6, 1791 Carpenter is present in Bennington. On January 10, 1791 the Vermont State Convention votes for statehood. On that same day Vermont becomes the 14th State to ratify the Constitution, even though Vermont does not become an official state until March 4, 1791!
In 1793, Vermont adjusts its 1777 Constitution, which Carpenter helped write, and ratifies it. Today, with minor amendments, it has withstood the test of time.
For the genealogists out there ...
Benjamin Carpenter met his future wife, his third cousin and within a few months of both being age 20, they married. This was on October 2, 1745 in Providence, Rhode Island. Annie Carpenter, the daughter of Abial and Prudence (______) Carpenter was born 26 November 1725 in nearby Rehoboth, Massachusetts. She died in Guilford, Windham, Vermont, at their home, on the 1st of July 1803. Benjamin died there on 29 March of 1804. Both are buried in the family graveyard on Carpenter Hill in Guilford. Almost 1,000 of his descendants have been documented.
Amie and Benjamin had 11 children they are;
i. Eunice Carpenter.
ii. Asaph Carpenter, born July 22, 1746 in Warren, Rhode Island; died Abt. 1830 in Henderson, Jefferson, New York.
iii. Joseph Carpenter, born February 24, 1748/49 in Warren, Rhode Island; died May 1829 in Ira, Vermont.
iv. Lucinda Carpenter, born March 06, 1750/51 in Warren, Rhode Island.
v. Lois Carpenter, born September 08, 1753 in Warren, Rhode Island.
vi. John Carpenter, born December 02, 1758; died October 25, 1759.
vii. Lydia Carpenter, born October 1760; died October 06, 1780 in Scituate, Rhode Island.
viii. Amy Carpenter, born September 01, 1763 in Warren, Rhode Island; died October 06, 1786 in Scituate, Rhode Island.
ix. Rhoda Carpenter, born May 01, 1765 in Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts; died in Halifax, Vermont.
x. John Benjamin Carpenter, born June 08, 1766 in Scituate, Rhode Island; died Abt. 1832 in Henderson, Kentucky.
xi. Cyrus Carpenter, born September 12, 1769 in Killingly, Connecticut.
For genetic genealogists, descendants of three uncles (Benjamin, Jotham & John) of Benjamin Carpenter have been tested using Y-DNA markers. See Group 3 lineages at:
http://www.carpentercousins.com/generallineage.htm#reho – scroll right – look for the fourth line (inclusive) under William Carpenter.
For the actual genetic markers tested, see Table 1, Group 3 at: http://www.carpentercousins.com/carpdna.htm#table1
* Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, compiled by Jacob G. Ullery, 1894, pages 63 to 63
* The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, compiled by Rossiter Johnson and John Howard Brown, 1904, Carnegie -- Carpenter page
* Old Vermont Houses, by Herbert Wheaton Congdon, 1968, page 11
* Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the early American Frontier, by Michael A. Bellesiles, 1993, page 213
* Benjamin Carpenter biography, American Monthly magazine, published by Daughters of the American Revolution, October 1901, pages 391 to 393
* Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the United States, edited by John Howard Brown, 1900, Volume 1, page 572
* Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, Volume 1, 1887, page 530
* Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood, by Marilyn S. Blackwell and Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, 2010, page 31
* History of the Baptists in Vermont, by Henry Crocker, 1913, page 196
* History of Vermont: Natural, Civil, and Statistical, by Zadock Thompson, 1842, page 83
* Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont, published by E. P. Walton, Montpelier, Volume 1, 1873, pages 117 to 118
* Daughters of the American Revolution magazine, Volume 103, Issues 1-10, 1969, page 841
* Inscriptions on the Grave Stones in the Grave Yards of Northampton and of the Other Town in the Valley of the Connecticut, by Thomas Bridgman, 1850, page 195
* See also: Find A Grave for images. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=43069243
* Carpenter Cousins web page. Benjamin Carpenter is RIN 512 in the CE 2009 and is listed as a descendant of William Carpenter of Rehoboth. See: http://carpentercousins.com
* Benjamin Carpenter is number 977 in the web report at:
A Thank You to John R. Carpenter, of La Mesa, CA