February 15, 2008

A 1786 MEETING IN VERMONT (Novel #1)

The blog category, NOVEL SEGMENTS, will present information and scenes being developed for a historic romance novel to be written in three sections. Numerous actual romances intertwine throughout the segments. One romance replicates Tennyson’s poem, Enoch Arden.

The writing is historical in that it follows real people in real situations. It’s a novel because conversations must be created and scene material filled in. Characters cannot be interviewed, since the dateline of the story is about 1786 to 1845. However, numerous lines are factual, since they come from actual documents.

The complete tale travels from Boston, Massachusetts to Revolutionary France to the Virginia-Boston Atlantic corridor to Lamoine, Maine, British Guiana, and finally ends in Alencon, France.

The first few segments being posted recreate a political backdrop of the novel. The romance parts will follow.

The background includes at four years of research (question: how much time in research is sufficient before writing a book?) I’ve had several persons who have been assisting me, including Fran, a New Englander; a former neighbor and Sue, a fourth cousin in Georgia. Key characters in the political backdrop are major pre- and post-Revolutionary War political and military persons.

My goal is to post SOMETHING on the novel twice monthly—a method I’m using to improvise accountability and motivate the writing! Some posts will be a continuation of the novel, and these segments will be numbered. Other novel posts, in 1790s HISTORY, will be discussions on situations and scenes.

Feel free to post comments as segments are posted.

Key Political Characters:
General Benjamin Tupper: born 1938; tanner, teacher, farmer, military man, politician
General Rufus Putnam: born 1738. Millwright, farmer, surveyor, military man
Chaplain Manasseh Cutler: born 1742, cleric, botanist, lawyer, politician
Joel Barlow: born 1754, poet, lawyer, politician
William Duer: born 1747, Secretary of the Board of Treasury

The New England fall weather was accented by golden and red leaves drifting onto rocky, unlevel, farm grounds belonging to General Rufus Putnam, in Rutland, Vermont. He and his friend, General Benjamin Tupper, strode to the barn, a private place for discussions of a private nature. Rufus leaned up back against the wood of a horse stall, while Tupper paced over the straw covering the barn floor.

Three years earlier Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, ending the Revolutionary War.

Benjamin quietly told Rufus how he’d tried to encourage Congress to use the Ohio lands of the country, the newly gained Northwest Territory, to pay the military men for their Revolutionary War service.

“People are interested in the western lands America acquired from Britain,” Benjamin said. “So many of them want to settle there and start new lives. People obtaining this land will have an investment that will be invaluable in the future.”

The land on the eastern seaboard was “used up,” ravaged by war, farming and lumbering, noted Rufus. It was time for interested persons to go west.

“But Congress moves so slow! Look how we’re struggling to settle our claims with them!” Rufus stated.

“Congress is dragging its feet,” Benjamin concurred. “They aren’t drafting a satisfactory plan for the distribution and governing of this land. And Congress is too poor, too financially exhausted, to pay these men in money. The war used all its resources. Yet those lands west of the Allegheny Mountains could be used to pay the military men for their war service. Congress could trade land grants there for the worthless Continental money these men were paid with. But there needs a plan for systematic colonization rather than having individual, haphazard. disorganized settlement attempts.

“You submitted that petition asking for a tract of land to be assigned and marked to form a new United States colony,” Rufus noted. “You thought it could even be admitted as a Confederated State in the future.”

“Yes, and 288 military officers signed it,” Benjamin stated. “I sent it to Congress, with a letter devising a plan of national defenses and fortifications so people would be safe in days of war and days of peace. But Congress still hasn’t acted on it. It’s frustrating…we aren’t the only ones experiencing the hardships. All those soldiers out there are waiting too. What good is this freedom we won if we cannot move forward in our lives? The government just doesn’t have monetary resources to pay their men who fought so valiantly!”

“It’s been three years since the war ended, and the freedom we acquired is great,” Rufus said. “But what can we do with it? Our occupation is worthless and we have no property! I’m tired of waiting for Congress to act. Whatever the solution is evades me.”

Benjamin looked at Rufus, smiling. Stroking his chin thoughtfully, he said, “It’s time to take things into our own hands! We can, we must!”

“But how?” Rufus inquired.

“Congress doesn’t want to deal in small land sales. WE can purchase a large amount of land ourselves and resell it to the soldiers,” Benjamin almost shouted.

“Whoa, Benjamin…” Rufus began, but stopped at the look on Benjamin’s face. Perhaps he had something big and bold in mind. “Where would we get the money?”

“Listen, Rufus. That worthless Continental paper money held by many of our comrades and the soldiers is stashed away—what they haven’t burned, that is. If we could convince Congress to sell us land at the depreciated value of the currency, we can sell it to others at the face value. We would be helping the servicemen and we can make a profit!”

Rufus stroked his chin, pondering the idea.

“Perhaps the selling point is that the land will increase in value. It would be a way for the government to pay the soldiers and settle the land at the same time.”

“Right,” Benjamin replied. “They did say they didn’t want to sell the land in small amounts.

We’d have to find investors to make the initial purchase, satisfying their desire to sell lots of land.”

On January 10, 1786, Rufus and Benjamin placed an “Information” notice in Massachusetts newspapers. It invited Revolutionary War officers and veterans who were promised land in the Ohio Territory to a meeting at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston. They also invited other citizens who were interested in venturing into the western lands. Their goal was to present an association (formed that day in Benjamin’s barn) to purchase lands from Congress.

The meeting was held March 1. Attendees, besides Benjamin and Rufus, included Major Sargent Winthrop, Timothy Pickering, the Rev. Mannasseh Cutler (Ipswich), Samuel Holden Parsons, Fisher Ames, Jonathan Meigs and Nathan Dane. Benjamin Putnam, who chaired the meeting, promoted the association to his comrades. Major Winthrop was clerk. After discussing and agreeing on the articles of association, their signatures marked the incorporation of the Ohio Company of Associates. The association was willing to develop the public lands if Congress would make a profitable arrangement.

The next segment of the saga will explain how politicians worked with the Ohio Company to speculate on land in the Scioto River area of Ohio.

Read the latest posts on the Beanery Online Literary Magazine, Vol. 2, by clicking on JOURNALISM QUESTION & MORALITY IN WRITING

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