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Classic: Ira and Ethan Allen and the Republic of Vermont

But Wilbur relied solely on materials written in English, including a contract between Ira and the French Directorate which Ira had drafted in English. Wilbur didn’t look into a separate carton containing the flag and the documents in French which aroused Professor Ojala’s curiosity. In fact, Wilbur quoted from several papers Ira had deliberately written in English to camouflage his scheme to use the muskets while invading Canada. As Professor Ojala states: “It must be assumed from the collective evidence that the contracts written in English were simply an artifice used to conceal Allen’s actual intentions.”

Can all of this be put in perspective? At a ski resort in Vermont last winter a history-minded Canadian, down from Montreal for the weekend, was heard to observe wistfully, “It’s unfortunate Vermont didn’t unite with Canada 200 years ago. We like to vacation in Vermont because it is so beautiful. It would be nice to have it today as part of Canada.”

A Vermonter countered by saying, “You Montrealers wouldn’t be Canadians today if Ira Allen had succeeded with his scheme for a United Columbia.” And after a pause he added, “Nor would we Vermonters be Americans today. I guess we’d both be called ‘United Columbians.’ ” Neither liked the sound of that.

They discussed how Ethan and Ira Allen had shaped history — and had almost shaped it differently. They agreed that things had worked out well for Canadians and Vermonters over the past two centuries and concluded it was just as well that history had occurred as it did. Each expressed pride in his separate identity; each professed patriotism for his own nation.

To solidify that amiable judgment they drank a toast — to the Olive Branch.

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Updated Monday, February 11th, 2008

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