Were Jefferson and Madison arrested together in Vermont?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#1
I see in various stories on the Internet that they were arrested together in Vermont for taking a carriage ride on Sunday. I find the story hard to believe for various reasons. First of all, what were they doing together in Vermont? It would take a long time to get there by boat and stage coach. Presidential candidates didn't go around the country campaigning. Were there police in Vermont out on Sunday arresting people? I am not sure law enforcement worked that way, particularly outside of cities.
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2019
208
Pennsylvania, US
#4
I tried to find a good source for this - it looks like a Reddit comment and a “student life” website are the first few returns... which kinda seem a bit sketch... for a second it looked like VermontHistory.org may have contained the search terms, but I scanned it and didn't see any mention of an arrest... After more searching it sounds like the book “White House Confidential” made the aim that they were arrested... but found someone with seemingly credible sources who thinks maybe it was just a misinterpretation of a letter written by Jefferson.

“We have now got over about 400 miles of our tour, and have still about 450 more to go over. Arriving here on the Saturday evening, and the laws of the state not permitting us to travel on the Sunday has given me time to write to you from hence. I expect to be at Philadelphia by the 20th. or 21st. I am with great & sincere esteem, dear Sir yours affectionately,
Th: Jefferson”​
-Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph Jr. from Bennington, Vermont

You can read their reasons for thinking that is was a misunderstanding here.

It sounds like an interesting story... they did go to Vermont and apparently Jefferson scolded some “Vermont-ians” for causing “disagreeable” disturbances with British soldiers. 😄
 
Jun 2017
10
maine
#5
I found the stories and also an article by Sydney Stokes from "Vermont History" (Aug 1999) on the website of the Vermont Historical Society. It states that they were in Vermont together and quotes a confirming letter from Jefferson. However, it says nothing about their being arrested--and I doubt that it is true. If riding in a carriage on Sunday was illegal, how did Vermonters get to church? It was--and is--a very rural state and there were rough distances to cross.
 
Feb 2019
208
Pennsylvania, US
#6
I see in various stories on the Internet that they were arrested together in Vermont for taking a carriage ride on Sunday. I find the story hard to believe for various reasons. First of all, what were they doing together in Vermont? It would take a long time to get there by boat and stage coach. Presidential candidates didn't go around the country campaigning. Were there police in Vermont out on Sunday arresting people? I am not sure law enforcement worked that way, particularly outside of cities.

Sounds like they were in Vermont to gauge the public feeling away from the Capitol... Vermont had some disagreements with surrounding states that kept them from being included in the Union. Madison was having stomach problems and Jefferson suffering from migraines, so maybe they both needed some time off. Sounds like the trip was 33 days long... Jefferson took home 100lbs of maple sugar as gifts for friends... LOL!

Here's a little pamphlet for download about their trip: VermontHistory.Org.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#7
Sounds like they were in Vermont to gauge the public feeling away from the Capitol... Vermont had some disagreements with surrounding states that kept them from being included in the Union. Madison was having stomach problems and Jefferson suffering from migraines, so maybe they both needed some time off. Sounds like the trip was 33 days long... Jefferson took home 100lbs of maple sugar as gifts for friends... LOL!

Here's a little pamphlet for download about their trip: VermontHistory.Org.
The disagreement was that New Hampshire and New York claimed Vermont. Vermont was an independent republic from 1777-1791. The trip was 2 months after it had been admitted into the Union.

You probably couldn't buy maple sugar or syrup in the supermarket, which is partly why Jefferson brought back 100 pounds of it.
 
Feb 2019
208
Pennsylvania, US
#8
The disagreement was that New Hampshire and New York claimed Vermont. Vermont was an independent republic from 1777-1791. The trip was 2 months after it had been admitted into the Union.

You probably couldn't buy maple sugar or syrup in the supermarket, which is partly why Jefferson brought back 100 pounds of it.
New York, New Hampshire... they all wanted Vermont for her copious maple syrup supply... liquid (tree) gold.... :money: Just kidding. It's interesting to think about states claiming other states as their own - and states being their own independent, little "country"!

In researching all this I found out Jefferson was studying Indian languages - I've always liked Thomas Jefferson. I loved reading about this whole thing - I never knew about this trip to Vermont before. Thanks for sharing such a good topic, @betgo!
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#9
It's sort of interesting. Vermont had just become a state, and maybe Jefferson as Secretary of State was checking it out. They probably thought Vermont was interesting and fun. Vermont did not have much of a wealthy elite, being in the mountains and so on. The Republic of Vermont had no property requirements for voting, public schools, and banned slavery at a time when no US had any of those things.

I guess the comment about not being able to travel on Sundays got turned into being arrested. What did a police carriage that did travel on Sundays put on its siren and pull them over? They weren't at all impressed by who they were and took them to jail? Criminal prosecutions in those days outside of cities were usually brought by the victim.

I don't know if carriage travel on Sunday was banned in any other New England state. The business about not traveling and so on on Sunday was an extreme protestant thing, followed by Presbyterians and Baptists and well as Puritans.
 
Feb 2019
208
Pennsylvania, US
#10
The Republic of Vermont had no property requirements for voting, public schools, and banned slavery at a time when no US had any of those things.
That is interesting! Very forward thinking... I would think Jefferson would have been impressed by these sorts of things (though, I do believe that he brought a slave with him on this trip, probably like a valet). Jefferson's ideas about "the establishment" always fascinate me. He was cutting parts out of his Bible when he didn't agree with them. He owned slaves, yet originally wanted an absolutely scathing rant in the Declaration of Independence targeting the cruelty of slavery (he originally wrote a phrase about "violating the most sacred rights of life and liberty"... deemed by others to be too much for the final draft and removed... but you can read more about it here). He was fascinated by nature as well as architecture... he was linguist... He was a fascinating guy. I kinda adore him.


I guess the comment about not being able to travel on Sundays got turned into being arrested. What did a police carriage that did travel on Sundays put on its siren and pull them over? They weren't at all impressed by who they were and took them to jail? Criminal prosecutions in those days outside of cities were usually brought by the victim.

I don't think there was the concept of "police" back then... the first police departments were organized in the mid 1800's... So the founding fathers would never know the heart-sinking sensation of hearing the sirens whir and the lights blinding you as you pull over. It was probably much more embarrassing... You are driving through a small town, having a lovely morning, when you reach a small town. There is an unnerving calm and silence as you slowly make your way down the thoroughfare - the houses are all empty, there is no one bustling in the street. You would pass a church (and isn't it always the way luck has it?), it would be just as the town's inhabitants were leaving their services... they would spot you (it would be hard not to, with harnesses chinking and horses hooves pounding the ground... and horse and carriage being a rather slow means of transportation to anything we have today... it would be hard to make a quick getaway... everyone would get a good gawk) and the eyes of all would be on you. Some rather pious (or audacious) soul would probably try to stop your carriage and inform you that you were in violation of their Blue Laws. Before the police departments, the job of keeping order would fall upon those foremost in the community and their lackeys. They would throw you into jail (probably much, much rougher a place than how we picture jail today) so that you could be punished on Monday (because how hypocritical would it be to do the work to punish someone on Sunday?). Also, stopping to change horses or take shelter at an inn would be like a confession of guilt to the locals.

I don't know if the concept of Blue laws (laws regarding what you could and couldn't do on Sunday) would be completely foreign to them. They seemed to be much stricter in New England the 1600's, where you could be whipped (bare backed) and fined for anything ranging from kissing your child on the head to raking your hay fields (which could potentially determine whether you and your animals would starve over winter or not... hay is a tough item to produce and keep from rotting in the field). It seems like by the time the late 1700's rolls around, mostly you hear of fines as punishment, but I'm sure they were more familiar with the concept of restrictions on Sunday than we are, so it may not have been a complete shock... just possibly seen as old fashioned and strict. I mean, my dad fondly remembers blue laws as a 1950's child, like no alcohol sales on Sundays - and he was in a smaller town outside the greater Philadelphia area... so not in Appalachia by any means.


I don't know if carriage travel on Sunday was banned in any other New England state. The business about not traveling and so on on Sunday was an extreme protestant thing, followed by Presbyterians and Baptists and well as Puritans.
As a high ranking member of government, I guess Jefferson could have pressed for a waiver from a magistrate, but it was just as well that he rested that day and not stir the pot. The inhabitants of Vermont sound... formidable! You might be tarred in maple syrup and left out for the bears. (Just kidding...!) I think there were certain activities that were exempt from the protestant "breaking the Sabbath" rules, but they had to fall under the header of being 1) a work of mercy, or 2) a work of necessity (and there is a third one... but I can't remember it at the moment... ugh). So, making food and taking the effort to feed yourself, you family, you animals was "necessity"... going to a sick friend's house and working to tend them while they are sick was being "merciful"... But what we categorize as "necessity" may have been way off the mark for early protestants! I find it slightly frightening to imagine..... !!!