The Black Snake Affair

President Thomas Jefferson had to contend with Vermonters who broke federal laws. As tensions with Great Britain intensified in the early 1800s the United States passed laws restricting trade with that nation. But British Canada was Vermont’s major trading partner. Even after the passage of the Embargo Act of 1808, Vermonters continued illegal commerce via Lake Champlain and through the mountain passage that became known as Smugglers’ Notch. When federal customs agents seized the Black Snake, a boat believed to be smuggling potash, violence erupted. Three men were killed, including an innocent bystander. Cyrus Dean, a Black Snake crew member, was found guilty of murder and hanged before a crowd of 10,000 in Burlington.

Vermonters displayed their displeasure with the Jefferson administration’s policies by electing Federalists to three of Vermont’s four congressional seats and to the governor’s office.

Listen to The Black snake and the Fly by Pete Sutherland

To the people of Vermont...

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