Born in county Wicklow, Ireland 1750, Matthew Lyon emigrated to the New World a teenage orphan and was sold into indentured servitude in CT. After working and bartering for his freedom, Lyon moved to the Hampshire Grants with Ethan Allen & Mary Hosford. Enlisting as a Private, he served in all the major local Revolutionary War battles including Ticonderoga, Montgomery’s army and Saratoga. Through the course of his honorable service he was promoted to Adjunct Paymaster to General Seth Warner. However, an early command decision was used cast doubt on his service, with allegations of desertion and dereliction of duty.
Founder of Fairhaven Vermont, publisher of the Scourge of Aristocracy, Congressman Matthew Lyon was imprisoned for violating the Alien Sedition act; which had given the President unconstitutional authority to expel or refuse immigrants and imprison those who published against the administration. He accused the Executive of "selfish avarice, requiring foolish adulation & ridiculous pomp." Lyon won re-election, by a 2 to 1 margin, while serving a four month jail sentence in Vergennes Vermont.
Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Mason, Apollo Austin, the Green Mountain Boys, and the citizens in town ALL tried to pay his $1,060.96 bail but Lyon and his 2nd wife Beulah refused the money.
The ‘Lyon of Vermont’ effectively ended the Federalist Party when casting the tie-breaking vote for President Jefferson during the election of 1800, which had gone to the Congress after the electoral college failed.
After spending all his wealth and political capital winning his own re-election from jail and securing the Presidency for Jefferson, Lyon relocated to Kentucky..
Imprisoned for violating the Alien Sedition act; which gave President Adams the right to bar or expel immigrants and incarcerate those who published against the administration
Lyon's letter published accuses Adams of needing 'foolish adulation' and 'ridiculous pomp'
Four Months in in jail, Oct-Feb.
Re-elected by a 2-1 margin. A parade 12 miles long follows the Lyon of Vermont to Philidelphia.
"One who deserved a monument, and had it in the hearts of every true man, and who stood up... against power and corruption, yet this man was entitled to no thanks from those who came after him..."
“As to the executive, when I shall see the efforts of that power bent on the promotion of the comfort, the happiness, and the accommodation of the people, that executive shall have my zealous and uniform support. But whenever I shall, on the part of the executive, see every consideration of public welfare swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in unbound thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, or selfish avarice; when I shall behold men of real merit daily turned out of office for no other cause but independency of spirit; when I shall see men of firmness, merit, years, abilities, and experience, discarded in their application for office, for fear that they possess that independence, and men of meanness preferred, for the ease with which they can take up and advocate opinions, the consequences of which they know little of; when I shall see the sacred name of religion employed as a state engine to make mankind hate and persecute each other, I shall not be there humble advocate”
"At this agitated and awful crisis, when everything is industriously circulated, which can corrupt or mislead the public sentiment, and prepare the American mind for a state of abject slavery, and degrading subjugation to a set of assuming High Mightnesses in our own country, with a close connection with a corrupt tottering monarchy in Europe, which has long been intolerable to every man whose breast contains the smallest spark of the amor patriae"
"The gentleman from Connecticut yesterday hoped there would be 'better blood and accent ' to carry the question. I have no objections to gentleman of high blood carrying this address. I have no pretensions of high blood, though, I think I have as good blood as any of them, as I was born of a fine, hale, healthy woman. Before yesterday I never heard of gentlemen boasting of their blood in this house. I cannot say, it is true, that I am descended from the bastards of Oliver Cromwell, or his courtiers, or from the Puritans who punished their horses for breaking the Sabbath, or from those who persecuted the Quakers or hanged the witches. I can, however, say that this is my country, because I have no other; and I own share of it, which I have brought by means of honest industry; I have fought for my country. In every day of her trouble I have repaired to her standard and conquered under it. Conquest has let my country to independence, and, being independent, I'll call no man's blood into question."
"...It is all useless, said I; if I wish to come out, they could not hold me; and as I do not, if my limits were marked by a single thread, I would not over step it..."
"A group of foreign liars have discomfited the education, the talents, the virtues and the property of the country. The reason we have no Americans in America."
"Can their hearts endure that the most influential men in the country, all foreigners and all degraded characters? Foreigners must be received with caution, or they will destroy all confidence in government."
"For my own part, I consider these laws as mererly an experiment on the American mind, to see how far it will bear an avowed violation of the Constitution."
....you came to the administration, sir, under the most favorable auspices at a time...when this country was considered an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, and there was a great influx of foreign riches, industry and ingenuity; when this country was happy in the freedom of speech and of the press; when the Constitution was considered a barrier against legislative, executive and judicial encroachments... before offices, places and contracts, were considered as the executive right of the favorite caste. Reflect a little, sir, and see this awful change made four short years... your mad zeal for monarchy, your love for pomp, your unhappy selection of favorites, your regardlessness of the public treasure... has divided the people into parties and fostered among them envy , malice and rancorous hatred toward each other..."
"perhaps in no one instance has our constitution, our sacred bill of rights, been more shamefully, more barefacedly trampled on, then in the case of the passage of the bill called the Sedition law. This, sir, was your darling hobbyhorse. By this law you expected to have all your follies, your absurdities, and your atrocities buried in oblivion. You thought by its terrorism to shut the mouths of all but sycophants and flatterers, and to secure yourself in the presidency at least; but I'll happily have you been disappointed-, the truth has issued from many a patriot pen and press -and you have fallen, never, never to rise again"
Two Fighter & Two Fines (Campbell)
Matthew Lyon "New Man" (Austin)
Matthew Lyon, Hamden of the Congress (McLaughlin)
Life Services of M. Lyon (White)
The Blind African Slave (Brace)
Vt Historic society, UVM archives
Competing accounts of the Griswold hickory cane assault.
Cartoon of Demonic Lyon attacking Congressman Griswold with a wooden sword "what beastly action"
Peter Porcupine (William Cobbett) "my quills shall pierce and my Press shall block you."
While sitting at his desk, his back turned, Lyons was assaulted by Griswold using a Hickory cane. Lyon defended himself, charging Griswold, pushing him back to the fireplace where Lyon armed himself with the fire tongs.
Not everyone could read, limericks and songs were a way of conveying the news.
Lyon was a thorn in the side of the Federalists, neither did they spare barbs
The Green Mountain Boys offered to break Col. Lyon out of jail. Instead, he ran for re-election
All that remains of the building in which Col. Lyon was imprisoned is a hand wrought colonial jail cell. Currently it is in a solar field in Vergennes Vt. Once a year it is used for fund raising...
...pay bail for a good cause
85-90 Militia; (Thomas Rowley was real Bard) Responsible for taking Fort Ticonderoga....by bluff...before Washington was a general.
Fort Ti had all the weapons for the fledgling Continental army. Matthew Lyon fired the first cannon under the auspices of the American eagle. Mounted on Crown Point, NY, a 13-inch called 'Old Sow'
Col. Matthew Lyon founded Fairhaven Vermont.
There is no Lyon Rd.
There is an Adams St.
There is no Lyon rd in Vergennes.
The Green Mountain State has
a State Historic Marker, Fair Haven.
There is nothing in Vergennes, nothing in Montpelier, nothing at a rest stop.
no statue, no monument. no high school baseball team.
Only ghosts and the river tell the tale of the Lyon of Vermont.