Ethan Allen (January 21, 1738 [O.S. January 10, 1737] – February 12, 1789) was a farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, lay theologian, American Revolutionary War patriot, and politician. He is best known as one of the founders of Vermont and for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga early in the Revolutionary War. He was the brother of Ira Allen and the father of Frances Allen.
Allen was born in rural Connecticut and had a frontier upbringing, but he also received an education that included some philosophical teachings. In the late 1760s, he became interested in the New Hampshire Grants, buying land there and becoming embroiled in the legal disputes surrounding the territory. Legal setbacks led to the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, whom Allen led in a campaign of intimidation and property destruction to drive New York settlers from the Grants. He and the Green Mountain Boys seized the initiative early in the Revolutionary War and captured Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775. In September 1775, he led a failed attempt on Montreal which resulted in his capture by British authorities. He was imprisoned aboard Royal Navy ships, then paroled in New York City, and finally released in a prisoner exchange in 1778.
Upon his release, Allen returned to the New Hampshire Grants which had declared independence in 1777, and he resumed political activity in the territory, continuing resistance to New York’s attempts to assert control over the territory. He lobbied Congress for Vermont’s official state recognition, and he participated in controversial negotiations with the British over the possibility of Vermont becoming a separate British province.
Allen wrote accounts of his exploits in the war that were widely read in the 19th century, as well as philosophical treatises and documents relating to the politics of Vermont’s formation. His business dealings included successful farming operations, one of Connecticut’s early iron works, and land speculation in the Vermont territory. Allen and his brothers purchased tracts of land that became Burlington, Vermont. He was married twice, fathering eight children.