Category Archives: Vermont – Historical Documents

Vermont's Noteworthiness

1. Vermont is the only state which truly invented itself. It was an independent republic before becoming a state. (Texas was part of Mexico until 1836.)

2. Vermont was the first state to outlaw slavery in its Constitution.

3. It was also the first to give the right to vote to people without property.

4. When Alexander Twilight graduated from Middlebury College in 1823, he was the first African American college graduate in America.

5. In 1836, he became the first African American to be elected to the state legislature.

6. Vermont was the first state to send troops to fight in the Civil War in 1861.

7. U.S. Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont sponsored the legislation creating land grant colleges in the United States.

8. University of Vermont graduate George Washington Henderson became the second African American Phil Beta Kappa member in 1877.

9. The first canal built in America was in Vermont.

10. The electric motor and the platform scale were invented in Vermont—the first state to receive a patent.

11. Vermonters summarily rejected the development of a Connecticut River Authority modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority.

12. The University of Vermont is the smallest of the flagship state universities in America.

13. Vermont is the most rural state in the nation.

14. Vermont has no death penalty and virtually no gun control laws, yet it is one of the least violent states in the union.

15. Vermont’s Civil Union law was the first in the nation.

16. Vermont was the first state to have a state symphony orchestra.

17. The Green Mountain state is cityless, and its capital Montpelier is the smallest in the country.

18. Vermont has no slums or urban ghettos.

19. Vermont’s unique environmental law regulating real estate development, Act 250, was the first in the nation.

20. In 1993, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the entire state of Vermont as one of America’s most “endangered historical places,” the first time a state had ever been so designated. The designation was repeated in 2004.

21. For twenty years, Cavendish was the home of Russian Nobel prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

22. Vermont was one of the first states to pass a “bottle bill.”

23. It has the highest percentage of unpaved roads and was the first state to ban billboards alongside highways.

24. The Vermont Law School has the best environmental law program in the country.

25. Vermont kept Wal-Mart at bay longer than any other state.

26. Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald’s restaurant.

27. Even though Vermont was the most Republican state in the Nation between 1854 and 1958, it managed to avoid both McCarthyism and the politics of race.

28. Today, Vermont is the most liberal state in the Union. Senator Bernie Sanders and Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss are both Progressives (Democratic Socialists).

29. When Reagan was still riding high, 180 Vermont towns voted in favor of a nuclear freeze.

30. Vermont was the first state to offer a headstart program.

31. Vermont elected a Jewish woman, who was born in Switzerland, governor in 1985.

32. In 1994, when every defeated incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives was a Democrat, Vermont elected a socialist to Congress.

33. Seven of seven independent-minded Vermont towns voted to secede from the Union in their 1990 town meetings.

34. Vermont is always ranked near the top of the list of states who treat women and children well.

35. All three members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation voted against the resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

36. Vermont has no military bases, few defense contractors, and no strategic resources, other than the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

37. Vermont is the healthiest state in the nation according to the United Health Foundation.

38. Seventy-seven percent of the eligible voters in Vermont believe the U.S. government has lost its moral authority.

39. Forty-nine percent of them think the United States has become unsustainable (politically, economically, militarily, and environmentally).

May 15, 2008

Vermont's Declaration of Independence (1777)

To the honorable convention of representatives from the several towns on the west and east side of the range of Green Mountains, within the New-Hampshire grants, in convention assembled.

Your committee to whom was referred the form of a declaration, setting for the right the inhabitants of said New-Hampshire grants have, to form themselves into a separate and independent state, or government, beg leave to report, viz.

Right 1. That whenever protection is withheld, no allegiance is due, or can of right be demanded.

2nd. That whenever the lives and properties of a part of a community, have been manifestly aimed at by either the legislative or executive authority of such community, necessity requires a separation. Your committee are of opinion that the foregoing has, for many years past, been the conduct of the monopolizing land claimers of the colony of New-York; and that they have been not only countenanced, but encouraged, by both the legislative and executive authorities of the said state or colony. Many overt acts in evidence of this truth, are so fresh in the minds of the members, that it would be needless to name them.

And whereas the Congress of the several states, did, in said Congress, on the fifteenth day of May, A.D. 1776, in a similar case, pass the following resolution, viz. “Resolved, That it be recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government, sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs, has been heretofore, established, to adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and of America in general.” –Your committee, having duly deliberated on the continued conduct of the authority of New-York, before recited, and on the equitableness on which the aforesaid resolution of Congress was founded, and considering that a just right exists in its people to adopt measures for their own security not only to enable them to secure their rights against the usurpations of Great-Britain, but also against that of New-York, and the several other governments chaining jurisdiction in this territory, do offer the following declaration, viz.

“This convention, whose members are duly chosen by the free voice of their constituents in the several towns, on the New-Hampshire grants, in public meeting assembled, in our own names, and in behalf of our constituents’, do hereby proclaim and publicly declared, that the district of territory comprehending and usually known by the name and description of the New-Hampshire grants, of right ought to be, and is hereby declared forever hereafter to be considered, as a free and independent jurisdiction, or state; by the name, and forever hereafter to be called, known, and distinguished by the name of New-Connecticut, alias Vermont: And that the inhabitants that at present are, or that may hereafter become residents either by procreation or emigration, within said territory, shall be entitled to the same privileges, immunities, and enfranchisements, as are allowed; and on such condition, and in the same manner, as the present inhabitants, in future, shall or may enjoy; which are, and forever shall be considered to be such privileges and immunities to the free citizens and denizens, as are, or at any time hereafter may be allowed, to any such inhabitants of any of the free and independent states of America: And that such privileges and immunities shall be regulated in a bill of rights, and by a form of government, to be established at the next adjourned session of this convention….”

Your committee [recommends] … that proper information be given to the honorable Continental Congress of the United States of America, of the reasons, why the New-Hampshire grants have been declared a free state, and pray the said Congress to grant said state a representation in Congress; and that agents be appointed to transfer the same to Congress, or the committee be filled up that are already appointed, and that a committee be appointed to draw the draught: That a committee of war be appointed on the east side of the mountains, to be in conjunction with the committee of war on the west side of the mountains, to act on all proper occasions: That some suitable measures be taken to govern our internal police for the time being, until more suitable measures can be taken: that some suitable way be taken to raise a sum of money, to defray the expenses of the agents that are to go to Congress; and for printing the proceedings of the convention, which, we are of opinion, ought to be printed. All which is humbly submitted to the convention, by your committee.

By order of Committee,
THOMAS CHANDLER, Chairman
The Declaration and Petition of the Inhabitants of the New-Hampshire Grants, to Congress, announcing the District to be a Free and Independent State

To THE HONORABLE THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.
The declaration and petition of that part of North America, situate south of Canada line, west of Connecticut river, north of the Massachusetts Bay, and east of a twenty mile line from Hudson’s river, containing about one hundred and forty four townships, of the contents of six miles square each, granted your petitioners by the authority of New-Hampshire, besides several grants made by the authority of New-York, and a quantity of vacant land, humbly sheweth.

That your petitioners, by virtue of several grants made them by the authority aforesaid, have, many year since, with their families become actual settlers and inhabitants of the said described premises; by which it is now become a respectable frontier to three neighboring states, and is of great important to our common barrier Tyconderoga; at it has furnished the army there with much provisions, and can muster more than five thousand hardy soldiers, capable of bearing arms in defense of American liberty:

That shortly after your petitioners began their settlements, a party of land-jobbers in the city and state of New-York, began to claim the lands, and took measures to have them declared to be within that jurisdiction:

That on the fourth day of July, 1764, the king of Great-Britain did pass an order in council, extending the jurisdiction of New-York government to Connecticut river, in consequence of a representation made by the late lieutenant governor Colden, that for the convenience of trade, and administration of justice, the inhabitants were desirous of being annexed to that state:

That on this alteration of jurisdiction, the said lieutenant governor Colden did grant several tracts of land in the above described limits, to certain persons living in the state of New-York, which were, at that time, in the actual possession of your petitioners; and under color of the lawful authority of said state, did proceed against your petitions, as lawless intruders upon the crown lands in their province. This produced an application to the king of Great-Britain from your petitioners, setting forth their claims under the government of New-Hampshire, and the disturbance and interruption they had suffered from said post claimants, under New-York. And on the 24th day of July, 1767, an order was passed at St. James’s, prohibiting the governors of New-York, for the time being, from granting any part of the described premises, on pain of incurring his Majesty’s highest displeasure. Nevertheless the same lieutenant governor Colden, governors Dunmore and Tryon, have, each and every of them, in their respective turns of administration, presumed to violate the said royal order, by making several grants of the prohibited premises, and countenancing on actual invasion of your petitioners, by force of arms to drive them off from their possessions.

The violent proceedings, (with the solemn declaration of the supreme court of New-York, that the charters, conveyance, &c. of your petitioners’ lands, were utterly null and void) on which they were founded, reduced your petitioners to the disagreeable necessity of taking up arms, as the only means left for the security of their possessions. The consequence of this step was the passing twelve acts of outlawry, by the legislature of New-York, on the ninth day of March, 1774; which were not intended for the state in general, but only for part of the counties of Albany and charlotte, viz. such parts thereof as are covered by the new-Hampshire charters.

Your petitioners having had no representative in that assembly, when these acts were passed, they first came to the knowledge of them by public papers, in which they were inserted….These laws were so evidently calculated to intimidate your petitioners into a tame surrender of their rights, and such a state of vassalage, as would entail misery on their latest posterity….

By a submission to the claims of New-York your petitioners would be subjected to the payment of two shillings and six pence sterling on every hundred acres annually; which, compared with the quit-rents of Livingston’s Phillip’s, and Ransalear’s manors, and many other enormous tracts in the best situations in the state, would lay the most disproportionate share of the public expense on your petitioners, in all respects the least able to bear it….When the declaration of the honorable, the Continental Congress, of the fourth of July last past, reached your petitioners they communicated it throughout the whole of their district; and being properly apprized of the proposed meeting, delegates from the several counties and towns in the district, described in the preamble to this petition, did meet at Westminster in said district, and after several adjournments for the purpose of forming themselves as a free and independent state, capable of regulating their own internal police, in all and every respect whatsoever; and that the people, in the said described district, have the sole, exclusive right of governing themselves in such a manner and form, as they, in their wisdom, should choose; not repugnant to any resolves of the honorable the Continental Congress. And for the mutual support of each other in the maintenance of the freedom and independence of said district or separate state, the said delegates did jointly and severally pledge themselves to each other, by all the ties that are held sacred among men, and resolve and declare that they were at all times ready, in conjunction with their brethren of the United States, to contribute their full proportion towards maintaining the present war against the fleets and armies of Great-Britain.

To convey this declaration and resolution to your honorable body, the grand representative of the united states, were we (your most immediate petitioners) delegated by the united and unanimous voices of the representatives of the whole body of the settlers on the described premises, in whose name and behalf, we humbly pray, that the said declaration may be received, and the district described therein be ranked by your honors, among the free and independent American states, and delegates therefrom admitted to seats in the grand Continental Congress; and your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray.
New-Hampshire Grants, Westminster, Jan. 15th, 1777.

Signed by order, and in behalf of said inhabitants,
JONAS FAY,
THOMAS CHITTENDEN,
HEMAN ALLEN,
REUBEN JONES.

Source: William Slade, comp., Vermont State Powers
(Middlebury, Vt.: J.W. Copeland, 1823), pp. 69-73. Also in J. Kevin Graffagnino, Samuel B. Hand, and Gene Sessions, Vermont Voices (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1999), pp. 55-57.(Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1999), pp. 55-57.

Vermont Independence Resolution

NO. R-105. JOINT RESOLUTION designating January as Vermont HISTORY AND Independence MONTH.

(J.R.H.3)

Offered by: Representatives Obuchowski of Rockingham, Ancel of Calais, Miller of Shaftsbury, Donahue of Northfield, Errecart of Shelburne, Heath of Westford, McAllister of Highgate and Milkey of Brattleboro.

Whereas, the first legal reference to the geographic territory that now encompasses the state of Vermont was a 1664 grant of land from King Charles II of Great Britain to his brother, the Duke of York, that encompassed “all the lands from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of the Delaware Bay,” and

Whereas, during the next century, the provinces of New York and New Hampshire each claimed the land contained within Vermont’s future borders, and

Whereas, in 1749, Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire began issuing town grants for settlement of the territory that is now the state of Vermont, and

Whereas, in 1764, King George III of Great Britain and his Council declared that the territory west of the Connecticut River belonged to the province of New York, and

Whereas, this decision led New York to declare the New Hampshire grants void and demand that they be reissued under its own legal imprimatur, and

Whereas, this decision was received with much anger in many towns and led to acts of resistance and violence inspired in part by one of Vermont’s most famous early leaders, Ethan Allen, and

Whereas, several local preludes to Vermont’s declaration of independence include the Bennington Declaration for Freedom issued in May 1775, the Dorset Convention of January 1776 that refuted the authority of the provincial congress of New York, and an even more adamant call to break away from New York issued again from Dorset in September 1776, and

Whereas, in January of 1777, a convention of citizens meeting in the town of Westminster declared this state, initially named New Connecticut, “to be free and independent of the Crown of Great Britain” and equally important from the state of New York, and

Whereas, on June 4, 1777, the Windsor Convention adopted the name Vermont by which our state has been known ever since, and subsequently on July 8, 1777 approved our state’s first constitution, and

Whereas, the state of Vermont, along with the state of Texas, is one of only two states in the United States to have been an independent republic prior to its admission to the union, and

Whereas, the Vermont Constitution was the first state constitution to abolish slavery, establish universal suffrage for all adult males regardless of race, and to create a system of public education, and

Whereas, these events are worthy of observance each year in commemoration of Vermont’s independence and constitutional adoption, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That January be observed annually as Vermont History and Independence Month in recognition of the momentous events which resulted in the establishment of the state of Vermont.

Calvin Coolidge

(From Extemporaneous Remarks at Bennington, Autumn, 1928)

“Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox without being moved in a way that no other scenes could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride; here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our everlasting hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.”

s/Calvin Coolidge

The Constitutionality of Secession

Few words are perceived to be more politically incorrect in America than the s-word, secession. Thanks mostly to Abraham Lincoln, secession is considered to be a complete anathema by liberals and conservatives alike. Although most Americans believe the Civil War proved once and for all that secession is illegal and unconstitutional, nothing could be further from the truth.

In his book A Constitutional History of Secession (2002), John Remington Graham traces the history of secession in America back to Britain’s glorious revolution in 1689 when the Crown passed from James II to William and Mary without armed conflict and in defiance of the constitution of England.

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government,” said Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Just as a group has a right to form, so too does it have a right to disband, to subdivide itself, or withdraw from a larger unit.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison held that the U.S. Constitution was a compact of sovereign states which had delegated very specific powers but not sovereignty to a central government-powers which could be recalled any time. By international law sovereignty cannot be surrendered by implication, only by an express act. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is there any express renunciation of sovereignty by the states.

In an article entitled “The Foundations and Meaning of Secession” which appeared in the Stetson Law Review (1986), Pepperdine University Law Professor H. Newcomb Morse provides convincing evidence that the American states do indeed have the right to secede and that the Confederate states did so legally.

First, three of the original thirteen states-Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island-ratified the U.S. Constitution only conditionally. Each of these states explicitly retained the right to secede. By accepting the right of these three states to leave the Union, has the United States not tacitly accepted the right of any state to leave?

Second, over the years numerous states have nullified acts of the central government judged to be unconstitutional. These instances where national laws have been nullified give credence to the view that the compact forming the Union has already been breached and that states are morally and legally free to leave.

Third, and most importantly, the U.S. Constitution does not forbid a state from leaving the Union. According to the tenth amendment to the Constitution, anything that is not expressly prohibited by the Constitution is allowed. Therefore, all states have a Constitutional right to secede.

However, two new constitutional questions concerning secession emerged shortly after the Civil War ended. First, under military occupation and control, six former Confederate states were coerced into enacting new constitutions containing clauses prohibiting secession. But in the eyes of most legal scholars, agreements of this sort made under duress are voidable at the option of the aggrieved party. Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing to prevent these six states from amending their constitutions again.

During this same period of time and also under duress, the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution was ostensibly ratified. Although this amendment does not explicitly forbid secession, some have argued that it does so implicitly.

However, the fourteenth amendment is tainted by the highly questionable legality of the Union’s invasion of the South. Some legal scholars question whether the fourteenth amendment was ever constitutionally ratified.

According to the Declaration of Independence, we are endowed by our Creator with “certain unalienable rights” including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If that is the case, then it is not much of a stretch to argue that the right of secession is such a right.

Ultimately, whether or not a state is allowed to secede is neither a legal question nor a constitutional question, but rather a matter of political will. How strong is the will of the people in the departing state to be free and independent of the control of the world’s only superpower? How far will the U.S. government be prepared to go in imposing its will on a breakaway republic? Only time will tell!

Long live the Second Vermont Republic!

December 7, 2003