The Independent Republic Of Vermont
County Map Of The States Of New York, New Hampshire, Vermont. Massachusetts, Rhode Id. And Connecticut.(Wikimedia Commons)
Before becoming the fourteenth state in the United States, Vermont was actually an independent country, declaring its independence on January 15, 1777, and remaining that way until March of 1791. It went by various titles, such as republic, commonwealth, and territory, but most often referred to itself as the State of Vermont, in the hopes of eventually being accepted to the union as a state.
The circumstances leading to its independence began in 1664 when Charles II of England granted the lands which would eventually become the State of New York to the Duke of York. In this grant, the lands making up Vermont were included in New York. When Benning Wentworth was appointed the governor of New Hampshire by King George II in 1741, he understood the decree which defined the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts to place Vermont within the New Hampshire territory. As a result, he began selling land grants and thousands of people settled in Vermont.
Naturally, New York disputed New Hampshire’s claim to the land and, on July 20, 1764, King George III ruled in favor of New York. New York then began selling land grants for the area, basically forcing the people who had settled there after buying grants from Wentworth to buy their lands a second time, this time from New York. In 1767, the Privy Council ordered New York to stop selling the land grants, but by that time, unrest had already begun.
A resistance militia known as Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys was formed to prevent New York’s attempts to govern the area. At the same time, local governments delivered harsh punishment to anyone accepting a public position, such as sheriff or justice of the peace, from the government of New York. When the colonies declared their independence from the British in July 1776, any hope of British courts resolving the disputes was lost. As a result, the local government declared its own independence the following January. The name Vermont was derived from a French phrase meaning “Green Mountain.”
As soon as they had declared their independence, the government of Vermont petitioned to be recognized alongside the other states in the union; however, they were denied due to objections from New York and New Hampshire. On July 8, 1777, Vermont adopted the first written national constitution in North America. This constitution was also the first to prohibit slavery and extend the voting rights to all adult males, regardless of whether they owned property. In March 1778, Thomas Chittenden was elected as Vermont’s first governor.
Having been denied representation in the Continental Congress, the government of Vermont entered into their own peace negotiations with the British. They offered to become a British colony as part of Canada in exchange for protection from New York. These negotiations succeeded in freeing a number of war prisoners in Vermont, but the republic remained independent. It wasn’t until 1791 that they were finally admitted to the Union, most likely to maintain the balance between the northern and southern states as Kentucky was soon to be admitted the following year.
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