Sent to us by the author.
There is no doubt among Americans that there were thirteen colonies engaged in the struggle with Great Britain just over two hundred years ago. Most will recognize names such as the Green Mountain Boys, Ethan Allen and the Battle of Bennington. Few, however, recognize the role played by this isolated area in our quest for independence.
Vermont, geographically nestled between New York and New Hampshire, was, without a doubt, part of the number that cast off British control of the colonies. Both geographically and evidenced by their full participation, they were as much a colony, that arose from the conflict as, any of other thirteen colonies.
In an area known as the New Hampshire Grants, in lands which were disputed between New York and New Hampshire, lay some rugged and mountainous terrain. The people carved their niches and felt no allegiance to either of the two colonies. After their declaration of independence from Great Britain, they also declared themselves free from New York and New Hampshire.
In 1777, Vermont established its Constitution, basing the right of Vermonters to establish self government on the Declaration of Independence, with its declared right to self government. Ironically, the authors and defenders of the right to self-government and separation from ALL British control denied Vermont the right to self-government and chose to abide by geopolitical boundaries established by the British Parliament. They failed to recognize the right of the people in the disputed lands to establish their own government, in direct opposition to the words by which they declared themselves “free and independent.”
This is not to say that Vermont was denied recognition. From 1777 through March 4, 1791, when Vermont became the first state entering the Union under the Constitution, there are many historical passages that recognize the importance of this state and its true relationship with the War for Independence.
The primary source of political opposition to Vermont’s admission to the Union came from New York. Some of the lands within Vermont were claimed as lands granted to New York. These outstanding claims by the very large and powerful New York caused the Continental Congress and subsequent Constitutional Congress to refuse to even discuss the entry of Vermont as a member of the Union. It wasn’t until 1790, when Vermont agreed to pay $30,000 for the disputed lands, that New York finally removed its opposition, opening the door, finally, to Vermont’s admission.
Vermont, during the course of these events, was the only true “free and independent” colony among the fourteen who had taken on the British. Of all of the states to enter the Union after the first thirteen, only Vermont was required to ratify the Constitution as a condition of entry. Although the entry of Kentucky was approved by the Congress on February 4, 1791 and Vermont on February 18th, the entry of Kentucky was delayed until June 1st so as to allow Vermont’s entry prior to Kentucky, on March 4, 1791.
Further proof of the recognition of Vermont as a true member of the original Union lies in the fact that it is the only state, other than its 13 brothers, allowed a vote to ratify the Bill of Rights, ratifying the ten amendments on November 3, 1791.
Vermont’s admission was recognized, at the times, as a closing of a circle. From the Vermont Gazette of January 24, 1791:
ALBANY [New York], January 13.
XIVth PILLAR OF OUR FREE AND HAPPY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Yesterday morning, the pleasing intelligence of our sister state, VERMONT, having adopted the american constitution, by a state convention, was received by a gentleman of character from that quarter — and at one o’clock, the independent company of artillery paraded, in uniform, and fired a federal salute of 14 guns from Forthill, which was followed by three cheerful huzzas, from a number of our most respectable citizens. This agreeable event, which closes the circle of our federal union, cannot fail of being received with the utmost satisfaction by all americans, of every description, who are friends to order, unanimity, and good government, and to the true welfare of our happy country.