February 18 – Let's Make It Official, Vermont!

Posted on February 18, 2018

I have written before about Vermont's statehood anniversary, on March 4, but I didn't realize that Vermont had years of being a kinda-sorta state before its 1791 statehood.  

Vermonters are such independent sorts, aren't they? I mean, they even have an independent senator - the famous-and-fiery Bernie Sanders.

Well, that independent streak started a looooooong time ago! In January of 1777, folks from 28 towns in what we now call Vermont met and declared independence from everyone. And what I mean by "everyone" is the British colony of Quebec, the American state of New Hampshire, and the American state of New York. All these political entities laid claim to some or all of Vermont.

The 13 original colonies, and the 13 original states, include both New Hampshire and New York. Many Vermonters wanted to join the new nation as a separate 14th state, but New York leaders in particular threw fits over the idea of losing what they considered their territory, so the Continental Congress didn't recognize a separate Vermont.

So, reluctantly, the delegates from those Vermont towns declared themselves a separate Republic. 

At first, the new government went by the name "the Republic of New Connecticut." Then that was changed to "the Republic of the Green Mountains." (Ethan Allen had created a militia called the Green Mountain Boys.) Finally, in June of 1977, the name Vermont was adopted. This name comes from the French translation of "the Green Mountains": les Verts Monts.

Vermont was de facto independent, since the government that was set up did, in fact, rule the region. In 1777 the Vermont government abolished slavery within its borders -something that nobody else had done. The government adopted an official flag, minted copper coins (which were labeled Vermontis. Res. Publica) and ran a postal system. 

However, Vermont was also de facto a U.S. state. Even though it wasn't recognized as a separate state that was represented in Congress, the American government did consider the land to be part of the nation. For their part, the folks running Vermont's government seemed to consider themselves a U.S. state at least as often as they considered themselves a separate republic. Many of the official documents said "State of Vermont," the chief executive was called a governor, not a president, and Vermonters in general seemed to assume that they would eventually join the U.S.

"De facto" means "in fact," or "in reality." Vermont wasn't officially recognized as a separate state, but it was in reality functioning as one.

It took so long to become an official part of the United States of America, some Vermonters started talking to the British Province of Quebec, considering the possibility of joining up with that larger political entity (now a part of the nation of Canada).
Those negotiations failed. So other Vermonters met with New York officials to settle their border dispute. Vermont ended up paying a chunk of money to distribute to New Yorkers who claimed land in Vermont. And on this date in 1791, Congress passed a resolution dictating that on March 4 of that year, Vermont would be admitted to the United States of America.

It really did manage to be the 14th state admitted, by the way...

Now, enjoy a bit of Vermont in chilly February:

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