Formation of the State of Vermont

 

During these wars, also, grants of land lying within the present limits of the State had been made by the Dutch, at Albany, by the French, and by the colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York, and each claimed jurisdiction over them. All of these claims, except that of New York, however, were relinquished without much controversy, of which more will be spoken on another page. But at the cessation of hostilities the lands were sought so eagerly by adventurers, speculators, and settlers, that in a single year subsequent to 1760, Gov. Wentworth, of New Hampshire, granted in the name of King George III., not less than sixty townships of six miles square, and two years later the number of such grants amounted to 138. The territory now began to be known by the name of the " New Hampshire Grants," and the number of actual settlers soon became quite large. The affairs of these settlers were managed by committees in the several towns, who met in general convention, when occasion required, to provide for their common defense and welfare. The decrees of these conventions were regarded as law, and violations of them were punished with extreme severity. While the Revolutionary war was in progress, the land title controversy was suspended, and all efforts were directed toward the common enemy. But soon after the war broke out it became apparent that the settlers of the Grants needed some better organization than was possible by means of committees and conventions. Accordingly, in 1776, a convention was held at Dorset, and an address was prepared, declaring the unwillingness of settlers to be regarded as subjects of New York. This was not favorably received by Congress, whereupon the more resolute of the people determined to assume the powers of an independent State, and risk the consequences. Another convention was held at Dorset, in June, and met again by adjournment in September, when such measures were taken, that at a convention held in Westminster it was decided, on the 16th of January, 1777, that the following declaration should be adopted:

" 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 names, and in behalf of our constituents, do hereby proclaim and publicly declare, 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 may hereafter become resident, 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, or 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."

This independence Vermont pursued, asking no favors, enjoying no benefits of the Union, and sharing none of her burdens, until March 4, 1791, when she was admitted as one of the Federal States, with the full rights and immunities belonging thereto. Thus the State exists to-day-so may it always exist.

The territory whose history we have thus attempted to briefly outline, is situated in the northwestern corner of New England, and lies between 42 44', and 45 of north latitude, and between 3 35', and 5 29' east longitude, reckoning from Washington, the most eastern extremity being in the town of Canaan, and the most western in the town of Addison. Its length, from north to south, is 157 1/2 miles, and the average width from east to west, 57 1/2 miles, thus giving an area of 9,056 1/4 square miles, or 5,795,960 acres.

The constitution of the State was adopted July 2, 1777, and has remained without very material alterations, the chief being the substitution of a senate of thirty members, apportioned to the several counties according to population, and chosen by a plurality of the freemen of the several counties, in lieu of a council of twelve members chosen by a plurality of the votes of the State at large; and in 1870, a change from annual to biennial State elections and meetings of the legislature. The frame of government now provides for: 1st. The executive, the chief officers of which are governor, lieutenant-governor, and treasurer, all of whom are elected biennially, by the freemen of the State. 2d. A senate of thirty members, elected as before mentioned. 3d. A house of representatives, consisting of one member from each organized town, elected by the freemen thereof. 4th. A judiciary, the officers of which are all elective, the judges of the supreme court, (who are also chancellors,) by the senate and the house of representatives, in joint assembly; the assistant judges of county courts, (a judge of the supreme court presides in each county court,) judges of the probate courts, sheriffs, State's attorneys, and high bailiffs, by the freemen of the respective counties; and justices of the peace by the freemen of the several towns. The State election is held in September, biannually, and a majority of all the votes cast is required to elect every officer, except senators and other county officers, including in the latter justice of the peace elected by the several towns; but in March, the freemen of each town meet for the transaction of the public business of the town and the election of all town officers. Every term of town officers is limited to one year, or until others are elected, and all town elections are therefore annual. The governor's power of appointment is very limited, embracing, ordinarily, his secretary and military staff only; but he has power to fill any office created by law, where the appointment is not fixed by the constitution or a statute, a case which has rarely occurred; and also to fill any vacancy occurring by death or otherwise, until the office can be filled in the manner required by constitution or laws. By recent statutes, the governor may nominate, subject to approval by the senate, various officers. The heads of the various State bureaus, (except the treasurer,) and generals of divisions and brigades, are elected by the senate and house in joint assembly, the former officers biannually, and generals when vacancies occur. The general assembly meets in the even years, on the first Wednesday in October.

The first officers in 1798, were as follows :

  • Thomas Chittenden, governor

  • Joseph Marsh, lieutenant-governor

  • Ira Alien, treasurer

  • T. Chandler, secretary of State

  • Nathan Clark, speaker

  • Benjamin Baldwin, clerk.

 

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