3.5 Statehood

Caption: Act of Congress making Vermont a State (Vermont Historical Society)

The main obstacle between Vermont and U.S. statehood lay in New York’s opposition to recognition based on their now decades old dispute over the New Hampshire Grants. But by 1788, national politics were already beginning to take root in the American Republic and the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, had other considerations, and a letter sent to him by a group of Vermont statesmen sparked his interest. “The Republic, this missive pointed out, was heartily in favor of the Federal gospel. Vermont, if admitted to the Union, would be loyal to Hamilton’s party.”[1]. The South had wanted to add Kentucky, but were getting nowhere without a balancing state from the North. [2]. Vermont would fill the role of that state. But first loose ends had to be tied. “On July 14, 1789, New York’s legislature authorized the appointment of commissioners to meet with Vermont representatives and settle for all time the quarter-century dispute. The notification sent to [Governor] Chittenden hailed him for the first time in all New York’s correspondence with him as ‘Your Excellency.'”[3]. The settlement was reached and the dispute was finally over. “On October 7, the commissioners, meeting in New York City, agreed on the establishment of Vermont’s present western boundary. The Republic consented to pay land claimants under New York patents a total of $30,000. New York, in return, withdrew all opposition to Vermont’s admission to the Union.” [4].

On January 6th, the Vermont Republic held a convention where the United States Constitution was ratified and the delegation agreed to join the United states by a margin of 105-4. “George Washington presented Vermont’s petition for statehood to Congress, February 9, 1791. On February 18, Washington signed the act that made Vermont the fourteenth of the United States.” [5]. Thus ended fourteen years of Vermont independence and the end of a conflict that went back 42 years to 1749 and the establishment of the Grants. What had began as a settler’s militia, the Green Mountain Boys, was later a serious fighting force in the American Revolution, and Allen went from a mob leader to a statesman.

What the history of the Vermont Republic demonstrates is the ability of aggrieved people to break away from political orders they don’t feel are serving them and to try their own hand at statecraft. Vermont, with its revolutionarily liberal constitution, had a great deal of autonomy in the young United States and most importantly was able to keep its independence from New York, which was the source of the conflict in the first place. With that in mind, the short-lived Republic can be seen as a success story instead of a failure as it was able to help Vermonters achieve their original aims.

Next Page: Bibliography


  1. Van de Water, Frederic Franklyn. The Reluctant Republic; Vermont, 1724-1791. New York: The John Day Company, 1941. Accessed March 4, 2017. https://archive.org/details/reluctantrepubli00vand. 336.
  2. Ibid. 336.
  3. Ibid. 336.
  4. Ibid. 337.
  5. Ibid. 337.

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