In January 1777, Vermont’s citizens were having an identity crisis. The war in which we would ultimately gain our independence was still very much in down when representatives of 28 Vermont towns met in Windsor, Vermont. They gathered to discuss their independence, not from Britain, but from the neighboring colonies of New Hampshire, New York and Quebec.
Until 1764 when King George III revoked New Hampshire’s claim, the land that is Vermont today was claimed by New York and New Hampshire as part of land grants from the British crown. The residents didn’t trust their neighbors to the east so they wanted to make sure New Hampshire residents understood that Vermont was not their turf.
When the war broke out in 1775, Vermont wanted to send delegates to the Continental Congress and join the revolution. The request was denied based on the objection by New York’s Continental Congress delegation which said, pointing to the land grants from King George III that Vermont was part of New York.
Most Vermonters supported independence from Britain, but didn’t want to be part of either New York or New Hampshire or Canada. Unhappy that the Continental Congress would not accept their delegation, the representatives in Windsor declared the Republic of Vermont with its capital in Windsor, Vermont.
The country wrote a constitution, started a postal service and issued currency. Coins made from copper mined in the state (and known as Vermont Coppers) were issued. Thomas Chittenden became its first governor. The republic established formal diplomatic relations with the United States, The Netherlands and France! It hired a representative from Connecticut to lobby the Continental Congress for admission to the United States.
Even though many Vermonters were fighting the British during the Revolution, they were also frustrated with the Continental Congress which refused them admission so they approached the British in 1780 to join Canada. Hoping to drive a geographic wedge between two colonies and military advantage they failed to gain when Burgoyne was defeated in the fall of 1777, the Brits offered generous terms if Vermont agreed to join as a province of Canada.
However, most Vermonters wanted to join the United States. Its coins bore a Latin inscription the “Fourteenth Star” and the seal of the Republic of Vermont had pine tree with 14 branches.
On March 6th, 1790, the State of New York agreed to admit Vermont as a state if New York and the republic could agree on boundaries without going to court. Negotiations began and the Republic of Vermont agreed to buy New York land that would become part of Vermont for $30,000 in an agreement reached in October 1790. This paved the way for an invitation to become a state that was issued by the Confederation Congress. For the record, the Continental Congress changed its name after the Articles of Confederation were ratified.
Events moved quickly. Vermont formed a convention that voted on January 10th, 1791 to ratify the new U.S. Constitution and apply to join the United States. Two months later, on March 6th, 1791, the Congress admitted Vermont as the 14th state. The act of admission is the shortest of any granted to a future state and is the only one that does not have any conditions imposed by the Congress or by the state from which the new state was created.