On Feb. 18 1791, Congress admitted the state of Vermont to the union.

Prior to this event, the Republic of Vermont had previously existed for 14 years as an independent state. Although New York maintained territorial claims over the state, and its popular governor at one point even urged Congress to impose its position over Vermont through force, such a propensity was deemed to be entirely unrepublican.

Vermont’s founding undoubtedly stands as a unique episode in the history of the world. Following the success of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in the war with Britain, a convention of representatives from nearby towns declared the region completely independent. The state’s 1777 constitution was drafted and ratified in a tavern. The state created its own coinage, maintained a militia, and created its own postal service.

During the time in which Vermont existed as an independent state, it became the first republican government in the history of the world to ban slavery – it did so through its state constitution. However, a 1777 act, A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont, clarified that the state’s manumission undertaking would be gradual, setting age thresholds at which point all slaves would be freed.

Such a plan for gradual emancipation became the model adopted by many other states in the years to come. Despite the caveats, this was a pivotal step in the entire history of western civilization, where a republican government for the first time made a deliberate effort to bring about the demise of slavery in such a radical and unprecedented way.

Dave Benner

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