Vermont, one of the six New England states and one of the smaller states of the United States. It is bordered on the west by New York, on the north by the Canadian province of Québec, on the east by New Hampshire, and on the south by Massachusetts.
Despite its proximity to the coastal settlements of the early colonists in the 17th century, Vermont did not receive its first permanent settlement until 1724, and its population grew slowly for 50 years thereafter. Vermont entered the Union on March 4, 1791, the first new state admitted after the nation’s founding by the 13 original states.
Most of Vermont lies outside the intense economic and population concentrations that characterize the eastern seaboard. Its economy is based on industry, although the large amounts of farmland and pastureland give the state an agricultural appearance. Its urban centers are small, as are most of the industrial enterprises. In recent years Vermont has received increasing attention as a vacation area, both in summer and winter. Its rural atmosphere and scenic beauty are highly attractive to residents of nearby urban regions in both the United States and Canada.
The name of the state is derived from the French words vert (green) and mont (mountain), and Vermont is known as the Green Mountain State. Montpelier is the capital of Vermont. Burlington is the largest city.
Vermont ranks 45th in size among the states, with a total area of 24,900 sq km (9,614 sq mi), including 947 sq km (366 sq mi) of inland water. It is the third largest of the six New England states, ranking next to Maine and Massachusetts. Vermont has a maximum length, from north to south, of 251 km (156 mi) and varies in width from 60 km (37 mi) in the south to 143 km (89 mi) along the northern border. Average elevation is 300 m (1,000 ft).
Vermont lies within two natural regions, or physiographic provinces, of the northeastern United States and Canada. The New England province in Vermont is broken into the Green Mountain section, the New England Upland, the Taconic section, and the White Mountain section. The St. Lawrence Valley province extends into Vermont in the Champlain Valley. The heavily forested Green Mountains cover much of the state. They run from the Massachusetts border to Canada and contain Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont at 1,339 m (4,393 ft). The New England Upland, or Vermont Piedmont, is a rolling upland with narrow valleys. It slopes gently downward to the east. Isolated peaks, such as Mount Monadnock and Mount Ascutney, rise to above 900 m (3,000 ft), but the plateau is generally between 340 and 640 m (1,100 and 2,100 ft) in elevation.
The Taconic section, located in the southwest, is a mountain region that contains the state’s largest marble deposits. The highest point in the Taconic Range is Mount Equinox at 1,163 m (3,816 ft).
The White Mountains extend into northeastern Vermont from New Hampshire. They are heavily forested residual masses, with a solid core of granite that has resisted erosion.
The Champlain section of the St. Lawrence Valley province lies between the western border of Vermont and the Green and Taconic mountains. It is a rolling lowland region generally less than 150 m (500 ft) above sea level. Large areas are covered with thick deposits of clay and sand left by glaciers.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
Most rivers in Vermont drain down the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains into the Connecticut River or down the western slopes of the mountains into Lake Champlain. Rivers in southwestern Vermont drain into the Hudson River. The longest river is Otter Creek, which is about 160 km (100 mi) long. Other rivers include the Mettawee, Batten Kill, Winooski, Lamoille, Missisquoi, and the Passumpsic, White, Ottauquechee, and West rivers.
Vermont contains more than 60 percent of Lake Champlain, which is shared with New York and the province of Québec. Another large lake, Lake Memphremagog, forms part of the boundary between Vermont and Québec. About one-fourth of the lake lies in Vermont. There are about 300 smaller lakes scattered throughout the state. The largest lake entirely within the state is Lake Bomoseen. The highest lake is Lake of the Clouds, situated at about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) on the slopes of Mount Mansfield. Chittenden and Somerset reservoirs are the principal artificial water bodies.
In Vermont, winters are generally long and cold and summers mostly short but warm. Average January temperatures range from more than -6°C (22°F) in the extreme southwest corner to less than -10°C (14°F) in the northeast. Temperatures below -18°C (0°F) are frequent during winter, and they occasionally drop to -34°C (-30°F) or lower. July averages are usually above 21°C (70°F) in the lowlands and are somewhat lower in mountainous areas. There are few hot days, and summer nights are usually crisp and cool.
Precipitation in Vermont is well distributed throughout the year. Less than 810 mm (32 in) of rain falls annually in the Champlain Valley, the driest part of all the New England states, and more than 1,300 mm (50 in) occurs in most of the mountainous areas. Snowfall normally is about 2,300 mm (about 90 in)—equivalent to about 230 mm (about 9 in) of rain–and remains on the ground through most of the winter. Snowfall in the mountain region usually exceeds 3,000 mm (120 in) per year.
The growing season is more than 160 days in some sections of the Champlain Valley lowland and less than 120 days in the south and the northeast.
Thin stony soils that are generally infertile and difficult to farm cover most of Vermont. They are deficient in mineral plant nutrients and require heavy applications of lime and fertilizer when they are used for growing crops. Grass, however, thrives in this soil, and Vermont has excellent pastureland. Deeper and more productive soils occur in the Champlain Valley.
Forests cover 78 percent of Vermont. Most of the trees are deciduous, principally the maple, elm, birch, beech, oak, hickory, ash, cherry, and butternut. The state tree is the sugar maple, which provides Vermont’s famous maple syrup. Conifers are common in some mountain areas and include mainly the white pine, red spruce, hemlock, and cedar. A great variety of ferns have been found within the state. Among the more common wildflowers that grow in Vermont are anemones, arbutuses, violets, lilacs, daisies, buttercups, goldenrods, and gentians.
White-tailed deer are common in the wooded areas of the state, and bears, moose, and bobcats are present in some of the higher mountain areas. Smaller animals include the muskrat, skunk, raccoon, and mink, which are hunted for their pelts, and the rabbit, squirrel, and woodchuck. Landlocked salmon and several kinds of trout are found in many rivers and small lakes. Other fish include bass, northern pike, walleyed pike, perch, pickerel, and smelt. Common birds include the robin, redwing blackbird, sparrow, blue jay, chickadee, junco, and nuthatch. The principal game birds are the ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, woodcock, Canada goose, wild turkey, and various ducks.
The principal state agency overseeing Vermont’s environment is the Agency of Natural Resources. The umbrella agency enforces the state’s hunting laws, manages state parks, and regulates environmental protection. In 1970 Vermont enacted the Act 250 Land Use and Development Law, one of the nation’s strictest.
In 2006 Vermont had 11 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 47 percent. Considerable attention has been focused recently on zebra mussel infestations in Lake Champlain (see Mussel) and the heavy use of water for snow making by Vermont ski areas.
Farming was the main economic activity in Vermont until the 20th century, when manufacturing took the lead. By the mid-1990s the service sector, led by tourism, was the fastest growing segment of the state’s economy.
Vermont’s labor force in 2006 was 361,000 people. The largest share of them—39 percent—held jobs in the service industries, such as those catering to tourists. Another 19 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 12 percent in manufacturing; 17 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 5 percent in construction; 11 percent in finance, insurance, and real estate; 4 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; and only 5.3 percent in mining. In 2005, 11 percent of Vermont’s workers were unionized.
There were 6,300 farms in Vermont in 2005. Of those, 39 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000; many of the others were sidelines for operators who also held jobs off the farm. Farmland occupied 506,000 hectares (1.3 million acres), or about one-quarter of the state’s land area. Crops were grown on 46 percent of the farmland; much of the rest was pasture or woodland.
Dairying is still the dominant agricultural activity, with the sale of dairy products and of cattle and calves accounting for about four-fifths of total farm income. With its cool summers and abundant rain, the state is one of the finest hay and pasture sections of the United States. Vermont leads the New England states in the production of milk, hay, and dairy cattle. The state’s other principal crops include apples, Christmas trees, and vegetables, including sweet corn. Poultry and eggs are locally important, as are greenhouse and nursery items. Vermont leads the nation in the production of maple sugar and syrup.
More than three-fourths of Vermont land is forested. Much of it is farm woodlots, however, and is not operated as a regular source of income. The principal hardwoods are the sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch; the principal softwoods are spruce, fir, and white pine. Lumber-processing and wood-processing plants employ about 3,200 workers.
Stone, including granite, marble, limestone, and slate, accounts for much of the total value of mineral production in Vermont. The state is noted for its fine granite and marble. Granite production is centered chiefly around Barre, but excellent gray monumental granite is abundant in many areas east of the Green Mountains. Pink granite occurs in quantity east of Newport. The so-called marble belt is in western Vermont, chiefly in Rutland County. This region also produces slate. The Champlain Valley is a source of limestone.
Vermont has been a major producer of asbestos, and much of the U.S. supply came from Belvidere Mountain, in the northern part of the state. Talc is produced principally in the Green Mountains.
The chief industry in Vermont is the manufacture of electrical equipment, especially electronic components, which accounted for nearly one-third of the income generated by industrial activity in the mid-1990s. The leading employers in the electronics sector are the manufactures of semiconductors and related devices. Other leading industries include printing and publishing; food processing, particularly the making of cheese and other dairy products; machinery manufactures, primarily firms making metalworking machinery; manufactures of fabricated metals, led by the makers of small weapons; and paper and paperboard manufactures. Other large employers include firms making aircraft engines and parts and wood household furniture.
Some types of manufacturing are widely dispersed, such as furniture making and food processing. The state’s distinctive cheddar cheese is made locally in rural areas. The machine-tool industry, however, is concentrated in the Springfield-Windsor area of the Connecticut Valley. Another complex is in the Burlington area of northwestern Vermont, where the production of electrical goods and business machines predominates. The decline of Burlington’s textile and clothing industry has been compensated for by growth in the plastic and electronic industries.
Vermont’s sole nuclear power plant opened in Vernon in 1972, and in 2005 it produced 71 percent of the state’s electricity. Another 21 percent came from hydroelectric facilities. Wood fueled plants operate in Burlington and Ryegate.
Tourism has become an important source of income for Vermont. Initially most tourists visited in summer. However, with the expansion of winter sports activities, tourism has become a year-round industry. Because of tourism, roads have been improved and more permanent residents have settled. Many of the visitors are Canadians. In terms of dollars spent, skiing is now Vermont’s single most important tourist industry.
Vermont’s inland and border location, its hilly terrain, and its hard winters have handicapped the development of transportation. There are few good east-to-west roads across the Green Mountains. However, expanded interstate highway programs have given better truck and automobile transportation. White River Junction, Montpelier, Saint Johnsbury, Rutland, and Burlington are transportation hubs. By 2005 the state had 23,170 km (14,397 mi) of highways, of which 515 km (320 mi) were part of the interstate highway system.
Vermont had 914 km (568 mi) of railroad track in 2004. Stone made up 92 percent of the tonnage of goods shipped by rail and originating in the state, and wood and wood products accounted for 2 percent. About half the railroad mileage is state owned.
Three airports, at Burlington and Rutland and in the Barre-Montpelier area, handle much of the state’s commercial air traffic. Lake Champlain is a link in a waterway system extending from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to New York City.
As a border state, Vermont has many trade ties with Canada. Saint Albans, near the Canadian border, is a port of entry for international rail-freight traffic, and a considerable amount of Canadian lumber and animal feed for New England farms passes through. Burlington, on Lake Champlain, is a port of entry for waterborne freight, especially fuel oil. Burlington is the principal business center.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF VERMONT|
In 2007 Vermont ranked 49th among the states, with a total population of 621,254. This figure represented an increase of 8.2 percent over the 1990 census figure of 562,758. The average population density was 26 persons per sq km (67 per sq mi) in 2006. Vermont’s population is, proportionately, more rural than that of any other U.S. state; only 38 percent of Vermont residents lived in areas defined as urban in 2000. All Vermont urban centers are small. The largest, Burlington, accounts for less than one-tenth of the population, although Burlington and its surrounding Chittenden County region contain one-fourth of the people in the state. The fastest-growing areas are in the Champlain Valley and southern Vermont. The Green Mountains and northern Vermont had less growth, and some communities, notably Rutland and Barre, lost population.
The dominant city by far is Burlington, which had a 2006 population of 38,358. This 200-year-old port on Lake Champlain is a trade and transportation center, the seat of the state’s oldest university, and a summer resort. It also has a diversity of industries. Rutland (16,964), in eastern Vermont, is the center of the state’s marble-quarrying belt. Barre (9,078), in north central Vermont, is the center of what are believed to be the world’s largest granite quarries. Montpelier, with 7,954 inhabitants, is the smallest state capital in the nation.
The largest immigrant group in Vermont is French Canadian. Whites constitute 96.8 percent of the population, Asians 0.9 percent, blacks 0.5 percent, and Native Americans 0.4 percent. Those of mixed heritage or not reporting race are 1.4 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders number 141. Hispanics, who may be of any race, make up 0.9 percent of Vermont’s people.
Vermont church members are predominantly Roman Catholics. The leading Protestant denominations are Methodists and Baptists. The first church services held in what is now Vermont were Roman Catholic Masses at Fort Saint Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666. The Roman Catholic influence in the area originated in Québec and lapsed after the fall of Québec in 1759. Settlers from other New England colonies brought with them Congregational, Baptist, and Episcopal beliefs, and Methodists won many converts in the state in the early l9th century. Roman Catholicism appeared in the state before the Civil War as Irish and French Canadian settlers arrived. Italian populations are a dominant element in the quarry towns.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
With the passage of the original constitution in 1777, Vermont became the first state to provide a clear plan for the establishment of a statewide educational system beginning with the primary school and extending through the university level. The first school law was enacted in 1782, and provisions for statewide taxation to support free public schools were enacted in 1826. The first academy in the state was founded at Bennington in 1780, and public high schools were established rapidly after 1840. Vermont was the site of the first normal school in the United States, founded at Concord Corner in 1823. The state system of public education is supervised by a state board of education and a commissioner of education. Education in Vermont is compulsory for children from age 6 to 16. Private schools enroll 12 percent of the state’s children.
In the 2002–2003 school year Vermont spent about $11,075 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 11.3 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2006, 89.8 percent had a high school diploma, compared to the national norm of 84.1.
The state’s first institution of higher learning was the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, in Burlington, chartered in 1791. Vermont had 6 public and 19 private institutions of higher education in 2004–2005. Among these institutions were Bennington College, in Bennington; Goddard College, in Plainfield; Green Mountain College, in Poultney; Marlboro College, in Marlboro; Middlebury College, in Middlebury; Norwich University, in Northfield; Saint Michael’s College, in Colchester; and the School for International Training, in Brattleboro. The state’s college system comprises Castleton State College, in Castleton; Johnson State College, in Johnson; Lyndon State College, in Lyndonville; Vermont Technical College, in Randolph Center; and the Community College of Vermont, with locations throughout the state.
|C||Libraries and Museums|
The first public library in Vermont was founded at Brookfield in 1791. The state is served by 189 tax-supported libraries. Each year the libraries circulate an average of 6.7 books for each resident. Among the largest libraries in the state are the Fletcher Free Library, in Burlington, and the Rutland Free Library, in Rutland. The State Library is located in Montpelier, and the library of the Vermont Historical Society resides in Barre. The largest university library in the state is that of the University of Vermont.
Fine arts museums in Vermont include the Bennington Museum, in Bennington, and the Robert Hull Fleming Museum, at the University of Vermont. There are a number of historical museums housing Vermont memorabilia. The most noted are the museum of the Vermont Historical Society, in Montpelier; the Shelburne Museum, in Shelburne; and the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, in Middlebury.
In 2002 Vermont had 45 newspapers, including 9 dailies. The first newspaper founded in Vermont was the Vermont Gazette, or Green Mountain Post-Boy, established at Westminister in 1781. The Windsor Vermont Journal followed in 1783. The largest daily newspaper published in Vermont is the Burlington Free Press, followed by the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. There were 13 AM and 36 FM radio stations and 7 television stations operating in Vermont in 2002.
|E||Music and Theater|
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is supported by the state and performs throughout Vermont. In the summer, Mozart and jazz festivals are held in Burlington, and Marlboro College hosts the independent Marlboro Music School and Festival. Pianist Rudolf Serkin was a cofounder of the nationally recognized program, which brings master and young musicians together for study and performances. Bennington College has a noted modern dance program. Brattleboro is home to the Vermont Theatre Company, which presents an annual summer Shakespeare festival. There are also flourishing summer theaters in Dorset, Stowe, Weston, and at Saint Michael’s College.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Vermont’s scenery and recreational facilities make the state a popular year-round vacation area. Residents and tourists alike enjoy the many scenic areas and picturesque communities in the state, especially during the weeks of the fall foliage. During the winter the state’s many ski areas attract skiers from all over the East Coast. Other favorite activities include year-round fishing in the state’s ponds, lakes, and streams; hunting; and visiting Vermont’s numerous historic sites.
|A||National and State Forests|
Green Mountain National Forest covers an area of 140,000 hectares (345,000 acres) in two sections along the crest of the Green Mountains. The forest, which includes winter sports areas and a wide variety of recreational facilities, is a rugged and scenic area traversed by about 130 km (about 80 mi) of the Long Trail, a hiking path extending from Massachusetts to Canada. The largest of Vermont’s six state forests is Mount Mansfield State Forest. Located in the north central part of the state, the forest includes a popular New England ski resort. Among the mountain’s scenic attractions is Smugglers Notch, a scenic gorge through which contraband goods were smuggled from Canada to New England during the War of 1812. Within the state forests are state recreation areas. These areas have facilities for such outdoor activities as picnicking, camping, hiking, and riding.
Parks covering about 36,000 hectares (about 90,000 acres) are operated by the department of forests and parks. These parks have facilities for various outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, swimming, and picnicking. Some of the state parks, including Crystal Lake, Bomoseen, and Branbury, are located along the shorelines of small lakes. Others, such as Grand Isle, Sand Bar, North Hero, and Button Bay, lie on the shore of Lake Champlain. Parts of some state forests, such as Calvin Coolidge State Forest, have been developed for use as state parks and forest recreation areas.
Among the most popular places to visit in the state are Vermont’s state monuments. Old Constitution House, in Windsor, was the site of the framing and adoption of the state’s first constitution on July 8, 1777. Hubbardton Battlefield and Bennington Battle Monument (see Bennington, Battle of) commemorate battles of the American Revolution (1775-1783). In the small community of Plymouth Notch is the President Coolidge Homestead, where Calvin Coolidge lived and where he was sworn in as president in 1923. The replica of the birthplace of President Chester A. Arthur is a state monument located in Fairfield, in northern Vermont, near the Canadian border.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
Among the many historic places of interest in Vermont is the State Capitol, in Montpelier, which dates from the mid-19th century. The Old First Church in Bennington dates from 1805. The interior of the church has been restored to its original 19th-century appearance. Old Round Church in Richmond, dating from 1813, is an unusual 16-sided building topped by a cupola. Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial, on the town line between Sharon and Royalton, marks the site of the farm where the Mormon leader was born.
In the Barre area, visitors may watch the quarrying, finishing, and polishing of Vermont granite. The Vermont Marble Exhibit in Proctor has displays of numerous varieties of native and foreign marble in addition to marble sculptures. Maple Grove Maple Museum near Saint Johnsbury illustrates the process and history of the local maple sugaring.
Each year during the winter months, Vermont’s numerous ski resorts attract many vacationers. There are numerous ski meets and winter carnivals at the various resorts and on the college campuses. Town Meeting Day is celebrated throughout the state on the first Tuesday in March. In April the Annual Sugar Slalom is held at Stowe. Throughout August and September there are numerous county fairs, the principal ones being the Rutland Fair and the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Both are held in early September.
Since it declared its independence from Great Britain in 1777, Vermont has had three constitutions. The first was adopted in 1777, the second in 1786, and the third and present one in 1793, two years after Vermont was admitted to the Union. Vermont’s constitution is the shortest of all functioning state constitutions, with about 7,600 words. Amendments may be proposed only once every four years. An amendment is proposed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. It must then pass the House of Representatives by a majority vote in the same session. At the next session it must pass both houses by a majority vote. Final adoption is only after a popular vote approves the amendment by a majority. The process takes five years.
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for two years. The governor appoints about 300 state officials, about one-third of them with the approval of the state Senate, and is responsible for the preparation of the state budget. The governor may veto all bills passed by the state legislature, but the legislature can override a veto by a two-thirds vote of those present in each house. Other elected officials in the executive branch include the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, and auditor of accounts. All are elected for two years.
Vermont’s state legislature, known as the General Assembly, is bicameral, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. In 1965 the General Assembly acted under order of a federal district court and reapportioned itself. It now has 150 representatives; the membership of the Senate was kept to its original 30. All members of the General Assembly are elected for two years. Regular sessions of the legislature are held annually. The governor may call special sessions.
Vermont’s highest court, the Supreme Court, consists of a chief justice and four associate justices. All are appointed for six years by the governor with the consent of the Senate. The governor, with the consent of the Senate, also appoints superior court judges for six-year terms. They preside in rotation over the court of chancery and over county courts in each of the 14 counties. Lesser judges include court judges, assistant judges of the county courts, and probate judges. All are elected to serve two-year terms except for district judges, who are appointed for six-year terms by the governor with the consent of the Senate.
In Vermont, counties are relatively unimportant governing units. The 14 counties serve mainly as state law-enforcement and judicial districts. The nearly 250 towns and cities in Vermont are the major local governmental units. Since colonial times the major business of town government has been conducted at annual town meetings. The entire town citizenry is eligible to participate in such meetings, but because of increasing populations, many towns have found the town meeting to be an awkward way of conducting business. As a result, in 1961, Brattleboro inaugurated an experimental town meeting, at which business was conducted by selected representatives.
A town may be incorporated as a city by the state legislature on the petition of the town’s citizens. Vermont has nine cities, some with the mayor and city council form of municipal government and some with the city manager form. Vermont also has about 45 incorporated villages, which are subject to the jurisdiction of the towns in which they are located.
Vermont elects two U.S. senators and one member of the House of Representatives. The state has three electoral votes.
When Europeans arrived in Vermont in the early 17th century, the land was held largely by the Western Abenaki, an Algonquian-speaking people, although some portions of the Lake Champlain basin were occupied by the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois had pushed several smaller Algonquian-speaking groups out of the region before 1600, and the Iroquois and Abenaki continued to struggle for control of the area. The Native American population was never very large, and it supported itself mainly by hunting and fishing.
The first European known to have reached the region was the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who arrived in 1609 and reached the lake that now bears his name. He took the side of the Montagnais and Algonquin, Algonquian-speaking peoples, in their struggle with the Mohawk, defeating a Mohawk war party through the use of firearms. With the French as allies, the Abenaki were able to reestablish control over their lost territories, including Vermont. However, Champlain claimed the region for France. For the next 150 years the French fought sporadically with both the Iroquois and the English for control of northern New England.
For more than 100 years after Champlain’s visit, virtually no Europeans settled in Vermont. In 1666 the French built Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte, in Lake Champlain, but the fort was soon abandoned. In 1690 Dutch settlers from Albany, New York, erected a temporary outpost at Chimney Point. The French built forts in 1731 at Crown Point and in 1755 at Ticonderoga, which they called Fort Carillon.
Great Britain also claimed Vermont, and the first permanent British settlement was made there in 1724 by colonists from Massachusetts. They established Fort Dummer on the site of present-day Brattleboro.
As a frontier region, Vermont was often a battleground as France and Britain fought for control of North America between 1689 and 1763. The French continued their alliance with the Abenaki, while the British formed agreements with the Iroquois, who had long fought both French trappers and the Abenaki over the profitable fur trade. The last of a series of wars, the French and Indian War, ended with a British victory in 1763, ejecting France from the continent and opening up Vermont to increased settlement.
The few settlers in Vermont in 1763 had come from colonies that competed for control of the region. The British king had made various charter grants to New Hampshire and New York that resulted in conflicting claims of land in Vermont. In 1741 the king had declared New Hampshire’s western boundary to be wherever it met the boundaries of other colonies. New Hampshire claimed that this boundary was at Lake Champlain and a line 32 km (20 mi) east of the Hudson River. From 1749 to 1763, New Hampshire’s governor, Benning Wentworth, made 138 grants in this region, which came to be called the New Hampshire Grants.
After the British victory over the French, King George III and his council ruled in 1764 that New York had jurisdiction over Vermont. However, Wentworth claimed that the ruling failed to clarify the status of titles he had granted. Meanwhile, New York issued new patents in Vermont, insisting that Wentworth’s grants were worthless, and tried to get New Hampshire grant holders to purchase reconfirmation of their titles. Title to the land was further complicated by speculators who bought disputed claims.
In 1770 New York courts ruled that Vermont settlers without New York grants would be removed from their property. This ruling led the more radical owners of New Hampshire grants to rebel. Ethan Allen, his brothers, Ira and Levi, and Seth Warner helped organize various local militias into the Green Mountain Boys to fight New Yorkers who came to enforce the court decree. New York offered a reward for the capture of leaders of the Green Mountain Boys, and many violent clashes occurred. For five years the Vermonters, especially those west of the Green Mountains, refused to submit to the threats of New York or to the pleas of colonial leaders who wished to end the continual raids.
|C||The American Revolution|
When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, the Green Mountain Boys suspended their struggles with New York to fight against British rule. Under the joint command of militia leader Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, they attacked the British, capturing Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. The British captured Ethan Allen later that year, when he made an ill-considered attack on Montréal. In 1777 the Americans abandoned Ticonderoga to British troops under General John Burgoyne. But on August 16, 1777, Vermont and New Hampshire militiamen, led by General John Stark, decisively defeated a British contingent in the Battle of Bennington. This victory delayed and weakened the British force, which surrendered at Saratoga, New York, two months later (see Saratoga, Battles of).
|D||Independence and Statehood|
On January 15, 1777, Ira Allen and representatives of towns in the New Hampshire Grants declared their independence from Great Britain and established an independent republic. They first called it New Connecticut, then Vermont. At a convention held July 2 to 8, Vermont adopted a liberal constitution, which was the first in America to prohibit slavery. It also gave all adult males, not just those who owned property, the right to vote. A council of safety was appointed to administer the republic until elections were held. Thomas Chittenden became the first governor in 1778.
Throughout the 1780s Vermont remained independent, devising various schemes to force New York and New Hampshire to agree to allow Vermont to join the Union. Vermont coined its own money, established a government structure, announced plans to annex border towns in New Hampshire and New York, and considered the possibility of uniting with Canada. However, after the Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1789, the Congress of the United States looked more favorably on admitting Vermont. In 1790 New York agreed to give up its claims in Vermont in exchange for compensation of $30,000. On March 4, 1791, Vermont became the 14th state.
During the period of independence and early statehood, Vermont’s legislature met in communities east and west of the Green Mountains in alternate years until Montpelier was agreed upon as the permanent state capital in 1805. The first statehouse was built in 1808.
|E||Growth of the State|
Vermont’s population increased rapidly, from about 85,000 in 1791 to 217,895 in 1810. Most of the new residents came from southern New England to settle frontier farms. The state’s economy was based on agriculture, especially wheat, but light industry developed during this period, producing textiles, iron, lumber, and potash, a wood byproduct used for making soap and glass and preparing wool. A thriving trade also grew, mostly with Canada, in beef, grain, lumber, and other goods, and for a time the state was relatively self-sufficient. The War of 1812 (1812-1815), fought between the United States and Britain over the maritime rights of neutral parties, created an economic problem for Vermont. Many residents defied a federal embargo that banned trade with the British and smuggled beef to Canada. After the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, many Vermonters left the state, including farmers attracted by better lands in the Ohio Valley and merchants whose shops had difficulty competing with renewed importation of British goods and the inexpensive, abundant goods coming from Western territories.
The pattern of agriculture changed as farmers, instead of producing just for their own needs, increasingly produced crops and livestock for cash sales or barter. Merino sheep, hogs, horses, and cattle for beef or dairy products became major sources of income. Irish immigrants fleeing famine in the late 1840s, and French-Canadian immigrants after 1865, provided a source of labor for Vermont’s railroads and mills. In the 1840s and 1850s the lumbering business flourished along Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. Vermont was the last New England state to build a railroad, in 1849. After 1865 Italian and Welsh immigrants came to work in the state’s growing marble, granite, and slate quarries.
From the beginning, Vermont’s character and politics were marked by two distinct attitudes. The division roughly followed the line of the Green Mountains, crossing the state from the southwest corner toward the northeast. East of the mountains, the Connecticut River valley was settled largely by migrants from Massachusetts and Connecticut. They tended to be conservative and respectful of laws, members of the orthodox Congregational church, and supporters of the Federalist Party, which sought a stronger central government. The region west of the mountains, however, was home to many independent, even revolutionary, Vermonters: religious dissenters; veterans of the “antirent” wars against large landholders in New York; independent speculators such as Ethan Allen, who fought New York law rather than give up their land; and a few free thinkers who embraced deism, a religious philosophy based on reason rather than revelation or church teachings. Western Vermont tended to support the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, which advocated individual and states’ rights. The presidential election of 1800 demonstrated the differences between the two regions. Jefferson carried the west, while John Adams and the Federalists won the east.
During the War of 1812, Federalists, who opposed the war, and Jeffersonians alternately governed the state. But after the war’s end, the Federalists never held state or federal office in Vermont again.
Vermont was the scene of numerous reform movements from 1820 to 1860, encouraged by religious revivals that were common in the north and near Lake Champlain. Abolitionist and reformer William Lloyd Garrison started the Journal of the Times in Bennington in 1828, arguing against slavery and for moral reform, before leaving the state to found his more famous periodical, the Liberator. Social reformer John Humphrey Noyes founded the Perfectionist Community, a utopian commune, at Putney in 1839. Condemned for its practice of “complex marriage,” free sexual sharing within a community, it was disbanded and later reestablished in Oneida, New York. The Vermont Temperance Society was founded in 1828 to combat the use of alcohol, and in 1852 the state adopted a stringent statewide prohibition law. The statewide prohibition on alcohol lasted until 1902, when a law that gave local communities the option to legalize or ban alcohol sales took its place.
In the 1820s, a national movement developed to oppose the influence of Freemasonry in politics, and it attracted a strong following in Vermont. The Masons, a fraternal organization whose members were sworn to secrecy, included many well-known American and Vermont political leaders. Opponents of the Masons believed it was an elite, antidemocratic society. The opposition movement became the national Anti-Masonic Party after William Morgan, a Mason who was planning to publish a book revealing the secrets of the order, disappeared in 1826 in New York. Although his fate was never determined, it was widely believed that Morgan had been kidnapped and murdered by fellow Masons, increasing hostility toward the order. By 1831 the Anti-Masonic Party held the governorship of Vermont and a majority in the state legislature. The next year, when the national Anti-Masonic Party nominated a candidate for president, Vermont was the only state to cast its electoral votes for the nominee, William Wirt. The Anti-Masons forced the Vermont lodges of the order to close, which left the party with no reason to exist. In 1836 Anti-Masonic leaders joined the new Whig Party.
Vermont had opposed slavery even before it became a state, and when slavery became an important national political issue in the 1830s, the state supported the antislavery forces. During the 1840s the Whig Party was able to maintain control of state offices by campaigning on antislavery platforms. When the national Whig Party broke up in the 1850s over the slavery question, most Vermont Whigs joined the newly formed Republican Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery. John Charles Frémont, the Republican candidate for president in 1856, won about 80 percent of Vermont’s popular vote. For the next 100 years, Vermont remained solidly Republican.
About 35,000 Vermonters, more than 90 percent of them volunteers, fought for the Union and against slavery in the Civil War (1861-1865). No battles were fought on Vermont soil, but in October 1864 the northernmost action of the war occurred in Saint Albans, when a band of Confederate soldiers operating out of Canada crossed the border and robbed the town’s banks of $200,000.
|I||Post Civil War Economics|
Agriculture continued to decline after the war, but dairy farming grew steadily as the railroad provided an efficient way to ship cheese, butter, and milk. Western and European textile factories cut sharply into Vermont’s share of the wool market, although a few Vermont textile mills continued to produce blankets and other fine woolens for another century. Lumbering and wood production assumed the greatest importance in Vermont’s economy during the last half of the 19th century, and manufacturing began to increase as forges and factories turned out machine tools and other metal goods.
In 1878 Redfield Proctor was elected governor of Vermont, beginning a 70-year period in which his family and associates who were prominent in the granite and marble industries and railroads controlled the state Republican Party. In an era when the political machines in many states were run by corrupt bosses, the conservative Proctor organization was noted for its honesty and absence of scandals. Nonetheless, a more liberal anti-Proctor faction in the party consistently challenged the controlling segment in nominating conventions.
This more liberal wing of the Republican Party gained control of the state twice during the first half of the 20th century. The first period was from 1900 to 1916, the peak years of the progressive movement, which sought to curb abuses by governments and industry and to improve life for workers, immigrants, the poor, and other groups. During this period, Vermont passed laws to improve working conditions for women and children, to require factory safety inspections, and to compensate workers injured on the job. The Vermont Progressive Republican League formed in 1912, but in the presidential election that year, it could not carry the state for former president Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who was the candidate of a third party, the progressive Bull Moose Party.
The Republican Party’s liberal wing also held power from 1936 to 1940, when George D. Aiken served as governor, and from 1945 to 1956, when Aiken’s friend Ernest W. Gibson, Jr., successfully challenged the Proctor wing in the Republican primary and went on to serve as governor. From 1940 to 1975, Aiken served in the United States Senate, elected and reelected by large majorities. In the 1950s, although the Republican governors were conservative, Vermont reacted strongly against the extremism and anti-Communism espoused by Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy (see House Committee on Un-American Activities).
The Vermont tradition of thrift and self-reliance was a strong influence in the state’s brand of Republicanism. Vermont was one of the two states to vote for the Republican presidential candidate in 1912, William Howard Taft. The frugality and satisfaction with the status quo that was characteristic of Calvin Coolidge, a Vermonter who became president in 1923, was also typical of the state. When floods caused severe damage to buildings, roads, and railroads in 1927, Vermont refused federal aid until it had first financed road repairs by selling bonds worth $8.5 million; it then accepted the aid and repaid its debt rapidly. In 1936 Vermont again showed its independence by being one of two states to vote against the reelection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Republican dominance of state politics ended in 1958 when Vermont elected its first Democratic congressman, William Meyer, followed by its first Democratic governor in 1962. In the decades that followed, Republicans and Democrats have alternated in the governor’s mansion. Patrick Leahy was the first Democrat to win election to the U.S. Senate from Vermont in 1974, and in 1990 Vermont elected a socialist independent, Bernard Sanders, as its only member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrat Howard Dean, the lieutenant governor who became governor in 1991 when the Republican incumbent died in office, was elected to his first full term in 1992 and reelected in 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000. In 2002 Dean did not seek reelection. In 2003 he began an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination. In 2002 Republican Jim Douglas became governor. Douglas was reelected in 2004.
Vermont continued its independent tradition in 2000 when it became the first state to allow same-sex couples to form civil unions that carry all the rights and benefits of marriage. The measure was passed following a decision by the state Supreme Court that gay and lesbian couples were being unconstitutionally deprived of the rights of marriage.
|L||Economic Development after World War II|
The demand for Vermont’s industrial products, especially machine tools and precision instruments produced in Windsor and Springfield, increased during World War II (1939-1945). However, the difficulty of obtaining some restricted raw materials slowed production and prevented industrial growth. After the war, industry grew steadily, although most businesses remained small. In the 1950s and 1960s, national firms bought small Vermont concerns to gain special patents or processes, and several large industrial companies, including International Business Machines (IBM), opened new factories in the state.
The recreation industry, which had its roots in the 1840s and revived under state government sponsorship during the 1930s, became a chief source of income after World War II. Stowe and other ski resorts in the Green Mountains became popular year-round recreation destinations.
Transportation remained inadequate, not only for the state’s own population and industries but also for tourists. No new railroads were built after the beginning of the century, and railroad passenger service proved unprofitable. In addition, there was not enough traffic from Vermont’s scattered towns to warrant extensive air service. Motor travel was hindered by the legislature’s reluctance to spend state money or to accept federal aid to build roads. Finally, in the late 1950s, a modern highway system was begun, culminating in the opening of two interstate highways in 1969 and 1970.
In the 1970s Vermont developed a strong environmental movement that was instrumental in the passage of various pollution and land control regulations. Billboards disappeared from Vermont highways in the mid-1960s. The legislature passed a sweeping land use law, Act 250, in 1970. It was one of the nation’s strictest development laws, requiring housing developments and ski resorts to meet ten environmental criteria. Vermont’s Clean Air Act levied a tax on new automobiles that get low gas mileage.
Since the 1960s, Vermont’s population has grown rapidly, with many new residents coming from New York and Massachusetts. The rise in computer-related industries, information technology, services, tourism, and small manufacturing and business have characterized much of the economic growth. At the same time, agriculture has declined and many farms have been sold and converted to homes and recreational land. Many Vermont farmers, manufacturers, craft workers, and businesses now look for and supply regional and national markets with specialty foods and products.
In the early 1990s, Vermont suffered from the nationwide recession. Many businesses, especially those with contracts for military and computer-related products, began declining, laying off workers, or closing. Vermont faced difficult economic and political choices as the costs of providing services to businesses and individuals rose and revenues from personal and business taxes leveled or declined. As social services and education became increasingly expensive, state and local governments scrutinized their budgets closely. Many towns rejected school budgets at town meetings and in special votes. Because schools have been supported from local property taxes, the legislature has debated whether to create a statewide property tax or adopt means to reduce the cost of education.
Tourism has become a major industry, emphasizing year-round recreational and cultural activities. This trend at times has conflicted with the state’s strong environmental protection laws, which safeguard natural and cultural resources and promote community and regional planning. In addition to recreational opportunities, “heritage tourism” has expanded, focusing on artistic, cultural, and historic attractions.
The history section of this article was contributed by Michael Sherman. The remainder of the article was contributed by Harold A. Meeks.