The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action

By Joseph F. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

The Vermont Open Town Meeting

The first European to visit Vermont was French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the seventeenth century. The territory, however, was not settled until Fort Dummer was built in 1724 near the location of the current village of Brattleboro. Vermont originally was claimed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. Nine years after the 1740 settlement of boundary disputes with Massachusetts, Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire issued a charter for the town of Bennington. 1 Within the next five years, he issued an additional fourteen charters for towns in Vermont.

Lieutenant Governor Colden of New York in 1763 proclaimed that the territory of Vermont belonged to New York and commenced to issue charters for towns in the Connecticut River Valley. The vast majority of the settlers of Vermont, who emigrated principally from Connecticut, resisted the claims of New York, organized a Council of Safety led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner, and commenced to term the territory New Connecticut. 2

Meeting in Windsor on July 2–8, 1777, delegates to a constitutional convention drafted and proclaimed a constitution of Vermont to be in effect. The constitution was ratified by the legislature in 1779 and again in 1782. The Preamble referred to the dispute between New Hampshire and Vermont in the following terms:

And whereas the Territory, which now comprehends the State of Vermont, did antecedently of right belong to the government of New Hampshire, and the former Governor, thereof, viz. his excellency Benning Wentworth, Esq. granted many charters of lands and corporations within this State to the present inhabitants and others. And whereas the late Lieutenant-Governor Colden, of New York, with others, did, in violation, of the tenth command, covet those very lands: and by a false representation, to the Court of Great-

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The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Chapter 1 - Law-Making by Assembled Citizens 1
  • Chapter 2 - Genesis of the Town Meeting 15
  • Chapter 3 - The Massachusetts Open Town Meeting 27
  • Chapter 4 - The New Hampshire Open Town Meeting 59
  • Chapter 5 - The Vermont Open Town Meeting 83
  • Chapter 6 - The Maine Open Town Meeting 103
  • Chapter 7 - The Connecticut Open Town Meeting 117
  • Chapter 8 - The Rhode Island Financial Town Meeting 129
  • Chapter 9 - The Representative Town Meeting 139
  • Chapter 10 - Democratic Law-Making 163
  • Appendix I 195
  • Appendix II 197
  • Appendix III 199
  • Appendix IV 207
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 229
  • About the Author 233
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