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7 July 2008

On this day in history: Constitution of Vermont abolished slavery, 1777

The adoption of the Constitution that created the Republic of Vermont on 7th July 1777 was the result of two disputes: the first between the American colonists and the British crown; the second between the people of the New Hampshire Grants - lands granted by the Governor of New Hampshire, which later became Vermont - and the New York authorities who claimed administration of the lands. Following a declaration of independence from both Britain and New York, as the state of New Connecticut, the people of the Grant lands received advice that they would need a constitution in order to receive admission into the United States (which they achieved in 1791 when Vermont became the fourteenth state of the U.S.A). The Constitution was drafted and ratified at a tavern in the town of Windsor owned by a Elijah West.

Constitution of the - now renamed - Republic of Vermont comprised nineteen articles that guaranteed the basic political and civil rights of its citizens. It was based on the radical democratic Constitution of Pennsylvania, including articles giving voting rights to all freemen, requiring the provision for free education and abolishing slavery - making Vermont the first North American state to make slavery illegal.

The full text of the 1777 Constitution is available at the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration site.