Vermont State Constitution
Learn about the history of the Vermont State Constitution.
In 1777, Vermont declared independence as a republic. At the time, Vermont was a territory. Many people bought land in Vermont under the New Hampshire or the New York Grants. The Vermont State Constitution established Vermont as an independent republic. Vermont did not join the US until 1791. Article one of the Vermont Constitution says, “all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights.” The Vermont Constitution took inspiration from the US Declaration of Independence. This document was written in 1776, one year before the Vermont Constitution. Article one of the Vermont Constitution also bans adult slavery. It was the first state constitution in North America to ban slavery. But the reality of the ban was very different. Primary sources show that it was difficult to enforce. For example, one well-known Supreme Court case shows that an enslaved woman named Dinah lived in Windsor County until her death in 1809. Constitutions are considered living documents, meaning that they’re subject to change over time. The Vermont State Constitution has been amended several times.
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Read the Vermont State Constitution.
Read the US Declaration of Independence
View a portrait of Vermont’s first Governor Thomas Chittenden on Digital Vermont
Read more about Dinah, an enslaved woman whose case was reviewed by the Vermont Supreme Court
Read the current version of the Vermont State Constitution