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Is there any account of the politics of the revisions of Vermont's constitution in 1793? When Vermont was admitted to the Union on March 4, 1791, it continued to function under the constitution of 1786 that was written while Vermont was an independent country (and which in turn superseded the constitution of 1777).

On this matter it is very easy to surmise that a major motive of the revision was deletion of the lengthy condemnations of the two former enemy states, Britain and New York. It seems especially inappropriate to continue to speak officially of New York as an enemy after admission to the Union. (It just occurred to me that I don't know at what point the confiscations from, and deportations of, "Yorkers" ended in Vermont. In 1784 after the U.S. concluded peace with the British (and the British ceded Vermont to the U.S. although Vermont's government didn't recognize that), the governor of New York was actively threatening to invade Vermont and asking for the support of Congress in so doing.)

But a surmise about the motives is not an account of events. In particular, did the Council of Censors recommend the revision? (Robert Mello's definitive biography of Moses Robinson says nothing about the 1793 revision. I conclude that Robinson --- at that time a U.S. senator --- did not participate this time around.)

  • Perhaps best thought of as a few counties gone astray - no one at the time seemed to take the Vermonters seriously as an "independent country". Not being a former British Colony, they had no legal basis for action against the British. When the two states, New York and New Hampshire, settled their differences, we find Vermont, ready to be admitted as a state. – Peter Diehr Aug 28 '16 at 22:47
  • @PeterDiehr : That's not true. New Hampshire explicitly surrendered its claims to Vermont in 1782. And Massachusetts gave up its short-lived and non-specific claims in 1781. The remaining dispute was between Vermont and New York. And many in Congress and in New York's legislature did take it seriously; for example in August 1781, Congress said they'd admit Vermont to the Union if Vermont gave up its claims to territory west of Lake Champlain and east of the Connecticut River. The Vermont legislature did surrender those claims the following year, but New York's opposition..... – Michael Hardy Aug 28 '16 at 22:55
  • ... still blocked admission. New York's senate voted almsot unanimously to recognize Vermont in 1781, with the result that Governor Clinton threatened to prorogue the legislature if the House of Representatives took it up. And George Washington took it seriously, as evidenced by his letters to Thomas Chittenden. And look at the mentions of it at the Consittutional Convention of 1787. – Michael Hardy Aug 28 '16 at 22:57
  • Yes - everybody had to give up all of their overlapping claims, and their western claims, prior to admission under the Constitution. Such was not the case for the earlier period, under the Articles of Confederation - under which Vermont was not recognized at all. – Peter Diehr Aug 28 '16 at 23:22
  • @PeterDiehr : That it was not officially recognized does not mean that it was not taken seriously. When George Clinton asked Congress to use military force to overthrow the government of Vermont, he was taking it seriously. – Michael Hardy Aug 29 '16 at 4:37
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The Vermont Secretary of State maintains a site, Vermont Constitutions, which contains a link to the Records of the Council of Censors, which downloads a document, published in 1991, and containing 841 pages, which states:

In this work, which includes all known journals and address of the Council, we have tried to place the Council in the context of its time and place, legally, politically, and historically. We have traced the responses of the legislature and the courts to the Council's resolutions and censures. We have also followed the Council's proposals of amendments to the Constitutional Conventions to show what passed and what was rejected.

The Constitution of 1793, and the discussions which took place in 1792, are recorded on pp. 101-152. You should be able to find your answers within.

  • From commentary on page 131 of the pdf file: "The most important of these was the creation of a Senate and the elimination of the Executive Council." Formerly the "Assembly" was one house of the legislature and the "Governor's Council" was the other, and when they could not agree on who should be a U.S. senator, they sat together as a "Grand Committee". But in other circumstances the Governor's Council had an executive function. – Michael Hardy Sep 4 '16 at 18:55
  • "The Convention did vote to expunge the Preamble, which had been added to the Constitution in December of 1777. The Council of Censors did not expressly propose its elimination, but it is missing from the draft Constitution submitted to the Convention. The Convention Journal clearly reflects the delegates' intentions to delete it." – Michael Hardy Sep 4 '16 at 19:02

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