Sunday, July 10, 2011

* Vermont Rules

Not Giving a Hoot

I have become increasingly  proud of the State I chose to live in 25 years ago --- the Green State with mountains.
Vermont does what is right. It doesn't give a hoot about the rest of the country's opinion.
Vermont leads.
The only State in the Union to outlaw slavery in its Constitution (1779), Vermont (most of Vermont, that is) judges character, not clothing - - - INSIDE not OUTSIDE:  It elected the First Jewish woman Governor; First Socialist Mayor to become U.S. Congressman, then U.S. Senator;  it legislated  the First statewide ban on billboards; the First Civil Union law; and it will soon become the First (I believe) State in the Union to have the foresight and self-preservation to decommission a nuclear power plant (a decision it made prior to Japan's catastrophe and Germany's similar decision, subsequent to that catastrophe, to decommission  all of its power plants).  

Now, a fascinating article by Robert D. Rachlin, The Sedition Act of 1798 and the East-West Political Divide in Vermont  has given me two more reasons to be proud I'm a Vermonter :

  • Vermont defied the Fugitive Slave Act  with counter-legislation :   ". . . in 1850, the Vermont legislature excited a national uproar and general disapproval by its enactment of the Habeas Corpus Law, which, in defiance of the federal fugitive slave laws, imposed on state’s attorneys the duty to protect fugitive slaves. Vermont, the first state to outlaw slavery in its constitution, had a history of antislavery legislation predating 1850. The Vermont law was justly seen as an attempt to nullify the Compromise of 1850, signed by President Millard Fillmore, which greatly strengthened the existing fugitive slave laws."

    Vermont Congressman Lyon "settling"  a dispute with Connecticut Congressman Griswold on the floor of Congress, 1798

  • A Vermont Congressman was re-elected while incarcerated (for four months in 1798):  "Vermonter Matthew Lyon was the target of the very first prosecution under the Sedition Act. This initial foray against dissenters is the more remarkable in that its target was a sitting congressman  . .  .While in jail, he campaigned successfully for reelection to Congress, the only instance in U.S. history of a successful congressional candidacy conducted from behind bars. With the help of  friends his fine was paid,and he promptly returned on a journey to Congress, accompanied along his route by widespread popular adulation." (p. 139)

Note for the non-historian:  it is best to read the "Conclusion" first in Mr. Rachlin's article since the relevance to today's world shines through in those paragraphs.

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