Guest Essayist: William J. Federer

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On March 4, 1791, Vermont was the first state admitted to the Union after the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the original thirteen colonies. The current Vermont State Constitution in use was adopted in 1793

The French fortified Lake Champlain by building Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666. It is considered the first settlement in what would later become the State of Vermont. In 1690, some Dutch Reformed Protestant settlers arrived in the area.

Colonial wars followed between the French and the British:

-King William’s War, 1689;
-Queen Anne’s War, 1710;
-Father Rale’s War, 1722;
-King George’s War, 1744;
-Father Le Loutre’s War, 1749;
-French and Indian War, 1754.

The British finally expelled all French from Acadia. Many were deported back to other colonies, or back to France, or fled south to the Caribbean and French Louisiana, where the name “acadian” became pronounced “cajun.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of this expulsion in his epic poem “Evangeline.”

Britain’s King granted a Royal Charter in 1679 to the fur trading company — The Hudson Bay Company — giving it monopoly control over such a large area that for a long period of time it was the largest landowner in the world, comprising 15 percent of North American acreage. The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest continuously operated commercial corporation in North America.

When the British began encroaching further south, the French built Fort St. Frederic in 1734 on Lake Champlain. When the British began encroaching further south, the French built Fort St. Frederic in 1734 on Lake Champlain. In 1759, during the French and Indian War, British commander Jeffrey Amherst advanced with 11,000 soldiers, forcing the French to abandon Fort St. Frederic. The French moved 15 miles further south and built Fort Carillion at a strategic point where Lake George flows into Lake Champlain.

British commander Jeffrey Amherst captured Fort Carillion and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. “Ticonderoga” is the Iroquois word meaning “where two waterways meet.” The capture of the Fort Ticonderoga allowed the British to begin crossing into French territory west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Mohawks sided with the British, and killed many of the French survivors.

Part of the former French territory was called “Ver Mont,” French for “Green Mountain.” British Colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York tried to lay claim to Vermont.

Massachusetts relinquished its claims, but New Hampshire issued land grants to proprietors, who subdivided it into lots. Some lots were set aside for a missionary organization of the Church of England by the name the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and some lots were for the first clergyman who would settle in each township.

In 1775, just three weeks after the Revolutionary War Battles of Lexington and Concord, Ethan Allen led 83 Green Mountain Boys of Vermont on a courageous expedition to capture Fort Ticonderoga. In the early morning of MAY 10, 1775, Ethan Allen, accompanied by Colonel Benedict Arnold, made a surprise assault on Fort Ticonderoga. The bewildered British captain asked in whose name such a request was being made. Ethan Allen reportedly shouted: “In the Name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” The British surrendered in what was one of America’s first victories of the Revolutionary War.

Three weeks after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, Harvard President Samuel Langdon told the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, May 31, 1775:

“If God be for us, who can be against us?

..May our land be purged from all its sins!

Then the Lord will be our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble, and we will have no reason to be afraid, though thousands of enemies set themselves against us.”

A little over seven months later, 25-year-old Colonel Henry Knox incredibly moved 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga over 200 miles across Vermont, New York and New Hampshire to Massachusetts. The cannons were put on a high hill overlooking Boston’s Harbor – Dorchester Heights. This forced British ships to evacuate Boston.

During the Revolution, Vermont not only fought the British but also New York, resulting in Vermont becoming its own independent nation for 14 years, similar to Texas. The people of VERMONT wrote in their original Constitution, 1777:

“Whereas, all government ought to … enable the individuals who compose it, to enjoy their natural rights, and the other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed upon man;

and whenever those great ends of government are not obtained, the people have a right, by common consent, to change it, and take such measures as to them may appear necessary to promote their safety and happiness …

And whereas … the King of Great Britain … continues to carry on, with unabated vengeance, a most cruel and unjust war against them; employing therein, not only the troops of Great Britain, but foreign mercenaries, savages and slaves,

for the avowed purpose of reducing them to a total and abject submission to the despotic domination of the British parliament, with many other acts of tyranny …

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary, for the welfare and safety of the inhabitants of this State, that it should be, henceforth, a free and independent State …

We the representatives of the freemen of Vermont … confessing the goodness of the Great Governor of the Universe, (who alone, knows to what degree of earthly happiness, mankind may attain, by perfecting the arts of government,)

in permitting the people of this State … to form for themselves, such just rules as they shall think best for governing their future society.”

VERMONT’s 1786 Constitution stated:

“That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; therefore, the freedom of the press ought not be restrained.

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State;

and, as standing armies, in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up …

And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.

‘I ____ do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration, and own and profess the Protestant religion.’

VERMONT’s 1790 Constitution stated:

“All persons have a natural and unalienable right, to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings, as in their opinion shall be regulated by the word of God…

No authority can, or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner control the rights of conscience …

Nevertheless, every sect or denomination of Christians ought to observe the Sabbath or Lord’s Day, and keep up some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed Will of God.”

The United States Government accepted Vermont as the 14th State of the United States in 1791, being approved by President George Washington. Denominations grew in numbers, most notably Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Baptists, followed by Methodists, Presbyterians, Free Will Baptists and Quakers. In the early 1800’s, there were also Unitarians, Universalists, and unconventional sects, such as Millerites and Perfectionists.

Beginning in 1820 with the Second Great Awakening, revivalism swept Vermont and academies with religious affiliations were founded. The anti-slavery sentiment was strong in Vermont. In the 1840’s the Catholic Church increased with French Canadians and Irish immigrants. In the late 1800’s, Judaism, Welsh Presbyterianism, Swedish Lutheranism and Greek Orthodoxy made a presence in Vermont. In 2006, the Pew Religious Landscape Survey listed VERMONT as:

-11 percent Evangelical Protestant
-23 percent Mainline Protestant
-0.5 percent Black Protestant
-29 percent Catholic
<0.5 percent Orthodox
<0.5 percent Other Christian
1.0 percent Mormon
<0.5 percent Jehovah’s Witnesses
1.0 percent Jewish
<0.5 percent Muslim
1.0 percent Buddhist
<0.5 percent Hindu
<0.5 percent Other World Religions
7 percent Other Faiths
26 percent Unaffiliated
<0.5 percent No Answer

The State of Vermont put a statue of Ethan Allen in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. On January 9, 1872, Senator Henry Bowen Anthony gave a speech in the U.S. Capital’s Statuary Hall (Washington: F & J. Rives & Geo. A. Bailey, 1872):

“My colleague has well said that it was a happy idea to convert the old Hall of the House of Representatives into the Pantheon of America.

The idea originated with my distinguished friend who sits upon my right, (Senator Justin Smith Morrill of VERMONT,) then a leading member of the House …

It was indeed a happy idea to assemble in the Capitol the silent effigies of the men who have made the annals of the nation illustrious …

I anticipate … every State shall have sent her contribution … of heroes and patriots …

Vermont shall send us the stalwart form of that hero (Ethan Allen) who thundered at the gates of Ticonderoga ‘in the name of the Continental Congress and the Great Jehovah!”

Excerpt reprinted with permission from: The American Minute with Bill Federer, “How America was Almost New France? Jacques Cartier, Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga, Vermont, Ethan Allen” https://myemail.constantcontact.com/How-America-was-almost-NEW-FRANCE–Jacques-Cartier–Champlain–Fort-Ticonderoga–Vermont–Ethan-Allen.html?soid=1108762609255&aid=ct2wE5T0eKc

William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker and best-selling author of many books including “America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations” which has sold over a half-million copies. He is president of Amerisearch.net, a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s Christian heritage. Bill’s American Minute radio feature is broadcast daily across America and via Internet. His Faith in History television program airs on the TCT Network on stations across America and via DIRECTV. A former U.S. Congressional Candidate, Bill has appeared on CSPAN, FOXNews, MSNBC, ABC, FamilyNet, The Eric Metaxas Show, Starnes Country on FOX Nation, Coral Ridge Hour among many others; numerous television documentaries, and radio programs.

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