History of slavery in Vermont

Among the first places to abolish slavery by constitutional dictum.

- History of slavery in Vermont

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State in the New England region of the United States.

The Old Constitution House at Windsor, where the Constitution of Vermont was adopted on July 8, 1777
A circa 1775 flag used by the Green Mountain Boys
The gold leaf dome of the neoclassical Vermont State House (Capitol) in Montpelier
1791 Act of Congress admitting Vermont into the Union
Vermont in 1827. The county boundaries have since changed.
Map of Vermont showing cities, roads, and rivers
Population density of Vermont
Mount Mansfield
Western face of Camel's Hump Mountain (elevation 4079 ft).
Fall foliage at Lake Willoughby
Köppen climate types of Vermont, using 1991–2020 climate normals.
Silurian and Devonian stratigraphy of Vermont
The hermit thrush, the state bird of Vermont
A proportional representation of Vermont exports, 2020
Fall foliage seen from Hogback Mountain, Wilmington
Lake Champlain
Autumn in Vermont
Stowe Resort Village
The Lyndon Institute, a high school in Lyndon, Vermont
The University of Vermont
Old Mill, the oldest building of the university
Vermont welcome sign in Addison on Route 17 just over the New York border over the Champlain Bridge
Amtrak station in White River Junction
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, in Vernon
The Vermont Supreme Court's building in Montpelier
Vermont towns hold a March town meeting for voters to approve the town's budget and decide other matters. Marlboro voters meet in this building.
Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch greet supporters in 2017.
Vermontasaurus sculpture in Post Mills, in 2010

The Vermont Republic abolished slavery before any of the other states.

Vermont Republic

Independent state in New England that existed from January 15, 1777, to March 4, 1791.

Location of the Vermont Republic in 1777.
Vellum manuscript of the 1777 Constitution of Vermont
Location of the Vermont Republic in 1777.
Vermont coin with the passage VERMONTIS. RES. PUBLICA. on the obverse, and the motto "STELLA QUARTA DECIMA" on the reverse
Engraving of Thomas Chittenden, first and third governor of the Vermont Republic, and first governor of the State of Vermont with the most gubernatorial terms held to date
The Old Constitution House in Windsor, Vermont, where the 1777 constitution was signed, is also called the birthplace of Vermont.
The "Old Chapel" (Castleton Medical College Building) in Castleton

The delegates also forbade slavery within their republic.

Fugitive Slave Clause

Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which requires a "person held to service or labor" who flees to another state to be returned to their master in the state from which that person escaped.

Page one of the officially engrossed copy of the Constitution signed by delegates. A print run of 500 copies of the final version preceded this copy.

This was due at least in part to the fact that by 1787 only Vermont and Massachusetts had outlawed or effectively outlawed slavery.

Constitution of Vermont (1777)

Drafted in July 1777, almost five months after Vermont declared itself an independent country, now frequently called the Vermont Republic.

Vellum manuscript of the Constitution of Vermont, 1777. This constitution was amended in 1786, and again in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the federal union in 1791.
The Old Constitution House in Windsor, Vermont, where the constitution of the Vermont Republic was signed.

The first article declared that "all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety," echoing the famous phrases in the Declaration of Independence that declared that "all men are created equal" and possess "inalienable rights," including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The article went on to declare that because of these principles, "no male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one Years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent." While this was the first such partial ban on slavery in the New World, it was not strongly enforced and slavery in the state persisted for at least another sixty years. See also History of slavery in Vermont.

Stephen Jacob

Sometimes spelled "Jacobs", and his birth date is sometimes incorrectly given as 1754) was an attorney, politician, and judge during Vermont's years as an independent republic and the early years of its statehood.

During Vermont's early history a small number of African American individuals seem to have been illegally bought and sold by some of its white settlers.


Someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property.

Relief depicting slaves in chains in the Roman Empire, at Smyrna, 200 CE
Flogging a slave fastened to the ground, illustration in an 1853 anti-slavery pamphlet
A poster for a slave auction in Georgia, U.S., 1860
Portrait of an older woman in New Orleans with her enslaved servant girl in the mid-19th century
The work of the Mercedarians was in ransoming Christian slaves held in North Africa (1637).
Sale and inspection of slaves
Branding of a female slave
Barefooted slaves depicted in David Roberts' Egypt and Nubia, issued between 1845 and 1849
Slave branding, c. 1853
Corinthian black-figure terra-cotta votive tablet of slaves working in a mine, dated to the late seventh century BC
Ishmaelites purchase Joseph, by Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860
Slave Market in Ancient Rome, by Jean-Léon Gérôme
13th-century slave market in Yemen.
Adalbert of Prague pleads with Boleslaus II, Duke of Bohemia for the release of slaves
A British captain witnessing the miseries of slaves in Ottoman Algeria, 1815
Crimean Tatar raiders enslaved more than 1 million Eastern Europeans.
19th-century engraving depicting an Arab slave-trading caravan transporting black African slaves across the Sahara Desert.
Slave market in Algiers, 1684
Arab-Swahili slave traders and their captives on the Ruvuma River in East Africa, 19th century
A model showing a cross-section of a typical 1700s European slave ship on the Middle Passage, National Museum of American History.
Statue of Bussa, who led the largest slave rebellion in Barbadian history.
Public flogging of a slave in 19th-century Brazil, by Johann Moritz Rugendas
Slave punishment by Jacques Étienne Arago, 1839.
Slaves in Cuba unloading ice from Maine, 1832
Saint-Domingue slave revolt in 1791
Planting the sugar cane, British West Indies, 1823
On March 22, 1873, Spain abolished slavery in Puerto Rico. The owners were compensated.
Funeral at slave plantation, Dutch Suriname. 1840–1850.
A coffle of slaves being driven on foot from Staunton, Virginia to Tennessee in 1850.
Whipping keloid scars of escaped slave, Gordon, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1863). This famous photo was distributed by abolitionists.
Slaves on a Virginia plantation (The Old Plantation, c. 1790).
A contract from the Tang dynasty recording the purchase of a 15-year-old slave for six bolts of plain silk and five coins.
Kisaeng, women from outcast or slave families who were trained to provide entertainment, conversation, and sexual services to men of the upper class.
Persian slave in the Khanate of Khiva, 19th century
Workers being forced to haul rocks up a hill in a Gulag
Forced slave labourers in a Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II
Modern incidence of slavery, as a percentage of the population, by country.
Tuareg society is traditionally feudal, ranging from nobles, through vassals, to dark-skinned slaves.
A world map showing countries by prevalence of female trafficking
Chinese Emperor Wang Mang abolished slavery in 17 CE but the ban was overturned after his assassination.
Olaudah Equiano, His autobiography, published in 1789, helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807 which ended the African slave trade for Britain and its colonies.
Joseph Jenkins Roberts, born in Virginia, was the first president of Liberia, which was founded in 1822 for freed American slaves.
Poster for Spartacus

In 1777, Vermont, at the time an independent nation, became the first portion of what would become the United States to abolish slavery.

History of Vermont

The geologic history of Vermont begins more than 450 million years ago during the Cambrian and Devonian periods.

Mount Mansfield, at 4393 ft, is the highest-elevation point in Vermont. Other high points are Killington Peak, Mount Ellen, Mount Abraham, and Camel's Hump. The lowest point in the state is Lake Champlain at 95 ft. The state's average elevation is 1000 ft.
The flag of the Green Mountain Boys
Vellum manuscript of the Constitution of Vermont, 1777. This constitution was amended in 1786, and again in 1793, two years after Vermont's admission to the federal union in 1791. See Constitution of Vermont (1777) and Constitution of Vermont.
The gold leaf dome of the Vermont State House in Montpelier is visible for many miles around the city. This is the third State House on the site, and like the second, was built in the Greek Revival architectural style. It was completed in 1857. Montpelier became the state capital in 1805.

(See also History of slavery in Vermont.) The tavern has been preserved as the Old Constitution House, administered as a state historic site.

Vermont Historical Society

Founded in 1838 to preserve and record the cultural history of the US state of Vermont.

Seal of the Vermont Historical Society, with the motto non pro nobis laboramus.

The Vermont Historical Society also publishes books and exhibition catalogs on aspects of Vermont history, such as Freedom & Unity, The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777–1810, by Harvey Amani Whitfield; The Vermont Difference, published with the Woodstock Foundation; and Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont'', by Robert A. Mello, which focus on important aspects of Vermont history.

Outline of Vermont


The location of the state of Vermont in the United States of America
An enlargeable map of the state of Vermont
An enlargeable map of the 14 counties of the state of Vermont

Slavery in Vermont

Index of Vermont-related articles

Alphabetical list of articles related to the U.S. state of Vermont.

The location of the state of Vermont in the United States of America
An enlargeable map of the state of Vermont
The Vermont State House in Montpelier
The Coat of Arms of the State of Vermont
An enlargeable map of the 14 counties of the State of Vermont
The Flag of the State of Vermont
The Great Seal of the State of Vermont
The flag of the Vermont Republic

Slavery in Vermont