Vermont first state to abolish slavery

Vermonters are a hardy people, not least because they had the bravery to break away from New York and New Hampshire, to become their own self-governing territory. While the 13 colonies were fighting for independence from Britain, local hero Ethan Allen led an armed militia to drive out land prospectors from the neighboring states. The charter for their new constitution was also one of the first to abolish slavery.

On this day, July 2, in 1777, the constitution of Vermont with anti-slavery provisions went into effect, making it the first territory to outlaw the practice.

The Vermont constitution addressed the practice in its very first chapter, which began by echoing the Declaration of Independence 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.” Unlike the original document, the Vermont constitution did not restrict the right to only certain groups: “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.”