On their return, this committee, by issuing circulars and reporting the result of their mission, prepared the way for a convention of delegates from the several towns, which had now become accustomed for some time to act together for mutual defence. This convention met on the 16th of January, 1776, and presented its petition to Congress; but this was subsequently withdrawn, in consequence of a recommendation to submit for the present to New York; and finally, after other preparatory steps, the territory was declared, January 15, 1777, a free and independent state, assuming the picturesque name of Vermont.
This important measure was taken with great firmness, moderation, and unanimity. Yet it was followed, as under existing circumstances might have been anticipated, by opposition on the part of New York, petitioning the Congress not to acknowledge the act; and on the part of New Hampshire, claiming several of the towns which had embodied themselves in the new state. Nor was it until after a variety of changes, and much negotiation, of which the details might fill a volume,* that these external concerns were adjusted, and Vermont became an integral part of the new American Union. That happy event took place, after a satisfactory settlement of all disputes with the states both of New Hampshire and New York, March 4, 1791. The general history of the state since is blended with that of the nation.
Under all their difficulties and embarrassments, in the adjustment of land titles, the subduing of the wilderness, the arrangement of their political concerns, and the horrors of warfare, the inhabitants had not neglected the claims of religion and good learning. The settlement of the ministry in the small towns, as they were successively formed and grew able to sustain it, was followed up with a good degree of zeal and perseverance. The condition of society seemed to require, and effectually obtained, a free toleration of religious sentiments, with no distinction in the claims of sect or denomination. An entire sundering of bonds between the church and the state was accomplished, and the result has seemed to show that then the religion of the gospel flourished best, when left to its own heavenly resources, and the zealous love and efforts of its sincere friends; human laws being only then appealed to, when infractions of special civil compacts rendered such appeal needful. Hence absolute contracts for the support of the ministry can be exacted by law, but the law does not compel any to form such contracts. Revivals of the power of religion have not been unusual. Nearly 20,000 communicants were found in June, 1848, connected with the 189 churches embodied in the " General Convention of Congregational Ministers and Churches," which then held its session at Brandon. And the statistics of other denominations, which are found in this state, as in the rest of New England, bear comparison with this result.
For the cause of education Vermont has done nobly; and she deserves the high honor of being ranked among the few governments that have wisely discerned and followed out with energy the permanent welfare of those who sustain them. The school system of the other New England states has been introduced into Vermont, where upwards of 2400 district schools are maintained by a local tax levied by the inhabitants on themselves, and attended by upwards of 50,000 pupils — being a sixth part of the whole number of inhabitants ; and besides these schools, the state has from time to time chartered a large number of academies ; several of which, however, have since ceased to exist, while several among them are sustained by different religious denominations and private benefactions.
To crown this system, Vermont has a " State University " at Burlington, now in a flourishing condition, and a college at Middlebury, possessing at least equal advantages. Both are high in public favor; the latter being attended by about 100 pupils, the former by 70. There is also a medical college.
Medical societies, and societies for benevolent purposes, have been greatly multiplied in the state. Its agriculture, manufactures, and, by means of Lake Champlain, its navigation also, have been encouraged, developed, and become greatly successful. As yet, no state survey *of its geology has been completed; but the progress of its railroads, so vigorously prosecuted, and promising such advantages in bringing the riches of the west to the sea-coast, will doubtless make apparent also, at an early period, the worth of such a measure.
In 1842 began the celebration of Forefathers' Day ; and that whatever was commendable in their character and spirit may, under the blessing of their and our God, flourish in this now thriving state, is our hearty wish and prayer.