Map of Vermont

Vermont became the fourteenth state in 1791, fourteen years after declaring itself independent from the claims of New York. Vermont adopted its first constitution in 1777. Patterning its constitution after the radical document created by Pennsylvania, Vermont went even further, granting universal male suffrage and prohibiting slavery. Wary of power, the framers denied the veto to the governor and forced him to share executive duties with a twelve-man council. A unicameral assembly held legislative power.

The governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer were chosen annually in general elections; they needed a majority to gain office. If there was no majority, the winner was chosen by the Joint Assembly (the House, or General Assembly, and the Executive Council). Freemen of each town selected their representative to the General Assembly annually. Members of the Executive Council were elected statewide. United States congressmen were voted on by district, with the exception of the years 1812–1820, when they were chosen statewide. United States senators were chosen by the Joint Assembly. The Council of Censors were the caretakers of the state constitution. Thirteen men, each elected statewide every seven years to a one-year term, were charged with examining legislation for constitutionality and with proposing appropriate amendments. The early years of statehood saw the old political factions of the Arlington Junto (Thomas Chittenden, the Allen brothers, and their followers) and their opponents fade as the Federalist and Democratic-Republican divisions took center stage. Voter participation was initially sparse but inched upward. It took Jefferson's embargo to jolt Vermonters out of their political inertia. Fifty percent more voters cast ballots for governor in 1808 than in 1807. Madison's declaration of war precipitated a similar rise in 1812. The war years contributed the highest voter turnout of the period. The two parties were evenly matched. In the years of 1813 and 1814, their candidates for governor were separated by less than 300 votes, and the parties in the General Assembly were separated by a handful of votes. Vermont's congressmen were elected by the same narrow margins.

Despite such intense party competition, very few men held statewide office. Straying from its Pennsylvania model, Vermont allowed unlimited reelection to state office and multiple office holding. From 1787 to 1825, only eight men sat in the governor's chair. Only seven men served as lieutenant governor. Just two had been elected treasurer. From 1778 to 1825, only 114 different men sat on the Executive Council, out of a possible 588 seats. Because of this, and because of their ability to hold other offices, a small group were able to wield immense influence in the state.

After the end of the war, the Federalist Party slowly dissolved, and with it voter participation. The last Federalist candidate for governor ran in 1817. The two-party system being defunct, Republican statewide candidates were chosen by caucus in the legislature and ran virtually unopposed. With no issues to divide the populace, by 1825 the number of votes for governor had dwindled to its lowest level since 1800.


  • Aichele, Gary. "Making the Vermont Constitution, 1777–1824." In Michael Sherman, ed. A More Perfect Union: Vermont Becomes a State, 1777–1816. Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1991, pp. 2–37.
  • Bellesilses, Michael. Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993.
  • Brynn, Edward. "Patterns of Dissent: Vermont's Opposition to the War of 1812." Vermont History, 40 (Winter 1972): 10–27.
  • Carroll, Daniel P. "Development of the Unicameral Legislature of Vermont." Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, III (1932): 12–31.
  • Crockett, Walter Hill. Vermont, The Green Mountain State. 5 vols. New York: The Century History Company, 1921–1923.
  • Gilles, Paul S. and D. Gregory Sanford, eds. Records of the Council of Censors of the State of Vermont. Montpelier: Secretary of State, 1991.
  • Graffagnino, J. Kevin. "’I saw ruin all around’ and ‘A comical spot you may depend’: Orcamus C. Merrill, Rollin C. Mallory, and the Disputed Congressional Election of 1818." Vermont History, 49 (Summer 1981): 159–168.
  • Muller, H. Nicholas III. "Early Vermont State Government: Oligarchy or Democracy? 1778–1815." In Reginald L. Cook, ed., Growth and Development of Government in Vermont. The Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences, Occasional Paper 5 (1970): 5–10.
  • ________. "Smuggling into Canada: How the Champlain Valley Defied Jefferson's Embargo." Vermont History, 38 (Winter 1970): 5–21.
  • Potash, P. Jeffrey. Vermont's Burned-Over District: Patterns of Community Development and Religious Activity, 1761–1850. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1991.
  • Roth, Randolph A. The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791–1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Shaeffer, John N. "A Comparison of the First Constitutions of Vermont and Pennsylvania." Vermont History, 43 (Winter 1975): 33–43.
  • Shalhope, Robert E. Bennington and the Green Mountain Boys: The Emergence of Liberal Democracy in Vermont, 1760–1850. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
  • Sherman, Michael, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash. Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont. Barre, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 2004.
  • Smith, Donald Allen. "Green Mountain Insurgency: Transformation of New York's Forty-Year Land War." Vermont History, 64 (Fall 1996): 197–235.
  • Walton, Eliakim P., ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier: J. and J. M. Poland, 1873–1880).
  • Williamson, Chilton. Vermont in Quandary: 1763–1825. Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1949.


The Federalist Party

The Federalist Party was dominated by a man who never actually ran for public office in the United States - Alexander Hamilton. "Alexander Hamilton was, writes Marcus Cunliffe, 'the executive head with the most urgent program to implement, with the sharpest ideas of what he meant to do and with the boldest desire to shape the national government accordingly.' In less than two years he presented three reports, defining a federal economic program which forced a major debate not only on the details of the program but on the purpose for which the union has been formed. Hamilton's own sense of purpose was clear; he would count the revolution for independence a success only if it were followed by the creation of a prosperous commerical nation, comparable, perhaps even competitive, in power and in energy, with its European counterparts." (fn: Marcus Cunliffe, The Nation Takes Shape, 1789-1837, (Chicago, 1959), 23.) (Linda K. Kerber, History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher. p. 11)

"Federalists created their political program out of a political vision. They had shared in the revolutionaries' dream of a Republic of Virtue, and they emerged from a successful war against empire to search for guarantees that the republican experiment would not collapse." (Kerber, p. 3)

"The Federalist political demand was for a competent government, one responsible for the destiny of the nation and with the power to direct what that destiny would be. What was missing in postwar America, they repeatedly complained in a large variety of contexts, was order, predictability, stability. A competent government would guarantee the prosperity and external security of the nation; a government of countervailing balances was less likely to be threatened by temporary lapses in civic virtue, while remaining strictly accountable to the public will." (Kerber, p. 4)

"So long as Federalists controlled and staffed the agencies of the national government, the need to formulate alternate mechanisms for party decision making was veiled; with a Federalist in the White House, Federalists in the Cabinet, and Federalist majorities in Congress, the very institutional agencies of the government would themselves be the mechanism of party. Federal patronage could be used to bind party workers to the Federalist 'interest.' 'The reason of allowing Congress to appoint its own officers of the Customs, collectors of the taxes and military officers of every rank,' Hamilton said, 'is to create in the interior of each State, a mass of influence in favor of the Federal Government.' (fn: Alexander Hamilton, 1782, quoted in Lisle A. Rose, Prologue to Democracy: The Federalists in the South, 1789-1800, (Lexington, Kentucky, 1968), 3.) Federalists though of themselves as a government, not as a party; their history in the 1790's would be the history of alignments within the government, rather than of extrernal alignments which sought to influence the machinery of government." (Kerber, p. 10)

"Major national issues invigorated the process of party formation; as state groups came, slowly and hesitantly, to resemble each other. The issues on which pro-administration and anti-administration positions might be assumed increased in number and in obvious significance; the polarity of the parties became clearer." (Kerber, p. 11)

"As Adams' presidential decisions sequentially created a definition of the administration's goals as clear as Hamilton's funding program had once done, the range of political ideology which called itself Federalist simply became too broad to the party successfully to cast over it a unifying umbrella. Federalists were unified in their response to the XYZ Affair, and in their support of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which passed as party measures in the Fifth Congress, but in little else. The distance between Adams and Hamilton - in political philosophy, in willingness to contemplate war with France, in willingness to manipulate public opinion - was unbridgable; Hamilton's ill-tempered anti-Adams pamphlet of 1800 would be confirmation of a long-established distaste." (Kerber, p. 14)

"One result of the war was to add to Federalist strength and party cohesion. There were several varieties of Federalist congressional opinion on the war: most believed that the Republicans had fomented hard feeling with England so that their party could pose as defende of American honor; many believed that in the aftermath of what they were sure to be an unsuccessful war the Republicans would fall from power and Federalists would be returned to office . . . Regardless of the region from which they came, Federalists voted against the war with virtual unanimity." (Kerber, p. 24)

"As an anti-war party, Federalists retained their identity as an opposition well past wartime into a period that is usually known as the Era of Good Feelings and assumed to be the occasion of a one party system. In 1816, Federalists 'controlled the state governments of Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Massachusetts; they cast between forty percent and fifty percent of the popular votes in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont...Such wide support did not simply vanish...' (fn: Shaw Livermore, Jr. The Twilight of Federalism: The Disintegration of the Federalist Party 1815-1830, (Princeton, 1962), 265.) Rather, that support remained available, and people continued to attempt to make careers as Federalists (though, probably fewer initiated new careers as Federalists). Because men like Rufus King and Harrison Gray Otis retained their partisan identity intact, when real issues surfaced, like the Missouri debates of 1820, a 'formed opposition' still remained to respond to a moral cause and to oppose what they still thought of as a 'Virginia system.' Each of the candidates, including Jackson in the disputed election of 1824 had Federalist supporters, and their presence made a difference; Shaw Livermore argues that the central 'corrupt bargain' was not Adams' with Clay, but Adams' promise of patronage to Federalists which caused Webster to deliver the crucial Federalist votes that swung the election. If the war had increased Federalist strength, it also, paradoxically, had operated to decrease it, for prominent Federalists rallied to a beleaguered government in the name of unity and patriotism. These wartime republicans included no less intense Federalists than Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut and William Plumer of New Hampshire, both of whom went on to become Republican governors of their respective states, and in their careers thus provide emblems for the beginning of a one party period, and the slow breakdown of the first party system." (Kerber, p. 24)

"The dreams of the Revolution had been liberty and order, freedom and power; in seeking to make these dreams permanent, to institutionalize some things means to lose others. The Federalists, the first to be challenged by power, would experience these contradictions most sharply; a party that could include John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Noah Webster, would be its own oxymoron. In the end the party perished out of internal contradiction and external rival, but the individuals who staffed it continued on to staff its succesors." (Kerber, p, 25)

Additional Sources:

  • History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher.
  • The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy. David Hackett Fischer. New York, 1965, Harper and Row.
  • The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800. Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick. New York, 1993, Oxford University Press.

The Federalists were referred to by many monikers over the years by newspapers.

American Party:

  • In 1809, The Concord Gazette refers to the Federalist Ticket as the American Ticket.
  • Beginning in 1810, the Newburyport Herald (MA), began referring to Federalists as the American Party (as opposed to the "French" Party, who were Republicans). This continued in the 1811 elections.


The Aurora, based in Philadelphia, the most well-known Republican newspaper of the era (see American Aurora: A Democratic-Republican Returns by Richard N. Rosenfeld.) in the February 11, 1800 issue referred to Mr. Holmes, the losing candidate for the Special Election for the Philadelphia County seat in the House of Representatives as an "anti-republican".

Federal Republican:

The October 7, 1799 issue of the Maryland Herald (Easton) referred to the Federalist ticket of Talbot County as Federal Republicans. It would continue to be used intermittently throughout the next 20 years. Newspapers that used this term included the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) and Philadelphia Gazette in 1800, the Newport Mercury in 1808, the New Bedford Mercury in 1810, the True American (Philadelphia) in 1812, the Northumberland Republican (Sunbury) in 1815, the United States Gazette (Philadelphia) in 1816 and the Union (Philadelphia) in 1821 and 1822.

Friends of Peace / Peace / Peace Ticket:

Beginning in 1812 ("In laying before our readers the above Canvass of this county, a few remarks become necessary, to refute the Assertion of the war party, that the Friends of Peace are decreasing in this country." Northern Whig (Hudson). May 11, 1812.) and continuing through to 1815 a number of newspapers referred to the Federalists as the Peace Party (or Peacemaker Party, as the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill) of March 19, 1814 used), as the Peace Ticket or as the Friends of Peace due to their opposition of the War of 1812 (many of these same newspapers referred to the Republicans as the War Party). This use occurred all through at least August of 1815, with the Raleigh Minerva of August 18, 1815 referring to the Federalist candidates as Peace candidates.

These newspapers include the Columbian Centinel (Boston), Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill), Providence Gazette, the New York Evening Post, the New York Spectator, the Commercial Advertiser (New York), Northern Whig (Hudson), the Broome County Patriot (Chenango Point), the Independent American (Ballston Spa), the Baltimore Patriot, the Alexandria Gazette, Poulson's, Middlesex Gazette (Middletown), the Political and Commercial Register (Philadelphia), Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia), the Carlisle Herald, Northampton Farmer, Intelligencer and Weekly Advertiser (Lancaster), National Intelligencer (Washington), The Federal Republican (New Bern), the Raleigh Minerva, The Star (Raleigh) and Charleston Courier.

The New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth) took the opposite side, listing the Federalists in the March 16, 1813 edition as "Advocates of Dishonorable Peace and Submission."

Additional Sources:

"The Tyranny of Printers": Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. Jeffrey L. Pasley. Charlottesville, 2001, University Press of Virginia.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senate: the upper house of the United States Congress.

1788 - 1825: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia

Office Scope: Federal

Role Scope: State

Historical Note: Prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, all United States Senators were elected by state legislatures rather than by popular vote.