NO. R-68.  House concurrent resolution commemorating the 225th anniversary of the General Assembly’s inaugural session in 1778 at Windsor.

(H.C.R.36)

Offered by:  Representative Sweaney of Windsor.

Whereas, when elected delegates met at Windsor on July 2, 1777, they adopted Vermont’s original constitution in which Chapter II, Section II, stated, “The supreme legislative power shall be vested in a House of Representatives of the Freemen or Commonwealth or State of Vermont,” and

Whereas, Chapter II, Section VII, directed that the membership of the House “shall consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virtue, to be chosen by the freemen of every town in this State, respectively,” and

Whereas, Chapter II, Section VIII declared annual elections be held for members of the House on the first Tuesday in September but with an exception for the initial election, and

Whereas, given the close geographic proximity and direct impact of the Revolutionary War on the Vermont citizenry, the historic first legislative election, which also elected statewide officials, including governor, deputy governor, treasurer, and 12 executive councilors, was delayed until March 3, 1778, and

Whereas, shortly thereafter, on Thursday, March 12, 1778, 49 new legislators representing 38 towns gathered at Windsor, in the same building where delegates the previous July had approved the first Vermont Constitution, and

Whereas, the House elected Joseph Bowker of Rutland as Speaker, but his control of the legislative gavel was brief as he was also elected an executive councilor, and the newly elected representatives subsequently chose Nathan Clark of Bennington as their presiding officer, and

Whereas, a canvassing committee of 12, comprising both executive councilors and legislators, counted the statewide ballots, declaring, based on his majority vote, Colonel Thomas Chittenden Vermont’s first governor, and

Whereas, initially no deputy governor candidate received a majority of the freemen’s votes, and thus the first joint assembly, comprising the House of Representatives, the governor, and the 12‑member executive council – the Senate’s establishment being one‑half century in the future – elected Colonel Joseph Marsh to this important position, and coincidentally, late‑arriving ballots also provided the colonel a popular vote victory, and

Whereas, as the freemen had not awarded a majority of their votes to any treasurer candidate, the joint assembly entrusted Ira Allen to monitor Vermont’s finances, and

Whereas, in 1778, the House convened for sessions in March, June, and October, totaling 44 days, enacting legislative measures pertaining to the wartime emergency, routine daily life, and individual rights and freedoms, and

Whereas, the legislative precedents established in 1778 are worthy of commemoration, and they provide guidance to 21st‑century legislators as they deliberate on this 225th anniversary of the General Assembly, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly observes, with both humility and great pride, the 225th anniversary of the first convening of Vermont’s legislative branch, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Division of Historic Preservation for display at the Constitution House in Windsor.