Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jul 2 (1777) Vermont abolishes slavery, declares independence: Rep Matt Lyon "seiz'd the tongs to ease his wrongs"

Vermont the Congressional Pugilist in 1798

On this day in 1777, Vermont legislators announced slavery abolished in the region, the first of any American territory to so do. (On this day in 1964 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act). On July 8, 1777, Vermont wrote equality into its Constitution.

Vermont has a long history of freedom fighting. In 1777, Vermont declared independence from both the British Empire and the United States and formed its own Republic. After fourteen years, the Commonwealth of Vermont became the14th state (the first to abolish slavery). In 1785, Vermont was the first American territory to issue its own currency called Vermont coppers.

Today, the Second Vermont Republic seeks to return it to independence. Lead by Thomas Naylor, a Duke professor of economics and author of Downsizing the USA, members believe Vermont did not join the Union to become part of an empire, and therefore seek permission to leave. The Montpelier Manifesto outlines some of their grievances, including financial firms with bad customer service and "big computer networks." 

The image, entitled "Congressional Pugilist," is from the Library of Congress, with the following description: Drawn in 1798, a crude portrayal of a fight on the floor of Congress between Vermont Representative Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold of Connecticut. The row was originally prompted by an insulting reference to Lyon on Griswold's part. The interior of Congress Hall is shown, with the Speaker Jonathan Dayton and Clerk Jonathan W. Condy (both seated), Chaplain Ashbel Green (in profile on the left), and several others looking on, as Griswold, armed with a cane, kicks Lyon, who grasps the former's arm and raises a pair of fireplace tongs to strike him. Below are the verses: "He in a trice struck Lyon thrice / Upon his head, enrag'd sir, / Who seiz'd the tongs to ease his wrongs, / And Griswold thus engag'd, sir."
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.