The 14th State: Thomas Jefferson Signs Vermont Statehood Act

Among the highlights of today’s auction of Autographs was one of 28 copies of the act making Vermont the 14th state in the Union signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. The one-page printed document, a resolution of the First Congress, is titled An ACT for the Admission of the State of Vermont into this Union and was issued in Philadelphia, February 18, 1791.

Many in pro-slavery southern states were opposed to the admission of Vermont into the Union (the first state to abolish slavery), partly because they believed doing so would disrupt the political balance between northern and southern states. Critics were appeased when Kentucky became a (largely pro-slavery) state the following year. 

The document received much media attention in Vermont, and sold to a phone bidder for $32,500.

Vermont Public Radio and local television station WCAX aired segments about the lot; and the Associated Press did a write up on the lot. 

Another early Vermont item in the auction was a letter signed by John Jay, as President of the Continental Congress, sending the Act of Congress resolving boundary disputes between New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, endorsed twice by John Hancock, as Speaker of the Massachusetts Council, Philadelphia, September 25, 1779. 

In 1777, the region described by New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth’s New Hampshire Grants was declared by its inhabitants to be the independent republic of Vermont, though the neighboring states did not recognize it. When disagreements about the boundaries of New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts aroused the interest of the Continental Congress in 1779, it resolved to adjudicate the border disputes in the act mentioned in the present letter, which sold for $25,000.