Early Vermont Constitution Records Now Online

MONTPELIER – Secretary of State Jim Condos announced today that records relating to the first hundred years of the Vermont Constitution, including proposals of amendments, are now available online at: http://vermont-archives.org/publications/publicat/pdf/Council_of_Censors.pdf

Secretary Condos noted, “The records of the Vermont Council of Censors, 1777-1870 provide uniqueinsights not only into the evolution of our state constitution but also on persisting issues such as thenature of representation, constitutions, and citizenship.” The Council of Censors was a constitutional body of thirteen men, elected to one year terms every seven years. It had the authority to review the actions of state government in the preceding seven years to see if they conformed to constitutional requirements. It also was the sole body that could propose amendments to the constitution. Proposed amendments would then be presented to a constitutional convention for ratification or rejection.

The publication of the Council’s records was originally done in 1991 under then Secretary of State Jim Douglas. The Council’s journals were transcribed and annotated by Paul Gillies and Gregory Sanford. Secretary Condos explained that, “Putting Gillies and Sanford’s work online reflects our enhanced opportunities for distributing information through technology. It is part of my commitment to making public information as broadly available, for free, as we can.”

The Censors successfully proposed two-year terms of office; the creation of a state senate; and their own replacement with the current amendment process, though with a ten-year time lock as opposed to the current four years. The Council also foreshadowed the current make-up of the House of Representatives when in 1856 it proposed replacing town-representation with a 150 member chamber based on population. While their proposals failed at the time, their system of proportional representation was essentially adopted in 1965.