The General Assembly responded to the impending crisis and the coming of war with legislative action. Through acts and resolutions, Vermont’s elected representatives held to the state’s anti-slavery tradition and formally opposed federal measures such as the Fugitive Slave Act and the Kansas-Nebraska Act prior to the war. With the beginning of armed conflict, the General Assembly met in special session in April 1861 to enact legislation to provide for the military. Throughout the war and after, the legislature passed numerous laws to support Vermont’s soldiers. With the end of the fighting, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified by the General Assembly, and the legislature actively supported efforts to commemorate Vermont’s role in the war.
The records of the Vermont General Assembly related to the Civil War can be found in its official acts and resolves and in the journals of the House of Representatives and Senate. The acts and resolves have been published as The Laws of Vermont, and are available at many libraries throughout the state as well as at the State Archives and Records Administration. The State Archives also holds the original acts and resolves (Series SE-005).
The journals likewise have been published as The Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Vermont and The Journal of the Senate of the State of Vermont. These volumes also are available at many libraries and at the State Archives and Records Administration. In addition, the State Archives and Records Administration has produced an index to legislative reports that appear in the journals. Numerous reports related to slavery, the military, and the Civil War can be found in the journals.
“However much Vermont deprecates the horrors of civil war, she believes that the triumph of rebellion, and the anarchy and confusion resulting therefrom, would be infinitely more deplorable, as it would result in the loss of our blood-bought civil liberties and the entire subversion of the idea of a free government.”
– Select Legislative Committee Report, April 26, 1861