Who was a Vermonter in the 1820s?
In the 1820s, Vermont had only been part of the US for 30 years! Many Vermonters were farmers, who lived off the land. Vermont is still a rural(in, relating to, or characteristic of the countryside rather than the town) state to this day. But in the 1820s, many Vermonters relied on the land to support their families. In 1820, the US census(an official count or survey, especially of a population) said there were 235,981 people living in Vermont. The US government collects the census every ten years to see how the population of a state changes. This is valuable information that can help the government create a plan to spend money and elect leaders. Vermont’s population grew steadily in the early 1800s.
Vermonters also took part in the second Great Awakening in the 1820s. The Great Awakening was a time of religious revitalization(the action of imbuing something with new life) across New England. The Great Awakening came at a time when many Vermonters wanted change. They wanted to abolish slavery in other states and the sale of alcohol.
Many Black Vermonters lived in the state because Vermont abolished(to do away with completely; put an end to) slavery. Lucy Prince and her family settled in Vermont in the mid-1700s. In 1821, Lucy died. She was the first Black woman to argue in front of the Vermont Supreme Court. Prince had to protect her family’s land from their neighbors. The neighbors were racist(showing or feeling hate towards people of other races) and tried to ruin the Prince family farm. Prince’s children still lived in and around Sunderland, Vermont. Life continued to change for Black Vermonters throughout the 1820s. In 1823, Alexander Twilight became the first Black graduate at Middlebury College. Twilight and the Princes were both respected members of their communities.
Vermont was also a poor state in the 1820s. In the 1820s, many stores offered credit(an amount of money that you borrow, then pay back later). Clerks would mark what customers bought on a certain day. People paid off their bill over a longer period. People that could not pay off their credit were debtors(a person that owes money). If someone’s debt became too high, they went to a poor farm. This was a public(relating to or involving people in general) house that a county would pay for. The living conditions on poor farms were bad. The debtor was forced to gradually work off their debt through hard work. The Vermont state government tried to shut down debtor’s farms many times in the 1820s. The government passed several acts(a law made by the government) to help debtors. Vermont outlawed poor farms for women in 1834 and men in 1838. Life for Vermonters in the 1820s was hard. But changes in the 1820s helped the state become what it is today!
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Many Vermonters in the 1820s were farmers. In 200 years, how have Vermonters’ jobs changed?
Vermonters in the 1820s wanted social change. What did they change in Vermont? Did it help people?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Learn more about census records in Vermont
Read more about Alexander Twilight
Read more about Lucy Terry Prince
Read Building Communities: Choose a Cause Make a Choice
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "1820s-The People." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 4, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/1820s-the-people