Vermont "Quieting Ancient Settlers" Act (1785)

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A Vermont "Quieting Ancient Settlers" Act was a bill that was voted on throughout towns and town meetings in Vermont in 1785, during the time that Vermont was an "independent district" and not yet a state of the United States.

In June 1785, a vote tally was presented to the General Assembly from the various towns: 756 voted for the bill and 508 against it. This vote was exclusive of the votes in "several towns which did not number their votes, but voted unanimously, some for and others against the bill."[1]

The "Quieting Ancient Settlers" bill was a complex attempt to settle disputes about titles to land. The legislation was also referred to as the "Betterment Acts."[1]

The non-Indian population of Vermont grew from 300 to 85,000 in the years from 1763 to 1791. Settlers migrated into the state and took up land ownership based on sometimes conflicting claims to land from three neighboring colonies. This led to numerous disputes over land titles. The legislation addressed in the "Quieting Ancient Settlers" act was an attempt to resolve these difficulties.

Specifically, the neighboring colonies of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the Province of New York and the Province of New Hampshire all asserted a right to grant land ownership within the territorial space of Vermont.

The Province of Massachusetts Bay said it had the right to grant land under the 1629 charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Province of New York asserted land-granting rights to the territory in Vermont based on the land that had been granted to the Duke of York in 1664. The Province of New Hampshire claimed Vermont's land based on a decree issued by George II in 1740, and the Governor of New Hampshire proceeded to issue 135 land grants between 1749 and 1764. New York declined to recognize these land titles.


Governor calls for legislative remedy

The Governor of Vermont in conjunction with a group known as the "Council of Censors" issued a statement to the Vermont General Assembly on October 14, 1780 stating that it should be a legislative priority to "[make] such resolves as will in equity quiet the ancient settlers." The proposed legislation at that time was referred to as "An Act to quiet Ancient Settlers."[1]

The General Assembly, accordingly, formed a committee to recommend specific legislation. The first piece of legislation developed by this committee was offered for the governor's review in February 1781. It was at this time referred to as "An Act for quieting disputes concerning landed Property."[1] The February 1781 bill only referred to those situations where "different proprietors claimed the same tract of land under two or more charters issued by one and the same authority."[1]

Betterment Act of 1781

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