It has been said that Vermont’s greatest export is its people, and this is no less true for its political figures. Vermonters who have served their state in Washington, and the natives who left Vermont and served in other states, have been part of an unusually large group of highly regarded public figures from one of the country’s smallest states.
Three-term Whig congressman George Perkins Marsh from Burlington, who served for 21 years as the nation’s first minister to Italy, was a leading figure in the early conservation movement. His book, Man and Nature, was a seminal work in the movement that eventually blossomed into the environmental efforts of the 1960s and 1970s.
Thaddeus Stevens, born in Danville, achieved his political success in Pennsylvania, and was perhaps the best-known of the so-called “radical” Republicans of the Civil War era. Stevens was a militant abolitionist and a leader in the organization of the Republican party. He continually exerted pressure on the Republicans to provide services to freed blacks and was an outspoken opponent of Lincoln. Whereas Lincoln, and to some extent Andrew Johnson, stressed compassion toward the defeated confederacy once the war ended, Stevens stressed retribution, which won him the nickname of “The Scourge of the South.” He pushed for passage of Constitutional amendments guaranteeing rights to all regardless of race and helped establish the Freedman’s Bureau, which was designed to provide food and education for ex-slaves..
Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail email@example.com; or call 223-2851.