It seems the U.S. Senate had not planned to be in session on March 4, 1791, but President George Washington summoned them and addressed this message to them:

Gentlemen of the Senate [4 March 1791]

The ‘Act for the admission of the state of Vermont into this union’ having fixed on this, as the day of it’s admission, it was thought that this would also be the first day on which any officer of the Union might legally perform any act of authority relating to that state. I therefore required your attendance to recieve nominations of the several officers necessary to put the federal government into motion in that state.

For this purpose I nominate &c. [Nathaniel Chipman to be judge of the district of Vermont; Stephen Jacobs [Jacob] to be attorney for the United States in the district of Vermont; Lewis R. Morris to be marshal of the district of Vermont, and Stephen Keyes to be collector of the port of Allburgh, in the State of Vermont.]


(The word it's and the word recieve are spelled in those ways on the linked web page.)

Note that he wrote "it was thought", without saying who it was who thought that. But nine days earlier the secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, wrote this:

The Secretary of State having recieved from the Commissioners for the State of Vermont a letter proposing these Questions 1. Whether, as that state will not be a distinct member of the union till the 4th. day of March next, the President can, before that day, nominate officers for it? and 2. if he cannot, whether he can nominate them after the recess of the Senate? makes thereon to the President of the U. S. the following Report.

He is of opinion the President cannot, before the 4th. of March, make nominations which will be good in law: because, till that day, it will not be a separate and integral member of the U. S. and it is only to integral members of the union that his right of nomination is given by the Constitution.

But that nomination may be made on the 4th. of March, and, if the Senate will meet on that day, may be reported to them for their approbation. [ . . . ] This therefore is what the Secretary of State thinks best to be done.

Th: Jefferson Feb. 19. 1791.

My question is whether that precedent has stood.

  • 2
    This could be hard to investigate. For example, if Puerto Rico were to become a state tomorrow, similar appointments would probably be unnecessary because there is already a federal judicial district of Puerto Rico. I expect the same was true of most of the states that have been admitted since then, because they were also US territories. Perhaps Texas, which was also an independent republic before admission to the US, would be the best place to look.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 3:24
  • BTW, the "Commissioners" referred to in Jefferson's letter are two of the appointees, Chipman and Morris. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 3:28

1 Answer 1


The precedent is unlikely to recur. In 1791, Vermont was not territory that was part of the United States in any respect until it was admitted to the Union.

All recent cases have involved two stages. A first in which territory becomes unincorporated territory of the United States outside any U.S. state, which allows federal officials to be appointed there, and a second in which unincorporated territory is granted statehood.

The situation presented in the Vermont case would only come up, if, for example, the U.S. added Canada as a U.S. state pursuant to an act of Congress and Canada ratified its entry into the United States.

  • What about Texas?
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 7:51
  • You wrote: "Vermont was not territory that was part of the United States in any respect until it was admitted to the Union." That is exactly the position of the government of Vermont, but Article II of the peace treaty between the U.S. and Britain of 1783 included Vermont within the boundaries of the U.S., and the state of New York, although relinquishing its claim to Vermont, never allowed that the claim was not valid, and I think these matters are still disputed today. Congress did, however, acknowledge that the entity that had petitioned for admission..... Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:02
  • ....was "the State of Vermont." The act of New York's legislature in 1790 consenting to what they claimed was a part of New York being admitted as a separate state called it (I quote verbatim) "the community now actually exercising independent jurisdiciton as 'the State of Vermont'." Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:03
  • @MichaelHardy "I think these matters are still disputed today." As you note, the matter was resolved in the 1790s. New York no longer claims that Vermont is part of its territory.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 19:20
  • 1
    I wonder if it is relevant to mention that after Congress passed the act admitting Vermont but before the day it went into effect, Congress passed four other acts concerning Vermont: one creating a federal judgeship, one for establishing a station on an island in Lake Champlain where ships entering the U.S. from Quebec would be inspected, and two others. Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 23:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .