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When Vermont helped give birth to the GOP

Imagine Vermont as a stronghold of Republican ideals. You're kidding, right? Well, there was a time in the 19th and 20th centuries when the Green Mountain State welcomed members of the Grand Old Party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan-a time when Vermont Republicans felt welcomed here; a time when liberal-minded residents didn't snub their noses at conservative neighbors (and vice versa). My, how times and partisan politics have changed. Today, GOP strongholds have moved to other states far to the west and south of Vermont.

Forgotten by most Vermonters is the true story of an enterprising attorney from the 19th-century Vermont cowtown of Cornwall; a man who made an indelible mark on the political landscape of Vermont and the nation in the early 1800s.

Solomon Foot, a Cornwall native and loyal Whig Party member, became a pioneer of the fledgling Republican political party in the mid-19th century.

The Whig Party, short for whiggamor-the nickname applied to 17th century Scottish rebels-was the sole party of America's revolutionaries during the 1770s and '80s. But after the demise of the Whigs in the mid 1800s, the party's political philosophy-a party that stressed the individual (not the collective) and free enterprise triumphing over a centralized, federal government-was quickly adopted by their replacements, the Republicans. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig until the party morphed into the GOP (Grand Old Party or Republican Party). Thus, Lincoln became the first Republican president in 1860.

In Vermont, Solomon Foot helped establish the state as a bastion for Whig-Republican ideals well into the mid-20th century-a far cry from the state's post-1960s role as a cradle of liberal Democrat "Blue State" politics.

Foot, born on Nov. 19, 1802 in Cornwall, was a brilliant thinker, eloquent speaker, and raconteur. He was an old-fashioned Vermont lawyer, state representative, and senator. He spent more than 25 years in elected offices.

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