The only New England state with no coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is tucked in between New York to the west and New Hampshire to the east, a border defined by the Connecticut River. Along the northwestern border with New York and the Canadian province of Quebec sits Lake Champlain, the 6th largest body of freshwater in the U.S. The Green Mountains runs north and south through the state and define much of its geography. It is from this mountain range that Vermont gets its name (Green Mountains in French is Verts Monts). A largely mountainous state of pristine lakes, clean fresh water streams and untouched wilderness, some 77% of Vermont is comprised of forestland, along with large areas of meadow and swampy wetlands. The turn of the leaves in autumn is perhaps the most striking natural feature in the state, with bright red and gold hues on the sugar maple trees stretched across hundreds of miles of rolling landscape. Originally claimed by France in the 17th century, the first European settlement was Fort Sainte Anne in 1666. The first British settlement was Fort Dummer in 1724. Vermont the became much a battle ground between the two European powers, as they sought to position themselves strategically in the New World. There were military engagements in Vermont throughout the French and Indian War, and in 1759 Fort St. Frédéric was captured by the British. France's loss in the war gave control over to the British. On January 18th, 1777, the independent Vermont Republic was proclaimed. Later that same year, the British army invaded Vermont and the early Republic collapsed. The Battle of Bennington (August 16th, 1777) was a major turning point in the American Revolutionary War and served as a catalyst for French involvement and aid to the American revolutionaries. After the war, Vermont remained a sovereign entity for 14 years, until becoming the 14th state to join the Union on March 4th 1791.
Statistically, Vermont is the Whitest state in the Union, with some 96.6% of Vermonters identifying themselves as White alone. Its growth rate over the last four years stands at 2.3%, well below neighboring New Hampshire. Burlington, on the shores of Lake Champlain, is the cultural and economic center, as well as the largest city. The Burlington metropolitan area comprises one third of the entire population of Vermont. Montpelier, located in the center of the state, is the smallest populated state capital in the U.S., and the only one without a McDonald’s restaurant. English is the largest ancestral group, at around 18.4% of the population. Irish and French heritage are also common throughout much of the state. Farming was at one time the largest portion of Vermont's economy, but as farmers moved to the Midwest in search of more expansive and fertile grounds, vast areas of the state have been reforested. Tourism is now the state's largest industry, with dairy farming making up a large part of the economy. Maple Syrup is perhaps the most famous of Vermont's exports (with a strong challenge coming from Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream); the state makes up some 25% of all maple syrup production in America. Vermont is seen by many as the most liberal state in the nation, with legislation on civil unions for same sex couples and a focus on environmentalism, though some regard it as more independent and libertarian than firmly on the Left. The state was once devotedly Republican, and with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Vermont had never voted for a Democratic Presidential Candidate until 1992.