CONTACT: Sylvia Plumb, Director of Communications, 802.262.2626 x302

Vermont Humanities Council Presents First Wednesdays Lecture

Former Vermont Chief Justice Discusses Civil War Legal Case at St. Johnsbury Athenaeum


St. Johnsbury ~ Former Vermont Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy will consider a historic case argued before the Supreme Court during the Civil War in a talk at St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on April 4. His talk, “The Supreme Court Argument That Saved the Union,” is part of the Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesdays lecture series and takes place at 7:00 p.m.

President Lincoln justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a “necessary war measure.” But was the Civil War, in point of law, a war? Amestoy will tell the thrilling story of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.’s oral argument before the Court in the Prize Cases.

Amestoy was appointed the 38th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont in 1991 by Governor Howard Dean, and was re-elected six times. He began his career in public service in 1974 as legal counsel for the Governor's Commission on the Administration of Justice. He served as Assistant Attorney General from 1974-1981 where his responsibilities included prosecution of white-collar crime and judicial misconduct.
The Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesdays series is held on the first Wednesday of every month from October through May, featuring speakers of national and regional renown. Talks in St. Johnsbury are held at St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.
The 2011-2012 First Wednesdays season in St. Johnsbury concludes with “Speak to Me . . . A Program of Words and Chamber Music” with the acclaimed Craftsbury Chamber Players on May 2 (at St. Johnsbury’s South Congregational Church).

The Vermont Department of Libraries is the statewide underwriter of First Wednesdays. St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is sponsored by Friends of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum/Second Hand Prose.

“The Supreme Court Argument That Saved the Union” is sponsored by the Vermont Bar Association. It is a Vermont Reads 2012 event.

For more information, contact St. Johnsbury Athenaeum at 802.748.8291 or contact the Vermont Humanities Council at 802.262.2626 or [log in to unmask], or visit

First Wednesdays is also presented in eight other communities statewide: Brattleboro (at Brooks Memorial Library); Essex Junction (at Brownell Library); Manchester (at First Congregational Church, hosted by Mark Skinner Library); Middlebury (at Ilsley Public Library); Montpelier (at Kellogg-Hubbard Library); Newport (at Goodrich Memorial Library); Norwich (at Norwich Congregational Church, hosted by Norwich Public Library and Norwich Historical Society); and Rutland (at Rutland Free Library). The program is free, accessible to people with disabilities and open to the public. 

The Vermont Humanities Council is a private nonprofit working to bring the power and the pleasure of the humanities to all Vermonters—of every background and in every community. The Council strives to make Vermont a state in which every individual reads, participates in public affairs, and continues to learn throughout life.

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