Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

The Fundamental Orders were adopted by the Connecticut Colony council on January 14, 1639 OS (January 24, 1639 NS).[1][2] The fundamental orders describe the government set up by the Connecticut River towns, setting its structure and powers. They wanted the government to have access to the open ocean for trading.

The Orders have the features of a written constitution and are considered by one author to be the first written Constitution in the Western tradition, although the Mayflower Compact has an equal claim 19 years before.[3] Thus, Connecticut earned its nickname of The Constitution State. Connecticut historian John Fiske was the first to claim that the Fundamental Orders were the first written Constitution, a claim disputed by some modern historians.[4] The orders were transcribed into the official colony records by the colony's secretary Thomas Welles. It was a Constitution the government that Massachusetts had set up. However, this Order gave men more voting rights and made more men eligible to run for elected positions.


In the year of 1635, a group of Puritans and others who were dissatisfied with the rate of Anglican reforms sought to establish an ecclesiastical society subject to their own rules and regulations. The Massachusetts General Court granted them permission to settle the cities of Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford.[5] Ownership of the land was called into dispute by the English holders of the Warwick Patent of 1631. The Massachusetts General Court established the March Commission to mediate the dispute, and named Roger Ludlow as its head. The Commission named eight magistrates from the Connecticut towns to implement a legal system. The March commission expired in March 1636, after which the settlers continued to self-govern.

On May 29, 1638, Ludlow wrote to Massachusetts Governor Winthrop that the colonists wanted to "unite ourselves to walk and lie peaceably and lovingly together." Ludlow and other principals drafted the Fundamental Orders, which were adopted on January 14, 1639 OS (January 24, 1639 NS) and established Connecticut as a self-ruled colony. Major John Mason was a magistrate and is credited with being one of the writers of this document.

There is no record of the debates or proceedings of the drafting or enactment of the Fundamental Orders. According to John Taylor:[6]. Puritans used to punish the townspeople for having different beliefs or wanting a new religion.

"The men of the three towns were a law unto themselves. It is known that they were in earnest for the establishment of a government on broad lines; and it is certain that the ministers and captains, the magistrates and men of affairs, forceful in the settlements from the beginning, were the men who took the lead, guided the discussions, and found the root of the whole matter in the first written declaration of independence in these historical orders."

Individual rights

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut is a short document, but contains some principles that were later applied in creating the United States government. Government is based in the rights of an individual, and the orders spell out some of those rights, as well as how they are ensured by the government. It provides that all free men share in electing their magistrates, and uses secret, paper ballots. It states the powers of the government, and some limits within which that power is exercised.

In one sense, the Fundamental Orders were replaced by a Royal Charter in 1662, however the major outline of the charter was written in Connecticut and embodied the Orders' rights and mechanics. It was carried to England by Governor John Winthrop and basically approved by the British King, Charles II. The colonists generally viewed the charter as a continuation and surety for their Fundamental Orders. Later on, the Charter Oak got its name when that charter was taken from Jeremy Adams's tavern and supposedly hidden in an oak tree, rather than it be surrendered to the agents of James II, who intended to annex Connecticut to the more centralized Dominion of New England.

Today, the individual rights in the Orders, with others added over the years, are still included as a "Declaration of Rights" in the first article of the current Connecticut Constitution, adopted in 1965.

See also


  1. ^ The January 14, 1639 date was in the old style Julian Calendar before conversion to the new style Gregorian Calendar. See Old Style and New Style dates for an explanation of the date adjustment.
  2. ^ "The Columbia Encyclopedia" (Sixth ed.). ia University Press. 2005. Retrieved 2006-09-13.
  3. ^ Lutz, Donald S.; Schechter, Stephen L.; Bernstein, Richard B. (1991). Roots of the Republic: American founding documents interpreted. Madison, Wis: Madison House. p. 24. ISBN 0-945612-19-2.
  4. ^ Secretary of the State of Connecticut (2007). "STATE OF CONNECTICUT Sites º Seals º Symbols". the Connecticut State Register and Manual. State of Connecticut. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  5. ^ Horton, Wesley W. (1993-06-30). The Connecticut State Constitution: A Reference Guide. Reference guides to the state constitutions of the United States. no. 17. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-313-28565-9. OCLC 27066290. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  6. ^ Taylor, John M., Roger Ludlow the Colonial Lawmaker, 1900, Google Book Search

External links

Boddie v. Connecticut

Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971), was a case before the United States Supreme Court.

Connecticut Appellate Court

The Connecticut Appellate Court is the court of first appeals for all cases arising from the Connecticut Superior Courts. Its creation in 1983 required Connecticut's voters and legislature to amend the state's constitution. The court heard its first cases on October 4, 1983. The Appellate Court was also a partial successor to the former Appellate Session of the Superior Court, a court established to hear appeals in minor matters (e.g., misdemeanors and minor civil matters.)

Connecticut Colony

The Connecticut Colony or Colony of Connecticut, originally known as the Connecticut River Colony or simply the River Colony, was an English colony in North America that became the state of Connecticut. It was organized on March 3, 1636 as a settlement for a Puritan congregation, and the English permanently gained control of the region in 1637 after struggles with the Dutch. The colony was later the scene of a bloody war between the colonists and Pequot Indians known as the Pequot War. Connecticut Colony played a significant role in the establishment of self-government in the New World with its refusal to surrender local authority to the Dominion of New England, an event known as the Charter Oak incident which occurred at Jeremy Adams' inn and tavern.

Two other English settlements in the State of Connecticut were merged into the Colony of Connecticut: Saybrook Colony in 1644 and New Haven Colony in 1662.

Connecticut General Statutes

The Connecticut General Statutes, also called the General Statutes of Connecticut and abbreviated Conn. Gen. Stat., is a codification of the law of Connecticut. Revised to 2017, it contains all of the public acts of Connecticut and certain special acts of the public nature, the Constitution of the United States, the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, including its 31 amendments adopted since 1965. The earliest predecessor to the currently in force codification dates to 1650.

Connecticut Superior Court

The Connecticut Superior Court is the state trial court of general jurisdiction. It hears all matters other than those of original jurisdiction of the Probate Court, and hears appeals from the Probate Court. The Superior Court has 13 judicial districts which have at least one courthouse and one geographical area court. Civil cases, administrative appeals, family matters, and serious criminal offenses are generally heard in a judicial district courthouse. All criminal arraignments, misdemeanors, felonies, and motor vehicle violations that require a court appearance are heard in one of the 20 geographical area courts.

The court has four trial divisions: civil, criminal, family, and housing. The housing division is located in the Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk, and Waterbury judicial districts, in all other judicial districts the cases of the housing division are heard in the civil division.

Constitution of Connecticut

The Constitution of the State of Connecticut is the basic governing document of the U.S. state of Connecticut. It was approved by referendum on December 14, 1965, and proclaimed by the governor as adopted on December 30. It comprises 14 articles and has been amended 31 times.

This constitution replaced the earlier constitution of 1818. It is the state's second constitution since the establishment of the United States. An earlier constitution dating from colonial times, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, remained the basis of government even as Connecticut gained its independence from Great Britain, existed as an independent polity, and joined the United States.

Courts of Connecticut

Courts of Connecticut include:

State courts of Connecticut

Connecticut Supreme CourtConnecticut Appellate CourtConnecticut Superior Court (13 districts)

Connecticut Probate Courts (54 districts)Federal court located in Connecticut:

United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

History of Connecticut

The U.S. state of Connecticut began as three distinct settlements of Puritans from Massachusetts and England; they combined under a single royal charter in 1663. Known as the "land of steady habits" for its political, social and religious conservatism, the colony prospered from the trade and farming of its ethnic English Protestant population. The Congregational and Unitarian churches became prominent here. Connecticut played an active role in the American Revolution, and became a bastion of the conservative, business-oriented, Constitutionalism Federalist Party.

The word "Connecticut" is a French corruption of the Native American word quinetucket, which means "beside the long, tidal river".Reverend Thomas Hooker and the Rev. Samuel Stone led a group of about 100 who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone's place of birth: Hertford, in England. Called today "the Father of Connecticut," Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut, and cited by many as the inspiration for the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut," cited by some as the world's first written democratic constitution that established a representative government.

The state took a leading role in the industrial revolution of the United States, with its many factories establishing a worldwide reputation for advanced machinery. The educational and intellectual establishment was strongly led by Yale College, by scholars such as Noah Webster and by writers such as Mark Twain, who lived in Connecticut after establishing his association with the Mississippi River. Many Yankees left the farms to migrate west to New York and the Midwest in the early nineteenth century. Meanwhile, the heavy demand for labor in the nineteenth century attracted Irish, English and Italian immigrants, among many others, to the medium and small industrial cities. In the early 20th century, immigrants came from eastern and southern Europe. While the state produced few nationally prominent political leaders, Connecticut has usually been a swing state closely balanced between the parties. In the 21st century, the state is known for production of jet engines, nuclear submarines, and advanced pharmaceuticals.

History of the Connecticut Constitution

Connecticut is known as the "constitution state." The origin of this title is uncertain, but the nickname is assumed to be a reference to the Fundamental Orders of 1638–39 which represent the framework for the first formal government written by a representative body in Connecticut. Connecticut's government has operated under the direction of five separate documents in its history. The Connecticut Colony at Hartford was governed by the Fundamental Orders, and the Quinnipiac Colony at New Haven had its own Constitution in The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony which was signed on 4 June 1639.

In 1662, Connecticut was granted governmental authority and a royal charter by King Charles II of England. These two documents laid the groundwork for the state's government, but lacked characteristics of what is generally thought of as a constitution. Separate branches of government did not exist during this period, and the General Assembly acted as the supreme authority. A true constitution was not adopted in Connecticut until 1818. The current state constitution was implemented in 1965; it absorbed the majority of its 1818 predecessor and incorporated a handful of important modifications.

Index of Connecticut-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Jeremy Adams

Jeremy Adams, also known as Jeremiah Adams (c.1604/5—August 11, 1683), was one of the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut. He was also the founder and first proprietor of Colchester, Connecticut, which was established on land owned by Adams, known as "Jeremiah's Farme".

John Haynes (governor)

John Haynes (May 1, 1594 – c. January 9, 1653/4), also sometimes spelled Haines, was a colonial magistrate and one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony. He served one term as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was the first governor of Connecticut, ultimately serving eight separate terms.

Haynes was influential in the drafting of laws and legal frameworks in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. He was on the committee that drafted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which has been called one of the first written constitutions. He also invested most of his fortune in Connecticut, "to the ruine of his famylye in Englande".

Law of Connecticut

The law of Connecticut is the system of law and legal precedent of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Sources of law include the Constitution of Connecticut and the Connecticut General Statutes.

New York v. Connecticut

New York v. Connecticut, 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 1 (1799), was a lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court of the United States between the State of New York against the State of Connecticut in 1799 that arose from a land dispute between private parties. The case was the first case in which the Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction under Article III of the United States Constitution to hear controversies between two states.

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation was written over a period of years by William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. It is regarded as the most authoritative account of the Pilgrims and the early years of the colony which they founded.

The journal was written between 1630 and 1651 and describes the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they settled in the Dutch Republic on the European mainland through the 1620 Mayflower voyage to the New World, until the year 1647. The book ends with a list of Mayflower passengers and what happened to them which was written in 1651.

Outline of Connecticut

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the U.S. state of Connecticut:

Connecticut – state located in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Called the "Constitution State" or the "Nutmeg state", Connecticut has a long history dating from early colonial times and was influential in the development of the federal government. Connecticut enjoys a temperate climate due to its long coastline on Long Island Sound. Connecticut has the highest per capita income, Human Development Index, and median household income in the country.

Richard Risley

Richard Risley (before 1615 – October 1648) was an early Puritan settler in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut. Risley sailed from England on July 15, 1633, in the ship Griffen with Thomas Hooker, William Stone, John Cotton, and John Haynes. They arrived in Boston on September 4, 1633.

In May 1636, Risley left Massachusetts with almost the entire company he had arrived with two and a half years earlier. They found John Winthrop to be too dictatorial. The group headed west through the wilderness, and after a month stopped in an area now occupied by the city of Hartford, Connecticut.

Within the year, the group started a collective government to fight the Pequot War. By the next year, they had adopted what is now generally considered the first written constitution in Western history, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The group eventually signed a treaty with the Indians for a tract of land and settled down.

The present-day state capitol building in Hartford sits on the original Risley land grant.Risley died at Hockanum, Connecticut of typhoid in October 1648, leaving his wife and three children, ages two months to eight years.

Thomas Hooker

Thomas Hooker (July 5, 1586 – July 7, 1647) was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was known as an outstanding speaker and an advocate of universal Christian suffrage.

Called today "the Father of Connecticut", Rev. Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut, and cited by many as the inspiration for the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut", which some have called the world's first written democratic constitution establishing a representative government.

Timeline of pre–United States history

This section of the timeline of United States history concerns events from before the lead up to the American Revolution (c. 1760).

American colonial documents
Richard Hakluyt
Plymouth Colony
Connecticut Colony

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