Constitution State

August 20, 2018 · Collections ·


Pop Quiz: why is Connecticut’s nickname “the Constitution State”?

In 1639, a group of colonists in the newly established Connecticut colony wrote and adopted a governing document known as the “Fundamental Orders.” This document was inspired by a 1638 sermon delivered by Reverend Thomas Hooker, wherein Hooker preached that leaders should be chosen by the “free consent of the people,” and that the people had the authority to limit the power of these leaders. Some have argued that the Fundamental Orders was the first written constitution in the world, a claim that led the Connecticut General Assembly to designate Connecticut “the Constitution State” in 1959.

If you knew the story behind our nickname, you may also know the story behind another famous document that replaced the Fundamental Orders: the Charter of 1662. Signed by King Charles II, the Charter was similar to the Fundamental Orders in affirming the idea that government belongs to the people. According to legend, when King James II sent Sir Edmund Andros to seize the Connecticut Charter and gain more control over the colony, the Connecticut colonists hid the charter in an old white oak tree, afterwards known as the Charter Oak.

What you may not know is that the 1662 Charter remained the basis of Connecticut government for over 100 years – through the Revolutionary War and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, until a new Connecticut constitution was written in 1818. Why was Connecticut the last state to form a new constitution after independence? How was the new constitution different from the documents that preceded it, and how did that change Connecticut?

Learn about the transformations that shaped Connecticut during our fall lecture series The Constitution of 1818: Debate and Dissent in the Land of Steady Habits. The CHS is partnering with UCONN School of Law to offer a series of lectures by distinguished legal scholars to mark the 200th anniversary of the creation of Connecticut’s 1818 state Constitution. Lectures will be happening at UCONN School of Law and at CHS, and are free and open to the public. Click on the links below to learn more:

Who Are the Constitution-Makers? 
Wednesday, September 26 @ 5:30 – 7:00 pm
UCONN School of Law, 55 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, in Starr Hall, Room 204

Law and Religion in Connecticut: From Theocracy to Tolerance
Wednesday, October 10 @ 2:00 – 3:30 pm
UCONN School of Law, 55 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, in Starr Hall, Room 204

The Debates at the 1818 Constitutional Convention and Their Relevance Today
Thursday, October 25 @ 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford

Support for the 1818 Constitution Lecture Series comes from CT Humanities.

Connecticut Humanities








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