Connecticut colonial history

Colonial history of America tells us that in 1640 the New England settlement of New Haven was founded.

In the meantime, the planters in the Connecticut Valley had been perfecting a system of government, and preparing to possess the land westward as far as the Hudson River. People from Quinnipiack and the valley planted themselves at Fairfield, Norwalk, Guilford, and Stratford and Milford on the Housatonic. Captain Patrick, the commander of a part of the forces sent from Massachusetts against the Pequods, and who had married a Dutch wife, settled as far westward as Greenwich, with a son-in-law of the elder Governor Winthrop. At that time there were no Dutch settlers east of the Harlem River excepting Bronck and his lessees or tenants. The Dutch, however, continued in possession of their lands at Fort Good Hope, and a small garrison was kept up there under Commissary Guysbert op Dyck. But the English, when they became strong in numbers, paid little respect to the rights of the Netherlanders. They ploughed up their lands excusing themselves for the intrusion with the plea that the soil was lying idle and ought to be cultivated by somebody. When the Commissary attempted to resist these encroachments, his soldiers were cudgelled by the planters, who said they (the English) were Israelites, while the Dutch in New Netherland and the English in Virginia were Egyptians.

The troubles with their neighbors, pale and dusky, and the necessity which called for fundamental laws, induced the planters of the valley to meet in convention at Hartford at the middle of January, 1639, to form a constitution of government. Like that of the New Haven colony, it was framed without the slightest reference to any other government. It provided that all persons in the commonwealth should be freemen, and should take an oath of allegiance to the general government; that the governor, to be elected at each spring meeting of the freemen, should be a member of some church; that there should be as many magistrates (not less than six) and other officers as should be found necessary; that there should be a house of deputies, composed of four from each of the then existing towns, and as many as the General Court or legislature should determine from towns that might be created; and that the governor, four magistrates, and a majority of the deputies, should be competent to make all laws and deal generally for the good of the commonwealth. In the absence of special laws, "the rule of the word of God" was to be followed.

"This instrument which has been spoken of as the "first example in history of a written constitution-a distinct organic law, constituting a government and defining its powers," and which recognized no authority out-side of its own inherent potency, continued in force as the fundamental law of Connecticut one hundred and eighty years. It secured for that common-wealth a degree of social order and general prosperity rarely equalled in the life of nations. The political organization under it was called the Connecticut Colony, and the domain acquired the title of "the land of steady habits." Notwithstanding the two colonies were not united until twenty-six years afterward, now, in the year 1639, was laid the foundations of the commonwealth of Connecticut.

Return to Our Country, Vol. I