Year
1639
Month Day
January 14

The first colonial constitution

In Hartford, Connecticut, the first constitution in the American colonies, the “Fundamental Orders,” is adopted by representatives of Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford.

The Dutch discovered the Connecticut River in 1614, but English Puritans from Massachusetts largely accomplished European settlement of the region. During the 1630s, they flocked to the Connecticut valley from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in 1638 representatives from the three major Puritan settlements in Connecticut met to set up a unified government for the new colony.

Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that “the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.” In 1662, the Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders; though the majority of the original document’s laws and statutes remained in force until 1818.

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