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Connecticut: 42: Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack - Donald S. Lutz, Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History 
Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History, ed. Donald S. Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1998).
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Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack
The text is taken from Isabel Macbeath Calder, The New Haven Colony (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), 51. Calder in turn cites the New Haven Colonial Records, 1638–1649, 12. The first part of the first sentence, in brackets, has been added by this editor on the basis of information found in Calder and elsewhere. The spelling and punctuation are Calder’s.
Although the framers used the title shown above, it is more frequently referred to in history books as the “New Haven Plantation Covenant.” This document was adopted shortly after the group arrived from Boston. It was to function as a temporary, general agreement until the people could become familiar enough with each other’s religious views, sentiments, and moral conduct to adopt a written frame of government and code of laws, which they did fourteen months later (see the New Haven Fundamentals, 1643 ). The earlier document, reproduced below, was not actually a covenant because there was no oath. The settlers, not knowing each other well, did not want to force an oath on each other until they were certain they all had agreed on what was to be covenanted. Thus the authors termed the document a “plantation covenant” to indicate its lesser status.
We the assembly of free planters do solemnly covenant] thatt as [in] matters thatt Concerne the gathering and ordering of a Chur. so Likewise in all publique offices wch concerne Cuill orders as Choyce of magistrates and officers makeing and repealing of Lawes devideing allotmts of Inheritance and all things of Like nature we would all of vs be ordered by those Rules wch the scripture holds forth to vs.
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The text, complete and with the original spelling, is taken from Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions, 519–23.
January 14, 1639
Along with the Pilgrim Code of Law  and the Fundamental Articles of New Haven , this document is a candidate for being the earliest written constitution in America. It describes itself internally as a “combination” and “confederation,” although one could with equal truth call it a compact. It should be noted that this document, as well as the Pilgrim Code of Law, prominently displays oaths for officeholders as an essential part of the agreement, which underscores the importance of the other oaths for establishing government (see, for example, documents 4, 9, 15, 16, 47, and 65). In 1662 the king signed a new charter for the combined colonies of Connecticut and New Haven that essentially ratified the political system defined here. In 1776 the people of Connecticut adopted the charter as their new state constitution after removing references to the king. The 1776 constitution was replaced in 1816, which means that the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut effectively served as a constitution for 177 years. Like many of the colonial founding compacts and constitutions, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was not written in as orderly a manner as we would expect in modern documents. The reader must carefully consider the entire document, because institutions described toward the beginning of the document often have important components described later. As was usually the case with colonial constitutions, this document creates a federal political system.
Forasmuch as it hath pleased the Allmighty God by the wise disposition of his diuyne1 pruidence so to Order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Harteford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and vppon the River of Conectecotte and the Lands thereunto adioyneing; and Well knowning where a people are gathered togather the word of God requires that to mayntayne the peace and vnion of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Gouerment established according to God, to order and dispose of the affayres of the people at all seasons as occation shall require; doe therefore assotiate and conioyne our selues to be as one Publike State or Commonwelth; and doe, for our selues and our Successors and such as shall be adioyned to vs att any tyme hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation togather, to mayntayne and prsearue the liberty and purity of the gospell of our Lord Jesus wch we now prfesse, as also the disciplyne of the Churches, wch according to the truth of the said gospell is now practised amongst vs; As also in o[u]r Cieuell2 Affaires to be guided and gouerned according to such Lawes, Rules, Orders and decrees as shall be made, ordered & decreed, as followeth:—
1. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that there shall be yerely two generall Assemblies or Courts, the [first] on the second thursday in Aprill, the other the second thursday in September, following; the first shall be called the Courte of Election, wherein shall be yerely Chosen fro[m] tyme to tyme soe many Magestrats and other publike Officers as shall be found requisitte: Whereof one to be chosen Gouernour for the yeare ensueing and vntill another be chosen, and noe other Magestrate to be chosen for more then one yeare; pruided allwayes there be sixe chosen besids the Gouernour; wch being chosen and sworne according to an Oath recorded for that purpose shall haue power to administer iustice according to the Lawes here established, and for want thereof according to the rule of the word of God, wch choise shall be made by all that are admitted freemen and haue taken the Oath of Fidellity, and doe cohabitte wthin this Jurisdiction, (Hauing been admitted Inhabitants by the major prt of the Towne wherein they liue,) or the mayor prte of such as shall be then prsent.
2. It is Ordered, sentensed and decreed, that the Election of the aforesaid Magestrats shall be on this manner: euery prson prsent and quallified for choyse shall bring in (to the prsons deputed to receaue them) one single papr wth the name of him written in yt whome he desires to haue Gouernour, and he that hath the greatest number of papers shall be Gouernor for that yeare. And the rest of the Magestrats or publike Officers to be chosen in this manner: The Secrtary for the tyme being shall first read the names of all that are to be put to choise and then shall seuerally nominate them distinctly, and euery one that would haue the prson nominated to be chosen shall bring in one single paper written vppon, and he that would not haue him chosen shall bring in a blanke: and euery one that hath more written papers than blanks shall be a Magistrat for that yeare; wch papers shall be receaued and told by one or more that shall be then chosen by the court and sworne to be faythfull therein; but in case there should not be sixe chosen as aforesaid, besids the Gouernor, out of those wch are nominated, then he or they wch haue the most written paprs shall be a Magestrate or Magestrats for the ensueing yeare, to make vp the aforesaid number.
3. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that the Secretary shall not nominate any prson, nor shall any prson be chosen newly into the Magestracy wch was not prpownded in some Generall Courte before, to be nominated the next Election; and to that end yt shall be lawfull for ech of the Townes aforesaid by their deputyes to nominate any two who they conceaue fitte to be put to election; and the Courte may ad so many more as they iudge requisitt.
4. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed that noe prson be chosen Gouernor aboue once in two years, and that the Gouernor be always a member of some approved congregation, and formerly of the Magestracy wthin this Jurisdiction; and all the Magestrats Freemen of this Comonwelth: and that no Magestrate or other publike officer shall execute any prte of his or their Office before they are seuerally sworne, wch shall be done in the face of the Courte if they be prsent, and in case of absence by some deputed for that purpose.
5. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that to the aforesaid Courte of Election the seurall Townes shall send their deputyes, and when the Elections are ended they may prceed in any publike searuice as at other Courts. Also the other Generall Courte in September shall be for makeing of lawes, and any other publike occation, wch conserns the good of the Commonwealth.
6. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that the Gournor shall, ether by himselfe or by the secretary, send out summons to the Constables of eur3 Towne for the cauleing of these two standing Courts, on month at lest before their seurall tymes: And also if the Gournor and the gretest prte of the Magestrats see cause vppon any spetiall occation to call a generall Courte, they may giue order to the secretary soe to do wthin fowerteene dayes warneing; and if vrgent necessity so require, vppon a shorter notice, giueing sufficient grownds for yt to the deputyes when they meete, or else be questioned for the same; And if the Gournor and Mayor4 prte of Magestrats shall ether neglect or refuse to call the two Generall standing Courts or ether of them, as also at other tymes when to occations of the Commonwelth require, the Freemen thereof, or the Mayor prte of them, shall petition to them soe to doe: if then yt be ether denyed or neglected the said Freemen or the Mayor prte of them shall haue power to giue order to the Constables of the seuerall Townes to doe the same, and so may meete togather, and chuse to themselues a Moderator, and may prceed to do any Acte of power, wch any other Generall Courte may.
7. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed that after there are warrants giuen out for any of the said Generall Courts, the Constable or Constables of ech Towne shall forthwth give notice distinctly to the inhabitants of the same, in some Publike Assembly or by goeing or sending from howse to howse, that at a place and tyme by him or them lymited and sett, they meet and assemble themselues togather to elect and chuse certen deputyes to be att the Generall Courte then following to agitate the afayres of the comonwelth; wch said Deputyes shall be chosen by all that are admitted Inhabitants in the seurall Townes and haue taken the oath of fidellity; pruided that non be chosen a Deputy for any Generall Courte wch is not a Freeman of this Commonwelth.
The a-foresaid deputyes shall be chosen in manner following: euery prson that is prsent and quallified as before exprssed, shall bring the names of such, written in seurall papers, as they desire to haue chosen for that Imployment, and these 3 or 4, more or lesse, being the number agreed on to be chosen for that tyme, that haue greatest number of papers written for them shall be dputyes for that Courte; whose names shall be endorsed on the backe side of the warrant and returned into the Courte, wth the Constable or Constables hand vnto the same.
8. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that Wyndsor, Hartford and Wethersfield shall haue power, ech Towne, to send fower of their freemen as deputyes to euery Generall Courte; and whatsoeuer other Townes shall be hereafter added to this Jurisdiction, they shall send so many deputyes as the Courte shall judge meete, a resonable prportion to the number of Freemen that are in the said Townes being to be attended therein; wch deputyes shall have the power of the whole Towne to giue their voats and alowance to all such lawes and orders as may be for the publike good, and unto wch the said Townes are to be bownd.
9. It is ordered and decreed, that the deputyes thus chosen shall haue power and liberty to appoynt a tyme and a place of meeting togather before any Generall Courte to aduise and consult of all such things as may concerne the good of the publike, as also to examine their owne Elections, whether according to the order, and if they or the gretest prte of them find any election to be illegall they may seclud such for prsent from their meeting, and returne the same and their resons to the Courte; and if yt proue true, the Courte may fyne the prty or prtyes so intruding and the Towne, if they see cause, and giue out a warrant to goe to a newe election in a legall way, either whole or in prte. Also the said deputyes shall haue power to fyne any that shall be disorderly at their meetings, or for not coming in due tyme or place according to appoyntment; and they may return the said fynes into the Courte if yt be refused to be paid, and the tresurer to take notice of yt, and to estreete or levy the same as he doth other fynes.
10. It is Ordered, sentenced and decreed, that euery Generall Courte, except such as through neglecte of the Gournor and the greatest prte of Magestrats the Freemen themselves doe call, shall consist of the Gouernor, or some one chosen to moderate the Court, and fower other Magestrats at lest, wth the mayor prte of the deputyes of the seuerall Townes legally chosen; and in case the Freemen or mayor prte of them through neglect or refusall of the Gouernor and mayor prte of the magestrats, shall call a Courte, that yt shall consist of the mayor prte of Freemen that are prsent or their deputyes, wth a Moderator chosen by them: In wch said Generall Courts shall consist the supreme power of the Commonwelth, and they only shall haue power to make laws or repeale them, to graunt leuyes, to admitt of Freemen, dispose of lands vndisposed of, to seuerall Townes or prsons, and also shall haue power to call ether Courte or Magestrate or any other prson whatsoeuer into question for any misdemeanour, and may for just causes displace or deale otherwise according to the nature of the offence; and also may deale in any other matter that concerns the good of this commonwelth, excepte election of Magestrats, wch shall be done by the whole boddy of Freemen: In wch Courte the Gouernour or Moderator shall haue power to order the Courte to giue liberty of spech, and silence vnceasonable and disorderly speakeings, to put all things to voate, and in case the vote be equall to haue the casting voice. But non of these Courts shall be adiorned or dissolued wthout the consent of the major prte of the Court.
11. It is ordered, sentenced and decreed, that when any Generall Courte vppon the occations of the Commonwelth haue agreed vppon any sume or somes of mony to be leuyed vppon the seuerall Townes wthin this Jurisdiction, that a Committee be chosen to sett out and appoynt wt shall be the prportion of euery Towne to pay of the said leuy, prvided the Committees be made vp of an equall number out of each Towne.
14th January, 1638, the 11 Orders abouesaid are voted.
The Oath of the Gournor, for the Prsent
I N.W. being now chosen to be Gournor wthin this Jurisdiction, for the yeare ensueing, and vntil a new be chosen, doe sweare by the greate and dreadful name of the everliueing God, to prmote the publicke good and peace of the same, according to the best of my skill; as also will mayntayne all lawfull priuiledges of this Commonwealth: as also that all wholsome lawes that are or shall be made by lawfull authority here established, be duly executed; and will further the execution of Justice according to the rule of Gods word; so helpe me God, in the name of the Lo: Jesus Christ.
The Oath of a Magestrate, for the Prsent
I, N.W. being chosen a Magestrate wthin this Jurisdiction for the yeare ensueing, doe sweare by the great and dreadfull name of the euerliueing God, to prmote the publike good and peace of the same, according to the best of my skill, and that I will mayntayne all the lawfull priuiledges therof according to my vnderstanding, as also assist in the execution of all such wholsome lawes as are made or shall be made by lawfull authority heare established, and will further the execution of Justice for the tyme aforesaid according to the righteous rule of Gods word; so helpe me God, etc.
Text is complete, with spelling as found in Champlin Burrage, The Church Covenant Idea: Its Origin and Development (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1904), 94.
June 1, 1639
Signed aboard ship before the colonists reached America, this agreement essentially creates a people who agree to form a future government. The rather vague covenant form used here (there is no true oath) was supplemented in 1643 by a political compact that laid out the government (see The Government of Guilford ).
June 1. Individuals who, the next September, purchase Menunkatuck, afterwards Guilford, enter into the following covenant: We whose names are hereunder written, intending by God’s gracious permission to plant ourselves in New England, and, if it may be, in the southerly part about Quinnipiack, we do faithfully promise each to each, for ourselves and our families, and those that belong to us, that we will, the Lord assisting us, sit down and join ourselves together in one entire plantation,1 and to be helpful each to the other in any common work, according to every man’s ability, and as need shall require;... As for our gathering together in a church way, and the choice of officers and members to be joined together in that way, we do refer ourselves until such time as it shall please God to settle us in our plantation.
[Signed by Henry Whitfield and twenty-four others.]
Structure of Town Governments
The complete text is taken from J. H. Trumbull and C. J. Hoadley, eds., The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut Prior to the Union with New Haven Colony, 1636–1776, vol. 1 (Hartford: Brown & Parsons, 1850), 36–39. The spelling is without emendation.
October 10, 1639
Most of the so-called colonies were actually collections of towns, each of which had established its own form of self-government. The establishment of a colony-wide government, usually a legislature in which each town was represented, in effect created what we would now recognize as a federal system. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut  should be viewed in this light because it established the “confederation” that is acting in this document. The Structure of Town Governments amplifies and clarifies the nature of the relationship between the towns and colony-wide governments mainly by focusing on respective jurisdictions. Other documents (2, 20, 28, 37, 39, 43, 46, and 50) similarly created federations of towns.
The Townes of Hartford, Windsore and Wethersfield, or any other of the Townes within this jurisdiction, shall each of them haue power to dispose of their owne lands vndisposed of, and all other comodityes arysing out of their owne lymitts bounded out by the Court, the libertyes of the great River excepted, as also to choose their owne officers, and make such orders as may be for the well ordering of their owne Townes, being not repugnant to any law here established, as also to impose penaltyes for the breach of the same, and to estreat and levy the same, and for non-payment to distrayne, and yf there be noe personall estate, to sue to the Court to sell his or their house or land, for making satisfaction. Also each of the aforesayd Townes shall haue power by a generall consent once every yeare to choose out 3, 5, or 7 of their cheefe Inhabitants, whereof one to be chosen moderator, who having taken an oath prouided in that case, shall haue a casting voice in case they be equall, wch sayd prsons shall meett once in every 2 monthes & being mett together, or the major part of them, whereof the moderator to be one, they shall haue power to heare, end and determine all controversies, eyther trespasses or debts not exceeding 40s. provided both partyes live in the same Towne; also any two of them or the moderator may graunt out summons to the party or partyes to come to their meetings to answere the actions; also to administer oath to any witnesses for the clearing of the cause, and to giue judgment and execution against the party offending. But yf eyther party be grieved att the sentence, he shall haue liberty to appeale to a higher Court, prvided it be before judgment and execution be graunted. But yf it fall out there be noe ground for the appeale, the Court to confirme the judgment and giue good costs, and fine or punish the prty appealing.
The Townes aforesayd shall each of them prvide a Ledger Booke, with an Index or alphabett vnto the same: Also shall choose one who shall be a Towne Clerke or Register, who shall before the Generall Court in Aprill next, record every man’s house and land already graunted and measured out to him, with the bounds & quantity of the same, and whosoever shall neglect 3 monthes after notice given to bring into the sayd Towne Clerke or Register a note of his house and land, with the bounds and quantity of the same, by the nearest estimacion, shall forfeit 10s. and soe 10s. a month for ever month he shall soe neglect. The like to be done for all land hereafter graunted and measured to any; and all bargaines or morgages of land whatsoever shall be accounted of noe value vntill they be recorded, for wch entry the Register shall receaue 6d. for every parcell, delivering every owner a coppy of the same vnder his hand, whereof 4d. shall be for himselfe and 2d. for the Secretary of the Court. And the sayd Register shall, every Generall Court, in Aprill and September, deliver into the same a transcript fayrely written of all such graunts, bargaines or ingagements recorded by him in the Towne Booke, and the Secretary of the Court shall record it in a booke fayrely written prvided for that purpose, and shall preserue the coppy brought in vnder the hand of the Town Clerke. Also the sayd Towne Clerke shall haue for every serch of a parcell 1d. and for every coppy of a parcell 1d.; and a coppy of the same vnder the hands of the sayd Register or Towne Clerk and two of the men chosen to governe the Towne, shall be a sufficient evidence to all that haue the same.
After the death and decease of any person possessed of any estate, be it more or lesse, and who maketh a will in writing or by word of mouth, those men wch are appointed to order the affayres of the Towne where any such person deceaseth, shall within one month after the same, at furthest, cause a true Inventory to be taken of the sayd estate in writing, as also take a coppy of the sayd will or testament and enter it into a booke or keepe the coppy in safe custody, as also enter the names vppon record of the Children and Legatees of the Testator or deceased prson, and the sayd orderers of the Affayres of the Towne are to see every such will and Inventory to be exhibited into the publique Court, within one quarter of a yeare, where the same is to be registered; and the sayd orderers of the affayres of the Towne shall doe their indeauour in seeing that the estate of the Testator be not wasted nor spoyled, but improved for the best advantage of the Children or Legatees of the Testator, according to the mind of the Testator, for their and euery of their use, by their and every of their allowance and approbacion. But when any prson dyeth intestate, the sayd orderers of the affayres of the Townes shall cause an Inventory to be taken, and then the publique Court may graunt the administracion of the goodes and Chattells to the next of kin, jointly or severally, and divide the estate to the wiefe (yf any be), children or kindred, as in equity they shall see meet; and yf noe kindred be found, the Court to administer for the publique good of the Common, prvided there be an Inventory registered, that yf any of the kindred in future tyme appeare they may haue justice and equity done vnto them; and all charges that the publique Court or the orderers of the affayres of the Townes are att about the trust committed to them, eyther for writing or otherwise, it is to be payd out of the estate.
Within 20 days after the end of this Court, the Secretary shall provide a coppy of all the penall lawes or orders standing in force, and all other that are of generall concernement for the governement of the Commonwealth, and shall giue direction to the Constables of every Towne to publish the same within 4 dayes more, att some publique meeting in their severall Townes, and then shall cause the sayd lawes and orders to be written into a booke in their severall Townes, and kept for the use of the Towne, and soe for future tyme for all lawes or orders that are made as aforesayd, each session of the Generall Courts; and once every yeare the Constables, in their severall Townes, shall read or cause to be read in some publique meeting all such lawes as then stand in force and are not repealed; and the Secretary of the Court shall haue 12d. for the coppy of the orders of each session of every generall Court, from each of the Townes.
Also, the Secretary of the Court shall have xid.1 for every action that is entred, to be payed by him that enters the action, and he that is cast in the suit to allow it in costs.
Fundamental Articles of New Haven
The text is taken from C. J. Hoadly, ed., Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, from 1638 to 1649 (Hartford, 1857), 11–17. It is reproduced here completely and with the original spelling.
June 4–14, 1639
Originally organized under the Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack  written about a year earlier, the settlers had cause to reconsider the nature of their government. Specifically, they considered whether full citizenship should be limited to members of the church. Carefully going over the commitments embodied in the earlier document, they concluded in the affirmative. This document is notable for the careful deliberation it records as well as for the careful attention to biblical precedent. Although they had lived together for over a year, there was still considerable concern that those signing the document not be forced to agree contrary to conscience. The extraordinary care they took in this regard is revealed in their response to a person who, toward the end of the discussion, expressed some doubts. Although these religious people were determined to produce a community with a high level of value homogeneity, their view of freedom of conscience was not merely legalistic but rooted in the Protestant commitment to individual interpretation of the Bible as the cornerstone of religious belief.
The 4th day of the 4th moneth called June 1639, all the free planters assembled together in a ge[neral] meetinge to consult about settling civill Government according to God, and about the nomination of persons thatt might be founde by consent of all fittest in all respects for the foundation worke of a church w[hich] was intend to be gathered in Quinipieck. After solemne invocation of the name of God in prayer [for] the presence and help of his speritt, and grace in those weighty businesses, they were reminded of t[he] busines whereabout they mett [viz] for the establishment of such civill order as might be most p[leas]ing unto God, and for the chuseing the fittest men for the foundation worke of a church to be gather[ed]. For the better inableing them to discerne the minde of God and to agree accordingly concerning the establishment of civill order, Mr. John Davenport propounded divers quaeres1 to them publiquely praying them to consider seriously in the presence and feare of God the weight of the busines they met about, and nott to be rash or sleight in giveing their votes to things they understoode nott, butt to digest fully and thoroughly whatt should be propounded to them, and without respect to men as they should be satisfied and perswaded in their owne mindes to give their answers in such sort as they would be willing they should stand upon recorde for posterity.
This being earnestly pressed by Mr. Davenport, Mr. Robt. Newman was intreated to write in carracters and to read distinctly and audibly in the hearing of all the people whatt was propounded and accorded on that itt might appeare thatt all consented to matters propounded according to words written by him.
quaer. 1. Whether the Scripturs doe holde forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duet[ies] which they are to performe to God and men as well in the government of famyles and commonwealths as in matters of the chur.
This was assented unto by all, no man dissenting as was expressed by holding up of hands. Afterward itt was read over to them thatt they might see in whatt words their vote was expressed: They againe expressed their consent thereto by holdeing up their hands, no man dissenting.
quaer. 2. Whereas there was a covenant solemnly made by the whole assembly of free-planters of this plantation the first day of extraordenary humiliation which wee had after wee came together, thatt as in matters thatt concerne the gathering and ordering of a chur. so likewise in all publique offices which concerne civill order, as choyce of magistrates and officers, makeing and repealing of lawes, devideing allottments of inheritance and all things of like nature we would all of us be ordered by those rules which the scripture holds forth to us. This covenant was called a plantation covenant to distinguish itt from [a] chur. covenant which could nott att thatt time be made, a chur. nott being then gathered, butt was deferred till a chur. might be gathered according to God: Itt was demaunded, whether all the free planters doe holde themselves bound by thatt covenant in all businesses of thatt nature which are expressed in the covenant to submitt themselves to be ordered by the rules held forth in the scripture.
This also was assented unto by all, and no man gainsaid itt, and they did testefie the same by holde[ing] up their hands both when itt was first propounded, and confirmed the same by holdeing up their hands when itt was read unto them in publique ...
quaer. 3. Those who have desired to be received as free planters, and are settled in the plantation with a purp[ose,] resolution and desire thatt they may be admitted into a chur. fellowship according to Christ as soone [as] God shall fitt them thereunto: were desired to express itt by holdeing up of hands: Accordingly a[ll] did expresse this to be their desire and purpose by holdeing up their hands twice, both att the [pro]posall of itt, and after when these written words were read unto them.
quaer. 4. All the free planters were called upon to expresse whether they held themselves bound to esta[blish] such civill order as might best conduce to the secureing of the purity and peace of the ordina[nces] to themselves and their posterity according to God. In answer hereunto they expressed by hold[ing] up their hands twice as before, thatt they held them selves bound to establish such [civil order] as might best conduce to the ends aforesaid.
Then Mr. Davenport declared unto them by the scripture whatt kinde of persons might best be trusted with matters of government, and by sundry arguments from scripture proved that such men as were discrib[ed] in Exod. 18.2. Deut. 1.13, with Deut 17.15, and 1. Cor. 6: 1 to 7, ought to be intrusted by them, seeing [they] were free to cast themselves into thatt mould and forme of common wealth which appeareth best for them in referrence to the secureing of the pure and peaceable injoyment of all Christ his ordinances [in] the church according to God, whereunto they have bound themselves as hath beene acknowledged. Having thus said he satt downe, praying the company freely to consider whether they would have [it] voted att this time or nott: After some space of silence Mr. Theophilus Eaton answered itt mi[ght] be voted, and some other allso spake to the same purpose, none att all opposeing itt. Then itt was propounded to vote.
quaer. 5. Whether Free Burgesses shalbe chosen out of chur. members they thatt are in the foundat[ion] worke of the church being actually free burgesses, and to chuse to themselves out of the li[ke] estate of church fellowship and the power of chuseing magistrates and officers from among themselves and the power off makeing and repealing lawes according to the worde, and the devideing of inheritances and decideing of differences thatt may arise, and all the businesses of like nature are to be transacted by those free burgesses.
This was putt to vote and agreed unto by the lifting up of hands twice as in the former itt was done. Then one man stood up after the vote was past, and expressing his dissenting from the rest in part yett grantinge 1. That magistrates should be men fearing God. 2. Thatt the church is the company whence ordenaryly such men be expected. 3. Thatt they that chuse them ought to be men fearing God: onely att this he stuck, That free planters ought nott to given this power out of their hands: Another stood up and answered that in this case nothing was done but with their consent. The former answered thatt all the free planters ought to resume this power into their owne hands againe if things were not orderly carryed. Mr. Theophilus Eaton answered thatt in all places they chuse committyes, in like manner the companyes of London chuse the liveryes by whom the publique magistrates are chosen. In this the rest are not wronged because they expect in time to be of the livery themselves, and to have the same power. Some other intreated the former to give his arguments and reasons whereupon he dissented. He refused to doe itt and said they might nott rationally demaund itt, seeing he lett the vote passe on freely and did nott speake till after itt was past, because he would nott hinder whatt they agreed upon. Then Mr. Davenport, after a short relation of some former passages betweene them two about this quest. prayed the company thatt nothing might be concluded by them in this weighty quest. butt whatt themselves were perswaded to be agreeing with the minde of God and they had heard whatt had beene said since the voteing, intreated them againe to consider of itt, and putt itt againe to vote as before.—Againe all of them by holding up their hands did shew their consent as before, And some of them professed that whereas they did waver before they came to the assembly they were now fully convinced thatt itt is the minde of God. One of them said that in the morning, before he came, reading Deut. 17.15. he was convinced att home, another said thatt he came doubting to the assembly butt he blessed God by whatt had beene saide he was now fully satisfied thatt the choyce of burgesses out of chur. members, and to intrust those with the power before spoken off is according to the minde of God revealed in the scriptures. All haveing spoken their apprehensions, itt was agreed upon, and Mr. Robert Newman was desired to write itt as an order whereunto every one that hereafter should be admitted here as planters should submitt and testefie the same by subscribeing their names to the order, namely that church members onely shall be free burgesses, and that they onely shall chuse magistrates & officers among themselves to have the power of transacting all the publique civill affayres of this Plantation, of makeing and repealing lawes, devideing of inheritances, decideing of differences thatt may arise and doeing all things or businesses of like nature.
This being thus settled as a foundamentall agreement concerning civill government: Mr. Davenport proceeded to propound some things to consideration aboute the gathering of a chur. And to prevent the blemishing of the first beginnings of the chur. worke, Mr. Davenport advised thatt the names of such as were to be admitted might be publiquely propounded, to the end thatt they who were most approved might be chosen, for the towne being cast into severall private meetings wherein they thatt dwelt nearest together gave their accounts one to another of Gods gracious worke upon them, and prayed together and conferred to their mutuall ediffication, sundry of them had knowledg one of another, and in every meeting some one was more approved of all then any other, For this reason, and to prevent scandalls, the whole company was intreated to consider whom they found fittest to nominate for this worke.
quaer. 6. Whether are you all willing and doe agree in this thatt twelve men be chosen that their fitnesse for the foundation worke may be tried, however there may be more named yett itt may be in their power who are chosen to reduce them to twelve, and itt be in the power of those twelve to chuse out of themselves seaven that shall be most approved of the major part to begin the church.
This was agreed upon by consent of all as was expressed by holdeing up of hands, and thatt so many as should be thought fitt for the foundation worke of the church shall be propounded by the plantation, and written downe and passe without exception unlesse they had given publique scandall or offence, yett so as in case of publique scandall or offence, every one should have liberty to propound their exception att thatt time publiquely against any man that should be nominated when all their names should be writt downe butt if the offence were private, thatt mens names might be tendered, so many as were offended were intreated to deale with the offender privately, and if he gave nott satisfaction, to bring the matter to the twelve thatt they might consider of itt impartially and in the feare of God. The names of the persons nominated and agreed upon were Mr. Theoph. Eaton, Mr. John Davenport. Mr. Robert Newman, Mr. Math. Gilbert, Mr. Richard Malbon, Mr. Nath: Turner, Eze: Chevers, Thomas Fugill, John Ponderson, William Andrewes, and Jer. Dixon. Noe exception was brought against any of those in publique, except one about takeing an excessive rate for meale which he sould to one of Pequanack in his need, which he confessed with griefe and declared thatt haveing beene smitten in heart and troubled in his conscience, he restored such a part of the price back againe with confession of his sin to the party as he thought himselfe bound to doe. And itt being feared thatt the report of the sin was heard farther th[an] the report of his satisfaction, a course was concluded on to make the satisfaction known to as many as heard of the sinn. Itt was also agreed upon att the said meeting thatt if the persons above named did finde themselves straitened in the number of fitt men for the seaven, thatt itt should be free for them to take into tryal of fitnes such other as they should thinke meete, provided thatt it should be signified to the towne upon the Lords day who they take in, thatt every man may be satisfied of them according to the course formerly taken.
[Connecticut Oath of Fidelity]
Text taken in full, with the original spelling, from Trumbull and Hoadly, Public Records, vol. 1, 54.
This document is sometimes referred to as the Connecticut Oath of Agreement. It can be compared with documents 4, 5, 9, 15, 16, and 65, as well as with the oaths internal to such longer codes, compacts, and constitutions, as found in documents 20, 26, 39, and 43. At least a dozen other long documents, including those adopted in middle and southern colonies, refer to citizenship oaths and oaths of other types that must be taken but are not reproduced in the documents themselves. To these oaths must be added the oaths of shorter political covenants. Colonial America was flooded with oath taking as a primary means of achieving compliance, membership, citizenship, and accountability.
An Oath for Paqua’ and the Plantations There:
I A.B. being by the Pruidence of God an inhabitant wthin the Jurisdiction of Conectecotte, doe acknowledge my selfe to be subject to the gourment thereof, and doe sweare by the great and dreadfull name of the eur liueing God to be true and faythfull vnto the same, and doe submitt boath my Prson & estate thereunto, according to all the holsome lawes & orders that ether are or hereafter shall be there made by lawfull authority: And that I will nether plott nor practice any euell agaynst the same, nor consent to any that shall so doe, but will tymely discour the same to lawfull authority established there; and that I will maynetayne, as in duty I am bownd, the honor of the same & of the lawfull Magestrats thereof, promoteing the publike good thereof, whilst I shall so continue an Inhabitant there, and whensour I shall give my vote, suffrage or prxy, being cauled thereunto touching any matter wch conserns this Commonwelth, I will giue yt as in my conscience may conduce to the best good of the same, wch out of respect of prson or favor of any man; So helpe me God in the Lo: Jesus Christ.
Capitall Lawes of Connecticut, Established by the Generall Court the First of December, 1642
The text is taken from The Blue Laws of New Haven Colony, compiled by “An Antiquarian” (Hartford: Case, Tiffany & Co., 1838), 102–4. The spelling is the original.
The text is a portion of a longer ordinance passed on that day by the legislature. This document should be compared with the equivalent section in The Massachusetts Body of Liberties . To some people today these lists of capital laws look harsh. Colonial codes of law, however, usually had such lists, and they are important for several reasons. For one thing, they expressed fundamental values. It is worth knowing that blasphemy was considered a more serious crime than theft. For another thing, in Britain theft could, at that time, be punishable by death, whereas in Connecticut it could not. The list of crimes for which one could possibly be put to death in the mother country was extremely long, so colonial lists are a radical departure from the common law. This attitude was not only in accord with Christian redemptive theology but also was prudent in the colonies, where putting people to death for common crimes made no sense given the serious, chronic shortage of labor. Finally, these lists are part of what today we might consider bills of rights. The death penalty was severely limited in scope, and everyone knew the limits. Also, the person had to be properly convicted in court, which probably explains why the death penalty was rarely used in colonial America. Instead, blasphemers, for example, were likely to be told to leave town permanently. The infamous witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts, occurred in large part because normal government, including the regular court system, had broken down. When effective government was restored the “trials” stopped overnight.
1. Yf any man after legall conviction, shall have or worship any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Deu. 13; 6, and 17. 2 Ex. 22; 20.
2. Yf any man or woman be a Witch, (that is) hath or consulteth w’th a familliar spirit, they shall be put to death. Ex. 22; 18. Lev. 20; 27. Deu. 18; 10, 11.
3. If any p’son shall blaspheme the name of God the ffather, Son or Holy Goste w’th direct, expres pr’sumptuous or highanded blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like manner, he shall be put to death. Lev. 24; 15, 16.
4. Yf any p’son shall comitt any willfull murther, w’ch is manslaughter comitted vppon mallice, hatred or cruelty, not in a mans necessary and just defence, nor by mere casualty against his will, he shall be put to death. Ex. 21; 12, 13, 14. Num. 35; 30, 31.
5. Yf any person shall slay another through guile, ether by poysonings or other such Devlish (devilish) practices, he shall be put to death. Ex. 21; 14.
6. Yf any man or woman shall ly w’th any Beast or brut creature by carnall copulation, they shall surely be put to death, and the Beast shall be slayne and buried. Lev. 20; 15, 16.
7. Yf any man lye w’th mankind as he lyeth w’th a woman, both of them have comitted abomination, they both shall surely be put to Death. Lev. 20; 13.
8. Yf any p’son comiteth Adultery w’th a married or espoused wife, the Adulterer and the Adulteres shall surely be put to Death. Lev. 20; 10 and 18, 20. Deu. 22; 23, 24.
9. Yf any man shall forcibly and w’thout consent rauishe any mayd or Woman that is lawfull married or contracted, he shall be put to Death. Deu. 22; 25.
10. Yf any man stealeth a man or mankind, he shall be put to Death. Ex. 21; 16.
11. Yf any man rise vp by false witness, wittingly and of purpose to take away any man’s life, he shall be put to Death. Deu 19; 16, 18, 19.
12. Yf any man shall conspire or attempte any Inuasion, Insurrection or Rebellion against the comonwelth, he shall be put to Deth.
13. Yf any childe or children aboue sixteene yeers old, and of sufficient understanding, shall curse or smite their natural father or mother, hee or they shall bee put to Death; unlesse it can bee sufficiently testified that the parents have been very vnchristianly negligent in the education of such children, or so provoake them by extreme and cruel correction that they have beene foreced thereunto to preserve themselues from Death or maiming. Ex. 21; 17. Lev. 20. Ex. 20; 15.
14. Yf any man have a stubborne and rebellious sonne, of sufficient yeares and vnderstanding, viz., sixteene yeares of age, which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and that when they haue chastened him, will not hearken vnto them; then may his father and mother, being his naturall parents, lay hold on him and bring him to the Magestrates assembled in courte, and testify vnto them, that theire sonne is stubborne and rebellious, and will not obey their voyce and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes, such a sonne shall bee put to Death. Deu. 21; 20, 21.
The Government of Guilford
The text, complete and with the original spelling, is taken from Bernard Christian Steiner, A History of the Plantation of Menunkatuck and of the Original Town of Guilford, Connecticut (Baltimore: The Friedenwald Company, 1897), 35–37.
June 19, 1643
Until this time the government of Guilford had been in conformity with the grant from Lord Say and Brook to Theophilus Eaton. As a part of New Haven Colony, the government of Guilford was entitled to one Magistrate in whom was invested all executive and judicial powers. The settlers were either freemen or planters. Freemen were restricted to church members, and from their ranks were chosen all public officers, including the Magistrate and the three or four deputies chosen to sit with the Magistrate in General Courts. The planters were all those inhabitants above the age of twenty-one, with a certain estate, which qualified them to vote in town meetings. This unusually strict division into classes helps explain the restrictive language in this document as well as why the town meeting is relatively unimportant compared with the General Court. The present document shows that popular sovereignty was not assumed everywhere in the colonies (see the Guilford Covenant  for Guilford’s first agreement).
A church was here gathered at Guilford consisting of these 7 persons:—Mr. Henry Whitfield, Mr. John Higginson, Mr. Samuel Desborow, Mr. William Leete, Mr. Jacob Sheaffe, John Mepham and John Hoadley.
The nineteenth day of the fourth moneth, 1643, the ffeoffeesl1 in trust for purchasing the plantation resigned up their right into the hands of the church, and these foure of them, also wch were chosen to the exercise of civil power, did also expresse that their right and power for that worke was now terminated and ended, whereof notice being taken at the public meeting, it was further prpounded, agreed and concluded, that whereas, for the time past (while as yet there was no church gathered amongst us) we did choose out foure men to wit Robert Kitchel, William Chittenden, John Bishop and William Leete, into whose hands we did put full power and authority to act, order and dispatch all matters, respecting the publicke weale and civill government of this plantation, until a church was gathered amongst us, wch the Lord in mercy having now done, according to the desire of or hearts, and the said foure men at this publicke meeting, having resigned up their trust, and power to the intent that all power and authority might be rightly settled within the church, as most safe and suitable for securing of those mayne ends wch wee prpounded to orselves in or coming hither and sitting downe together, namely, that wee might settle and uphold all the ordinances of God in an explicit congregational church way, wth most purity, peace and liberty, for the benefit both of orselves and our posterities after us. We do now therefore, all and every of us agree, order and conclude that only such planters, as are also members of the church shall bee, and be called freemen, and that such freemen only shall have power to elect magistrates, Deputies and all other officers of public trust or authority in matters of importance, concerning either the civill officers or government here, from amongst themselves and not elsewhere, and to take an account of all such officers, for the honest and faithful discharge of their several places respectively, and to deale with and prceed against them for all misdemeanors and delinquencies in their several places according to rule, unto which Magistrates Deputies or officers we doe freely subject orselves in all lawfull commands, prvided that they bee yearly chosen, from time to time, and prvided also that no lawes nor orders bee by them made, but before all the planters, then and there inhabiting and residing have had due warning and notice of their meeting, or of what is to bee done so that all weighty objections may be duly attended, considered and according to righteousness, satisfyingly removed.
It is since further agreed and ordered, that in all general courts (consisting of the Magistrates and Deputies who are also appointed to keep particular courts) all orders shall be made, in general courts by the major part of the ffreemen, and all actions in particular courts, sustained by the major vote of the Magistrates and Deputies, it provided for issue sake that when the votes fall equall in either of those courts, then the magistrate shall have a double or casting vote.
Also it is agreed that there shall bee one fixed genrall Court yearly for election of officers &c when shall be chosen the Deputies for the particular court, Treasurer, Secretary, Sureveyors of highways, Marshall, Viewers of fences, &c.
It is ordered that there shall be foure fixed prticulr Courts every yeare (viz.) the first Thursdays in ffebruary, May, September and December, when and where all the members of the Court are to attend, from time to time, at eight o’clock in the forenoon upon the penalty of five shillings for every such default.
It was further ordered that all the freemen and planters should attend each and all of these courts, and remain to their close—unless dismissed—under suitable but severe penalties.
And it was further ordered that whosoever so appearing and attending shall have just cause to speake to or transact any business wth the Court or company, or to or with any person or persons in their presence, they shall both in expressions and in all other manner of their behavyor, so comely and respectfully demeane themselves, as may hold forth an honorable esteem of the Authority then present, and a due attendance to peace, not speaking untill called or allowed to speake, nor addressing their speech to any but the Court, or Magistrate, or such as they shall allow him or them to speake unto, nor continuing by impertinencies, needless repetitions or multiplications of words, wch rather tends to darken than cleare the truth, or right of the matter upon such penalty as the Court, considering the fact or carriage wth the aggravating circumstances adjoyned shall see cause to impose and inflict.
New Haven Fundamentals
The text is reproduced from Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions, 526–29. Thorpe in turn drew upon Hoadly, Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, 112–16.
October 27, 1643
While not as well known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut , the New Haven Fundamentals is every bit as interesting. Both should be seen as the primary constitutional precursors to the 1662 Connecticut Charter, which was formed when the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven were united into a royal colony. In effect, the 1662 charter was written by the combined citizens of the two older colonies, or at least written to satisfy them. The blend of Connecticut and New Haven was so careful that for almost half a century the legislature alternated its meetings yearly between Hartford and New Haven. For discussion of the relatively restricted political class in New Haven, see The Government of Guilford .
It was agreed and concluded as a fundamental order not to be disputed or questioned hereafter that none shall be admitted to be free burghesses in any of the plantations within this jurisdiction for the future but such planters as are members of some or other of the approved churches of New England; nor shall any but such free burghesses have any vote in any election, the six present freemen at Milford enjoying the liberty with the cautions agreed; nor shall any power or trust in the ordering of any civil affairs be at any time put into the hands of any other than such church members, though as free planters all have right to their inheritance and to commence according to such grants, orders, and laws as shall be made concerning the same.
2. All such free burghesses shall have power in each town or plantation within this jurisdiction to choose fit and able men among themselves, being church members as before, to be the ordinary judges to hear and determine all inferior cases, whether civil or criminal, provided that no civil cause to be tried in any of these plantation courts in value exceed £20; and that the punishment in such criminals, according to the mind of God revealed in his word touching such offenses, do not exceed stocking and whipping, or, if the fine be pecuniary, that it exceed not five pounds. In which court, the magistrate or magistrates, if any be chosen by the free burghesses or the jurisdiction for that plantation, shall sit and assist, with due respect to their place, and sentence shall be according to the vote of the major part of each such court. Only if the parties, or any of them, be not satisfied with the justice of such sentences or executions, appeals or complaints may be made from and against these courts to the court of magistrates for the whole jurisdiction.
3. All such free burghesses through the whole jurisdiction shall have vote in the election of all magistrates, whether governor, deputy-governor, or other magistrates, with a treasurer, a secretary, and a marshal, etc., for the jurisdiction. And for the ease of those free burghesses, especially in the more remote plantations, they may by proxy vote in these elections, though absent, their votes being sealed up in the presence of the free burghesses themselves, that their several liberties may be preserved and their votes directed according to their own particular light, and these free burghesses may, at every election, choose so many magistrates for each plantation as the weight of affairs may require, and as they shall find fit men for that trust. But it is provided and agreed that no plantation shall at any election be left destitute of a magistrate if they desire one to be chosen out of those in church fellowship with them.
4. All the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction shall meet twice a year at New Haven, namely the Monday immediately before the sitting of the two fixed general courts hereafter mentioned, to keep a court called the Court of Magistrates for the trial of weighty and capital cases, whether civil or criminal, above those limited to the ordinary judges in the particular plantations; and to receive and try all appeals brought to them from the aforesaid plantation courts; and to call all the inhabitants, whether free burghesses, free planters, or others, to account for the breach of any laws established, and for other misdemeanors, and to censure them according to the quality of the offense. In which meetings of magistrates less than four shall not be accounted a court, nor shall they carry on any business as a court. But it is expected and required that all the magistrates in this jurisdiction do constantly attend the public service at the times before mentioned, and if any of them be absent at one of the clock in the afternoon on Monday aforesaid when the court shall sit, or if any of them depart the town without leave while the court sits, he or they shall pay for any such default twenty shillings fine, unless some providence of God occasion the same, which the court of magistrates shall judge of from time to time. And all sentences in this court shall pass by the vote of the major part of the magistrates therein. But from this court of magistrates appeals and complaints may be made and brought to the general court as the last and highest of this jurisdiction. But in all appeals or complaints from or to what court soever due costs and damages shall be paid by him or them that make appeal or complaint without just cause.
5. Besides the plantation courts and court of magistrates, there shall be a general court for the jurisdiction which shall consist of the governor, deputy-governor, and all the magistrates within the jurisdiction, and two deputies for every plantation in the jurisdiction, which deputies shall from time to time be chosen against the approach of any such general court by the aforesaid free burghesses, and sent with due certificate to assist in the same. All which, both governor and deputy-governor, magistrates and deputies, shall have their vote in the said court. This general court shall always sit at New Haven, unless upon weighty occasion the general court see cause for a time to sit elsewhere, and shall assemble twice every year, namely the first Wednesday in April and the last Wednesday in October. In the latter of which courts the governor, deputy-governor, and all the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction, with a treasurer, a secretary, and marshal, shall yearly be chosen by all the free burghesses before mentioned. Besides which two fixed courts, the governor, or in his absence the deputy-governor, shall have power to summon a general court at any other time as the urgent and extraordinary occasions of the jurisdiction may require. And at all general courts, whether ordinary or extraordinary, the governor and deputy-governor, and all the rest of the magistrates for the jurisdiction with the deputies for the several plantations, shall sit together til the affairs of the jurisdiction be dispatched or may safely be respited. And if any of the said magistrates or deputies shall either be absent at the first sitting of the said general court, unless some providence of God, hinder, which the said court shall judge of, or depart or absent at the first sitting of the said general court, unless some providence of God, hinder, which the said court shall judge of, or depart or absent themselves disorderly before the court be finished, he or they shall each of them pay twenty shillings fine, with due considerations of further aggravations if there shall be cause. Which general court shall, with all care and diligence, provide for the maintenance of the purity of religion and suppress the contrary, according to their best light from the word of God and all wholesome and sound advice which shall be given by the elders and churches in the jurisdiction so far as may concern their civil power to deal therein.
Secondly, they shall have power to make and repeal laws and, while they are in force, to require execution of them in all the several plantations.
Thirdly, to impose an oath upon all the magistrates for the faithful discharge of the trust committed to them according to their best abilities, and to call them to account for the breach of any laws established or for other misdemeanors and to censure them as the quality of the offense shall require.
Fourthly, to impose an oath of fidelity and due subjection to the laws upon all the free burghesses, free planters, and other inhabitants within the whole jurisdiction.
Fifthly, to settle and levy rate and contributions upon all the several plantations for the public service of the jurisdiction.
Sixthly, to hear and determine all causes, whether civil or criminal, which by appeal or complaint shall be orderly brought to them from any of the other courts or from any of the other plantations. In all which, with whatsoever else shall fall within their cognizance or judicature, they shall, proceed according to the scriptures, which is the rule of all righteous laws and sentences. And nothing shall pass an act of the general court but by the consent of the major part of the magistrates and the greater part of the deputies.
These generals being thus laid and settled, though with purpose that the circumstntials such as the value of the causes to be tried in the plantations courts, the ordinary and fixed times of meetings both for the general courts and courts of magistrates, how often and when they shall sit, with the fines for absences or default, be hereafter considered of, continued, or altered as may best and most advance the course of justice and best suit the occasions of the plantations, the court proceed to present particular business of the jurisdiction.
[Majority Vote of Deputies and Magistrates Required for the Passage of Laws in Connecticut]
Text taken from Trumbull and Hoadly, Public Records, vol. 1, 119. Text is complete, and the spelling is unaltered.
February 5, 1645
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639  created a unicameral legislature with two parts. The Deputies, elected by the towns, were to represent local interests and assemble periodically with the Magistrates to form the full, legal General Court. The Magistrates, elected in an indirect colony-wide manner, were to represent the common good and sat more or less continuously to advise the Governor. The incipient bicameralism of the General Court is sharpened in this document. Whereas between 1639 and 1645 legislation required a majority of the Magistrates and Deputies combined, the Magistrates are now viewed together as a unit, as are the Deputies, and each unit must approve every bill. If a majority of Deputies does not approve a proposal it is defeated in the legislature. The same is true of the Magistrate unit; that is, a majority in the legislature must include a majority of the Deputies and a majority of the Magistrates. Still, the Deputies and Magistrates sit together as a unicameral legislature. The curious hybrid produced by the document below records the kind of institutional evolution toward bicameralism that probably took place in other colonies but was not formalized until the process was over (see, for example, documents 24, 41, and 54). Complete bicameralism was not achieved until 1698 (see Division of the Connecticut General Assembly ).
Whereas it is said in the Fundamental Orders that the general court shall consist of the governor or some one chosen to moderate and four other magistrates at least, it is now ordered and adjudged to be a lawful court if the governor or deputy with other magistrates be present in court with the major part of deputies lawfully chosen. But no act shall pass or stand for a law which is not confirmed both by the major part of the said magistrates, and by the major part of the deputies there present in court, both magistrates and deputies being allowed, either of them, a negative vote. Also the particular court may be kept by the governor or deputy with  other magistrates.
Connecticut Code of Laws
Partial text, with the original spelling, taken from Trumbull and Hoadly, Public Records, vol. 1, 509–63.
This code, sometimes cited as “Mr. Ludlow’s code,” after the man who drew it up, or “The Code of 1650,” appears at the end of volume 2 of The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut. It is immediately preceded by the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut , which is termed the “Constitution of 1639” and serves as a preface to this text. In effect, then, this document is an extension of the constitution, which underlines the constitutional status of colonial codes of law. Although the text is too long to reproduce in full, it is hoped that these selections will establish its rightful place as a foundation document. The portions omitted deal with the more mundane aspects of law, such as penalties for burglary and theft, weights and measures, heights of fences, fines, the militia, swearing, murder, and the keeping of records. The portions included deal more directly with rights, values, and other aspects of self-definition in which a people might engage.
established by the general court, may, 1650
Forasmuch as the free fruition of such Libberties, Immunities, Privileges, as Humanity, Civillity and Christianity, call for, as due to euery man in his place and proportion, without Impeachmt and infringement, hath euer beene and euer will bee the Tranquillity and Stabillity of Churches and Common wealths, and the denyall or deprivall thereof, the disturbance if not ruine of both:
It is therefore ordered by this Courte and Authority thereof, that no mans life shall bee taken away, no mans honor or good name shall bee stained, no mans person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered nor any way punished; no man shall bee deprived of his wife or children, no mans goods or estate shall bee taken away from him, nor any wayes indamaged, vnder colour of Law or countenance of Authority, vnless it be by the vertue or equity of some express Law of the Country warranting the same, established by a Generall Courte, and sufficiently published, or in case of the defect of a Law in any perticular case, by the word of God ...1
It is ordered and decreed by this Court and Authority thereof, that wheresoeuer the ministry of the word is established according to the order of the Gospell throughout this Jurissdiction, euery person shall duely resorte and attend therevnto respectiuely vppon the Lords day, and vppon such publique fast dayes and dayes of Thanksgiuing as are to bee generally kept by the appointment of Authority. And if any person within this Jurissdiction shall without just and necessary cause withdraw himselfe from hearing the publique ministry of the word, after due meanes of conviction vsed, he shall forfeit for his absence from euery such publique meeting, fiue shillings: All such offences to bee heard and determined by any one Magistrate or more, from time to time.
Forasmuch as the peace and prosperity of Churches and members thereof, as well as Ciuill rights and Libberties are carefuly to bee maintained,—It is ordered by this Courte and decreed, that the Civill Authority heere established hath power and libberty to see the peace, ordinances and rules of Christe bee obserued in euery Church according to his word; as allso to deale with any Church member in a way of Ciuill [justice] notwithstanding any church relation, office or interest, so it bee done in a Ciuill and not in an Eclesiasticall way; nor shall any church censure degrade or depose any man from any Ciuill dignitye, office or authority hee shall haue in the Commonwealth ...
It is ordered by this Courte and Authority thereof, that no person, howseholder or other, shall spend his time idlely or unprofitably, under paine of such punishment as the Courte shall thinke meet to inflict: and for this end, it is ordered, that the Constable of euery place shall vse speciall care and diligence to take knowledge of offendors in this kinde, especially of common Coasters, vnprofitable fowlers, and Tobacko takers, and present the same vnto any Magistrate, who shall haue power to heare and determine the case or transferr it to the [next] Courte.
It is ordered and decreed, that where any company of Indians doe sitt downe neare any English Plantations, that they shall declare whoe is their Sachem or Chiefe, and that the said Chiefe or Sachem shall pay to the saide English such tresspasses as shall be comitted by any Indian in the said plantation adioyning, either by spoyling or killing any Cattle or Swyne, either with trapps, doggs or arrowes; And they were not to pleade that it was done by strangers, vnless they can produce the prtye and deliuer him or his goods into the custody of the english: And they shall pay the double dammage if it were done voluntarily. The like ingagement this Courte all so makes to them in case of wrong or iniury done to them by the English, wch shall bee paid by the prty by whome it was done, if hee can bee made to appeare, or otherwise by the Towne in whose limmitts such facts are committed.
Forasmuich as or lenity and gentlnes towards Indians hath made them growe bold and insolent, to enter into Englishmens howses, and vnadvisedly handle swords and peeces and other instruments, many times to the hazzard of limbs or liues of English or Indians, and allso oft steale diuerse goods out of such howses where they resorte; for the preventing whereof, It is ordered, that whatsoeuer Indian shall hereafter meddle with or handle any English mans weapons, of any sorte, either in theire howses or in the fields, they shall forfeitt for euery such defaulte halfe a fathom of wampum; and if any hurte or injurye shall therevppon follow to any persons life or limbe, wound for wound, and shall pay for the healing such wounds and other dammages. And for anythinge they steale, they shall pay double, and suffer such further punnishment as the Magistrates shall adiudge them. The Constable of any Towne may attache and arrest any Indian that shall transgress in any such kinde before mentioned; and bring them before some Magistrate, whoe may execute the penalty of this order vppon offendors in any kinde beforementioned; and bring them before some Magistrate, whoe may execute the penalty of this order vppon offendors in any kinde except life or limbe, and any person that doth see such defaults may prosecute, and shall haue halfe the forfeiture.
It is ordered by this Courte and Authority thereof, that no man within this Jurissdiction shall, directly or indirectly, amend, repaire, or cause to bee amended or repaired, any gunn, small or great, belonging to any Indian, nor shall indeauor the same; nor shall sell nor giue to any Indian, directly or indirectly, any such gunn, nor any gunpowder, or shott, or lead, or shott mould, or any military weapon or weapons, armor, or arrowe heads; nor sell nor barter nor giue any dogg or doggs, small or great; vppon paine of ten pounds fyne for euery offence, at least in any one of the aforementioned perticulars; and the Courte shall haue power to increase the fyne, or to impose corporall punnishment where a fyne cannott bee had, at theire discretion.
And it is allso ordered, that no person nor persons shall trade with them at or about theire wigwams, but in there vessells or pinnaces, or at theire owne howses, vnder penalty of twenty shillings for each default ...
Whereas diuerse persons departe from amongst vs, and take vp theire aboade with the Indians, in a prophane course of life; for the preventing whereof,
It is ordered that whatsoeuer person or persons that now inhabiteth, or shall inhabitt within this Jurissdiction, and shall departe from vs and settle or joine with the Indians, that they shall suffer three yeares imprisonment at least, in the Howse of Correction, and vndergoe such further censure, by fyne or corporall punishment, the perticular Courte shall judge meet to inflict in such cases ...
This Courte, judging it necessary that some meanes should bee vsed to conuey the lighte and knowledge of God and of his Worde to the Indians and Natiues amongst vs, doe order that one of the teaching Elders of the Churches in this Jurissdiction, with the helpe of Thomas Stanton, shall bee desired, twise at least in every yeare to goe amongst the neighbouring Indians and indeauor to make knowne to them the Councells of the Lord, and thereby to draw and stirr them vp to direct and order all theire wayes and coversations according to the rule of his Worde; And Mr. Gouernor and Mr. Deputy, and the other Magistrates are desired to take care to see the things attended, and with theire owne presence so farr as may bee convenient, incourage the same.
This Courte hauing duly weighed the joint determination and argument of the Commissioners of the United English Colonyes at New Hauen, in Anno 1646, in reference to the Indians, and judging it to bee both according to rules of prudence and righteousness, doe fully assent thervnto, and order, that it bee recorded amongst the Acts of this Courte, and attended in future practice as occasions may present and require: The said conclusion is as followeth;—The Commissioners seriously considering the many willfull wrongs and hostile practices of the Indians against the English, together with theire interteining, protecting and rescuing of offenders, as late our experience showeth, (wch if suffered, the peace of the Colonyes cannot bee secured,) It is therefore concluded, that in such cases the Magistrates of any of the Jurissdictions may, at the charge of the Plaintiff, send some convenient strength of English, and according to the nature and value of the offence and damage, seize and bring away any of that plantation of Indians that shall interteine, protect or rescue the offender, though it should bee in another Jurissdiction, when through distance of place, commission or direction cannot bee had, after notice and due warning giuen them, as actors, or at least accessary to the iniurye and damage done to the English, onely women and children to bee sparingly seized, vnless knowne to bee some way guilty. And because it will bee chargeable keeping Indians in prison, and if they should escape they are like to prove more insolent and dangerous after, It was thought fitt that vppon such seizure, the delinquent or satisfaction bee againe demaunded of the Sagamore or plantation of Indians guilty or accessory as before; and if it bee denyed, that then the Magistrates of the Jurissdiction deliuer vp the Indian seized to the party or partyes endammaged, either to serue or be shipped out and exchanged for neagers, as the case will justly beare. And though the Comissioners foresee that such severe though just proceeding may provoake the Indians to an vniust seizing of some of ours, yet they could not at present finde no better meanes to preserue the peace of the Colonyes, all the aforementioned outrages and insolences tending to an open warr: Onely they thought fitt that before any such seizure bee made in any plantation of Indians, the ensuing Declaration bee published, and a Coppye giuen to the perticular Saggamores: the Commissioners for the Vnited Colonyes, considering how peace with righteousness may bee preserued betweixt all the English and the severall plantations of the Indians, thought fitt to declare and publish, as they will doe no iniurye to them, so if any Indian or Indians of what plantation so euer, doe any willfull dammage to any of the English colonyes, vppon proofe, they will in a peaceable way require just satisfaction, according to the nature of the offence and dammage. But if any Saggamore or plantation of Indians, after notice and due warninge, interteine, hyde, protect, keepe, conuey away or further the escape of any such offendor or offendors, the English will require satisfaction of such Indian and Saggamore or Indian plantation; and if they deny it, they will right themselues as they may, vppon such as so meinteine them that doe the wrong, keeping peace and all tearmes of Amity and Greement with all other Indians.
Forasmuch as there is a necessary vse of howses of Common Interteinment in euery Common wealth, and of such as retaile wine, beare and victualls, yet because there are so many abuses of that lawfull liberty, both by persons interteining and persons interteined, there is allso need of strict lawes and rules to regulate such an imployment;
It is therefore ordered by this Courte and Authority thereof, that no person or persons licensed for Common Interteinement shall suffer any to bee drunken or drinke excessiuely, viz: aboue halfe a pointe of wyne for one person at one tyme, or to continue tipling aboue the space of halfe an houre, or at vnseasonable times, or after nine of the clock at night, in or about any of theire howses, on penalty of fiue shillings for euery such offence. And euery person found drunken, viz: so that hee bee thereby bereaued or dissabled in the vse of this vnderstanding, appearing in his speech or gesture, in any of the said howses or elsewhere, shall forfeitt ten shillings; and for excessive drinking, three shillings, foure pence; and for continnuing aboue halfe an houre tipling, two shillings six pence; and for tipling at vnseasonable times, or after nien a clock at night, fiue shillings, euery offence in these perticulars, being lawfully convicted thereof; and for want of payment, such shall bee imprisoned vntill they pay, or bee set in the stocks, one houre or more, in some open place, as the weather will permitt, not exceeding three houres at one time; Provided notwithstanding, such licensed persons may interteine seafaring men or land trauellers in the night season when they come first on shoare, or from theire journye, for theire necessary refreshment, or when they prepare for theire voyage or journeye the next day early, [if there] bee no dissorder amongst them; and allso strangers and other persons in an orderly way may continnue [in] such howses of Common Interteinement during m[eal] times or vppon lawful buisines, what time their occasions shall require ...
juryes and jurors
It is ordered by the Authority of this Courte, that in all cases wch are entred vnder forty shillings, the sute shall bee tryed by the Courte of Magistrates as they shall judge most agreeable to equity and righteousness. And in all cases that are tryed by Juries, it is left to the Magistrates to impannell a Jury of sixe or twelue, as they shall judge the nature of the case shall require; and if four of sixe, or eight of twelue, agree, the verdict shall bee deemed to all intents and purposes sufficient and full; vppon wch judgement may bee entred and execution graunted, as if they had all concurred; but if it fall out that there bee not such a concurrence as is before mentioned, the Jurors shall returne the case to the Courte with theire reasons, and a speciall verdict is to bee drawne therevpon, and the voate of the greater number of Magistrates shall carrye the same; and the judgement to bee entred and other proceedings as in case of a verdict by a Jury...
It is ordered and decreed, that there shall bee a Grand Jury of twelue or fourteene able men warned to appeare euery Courte yearely in Septembr, or as many and oft as the Gouernor or Courte shall thinke meete, to make presentments of the breaches of any Lawes or orders or any other misdemeanors they shall know of in this Jurissdiction ...
This Courte being sensible of the great dissorder growing in this Common wealth, through the contempts cast vppon the Civill Authority, wch willing to prevent, doe order and decree:
That whosoeuer shall henceforth openly or willingly defame any courte of Justice, or the sentences and proceedings of the same, or any of the Magistrates or judges of any such Courte, in respect of any Act or sentence therein passed, and being thereof lawfully convicted in any Generall Courte or Courte [of] Magistrates, shall bee punnished for the same by fyne, imprisonment, dissfranchisement or bannishment, as the quality and measure of the offence shall deserue.
It being one chiefe project of that old deluder Sathan, to keepe men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times by perswading them from the vse of Tongues, so that at least the true sence and meaning of the originall might bee clouded with false glosses of saint seeming deceiuers; and that Learning may not bee buried in the Graue of or Forefathers, in Church and Common wealth, the Lord assisting our indeauers,—It is therefore ordered by this Courte and Authority thereof, that euery Towneshipp within this Jurissdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty houshoulders, shall then forthwith appoint one within theire Towne to teach all such children as shall resorte to him, to write and read, whose wages shall bee paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in generall by way of supplye, as the maior parte of those who order the prudentialls of the Towne shall appointe; provided that those who send theire children bee not oppresed by more than they can haue them taught for in other Townes. And it is further ordered, that where any Towne shall increase to the number of one hundred families or housholders, they shall sett vp a Grammer Schoole, the masters thereof being able to instruct youths so farre as they may bee fitted for the Vniversity. And if any Towne neglect the Performance hereof aboue one yeare, then euery such Towne shall pay fiue pounds pr Annum, to the next such Schoole, till they shall performe this order ...
It is ordered and decreed, that within twenty dayes after the session of euery Generall Courte, the Secretary thereof shall send forth Coppies of such Lawes and orders as are or shall bee made at either of them, wch are of generall concernement for the gouernement of this Commonwealth, to the Constables of each Towne within this Jurissdiction, for them to publish within fourteene dayes more, at some publique meeting in theire seueral Townes, and cause to bee written into a Booke and kept for the Vse of the Towne. And once euery yeare the Constables in each Towne shall read or cause to bee read in some publique meeting all the Capitall Lawes, and giue notice to all the Inhabitants where they may at any time see the rest of the Lawes and orders and acquaint themselues therewith: And the Secretary of the Courte Shall haue twelue pence for the Coppy of the orders of each Session aforesaid, from each of the Townes ...
Forasmuch as it is obserued that many abuses are crept in and committed by frequent taking of Tobacko, It is ordered by the Authority of the Courte, that no person vnder the age of twenty yeares, nor any other that hath not allready accustomed himselfe to the use thereof, shall take any Tobacko, vntill hee hath brought a certificate vnder the hands of some who are approued for knowledge and skill in phisick, that it is usefull for him, and allso that hee hath receiued a lycense from the Court for the same. And for the regulating of those whoe either by theire former taking it haue to theire owne aprehensions made it necessary to them, or vppon due advice are perswaded to the vse thereof, It is ordered, that no man within this Colonye, after the publication hereof, shall take any Tobacko publiquely in the street, high wayes, or any barne yards, or vppon training dayes in any open places, vnder the penalty of six pence for each offence against this order in any the perticulares thereof, to bee paid without gainsaying vppon conviction, by the testimony of one wittness that is without just exception, before any one Magistrate. And the Constables in the severall Townes are required to make presentment to each particular courte of such as they doe vnderstand and euict to bee transgressors of this order ...
It is ordered by this Courte and decreed, that if any person within these Libberties haue been or shall be fyned or whipped for any scandalous offence, hee shall not bee admitted after such time to haue any voate in Towne or Common wealth, nor to serue on the Juiry untill the Courte shall manifest theire satisfaction ...
Preface to the General Laws and Liberties of Connecticut Colony Revised and Published by Order of the General Court Held at Hartford in October 1672
The text is from Trumbull and Hoadly, Public Records, vol. 2 (1852), 567–68.
After Connecticut and New Haven colonies merged in 1662 so that the combined colony had approximately the borders we associate with the state of Connecticut today (a later agreement with New York would trade the Connecticut towns on Long Island for what are now the westernmost towns of Connecticut), there was a need to more fully articulate a government for the combined colony. This was a delicate and slow process because the political cultures of the two former colonies were at some variance. This code of law was part of that evolution. Only the preface is reproduced here; it serves to illustrate the animating principles of the document as well as to show that even after unification the documents of the united colonies were still seen as deriving from, and operating under, the umbrella of the original foundation covenants.
To our Beloved Brethren and Neighbours, the Inhabitants of the Colony of Connecticut, The general covrt of that Colony with Grace and Peace in our Lord Jesus.
The Serious Consideration of the Necessity of the Establishment of wholesome Lawes, for the Regulating of each Body Politick, Hath enclined us mainly in Obedience unto jehovah the Great Law-giver: Who hath been pleased to set down a Divine Platforme, not onely of the Morall but also of Judicial Lawes, suitable for the people of Israel; As also in conformity to the manifest pleasure of our Soveraign Lord the King, in his Majesties Gracious Charter, requiring and Granting Liberty thereby of makeing of Laws and Constitutions suiting our State & condition, for the Safety & Welfare of the people of the Colony of Conecticut. We say the sense of these Weighty Inducemnts hath moved us, notwithstanding the exceeding great difficulties of the Work, Looking up to God for wisedom and strength to engage in this solemn Service, To Exhibit and take care concerning the sufficient Promulgation of such needfull Lawes, that a more full and plain way may be set for execution of, and judgement thereby.
Wherefore although in our former Initial times (while this Colony was deemed distinct in Jurisdiction from that of New-haven,) We contented ourselves with keeping our Lawes in Manuscripts, and in the Promulgation of them by written Copies sent unto those Townes who then acknowledg themselves to be setled within our limits, But since by Divine Providence We and New-haven have agreed, according to his Majesties Pleasure manifested in our Patent, to vnite as one Body Politick: From whence and from other increasings of Plantations and Persons, together with the addition of more Lawes and Orders, an occasion is given to think it convenient if not necessary for further or full Publication, that so as well Forreigners occasionally comming hither, as the more settled Inhabitants, may have ready meanes in forming how to demean themselves and observe.
From hence and such like Considerations urging, This Court have seen cause to put these our Lawes in Print, so far as they are at present prepared; Being willing that all concerned by this Impression may know what they may expect at our hands as Justice, in the Administration of our Government here. We have endeavoured not onely to Ground our Capital Laws upon the Word of God, but also all our other Laws upon the Justice and Equity held forth in that word, which is a most perfect Rule.
Now in these our laws, although we may seem to vary or differ, yet it is not our purpose to Repugn the Statute Laws of England, so far as we understand them; professing ourselves alwayes ready and willing to receive Light for Emendation or Alteration as we may have oportunity: Our whole aim in all being to Please and Glorifie God, to approve ourselves Loyal Subjects to our Soveraign, and to promote the Welfare of this People in all Godliness and Honesty, in Peace, which will be the more establishing to his Majesties Crown and Dignity, and best Answer his Religious Directions to us in our Charter: And that pure Religion and undefiled before God, according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, may be maintained amongst us, which was the end of the first Planters, who settled these Foundations; and ought to be the endeavours of those that shall succeed to Vphold and Encourage unto all Generations.
We need no other Inducments to lay before you, to bespeak your Obedience to what follows but that of the apostle, 1 Pet. 2, 13, 17. submit yourselves to every Ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, &c., Love the Brotherhood, Fear God, Honour the King.
By order of the General Court,
John Allin, Secrt.
[Division of the Connecticut General Assembly into Two Houses]
Taken from Trumbull and Hoadly, Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, vol. 4 (1850), 267.
October 13, 1698
In this document Connecticut altered somewhat the joint government that had resulted from the 1662 charter. Because the charter was given by the king, there was a danger that such a unilateral amendment might be viewed as disloyalty. The colonists, therefore, were careful to reaffirm their allegiance to the king and to note that his charter permitted them to erect and conduct their own local government. The implicit but half-formed bicameralism found in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639  and New Haven Fundamentals, 1643  is now explicitly and fully developed (see also Majority Vote of Deputies and Magistrates ). For bicameralism in other colonies, see the Massachusetts Bicameral Ordinance  and General Assembly of Rhode Island .
It is ordered by this court, and the authority thereof, that for the future its general assembly shall consist of two houses. The first shall consist of the governor, or, in his absence of the deputy-governor, and assistants, which shall be known by the name of the Upper House. The other shall consist of such deputies as shall be legally returned from the several towns within this colony to serve as members of this general assembly, which shall be known by the name of the Lower House wherein a speaker chosen by themselves shall preside. Which houses so formed shall have a distinct power to apoint all needful officers and to make such rules as they shall severally judge necessary for the regulating of themselves. And it is further ordered that no act shall be passed into a law of this colony, nor any law already enacted be repealed, nor any other act proper to this general assembly, but by the consent of both houses.
[1. ]In this document, as in others, the letters u and v are often interchanged. Divine is here effectively rendered divyne. The letters i and j are likewise often interchanged.
[1. ]In New England a plantation was a farming community composed of many separate farms and not a single agricultural enterprise using slaves, as in the southern colonies.
[1. ]Ten pence. The symbol “id.,” or “d.,” stands for pence.
[1. ]Queries, or questions.
[1. ]A feudal term used to describe those holding a right of ownership, use, or control.
[1. ]At this point the capital laws are reproduced word for word from the December, 1642 ordinance (see the Capitall Lawes of Connecticut ).