At UnitedStatesNow, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Connecticut is referred to as the "Constitution State" due to the fact that it has the first written constitution as recognized by many historians. On 24 January 1639, the Connecticut Colony council passed a resolution to adopt a system of government known as the Fundamental Order of 1638/39. It wasn't until a historian from Connecticut, John Fiske, pushed for the establishment of the "Constitution State" nickname in the late 1950s, that the state officially adopted the slogan. The General Assembly passed a resolution in 1959 that mandated the motto.
The "Constitution State" nickname was made possible by the desire of a number of Massachusetts residents to seek religious and social freedom during the period of Anglican reform in the British colonies. A section of land was chosen by the Massachusetts General Court for settlement; however, it was under dispute with other colonists regarding ownership rights. In response to this problem, a group of magistrates from the proposed region in Connecticut were assembled to settle the dispute. Known as the March Commission, it organized under the leadership of Roger Ludlow, widely known as one of the main founders of Connecticut.
This commission was only scheduled to last until March 1636, at which time a legal system was to be put in place throughout the region. Due to the fact that the organization was so successful in resolving the land dispute and a push to build an ecclesiastical society, the group stayed in power and began the process of self-governing the colony, a fact unique during the era. Ludlow took it on himself to announce to Massachusetts that it had the desire to self-govern. As such, he drafted the Fundamental Orders of 1638/39 as the first constitution in the colonies. This effectively established Connecticut as the Constitution State and an independent entity.
One of the unique factors in the document is the fact that it established many of the fundamentals later used in the drafting of the United States Constitution as well as many of the future democratic republics throughout the world. The Fundamental Orders deemed that the government was based on the rights of individuals, meaning it served the greater good through the will of the people rather than a divine right. Every free male was mandated the right to elect representatives through a process of secret ballot. The document also outlined the duties and responsibilities of the government, while also addressing its limitations on certain matters, a principle that still holds true in constitutions throughout the country and the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Connecticut known as the Constitution State?
Connecticut earned the nickname "The Constitution State" because it's believed to have been the first place in the world to have a written constitution, the Fundamental Orders of 1638-1639. This document outlined the framework for the government of the Connecticut Colony and is considered by some historians to be the first written constitution in the Western tradition, predating the United States Constitution by over a century and a half.
What are the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut?
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were adopted on January 14, 1639, and served as the governing document for the Connecticut Colony. They established a framework for the government that included the election of a governor and a legislature. The Orders are significant because they represent an early step towards the creation of a government by consent of the governed, a foundational principle of democratic governance.
How did the Fundamental Orders influence the United States Constitution?
While the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were not a direct template for the United States Constitution, they are seen as a forerunner because they embodied the idea of a government that derived its authority from the consent of the people it governed. This concept was a key element in the development of democratic principles that would later be central to the United States Constitution.
Are there any other states known for their constitutional history?
Yes, several other states have notable constitutional histories. Pennsylvania, for example, is known for the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, which was a radical and democratic constitution for its time. Massachusetts is famous for the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, drafted by John Adams, which is the world's oldest functioning written constitution. Virginia is also significant for its Virginia Declaration of Rights, which influenced the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.
When did Connecticut officially adopt "The Constitution State" as its nickname?
Connecticut officially adopted "The Constitution State" as its nickname by an act of the General Assembly in 1959. This act recognized the state's claim to having the first written constitution in the Western tradition, the Fundamental Orders, and solidified the nickname in the state's identity and on its license plates.