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England, in America, which lies and extends itself from a river there, called Naragansett river, the space of forty leagues upon a straight line near the sea shore, towards the south-west, west and by south, or west as the coasts lieth toward Virginia, accounting three English miles to the league, and all and singular the lands and hereditaments lying and being within the limits aforesaid, north and south in latitude, and in length and longitude of and within all the breadth aforesaid froin the northern ocean and the south seas, &c."(a)
This was the original patent of Connecticut. The settlers of the two colonies of Connecticut both claimed as patentees under Viscount Lord Say and Seal, and his associates (6)
§ 65. The Connecticut colonists continued to act under their original voluntary association until January 14th, 1639, when all the free planters convened at Hartford, and after mature deliberation, adopted a constitution of government which was admirably adapted to the wants and necessities of the people. It guarded against any encroachments upon the rights of the subjects. It formed the basis of the most free and happy constitution. of civil government which was ever formed. It is not a matter of surprise that it has received the admiration of historians and statesmen in after ages, when, (as remarked by a historian,) “it is remembered that it originated at a period when the lights of civil liberty were wholly extinguished in most parts of the earth, the rights of men but little understood, and less regarded, by the potentates of this world.” Its introduction declared, that for the establishment of order and of government, they associated and conjoined themselves to be one public state or commonwealth, and did, for them
(a) 1 Trumb. Hist. 27.
(6) Ibid. 28.
selves and successors, and such as should be at any time joined to them, confederate together to maintain the liberty and purity of the gospel which they professed, and the discipline of the church according to its institutions, and in all civil affairs to be governed according to such laws as should be made according to the constitution which they were then about to adopt.
The constitution then ordained that there should be annually two general courts or assemblies; one on the second Thursday in April, and the other on the second Thursday in September: that the first should be a court of elections, in which should be annually chosen at least six magistrates, and all other public officers : that a governor should be chosen distinct from the six magistrates, for one year, and until another should be chosen and
The governor and magistrates should be sworn to a faithful execution of the laws of the colony, and in cases where there was no express law established, to be governed by the Divine word. The choice of officers was to be made by the whole body of the freemen convened in general election. All persons who had been received as members of the several towns by a majority of the inhabitants, and had taken the oath of fidelity to the commonwealth should be admitted freemen of the colony. It required the governor and magistrates should be elected by ballot; the governor by the greatest number of votes, and magistrates by a majority. If at any time it should happen that six should not have a majority, in that case those who had the greatest number of suffrages should stand as duly elected for that year.
No person could be governor, unless a member of some church, and had previously been a magistrate in the colony ; nor could any man be elected to the office more than once in ten years. No one could be chosen unto the magistracy who was not a freeman of the colony, and had been nominated either by the freemen or the general court. The assembly were authorized to nominate in cases in which they judged it expedient. Neither the governor nor magistrates might execute any part of their office until they had been publicly sworn in the face of the general assembly. The several towns were required to send their respective deputies to the election, and when it was finished, they should proceed to any further service as at any other time, that of enacting of laws, and any other public service. The governor was authorized, either by hiinself or his acting secretary, to issue his warrant for calling the assembly, one month at least before the time of their appointed meetings: upon particular emergencies he might convene them in seventeen days, or even upon shorter notice, stating his reasons in the warrant. Upon the reception of the governor's warrant, in April and September, the constables of the respective towns were obliged to warn all the freemen to elect and send their deputies. Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, were required to send four deputies each to every general court, and the other towns which should be added to the colony in the future, should send such number as the court should determine proportionate to the body of their freemen. The deputies were declared to be vested with the whole power of the respective towns which they represented. They had authority to meet and determine their own election, and to fine any person who should intrude himself upon them, when he had not been duly chosen, or to fine any of their members for disorderly conduct when they were assembled. Provision was made that in case the governor and the major part of the magistrates should, upon any urgent occasion, neglect or refuse to call an assembly, the freemen should petition them to summon one; and is, upon the petition of a major part of the freemen in the colony, they still neglected or refused, then the constables of the several towns should, upon the petition of the major part of the freemen, convoke an assembly. That when the assembly was thus convened, it should have power to choose a moderator. When it was thus formed, it should exercise all the powers of any other general assembly. Particularly, it was authorized to call any court, magistrate, or any other person before it; and to displace, or inflict penalties, according to the nature of the offence. All general assemblies called by the government, were to consist of the governor, four magistrates, and the major part of the deputies. When there was an equal vote, the governor had a casting vote. Provision was made, that no general court should be adjourned or dissolved without the consent of the major part of the members; and that whenever a tax was laid upon the inhabitants, the sum to be paid by each town should be determined by a committee consisting of an equal number from each of the respective towns. The form of oaths to be administered to the governor and magistrates was also adopted in the general convention of the free planters.
§ 66. Such in substance, was the original constitution of Connecticut, of which a modern historian with great propriety has said, “More than two centuries have elapsed, the world has been made wiser by the most various experience, political institutions have become the theme on which the most powerful and cultivated minds have been employed, and so many constitutions have been framed, or reformed, stifled or subverted, that memory may despair of a complete catalogue ; but the people have found no reason to deviate from the frame of government established by their fathers. No jurisdiction in the English monarch was recognized : the laws of honest justice were the basis of this commonwealth, and therefore its foundations were lasting. These humble emigrants invented an admirable system, for they were near nature, listened willingly to her voice, and easily copied her forms. No ancient usages, no hereditary differences of rank-no established interest, impeded the application of the principles of justice. Freedom springs spontaneously into life, the artificial distinctions of society require centuries to ripen!
History has ever celebrated the heroes who have won laurels in scenes of carnage; has it no place for the founders of states? the wise legislators who struck the rock in the wilderness so that the waters of liberty gushed forth in copious and perennial fountains ? They who judge of men by their services to the human race, will never cease to honor the memory of Hooker and Haines."(a)
This constitution continued to be the fundamental law of the colony during the whole period of its independent existence, and its spirit was introduced into the charter of 1662, and its influence felt even down to the year 1818, when many of its main features were incorporated into the present constitution of the state of Connecticut.
Agreeably to its provision, the freemen of the colony convened at Hartford, on the second Thursday of April, and elected the officers of government. The general assembly proceeded as they had leisure, and as occasion required, to enact a system of laws. The laws at first were few, and time was taken to consider and digest them. The first statute in the Connecticut code is a kind of declaration, or bill of rights. It ordains that no man's life shall be taken away—no man's honor or good name be stained-no man's person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any wise punished—that no man shall be deprived of his wife or children ; no man's goods or estate shall be taken away
(a) Bancroft's History, vol. i. p. 402.