Today marks the 377th anniversary of the first colonial constitution: the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. It was adopted by representatives from the settlements of Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford.
The History Channel website notes:
Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that “the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.”
The Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders in 1662. The Charter stood for centuries, despite being revoked by James II in 1687 and an attempt by a royal governor to retrieve it which was dramatically foiled:
Sir Edmund Andros, His Majesty’s agent, followed up failure of various strategies by arriving in Hartford with an armed force to seize the Charter. After hours of debate, with the Charter on the table between the opposing parties, the candle-lit room suddenly went dark. Moments later when the candles were re-lighted, the Charter was gone.
You may remember this as a subplot in the Newbery Award-winning novel “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” where Kit’s uncle is one of the townspeople trying to prevent Connecticut’s annexation. The charter was hidden in the tree pictured above, which is the only known photograph of the famous Charter Oak of Connecticut before it fell in a storm 1856. [The file record of the Connecticut Historical Society lists one “Edwin P. Kellogg” as the photographer; however, in most available sources it is attributed to Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902).]
Find out more about the circumstances surrounding each British colony’s creation by reading the Tutorial: Formation of the Original 13 Colonies in WorldView Software’s American History I and Basic American History I. (The texts of both the Fundamental Orders and the Charter are available at the Yale Law School’s Avalon Project.)