Connecticut Bar Journal

Volume 65.

65 CBJ S-1.


FOREWARDWhen on July 4, 1776, that group of 57 men in Philadelphia whom we call patriots and the British considered conspiratorial and traitorous rebels declared "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States", it marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Now, the colonies were states. They no longer owed allegiance to the Crown. They were sovereign in their own right, bound together not by law but by convenience, accommodation and necessity, with their first priority being to secure by defense of arms that independence they had so boldly proclaimed.

But how were these "states" aewly freed of their bonds of loyalty to the mother country, oe organized and governed? That was for each state to say for itself; and all but two in the next several years did so by adopting constitutions. Pennsylvania adopted one in 1776, New York in 1777 and Massachusetts in 1780.

Connecticut, however, was not to be one of these. The "Constitution State" - birthplace of constitutionalism with its Fundamental Orders of 1639 and living since 1662 under a Royal Charter firn-dy based on the model of the Orders - saw no reason to changc a method of operation that appeared to be working so well. So when its General Assembly received the Declaration of Independence, it formally approved it; declared Connecticut an independent state; then simply enacted a law that "the form of civil government in this State shall continue to be as established by Charter received from Charles the second, King of England . . . " All officers were to continue in office and all laws were to continue to be enforced. Only certain forms of language were to be changed: there would, for instance, be no further references to "His Majesty" in titles or writs.

And so, remarkably, it remained until 1818, when the gathering winds of societal and demographic change accumulated in velocity and the call for a constitution could no longer be withstood. The convention convened on August 26, 1818 at what is now known as the Old State House in Hartford. It adjourned on September 16. Its product was ratified 13,918 to 12,364 on October 5. Sixty-six towns voted for the Constitution of 1818; fifty-two voted against it.

The Constitution of 1818 essentially remains Connecticut's...

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