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Connecticut Constitutional History

Connecticut Constitutional History

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Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 is known as the “constitution state.” While the origin on this title is uncertain, the nickname is assumed to reference the Fundamental Orders
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders were adopted by the Connecticut Colony council on January 14, 1638/39 OS . The orders describe the government set up by the Connecticut River towns, setting its structure and powers....

 of 1638-39. These Fundamental Orders represent the framework for the first formal government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 written by a representative body in Connecticut. Connecticut’s government has operated under the direction of five separate documents in its history. The Connecticut Colony at Hartford was governed by the Fundamental Orders, and the Quinnipiac Colony at New Haven had its own Constitution, 'The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony' which was signed on 4 June 1639.

In 1662, Connecticut was granted governmental authority by King Charles II of England
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 and royal charter. While these two documents acted to lay the groundwork for the state’s government, both lacked essential characteristics of a constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

. Separate branches of government did not exist during this period, and the General Assembly acted as the supreme authority. A true constitution was not adopted in Connecticut until 1818. Finally, the current state constitution was implemented in 1965. The 1965 constitution absorbed a majority of its 1818 predecessor, but incorporated a handful of important modifications.

The Fundamental Orders

On January 14, 1639, the Fundamental Orders
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders were adopted by the Connecticut Colony council on January 14, 1638/39 OS . The orders describe the government set up by the Connecticut River towns, setting its structure and powers....

 were adopted in Connecticut. This document has often been referred to as the world’s first written constitution, despite the fact that it does not share many properties of a traditional constitution. At the urging of influential preacher Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts...

, the Connecticut legislative body, or General Court, began secret committee meetings to discuss the drafting of the orders in June 1638. The Council completed its efforts by the beginning of 1639 and shortly thereafter the Fundamental Orders became the cornerstone of government in Connecticut.

Connecticut's Foundation as a Religious Colony

Connecticut was originally founded by Congregationalists who split away from the Massachusetts colony between 1635 and 1636. The first settlers founded three towns on the Connecticut River
Connecticut River
The Connecticut River is the largest and longest river in New England, and also an American Heritage River. It flows roughly south, starting from the Fourth Connecticut Lake in New Hampshire. After flowing through the remaining Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis, it defines the border between the...

 in Windsor
Windsor, Connecticut
Windsor is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States, and was the first English settlement in the state. It lies on the northern border of Connecticut's capital, Hartford. The population was estimated at 28,778 in 2005....

, Wethersfield
Wethersfield, Connecticut
Wethersfield is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. Many records from colonial times spell the name Weathersfield, while Native Americans called it Pyquag...

, and Hartford
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

. One of the main purposes of the Fundamental Orders was to formalize the relationship between these three towns. The core foundation of the Fundamental Orders incorporates the ingrained religious background of the colony’s founders. They called for “an orderly and decent government according to God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

” in attempts to pursue “The liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

.” Until 1818, the Congregational Church
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....

 stood as the established church of the state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

. All Connecticut residents were required to attend church and/or pay taxes to support the Congregational faith. Anyone belonging to another Christian sect such as Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

, Episcopal
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

, or Quaker, had to provide documentation signed by a church officer indicating attendance and financial support of their separate church in order to avoid paying taxes to the Congregationalists.

Voting Rights

Voting rights were limited under the Fundamental Orders. All Caucasian
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...

 males at least twenty-one years of age could become a freeman, or a voter, if he met certain property qualifications. In order to vote, the citizen must have owned real estate
Real estate
In general use, esp. North American, 'real estate' is taken to mean "Property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals, or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this; an item of real property; buildings or...

 assessed at a yearly rental value of 40 shillings ($7.00) or owned taxable property assessed at 40 pounds
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 ($134). Since cattle were the only personal property assessable at this time, voting rights were practically restricted to land owners. African-Americans could not constitutionally vote in Connecticut until 1865, when a decision from the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors secured their right to vote. Women could not vote until the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920....

 was passed in 1920.

Separation of Powers from 1639-1818

Prior to the implementation of the first official constitution in 1818, Connecticut’s government had no separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

. The legislative body, the General Court, began as a one house legislature that wielded supreme authority. Although the General Court split in 1698 and was renamed the General Assembly, it continued to enjoy dominance over the executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 and the judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 until 1818. After the split, the General Assembly consisted of two houses, the Council and the Assembly. The Council, the more powerful of the two houses, consisted of the ex officio governor and lieutenant governor and twelve elected assistants. The twelve assistants were not selected from particular jurisdictions, but rather represented the state at large. The Council varied in number up to 200 members, with each town sending either one or two representatives.

Aside from an automatic position on the Council, the position of governor was highly symbolic. The executive had no power of pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

 and no ability to veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 bills passed by the General Assembly. Under the Fundamental Orders, the maximum term for the governor was two years and he could not succeed himself. For many years, John Haynes
John Haynes
John Haynes , also sometimes spelled Haines, was a colonial magistrate and one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony...

 and Edward Hopkins
Edward Hopkins
Edward Hopkins was an English colonist and politician and Governor of the Connecticut Colony. Active on both sides of the Atlantic, he was a founder of the New Haven and Connecticut colonies, serving seven one-year terms as governor of Connecticut. He returned to England in the 1650s, where he...

 took turns with the position, each serving a two year term and then rotating back to the role of lieutenant governor. The primary responsibilities of the governor were as an official statesman and a member of the legislature. Before the split into two houses, the governor acted as the moderator of the General Court
Connecticut General Assembly
The Connecticut General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Connecticut. It is a bicameral body composed of the 151-member House of Representatives and the 36-member Senate. It meets in the state capital, Hartford. There are no term limits for either chamber.During...

. Afterwards, he held the spot on the Council. The impotence of the governor was subject to the important exception of the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, during which time his position as commander-in-chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the state militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 rendered the office extremely importance.

Perhaps the least influential branch of government under the Fundamental Orders was the judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

. Until 1818, the legislative branch was the court of final resort in the state, holding appellate jurisdiction
Appellate jurisdiction
Appellate jurisdiction is the power of the Supreme Court to review decisions and change outcomes of decisions of lower courts. Most appellate jurisdiction is legislatively created, and may consist of appeals by leave of the appellate court or by right...

 over all lower courts. If a litigant was dissatisfied with the court’s decision, he simply had to go to the legislature to request review. This often led to circumstances where a representative or assistant sat in review of a case in which he was personally interested, either as an attorney, litigant, or friend of one of the parties. When it became too burdensome for the entire assembly to handle appeals, the Supreme Court of Errors was created in 1784. Instead of being composed of the entire assembly, only the members of the Council sat as the Supreme Court of Errors. This change failed to alleviate many of the conflict of interest problems inherent in the appellate process.

Under political pressure, the General Assembly changed the makeup of the Supreme Court of Errors in 1806. Members of the Council no longer sat on the court. Instead, the nine Superior Court
Superior court
In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general competence which typically has unlimited jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases...

 judges acted as the Supreme Court of Errors when all of them sat together. While this created a judicial body, the General Assembly still retained the power to reverse decisions of the court. It also resulted in the constant situation of a Superior Court judge sitting in review of a case he had presided over at the trial level.

The most infamous example of legislative interference with the courts occurred in 1815. In that year, Peter Lung was convicted of murder and subsequently sentenced to death. After Lung filed a petition with the General Assembly, his conviction was overturned. It is believed that Mr. Lung’s political influence largely contributed to his conviction’s reversal by the legislature. Upon retrial, the court promptly convicted and executed Mr. Lung. Lung’s Case outraged all Connecticut judges, most notably Chief Justice Zephaniah Swift, who spoke out for judicial independence in a pamphlet the following year. Establishment of an independent judiciary became one of the central rallying cries in support of a new constitution.

The Connecticut Charter of 1662

In 1660, King Charles II reassumed the monarchy in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, effectively ending the period of the English Revolution
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

. Since Connecticut had never been officially recognized as a colony
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

 by the crown, the General Court determined that the independence of Connecticut must be legitimized. Connecticut’s governor, John Winthrop, Jr., was sent as an emissary to negotiate with the English government, and set sail for England on July 23, 1661. He proved successful in his mission, and the English attorney general approved a bill for incorporation of the Connecticut Charter. After being officially sealed and registered, the document was returned to Connecticut and adopted by the General Court on October 9, 1662.

The Connecticut Charter displaced the Fundamental Orders to become the governing authority for the colony. Its practical effect on the government however, was minimal and Connecticut continued to operate much as it had under the Fundamental Orders. The Charter did however, incorporate a few noteworthy changes. All colonials in Connecticut were given “all liberties and immunities” of the realm of England. The governor was granted the additional power of the authority to convene a session of the General Court. Freemen were stripped of this ability. The most surprising aspect of the Charter concerned the geographical boundaries of Connecticut. The colony’s borders were to be Narragansett Bay
Narragansett Bay
Narragansett Bay is a bay and estuary on the north side of Rhode Island Sound. Covering 147 mi2 , the Bay forms New England's largest estuary, which functions as an expansive natural harbor, and includes a small archipelago...

 on the east and Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 on the north. Of greater significance however, was Connecticut’s southwestern boundary which expanded to the “South Sea on the West.” While Connecticut’s borders never approached this limitation, the Charter placed the separate territory of New Haven squarely within Connecticut’s jurisdiction. It is believed that this expansion by Charles II was quite deliberate. Several “regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

” judges who sentenced Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 to death had subsequently sought and been given refuge in New Haven, and Charles II may have been exacting revenge upon New Haven. After a brief dispute, New Haven decided to voluntarily join Connecticut in 1665. Today the city of New Haven still maintains Three Judges Cave on West Rock, as a tribute to the regicides who hid from Charles II's agents.

The Story of the Charter Oak

For one brief period in Connecticut history, neither the authority of the Fundamental Orders, the Charter, or a constitution governed the state. Edmund Andros
Edmund Andros
Sir Edmund Andros was an English colonial administrator in North America. Andros was known most notably for his governorship of the Dominion of New England during most of its three-year existence. He also governed at various times the provinces of New York, East and West Jersey, Virginia, and...

 was appointed governor of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 in 1675, and promptly demanded that Connecticut surrender its charter and fall under his authority. Connecticut refused to submit and Andros lay dormant until 1686, when he served a writ
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court...

 on the governor, again demanding the surrender of the charter. By October 31, 1687, Andros decided to take matters into his own hands, arriving in Hartford with a band of soldiers.

While the historical accuracy of the story is somewhat uncertain, legend has it that Andros meet with the leaders of the colony one night at the meetinghouse where the charter was to be relinquished. With the Charter lying on a table, colonists blew out the candles throwing the shadow of darkness over the room. When the lights were reignited, the Charter had vanished. Joseph Wadsworth absconded with the document and hid it in an oak tree on the Wyllys estate. This tree thereafter became known as the Charter Oak
Charter Oak
The Charter Oak was an unusually large white oak tree growing, from around the 12th or 13th century until 1856, on what the English colonists named Wyllys Hyll, in Hartford, Connecticut, USA...

, a famous landmark in Connecticut. While the accuracy of this tale has never been confirmed, one thing is for certain: Edmund Andros never got his hands on the Charter.

Despite this accomplishment, Andros briefly succeeded in forcing Connecticut to succumb to his rule. The General Court of Connecticut declared itself dissolved. Andros’s reign ended in 1688. The Glorious Revolution took place in England in November of that year, and James II of England
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 was overthrown in favor of William and Mary of England. Andros was deposed from power shortly thereafter.

Connecticut was left with several options of how to restart its government. Some advocated for direct ties to the crown with a royal government. Others lobbied for the drafting of a completely new charter. Ultimately, Connecticut opted to return to the status quo. The government under the Charter was reinstated, including the reinsertion of all leaders previously in place before the interruption. In May 1689, the General Court issued a declaration that, “all the laws of this colony formerly made, according to the Charter, and Courts constituted in this colony for administration of justice as they were before the late interruption, shall be of full force and virtue for the future…” After reaching this conclusion, the colony quickly petitioned the newly installed monarchy for approval of their return to operation under the Charter. In the mean time, Benjamin Fletcher
Benjamin Fletcher
Benjamin Fletcher was colonial governor of New York from 1692 to 1697.Fletcher was known for the Ministry Act, which secured the place of Anglicans in New York. He was succeeded as colonial governor of New York by Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont.-References:*...

, the new governor of New York, attempted to claim military authority over Connecticut. Fitz John Wintrop, John Winthrop, Jr.’s son, went as the emissary to England much like his father had more than thirty years earlier in 1661. Also like his father, Fitz Wintrop proved successful in his mission. The Attorney General and Solicitor General reported to King William III of England
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 that the charter remained valid, and the king ratified this report on April 19, 1694. This represented the end of serious challenges to Connecticut’s sovereignty.

For the rest of its colonial history, Connecticut dealt with the Charter much the same as it had the Fundamental Orders. The Charter could be altered simply by a majority vote from the General Assembly. This was particularly remarkable, because the Charter had been granted by the signature of the king, yet London was never consulted about alterations of the Charter. This suggests that Connecticut primarily sought authorization for self-government from the king, but that it did not expect England to supervise the evolution of its government.

Connecticut Governance After the Revolution

The General Assembly formally approved the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

 with the other colonies, especially since its own Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

 had helped draft it. In its resolution the legislature declared that Connecticut’s government, “shall continue to be as established by Charter received from Charles the second, King of England, so far as an adherence to the same will be consistent with an absolute independence of this State on the Crown of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

…” Even in independence Connecticut wished to remain governed by King Charles’ Charter. While eleven of the thirteen colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 had drafted state constitutions by 1786, Connecticut elected to continue operation under the Charter. Connecticut forged ahead under this scheme of government until 1818, when the first true constitution was adopted.

The Constitution of 1818

In the spring of 1818, the General Assembly made a significant change to voting rights in Connecticut. All white males who paid taxes or served in the militia were deemed eligible to vote. This eliminated the previous property requirements that had grown onerous as more of the population moved to jobs in commerce] or manufacturing rather than agriculture. Even more significantly, the General Assembly called for a constitutional convention that year.

One of the most important ballots cast in the General Assembly was the vote on whether only a simple majority
A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset larger than any other subset; i.e. a plurality is not necessarily a majority as the largest subset may consist of less than half the group's population...

 of the legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 would be required to approve whatever constitution was ultimately drafted. Many favored requiring anywhere from a sixty to eighty percent majority for adoption of a new government. Ultimately, those in favor of a simple majority carried the vote 81-80, a resolution vital to the future success of the constitution. Each town sent a number of delegates equal to the number of representatives held in the Assembly. The convention convened in Hartford on August 26, 1818. As one of the first orders of business, a twenty-four man committee was appointed to prepare a draft constitution. The very next day the committee returned with the Preamble and Bill of Rights. Their speed was not due to ingenuity. The draft was borrowed almost verbatim from the constitution Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 created a year earlier in 1817. After the remainder of the constitution was drafted, the convention approved the document by a two to one margin on September 16, 1818. The voters were given three weeks to consider the proposed constitution. On October 5, a vote was held. A majority cast their ballots in favor of the constitution, with the resolution passing 13,918 to 12,364. The ultimate vote proved the importance of requiring only a simple majority’s approval, for a sixty or eighty percent requirement would not have been met.

As a result of the new constitution, the Congregational Church
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....

 was finally disestablished, although Christianity remained the constitutionally favored religion. Newly received voting rights were also solidified, as the convention provided constitutional rights to vote for all white males who paid taxes or had served in the militia. With the 1818 Constitution, separation of powers was finally brought to Connecticut government. An independent judiciary was approved. Both Supreme and Superior Court judges were now given life tenure to the age of seventy (this was changed to eight years in 1856). The Supreme Court of Errors was reduced to five judges, with each judge retaining a role as a Superior Court judge. Decisions of the court could no longer be appealed to the legislature.

The constitution did not significantly change the role of the executive, and the branch remained relatively weak. The executive did however, became a constitutional and independent part of the government. The governor was no longer granted a seat in the legislature. He was granted the new power of veto, but any of his vetos could be overruled by a simple majority vote from the Assembly. This made the veto power essentially useless since any bill would have to pass both houses by a majority anyway. The General Assembly retained the authority to nominate judges under the new constitution. This was not changed until 1880, when nomination powers were transferred to the governor.

The legislative branch also experienced a few changes. The Council was renamed the Senate. By constitutional mandate, half the legislative sessions were to take place in Hartford with the other half convening in New Haven. Surprisingly, the method in which towns were assigned a number of representatives was left unchanged. Each town predating the constitution retained two representatives in the lower house regardless of population, with the exception of several newer towns which were granted one vote. Although many amendments were added over the years, the Constitution of 1818 remained in operation until 1965. There was also a Constitution of 1955, but it merely incorporated prior amendments into the main body of the constitution.

Constitution of 1965

Connecticut currently operates under the constitution passed in 1965. The primary purpose of the 1965 constitutional convention was reapportionment of the representatives in the lower legislative house. Assigning each town one or two representatives had resulted in grossly disproportional representation. Small rural towns enjoyed equal representation with large urban communities. Apart from this major change, a majority of the language from the 1818 Constitution was reaffirmed verbatim or almost verbatim in 1965. Non-Christians were finally granted official freedom of religion in 1965, although a law had been passed by the legislature in 1843 which recognized Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

’ right to worship, though these laws were largely ignored following large-scale Jewish and Catholic immigration in the last half of the 19th century. The reference to Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 from the earlier constitution was deleted. After 1965, the Supreme Court of Errors’ title was changed to the Connecticut Supreme Court
Connecticut Supreme Court
The Connecticut Supreme Court, formerly known as the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, is the highest court in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. The seven justices sit in Hartford, across the street from the Connecticut State Capitol...

. The executive obtained a significant power under the new constitution. The governor still does not enjoy the privilege of pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

, but the office was granted a more significant power of veto under the latest constitution. Instead of being able to be overridden by a second majority vote, the legislature now must muster two-thirds support in both houses to defeat a veto. Also of note, the 1965 Constitution includes a constitutional right to free public education
Public education
State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools,In much of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, the terms 'public education', 'public school' and 'independent school' are used for private schools, that is, schools...

. In addition, the most recent constitution has provided a mechanism to convene future constitutional conventions if necessary.

The Constitution of 1965 remains the supreme authority in Connecticut today. It represents the fourth distinct document in state history laying out the mechanics for its form of government. Connecticut is known as the Constitution State because of its early adoption of the Fundamental Orders in 1639, thought to be the earliest document of its kind in western civilization
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

. Since that time Connecticut has undergone several constitutional crises and alterations, which have led the state to its present state of affairs today.


http://www.sclib.org/cts4cc.htm Henry S. Cohn, Connecticut Constitutional History, 1636-1776 (August 1988).
http://www.cslib.org/cts4ch.htm Wesley W. Horton
Wesley W. Horton
Wesley W. Horton is a Connecticut appellate lawyer and partner of Horton, Shields & Knox, P.C. He most recently represented the City of New London in Kelo v. New London before the U.S. Supreme Court....

, Connecticut Constitutional History, 1776-1988 (August 1988).


Wesley W. Horton
Wesley W. Horton
Wesley W. Horton is a Connecticut appellate lawyer and partner of Horton, Shields & Knox, P.C. He most recently represented the City of New London in Kelo v. New London before the U.S. Supreme Court....

, The Connecticut State Constitution (Greenwood Press) (1993).
Jarvis Means Morse, A Neglected Period of Connecticut's History 1818-1850 (Octagon Books 1978) (1933).
Richard J. Purcell, Connecticut in Transition: 1775-1818, (Wesleyan University Press 1963) (11918).
David M. Roth and Freeman Meyer, From Revolution to Constitution, Connecticut 1763-1818 (The Pequot Press 1975).