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From Theoracy to Pluralism

by
Peter Hanson


Contents of Curriculum Unit 80.ch.01:


Introduction

Connecticut came to what we call “democracy” relatively late. In this unit I propose to present to eighth-graders an overview of Connecticut from the Massachusetts Bay Commission of 1636 to the Constitution of 1818. It will appear to be the story of a group of people confident that they know what is best for their Commonwealth and determined to continue exercising their power in spite of strenuous assaults upon their privilege.

Today many groups in America have ideas concerning the kind of society we should have. Arguments, sometimes quite heated, are heard about the virtues or dangers of the minimum wage, abortion rights, seat-belt end motorcycle-helmet laws, laetrile and saccharine laws, Sunday closing and liquor laws, tidal-and inland-wetlands laws, exclusionary zoning, and laws prohibiting various kinds of discrimination; and these views are held with varying degrees of willingness to allow any choice. Everyone, it seems, thinks “there oughta be a law.” What is a good law? Whose values should laws reflect? Who should have the right to make the laws or choose those who will? When is it beneficial that a group with one outlook on life be obliged to obey a law which a group with a different outlook has passed? If the right laws are passed, will the society we want be achieved?

Where there are areas in a society where no choice is allowed, to that extent pluralism does not exist there. The Puritans of early Connecticut were not much different from many of us who have our own ideas for the perfect society, and they felt they had the answers. They were so sure of their rightness that they decided they did not want to allow much choice in matters relating to religion and morals. When they arrived in the wilderness of Connecticut and got their chance to try to establish the society they wanted, they enacted rules which they thought were God’s rules. “Theocracy” means a society under the rule of God, and this they tried to approach.

It is important to examine their ideals and methods: to see why they had some success during the first twenty years or so and to notice how their synthesis became gradually subjected to strains which led to its eventual breakdown. As modern Americans search for a workable basis of unity in a fragmented society, perhaps we may profit from their Connecticut Puritan experience.

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The Puritan Synthesis

“. . . if any person within this jurisdiction shall, without just and necessary cause, withdraw himself from hearing the public ministry of the word . . . he shall forfeit for his absence . . . five shillings.”1 Isn’t there freedom not to go to church? Such a luxury you do not have. “If any person shall blaspheme the name of God the Father, Son or Holy Ghost with direct, express presumptuous or highhanded blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like manner, he shall be put to death.”2 Not even curse God once in a while, if I’m mad at him? God is our sovereign authority and is to be revered lest He visit His punishment upon us. You may not participate in town affairs unless your character and good behavior have been attested to by a majority of the people in the town.3 Is this an exclusive society? Yes, we have too many people taking part who do not share our convictions. You must contribute financially to the support of the church in your town.4 But, I don’t agree with its policies: We are setting up a godly society, and if you don’t like our ways, you may move elsewhere. No Quaker may remain in any town more than two weeks; otherwise a fine of 15 a week shall be imposed, and the offender shall be put in prison until he is banished.5 But, I want the freedom to believe what I want! We could never promise you that right: such freedom would destroy our society.

These are some things that would assuredly bother you if you were to go back via time machine to 17th century Connecticut. (Until 1665 New Haven Colony had a separate existence, and we shall not deal with it here.) How could any group be so narrow-minded? What right do they have to force people into their mold? It sounds like an Hitlerian idea. We must find cut how Puritans could be perfectly nice people and at the same time be so despotic in their laws and government.

When we speak of a Puritan “synthesis,” we refer to the fact that almost every aspect of Puritan life seems to be centered around one focal point. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries in England the Puritans believed that God was the most real thing in their lives and that what He demanded of them was the most important law to be obeyed. What He wanted was clear through a reading of the Bible, and His church ought to be like the earliest Christian communities. The Puritan lived in a constant state of tension, trying to live his life in this world while holding on to a divine perspective.6 Because of this a Puritan held no brief for any kind of church hierarchy. The Bible showed that church officers were democratically-chosen colleagues who had specific practical jobs to do, not superimposed figures like bishops who ruled with an iron hand. The Puritan was upset by forms of worship which went beyond anything mentioned in the Bible and preferred the most simple form based on scripture, sermon and prayer.

(Figure available in print form)

(Figure available in print form)

The Puritan was against ostentation in dress (private or clerical) and church architecture or furnishings. He was repelled by the then current idea that all residents of a community were automatically considered church communicants, since the Bible described Christian communities as being small groups who were “called out” of the larger society and came together because they specifically desired to respond to God’s leading.7

At first the Puritans hoped to reform the Church of England by remaining in it. They had great initial success. The exhortations of Puritan preachers to the congregations in their charge drew enthusiastic response from people who had not recently been so challenged or aroused in church. Thomas Hooker was one such preacher, and his attraction was such that people from some distance away would come to Chelmsford to hear him preach. He became so popular that a clergyman who disagreed with the Puritan movement wrote the following letter of complaint about Hooker to William Laud, then Bishop of London.

Since my return from London I have spoken with Mr. Hooker, but I don’t see much hope of changing his mind. All the favor he desires is that you do not bring him before the High Commission Court, but permit him quietly to depart out of the diocese. All men’s ears are now filled with the obstreperous clamors of his followers against you, my Lord, saying you are trying to suppress good preaching and advance the cause of the Pope. All would be very calm and quiet here if he might quickly depart. If you simply forbid him to preach, it is the resolution of his friends and himself to settle his abode in Essex, and maintenance is promised him in plentiful manner for carrying on his private meetings which have already hurt the peace of our church more than his public ministry. His genius will still haunt all the pulpits in the country, wherever any of his pupils might be permitted to preach. There are several young ministers around here who spend their time in conversation with him and return home and preach what he has brewed. Our people’s palates grow so out of taste, that no food contents them but of Mr. Hooker’s dressing. I have lived in Essex to see many changes and have seen the people idolizing many new ministers and lecturers, but this man surpasses them all for learning and some other considerable qualities, and he gains more and far greater followers than all before him. If my Lord tender his own future peace. Let him connive at Mr. Hooker’s departure.8

Since the Puritan movement was seen as a threat to bishop and king, both bishops and kings connived against any increase in its success. More and more clergymen suspected of Puritan leanings were haled before the Court of the High Commission for examination and probable punishment. Hooker fled to Holland in 1630, but in 1632 he accepted the call of the Church of Newton (later Cambridge), Massachusetts Bay, to be their pastor, and by 1633 he was on board the ship which carried him across the Atlantic to be with these members of church congregations from Braintree and Colchester and from his own Chelmsford group.

That year his was only one of ten or twelve ships to go from England to New England to join the several congregations already established there in Massachusetts Bay since 1629. Eighty more ships would follow before 1639. The Puritans went to America because of disillusionment about the possibilities of change in England and because of hope that in the New World they could establish the City of God for the salvation of their souls and as a light for the aid of the reformation of the Church of England.

In 1636 Thomas Hooker, along with most of his Newtown congregation, left Massachusetts Bay for the Connecticut River to establish what was later called Hartford. Since 1633 Englishmen from Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth had gone to that valley, and it seemed attractive to those who felt cramped in the seaboard colonies.

The citizens of Connecticut gathered their churches before they organized their Commonwealth government, and when they turned their attention to a civil government, they tried to make sure it would preserve their churches. Church and state were closely linked together, and this was not surprising . No one in those days could conceive of a dominion in which a multiplicity of religions co-existed. Each state supported, and was supported by, one religious institution. Pluralism in religion was not an idea whose time had come.9

St. Stephen’s parish, Coleman Street, London, provides an example of the typical confused intermingling of state with church. From this congregation came many of the Puritans who settled New Haven under the leadership of their pastor, John Davenport. Other immigrants to Connecticut must have been used to similar situations at home. Each of these city parishes was a geographical area within which a large group (from thirty to eighty) of property owners, called the General Vestry, made the important decisions, meeting from time to time during the year. They chose not only the highest lay church officials, the wardens, but also members of the city council to represent their precinct. They also chose constables and other officials for the precinct itself. Since St. Stephen’s was one of those churches where the bishop did not have complete determination of the choice of minister, the General Vestry passed on the credentials and suitability of any candidate when a new man was needed. They examined the church’s financial records and imposed the church tax (called the “tithe”). Between the meetings of the General Vestry a smaller group of the more important men of that body carried on the day-to-day affairs of the parish. They made agreements concerning the minister’s salary, took care of parish gifts to various charities, decided the amount of the tithe, watched over the church property, made sure that poor orphans were suitably apprenticed, administered the estates of orphans who died, and made decisions concerning coal for the poor and pensions for the aged. Little distinction was made between the church and the community.10

In Connecticut it was natural to assume that officers of the state would be members and supporters of the church and that all residents of a town would be participants in a local parish. Thomas Hooker, however, made another type of connection between his religious beliefs and his convictions about government based on firmly-held Puritan ideas about choosing one’s own leaders. Such connections were brought out in his famous sermon of 1638.

1. That the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people, by God’s own allowances.
2. The privilege of election, which belongs to the people, therefore, must not be exercised according to their humors, but according to the blessed will and law of God.
3. They who have power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them.11
In the first point he is claiming for popular elections the same sanction James I claimed for monarchy: God’s will. The Puritan’s desire to choose his own church leaders, and then his own civil leaders, appears to lead in a reasonably straight line to the American republic. Point two reflects the Puritan’s typically serious attitude toward his own life, but it is now applied to the sphere of government: being a good citizen is part of being a good Christian. Point three is a democratic-seeming idea which, as has been justly pointed out, did not seriously hinder the Standing Order from establishing in office for lengthy periods those members of the oligarchy it approved. Free elections meant to the Puritan that those who were worthy should elect their own leaders. Later they began to spell out more clearly just who they thought were worthy. By that time Hooker had died, and we’re not sure what he would have thought.

In 1639, the General Court of Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” the oldest written plan of government in the world. [See Chart A for an outline of its main provisions. The full text is in Unit II, Appendix A]. It is clear that there is no separation of powers, since the governor is not only an executive (but with very little power besides that of presiding over the Court), but he legislates and judges as well. The magistrates (or assistants) make laws but also act as judges and make decisions which today we would say are properly within the sphere of an executive branch. The deputies participate in law-making and also become law-interpreters when the General Court exercises its judicial powers. In addition, there were committees and individuals commissioned by the Court to administer various areas in a sort of executive oversight.

Although at first any householder was welcome as an “admitted inhabitant” and could vote in all town elections, subsequent amendments made it harder and harder to qualify for this status. To be a “freeman” and be able to vote in Commonwealth elections and be eligible to serve as a deputy or in any higher Commonwealth position one did not have to be a church member. He did, however, have to be an admitted inhabitant and have the approval of a majority of his fellow-townsmen. Later, in conformance to British regulations, a property requirement was added which became part of the Royal Charter of 1662. During the ensuing years the proportion of male residents who were freemen decreased. One can guess that at the time the amendments were added (indicated on the chart) there must have been fear concerning the presence in the Commonwealth of many who did not share the Puritan orientation.12

One example of the Puritans’ attempt to be faithful to the Bible is seen in the Capital Code of 1642, which provided scriptural sanctions for each of the death penalties. Three examples follow:
1. If any man after legal conviction, shall have or worship any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death.
A glance at the supplied Biblical references reveals the following:
Deuteronomy 13:6,9,10. If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of Sour bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” which neither you nor your fathers have known . . . you shall kill him’ your hand shall first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Exodus 22:20. Whoever sacrifices to any god, save to the Lord only, shall be utterly destroyed.
2. The law against blasphemy quoted earlier. The reference is Levitious 24:13-16, which reads:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Bring out of the camp him who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And say to the people of Israel, whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
3. If any person shall commit any willful murder, which is manslaughter committed upon malice, hatred, or cruelty, not in a man’s necessary and just defense, nor by mere casualty against his will, he shall be put to death.
Exodus 21:12-14. Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall in to his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him treacherously, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
Numbers 35:30,31. If any one kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death; but he shall be put to death.13
Mary Jeanne Jones, in her helpful book Congregational Commonwealth, puts flesh on these words by adducing several examples in which leniency was demonstrated in murder trials because of a fear of executing someone not completely “willful” in his intentions. Few people were put to death in early Connecticut, and almost without exception these were found guilty of witchcraft. The death penalty was imposed by statute on any child over sixteen who cursed or struck his parents unless they had not given him an education or had provoked him; likewise for a child over sixteen who refused to obey his parents. But these laws never brought about the death of any child during the Commonwealth period; if they had a deterrent effect, it is not known.14

In 1650, the Ludlow Code was promulgated to answer the need for a written list of laws and punishments. It received this name from the fact that Roger Ludlow, the only lawyer among Connecticut’s first inhabitants, was responsible for compiling it. This Code warned the people and equipped the judges with guidelines. It drew heavily on a Massachusetts code written, also by Ludlow, somewhat earlier. Here are some examples which show the Puritans’ attempt to regulate society.

Ecclesiastical

Forasmuch as the open contempt of God’s word and its messengers is the desolating sin of civil states and churches, and that the preaching of the word . . . is the chief ordinary means ordained by God for the converting, edifying, and saving of the souls of the elect . . . and according to the respect and contempt of . . . those whom God hath set apart for his own work . . . , the weal or woe of all Christian states is much furthered and promoted:

It is therefore ordered and decreed, that if any Christian . . . shall contemptuously bear himself towards the word preached or the messengers that are called to dispense the same . . . either by interrupting him in his preaching or by charging him falsely with an error . . . in the open face of the church, . . . or cast upon his true doctrine or himself any reproach to the dishonor of the Lord Jesus, . . . every such person . . . shall for the first scandal be convented and reproved openly by the magistrates at some lecture and bound to their good behavior. And if a second time they break forth into the like contemptuour carriages, they shall either pay five pounds to the public treasure or stand two hours openly, upon a block or stool four foot high upon a lecture day with a paper fixed on his breast written with capital letters, AN OPEN AND OBSTINATE CONTEMNER OF GOD’S HOLY ORDINANCES, that others may fear and be ashamed of breaking out into the like wickedness.

(There follows the laW requiring attendance at church cited above.)

Gaming

Upon complaint of great disorder by the use of the game called shuffle board in houses of common entertainment whereby much precious time is spent unfruitfully and much waste of wine and beer occasioned:

It is therefore ordered and enacted by the authority of this Court, that no person shall henceforth use the said game of shuffle board in any such house nor in any other house used to forfeit for every offense twenty shillings. And for every person playing at the said game in any such house to forfeit for every such offense five shillings. . .

Idleness

It is ordered by this Court and authority thereof, that no person, householder or other, shall spend his time idly or unprofitably, under pain of such punishment as the court shall think meet to inflict. And for this end it is ordered that the constable of every place shall use special care and diligence to take knowledge of offenders in this kind: especially of common coasters, unprofitable fowlers, and tobacco takers, and present the same unto any magistrate . . .

Innkeepers

(Houses of entertainment are necessary, but there are too many abuses of that freedom.)

It is therefore ordered by this Court and authority thereof, that no person or persons licensed for common entertainment shall suffer any to be drunken, or drink excessively (which means above half a pint of wine for one person at one time), or to continue tippling above the space of half an hour, or at unreasonable times, or after nine of the clock at night, in or about any of their houses, on penalty of five shillings for every such offense. And every person found drunken (which means so that he be bereaved or disabled thereby in the use of his understanding, appearing in speech or gesture) in any of the said houses or elsewhere, shall forfeit ten shillings. And for excessive drinking three shillings four pence. And for continuing above half an hour tippling two shillings six pence. And for tippling at unseasonable times, or after nine o’clock at night, five shillings . . . and for want or payment shall be imprisoned until they pay or be set in the stocks one hour or more in some open place as the weather will permit, not exceeding three hours at one time. Provided, such licensed persons may entertain seafaring men or land travellers in the night season, when they come first on shore or from their journey, for their necessary refreshment, or when they prepare for their voyage or journey the next day early, so be no disorder among them. And also, strangers and other persons, in an orderly way, may continue at such houses of common entertainment during meal times, or upon lawful business, what time their occasions shall require.15

I have not had the time to investigate the various studies of Puritan life in Connecticut which have tried to calculate the extent to which these laws, and others like them, were carried out. Jones believes that they came down the hardest on various kinds of disorderly conduct (drunkenness or disturbing the Sabbath) and on sacrilege (profanity or crime committed on the Sabbath).

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The Break-Up of the Synthesis

How long were first-generation Connecticut Puritans able to keep the kind of society they wanted? The multiplicity of additional laws enacted during the second half of the 17th century is perhaps an indication that things were out of hand: if one law doesn’t solve the problem, other laws may do the trick.16 Jones believes the Congregational Commonwealth was healthy for about one generation, about twenty years.17 From the very beginning it is clear there were people who had to be brought into line. As early as 1639 several men are punished for raping a servant girl.18 Here is evidence, on the one hand, of people in a Puritan society whose behavior was far from demonstrating a serious intent to follow God’s law and, on the other, the presence from the start of a kind of under-class, the servants whose ideas or religious convictions were hardly considered by the leaders of the Commonwealth to be important enough to find out about. The leaders insisted that they behave correctly in all things, but one wonders whether the lower class residents imagined that they might actually ever become church members.

The Puritans themselves recognized danger from uneducated people, including their own children, who did not understand the necessity of the godly life, unattached males who tended towards rowdiness until they settled down with their families on a piece of land, and strangers who came to settle but worried more about getting ahead than pleasing God. Whether children, servants, bachelors, adventurers, and other less-than-solid citizens caused more disturbance to early Connecticut society than would have been found elsewhere is hard to find out. Possibly the closeness and religiosity of the early towns created an atmosphere of rather better behavior; probably the strictness of the standards, and the high expectations, exacerbated the problem.

The biggest threat to the Puritan dominance of Connecticut came not from those who were the ordinary rebellious, independent types but from those who actively fought the existing system because they wanted it to include more options. The most important groups that challenged Connecticut’s leaders to open up to a degree of pluralism were two: the dissident religious groups and the groups, not necessarily religious, who wanted a more open government. When these two forces combined after 1800 and fought side by side for more than one choice in religion and more than one group in the government, the Standing Order was nearing its end. The religious challenge came first, long before 1800.

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Pressures towards Religious Pluralism

The earliest dissident religious group which entered the Puritan scene was the Society of Friends, or Quakers. During the decade after 1656, when feeling against the Quakers was at its height, Connecticut Colony did pass laws to prevent them from settling in the area, to forbid any introduction of their books into the Commonwealth, and even to break up meetings. But no fines greater than ten pounds were allowed to be imposed, and no laws carrying a death penalty were ever enacted. In 1675, in fact, they were “temporarily” relieved of the necessity of paying fines for not attending church, just as long as they did not gather into assemblies or cause any public disturbance: a most unusual privilege. In New Haven Colony, Quakers were treated even worse.

Quakers were disliked because of their belief that no church congregation, or even clergyman, was necessary to minister to them in God’s name. Rather, they believed that God communicated directly with each believer. In the last part of the l7th century they were granted a boost towards toleration at least: the right to believe in their different way. This was because they, it was clear, made excellent citizens and had a way with the Indians. In addition, they had an information network which was able to communicate grievances all the way to London, and they were strong in Rhode Island with which colony Connecticut did not want to be at odds at that time of crisis with the Indians.

A flare-up of anti-Quaker feeling about 1702 brought many petitions of complaint to Queen Anne who in 1705 annulled all laws restricting the Quakers, William Penn being in favor at the Court at that time. Connecticut’s General Assembly repealed the old laws insofar as they related to Quakers, although they still had to pay church taxes just as other non-Congregational groups did; while they also paid to support their own; in reality, a form of double taxation.19 The number of Quakers in Connecticut remained small, and by 1818 there were about seven societies within the state.20

Under the Congregational Establishment there were four degrees of freedom eventually won by the minority religious groups. First was simply the right to believe and, more than this, the right to tell another person. One reason Quakers had been feared was because they wanted to talk to as many people as they could. The second degree was being able to exist institutionally, that is, as a legitimate group with a building and a minister.

This right was in large measure won by the dissenters by the passage by the General Assembly of the Toleration Act of 1708, which read, in part:

. . . for the ease of such as soberly dissent from the way of worship and ministry established by the ancient laws of this government . . . if any such persons shall at the county court . . . qualify themselves . . . they shall enjoy the same liberties and privilege in any place in this colony . . .

provided that such persons don’t think that this excludes

. . . any person from paying any such minister or town dues as are or shall hereafter be due from him.

This act was passed to assure the more independent-minded Congregational churches of their place in the universe if they insisted in staying outside the reorganization of the Church under the Saybrook Platform of 1708 which gave new power to church associations, to the ministers, and especially to the elders.21

The Toleration Act was passed also because of pressure from England, and Connecticut feared royal disfavor. The pressure from the mother country came partly because of the act of religious toleration of 1689 passed by Parliament following the Glorious Revolution and partly because of pressure put on Queen Anne by complaints from Connecticut Anglicans. They were the American members of Church of England, whose policies had caused the Puritans to come to Connecticut in the first place. They said they were being harassed in their attempt to establish churches: Connecticut, they cried, was not tolerating churches which have been allowed existence in England since the tine of Henry VIII. Colonel Heathcote, an ardent American Anglican, told the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1705 the best idea was to set up an Anglican church at Rye and “from that point to act upon Connecticut, which was wholly Puritan and withal not a little bigoted and uncharitable.”

That was quite true, and Puritan Connecticut was very much afraid of people like the Colonel and missionary-minded Anglican priests who were trying to extend the English church’s power throughout America, bringing Connecticut closer to British dominance. Connecticut residents were made very nervous by the continual pleadings of Anglicans to Canterbury, beginning in 1700, for the establishment of an American diocese with its own bishop. This possibility called to mind Archbishop Laud’s arrogation of power and frightened the Puritans to death. So they did what they could to prevent the organization of Anglican churches. In 1707 Puritan Fairfield closed its meetinghouse after services lest it should be used for Anglican services and be “defiled by idolatrous worship and superstitious ceremonies.”

The Toleration Act of 1708 was only a partial help. Anglicans who set up and belonged to their own churches were now taxed doubly, and they would be one step removed from the center of prestige and influence in the Colony. The latter problem was solved gradually, of itself, since many Anglicans were well-educated and people of means. Some represented their towns in the General Assembly even before the Revolution. Set back during that conflict, the Episcopal Church rebuilt afterwards, and in 1800 it was a large and respected minority.

The problem of double taxation, however, would be solved only by the Anglicans’ achievement of the third degree of freedom, the right not to pay taxes for the support of the Congregational Church if one was financially supporting a recognized dissenting church. The Anglioan church at Stratford had that right for its members, since it was for a while the only organized church of that denomination and was a large, respected group. Finally, in 1727, a law was enacted by the General Assembly granting certain rights to those regular members of Anglican congregations served by regularly-ordained priests: they were not to be charged with taxes used to build Congregational buildings; the tax money they paid for the support of the Congregational Church would be passed on to their own society; and if their churches needed money beyond this source, they were free to impose any further taxes on themselves. In May, 1729, Quakers were “released from contributing to the support of the established ministry and from paying any tax levied for building its meeting-houses, provided they could show a certificate from some society of their own . . . vouching for their support of its worship and their presence at its regular meetings.” In October the same third degree of ecclesiastical freedom was grated to the Baptists. “. . . it was an admission that a century’s progress had brought the knowledge that brethren of different religious opinions could dwell together in peace.”22

It seemed to some that religious liberty now existed in Connecticut; but this was not so, as spokesmen for the dissenting sects pointed out. In the first place, attaining the fourth step toward freedom under the Establishment still remained, for the law requiring attendance at some church continued in effect; the old law still demanded five shillings as penalty for an unnecessary absence from church. This law was done away with only in 1815.

In the second place, the certificate requirement was deemed odious and humiliating by those groups who were in the position of either using it or being subject to double taxation. A Baptist, let us say, must present to the clerk of the Congregational society a document signed by a Baptist official testifying to his support of, and attendance at, the local Baptist church. This done, the dissenter was excused from paying any tax to the established church. Occasionally Baptists, individuals or small groups, who wished to make a public witness to their traditional belief in the separation of church and state and religious liberty would refuse either to pay the Congregational tax or file a certificate. In such cases a fine or imprisonment loomed as a punishment, or town officials confiscated property belonging to the defiant ones and sold it in a kind of rummage sale.

Why do they take their Neighbors (that don’t worship with them, but have solemnly covenanted to worship God in another place) by the throat and cast them into prison? Or else for a rate of Twenty Shillings, Three or Six Pounds, send away Ten, Twenty, or Thirty Pounds worth of Goods, and set them up at Vendue?23

By 1791 the Standing Order became alarmed by the more organized character of the attacks on the system, and the General Assembly passed a law requiring the certificates to be signed by a Justice of the Peace, in almost every case an Establishment figure who would have power to make searching inquiry into the genuine character and standing of the petitioner. Because of the outcry against this rule, it was in force for only six months, replaced by another rule which placed dissenting churches in a different bind: each individual would sign his own certificate:

I certify that I differ in sentiment from the worship and ministry in the ecclesiastical society of ______ in the town of ______. . . and have chosen to join myself to the -(Insert here the name of

society you have joined) in the town of ______.

This hurt the dissenting churches, because it tended to burden them with lukewarm adherents who were likely not to support them.24

In the third place, the settlements of 1727 and 1729 were inadequate, because for fifty years or so there was a new group discriminated against. These were the Separatist Congregational churches who, after the “Great Awakening” of 1740-1742 and its pietistic fervor, began to split away from established parish churches in protest against ministers who did not show sufficient emphasis on salvation by faith and church structures which did not grant enough leeway for individual responses to God’s presence in their lives. The General Assembly made it clear that such groups would not be allowed to organize by its repeal of the Toleration Act in 1743. These groups were harassed by local and Colony authorities in building their buildings and hiring their ministers. Baptists, Quakers, and Anglicans were privileged groups compared to these Separates, as they were called, who were regarded with more frantic animosity, since the new movement seemed a traitorous attack from within. When the events preceding the Revolution served to bind the people of Connecticut closer in unity, the official attitude changed, since the Separates showed their patriotism as clearly as anyone else. In 1770 their worship in their churches was considered to meet the requirement of church attendance, so fines were no longer imposed on them for neglecting worship. Their ministers no longer had to pay taxes (at that time all other clergymen were exempt from taxes). In 1777 they were allowed the certificate route of getting around double taxation.35

In 1784 was published a revised edition of “Laws and Acts of the State of Connecticut in America.” All religious groups, it was stated, could manage their affairs as freely as the churches of the Establishment, but certificates were still necessary to gain exemption from parish taxes, and a fine of three shillings was imposed on anyone who for any trivial reason was absent from church on Sunday. The important contribution that these statutes made toward religious freedom really their recognition of the act of religious choice: strangers, widows, and minors coming of age all had a year to make a decision between various religious alternatives. Religious choice is finally legitimized, a further step towards pluralism.26

Only the final step toward religious freedom now remained to be taken: disestablishment itself, with each denomination on the same political basis as any other, that is to say, completely unaided by the state, yet free to pursue its religious purposes and maintain its operations. The political struggle of 1800 to 1818 involved a fight for this prize.

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The Fight to Open Up the Political Structure

The Baptists have been mentioned but not described. They are unique among religious groups in Connecticut in that they participated in both the struggle for religious pluralism and the struggle for political openness. They were the first dissident religious group to associate with the dissident political party nationally known as Democratic-Republican and usually referred to in Connecticut simply as the Republic Party. The Republican Party in Connecticut at its formation in the 1790’s was scorned by almost everyone of means or education or religion. It was associated in their minds with the canaille of the French Revolution, the Rabble who were desirous of overthrowing the people who ruled (and deserved to rule!) and establishing an uncouth society for the common man instead. It also made them think of the free-thinking atheists who were dangerous because many were intelligent and wealthy and hence subversive.27

Similarly, the Baptists were looked down on. Everything about them smacked of people’s democracy. Their preachers were generally men who possessed sincerity of belief rather than academic wisdom, but this seemed to them closer to Biblical religion than university trained ministers. Their local organization showed egalitarianism in their allowing women an equal voice in church decisions and in the absence of any kind of ranking device such as a church seating arrangement. Baptists themselves tended to be artisans in the towns or farmers in the frontier-like areas of the State. In 1800 there were fifty-nine Baptist societies with 4,663 members, and during their struggle against “taxation without representation” they were a force to be reckoned with, even though many of them did not have the right to vote in State affairs. Nor, as dissidents, did they have any say in Congregational Church circles in regard to the imposition of the church taxes which they had to pay unless they chose the burdensome certificate process, which they despised. They did not want to be “tolerated,” rather, they wanted every church body to be separate from the state, each supporting itself by voluntary contributions.

Baptists sent petitions regularly to the General Assembly pointing out the injustice of the system. By 1802 they began working with and through the Republican Party.28 Within a few years they were joined by the Methodists, whose itinerant preachers also appealed to the working class. Methodists, too, earned the disdain of the Establishment because of this and because of the large outdoor revival meetings which were popular among them. By 1818 there were about 5,600 Methodists and almost 7,500 Baptists in the State.29

The religious dissenters fought for the separation of church and state, while the Republican Party’s two chief goals were the extension of the suffrage and a reform of the tax structure.30 Combining their goals and led by leaders who could express them, the opposition established itself as a formidable political force, gradually gaining control by election of about one-third of the seats in the General Assembly. The crucial battle was joined in 1804 when they centered their campaign on a State Constitution, now realizing that a root-to-branch overhaul of the System had to be made and, more importantly, that Connecticut had never really had a Constitution at all.31 [For a discussion of the rise of political parties in Connecticut, 1783-1818, see Unit V in this volume..

Roger Sherman in 1789 had said that Connecticut wanted no national bill of rights, and Oliver Wolcott, Sr., in 1787 avowed that he looked to his own state to protect his rights.32 “A Bill of Rights” was part of the revision of the laws in 1784. It was, however, mere statute law, lacking the fundamental primary of a constitutional basis. Certainly there was no court which was strong enough to make decisions based on it. Connecticut in 1784 was not fertile ground for equal rights for all men to take root. In like manner, the next generation resisted the demand for a State Constitution after 1800, since any new plan of government would surely admit more partners into government than the Standing Order wanted. It had seemed more expedient simply to cross out all references to the King in the old Royal Charter of 1662 and then continue in the General Assembly to make changes as were deemed necessary, submitting none of them to a vote of all the people. So, instead of using their new freedom as a state to set about writing a modern plan of government, it made sense for Connecticut’s legislature to resolve, as they did in 1776,

that the ancient from of civil government, containing the charter from Charles the Second, King of England, and adopted by the people of this State, shall be and remain the Civil Constitution of the State under the sole authority of the people thereof, independent of any King, or Prince whatever. . .33

Chart B helps to show how the government of Connecticut in 1800, which had sprouted, statute by statute, from the Royal Charter over a 140-year period, functioned so similarly to the government provided by the Fundamental Orders. There was still no separation of powers. The governor had a minimum of executive power on his own but had a lot of judicial and legislative power in combination with the representatives and assistants. The members of the Council had great legislative power (meeting separately from the representatives since 1701) and in effect had a veto power, since only seven Council votes could stop any law passed by the two hundred members of the lower House. Until 1807 the Council was also the Supreme Court of Errors. The representatives in conjunction with the Council possessed the supreme power in the State. They had the power to regulate the judicial system, make laws regarding religion, and decide how long Assembly sessions were to last. Not every adult male became either an admitted inhabitant or a freeman; still only a small proportion of adult males found it worth while to participate in state elections.34

Chart B

(figure available in print form)

CHART C. Some aspects of the Judicial System of Connecticut in 1800

(Note: This branch existed only in laws passed by the Legislature.)

The General Assembly: the highest court of appeals
equity jurisdiction over $5000
special divorce cases
The Supreme Court of Errors:-The Council (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, 12 Assistants)
-bound by precedent, decisions issued in writing
-cases heard on appeal
-members of this court elected as Assistants: not all of them are lawyers
-members might also be appointed as Superior Court judges
-established in 1784 to relieve the General Assembly of most of its judicial work
-in 1807 it was abolished and the Superior Court expanded from 5 to 9 judges to handle this work
The Superior Court:-five judges (increased to eight and one Chief Justice in 1807)
-appointed annually by the General Assembly
-the State divided into three circuits
-Court held twice a year in each county with one judge presiding
-any judge may decide to bring a case before all five (or nine)
-heard all criminal cases involving life, limb, or banishment
-some examples of cases: blasphemy, atheism, Unitarianism, statutory divorces, perjury, burglary, horse-stealing, forgery
-could issue writs of mandamus to lower court
-could issue writs of habeas corpus
-heard equity cases up to $5000
-heard all criminal cases appealed from lower courts
-heard all civil cases on appeal if more than twenty dollars
The probate Courts:-thirty judges in as many districts
-appointed annually by the General Assembly
-probated wills and appointed guardians
The County Courts:-five judges in each of eight counties
(Common pleas) -appointed annually by the General Assembly
-heard all criminal cases except those heard by Superior Court
-heard all civil cases about fifteen dollars
Justices of the Peace:-about seven in each town
-appointed annually by the General Assembly
-in charge of local elections
-in 1801 had a voice in admitting freemen
-named tavern-keepers
-“bound men to keep the peace”
-apprehended suspects
-heard criminal cases involving fines of not more than seven dollars
-some examples: drunkenness, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, debts, unlicensed taverns, unlawful lottery tickets
-no appeals could be taken in cases of swearing and Sabbath-breaking
-heard civil cases of no more than fifteen dollars
The following were the chief Republican criticisms of the government of Connecticut as it functioned in the year 1800:

 1. There is no independent judiciary. The legislature in certain cases acts as a judicial body, and each year it appoints all the judges and justices of the peace. See Chart C for a picture of the main parts of the judicial system. It can be seen that a great many people dependent for their careers on the good will of the legislature.
 2. There is no effective executive power. Laws passed by the General Assembly are also carried out and enforced by it. The governor is not a power in his own right and certainly not able to be a check against the Assembly’s power.
 3. The General Assembly clear;y has too much power. It acts as the legislature; it creates the judicial power and exercises some of it; and it is responsible for seeing that the government functions effectively. The governor must have some power over against the Assembly, and there must be a court which can pass on the constitutionality of the laws the legislature enacts.
 4. The suffrage is far too limited. Most of those enfranchised are of the Standing Order, and admission to the rank of freeman is controlled by them as if they give a gift instead of recognize a right. All men must fight, when it is necessary, and all are taxed, but not all men can vote.
 5. There is plural office-holding and too great a possibility of conflict-of-interest situations. Council members, for example, can be judges of the Superior Court, and those who are lawyers find themselves arguing cases before judges they have to decide about re—appointing. In addition, the legislature’s power to review certain cases further injects politics into the legal process.
 6. The system of electing Council members tends toward the continuing in office of the incumbents. Twenty are nominated in the towns in October, and names are introduced orally. In April twelve are elected from a list with the incumbents at the top arranged by seniority, even though names below theirs receive more votes in October. The idea of giving each freemen twelve ballots to use is really bad, because if he has saved any for after the incumbents are voted on, it is clear he is not a team player.
 7. All elections should be by secret ballot.
 8. Council deliberations should not be secret; the people should know how the individual members voted and how large any dissenting vote might have been.
 9. Council members should not be elected a large; this gives a disproportionate weight to the larger towns and cities, and it means that large areas of the State are not actually “represented” by a voice in the Council. The State should be divided into twelve districts, each with its own member.
10. Some feel the legislature is too large; some feel the seats should be apportioned according to population; some feel that two sessions and two elections are unnecessary.
11. The state has no right to regulate the amount of freedom that religious groups should have. To bolster up one particular religion is especially odious. In addition, members of the so-called dissenting sects should have a fair share of State offices.
12. Therefore, a constitution is needed, a plan of government written by a group of people other then the legislature and approved by all the people.35
The law which made it mandatory for freemen to nominate Council members orally was called the “Stand-up Law” and was passed by the Assembly in 1801. The act was seen as a sort of last straw by certain fence-sitters who began to swing to the opposition. It was characteristic of moves made by the Federalist Party (the Standing Order) during the last years in power designed for the simple purpose of holding on to the old sovereignty. The anti-nationalistic attitude of the Hartford Convention of 1815 brought disrespect towards those Connecticut men (all Federalists) involved in it. An other death-knell was sounded when the Episcopalians finally made common cause with the opposition under the umbrella of the Toleration Party beginning in 1816. They had stuck with the Federalists until they were convinced they simply were not going to further any of the causes the Episcopalians were interested in. The final nail was pounded in the coffin when respected Federalists like Roger Griswold and Oliver Wolcott, Jr., took the middle road, disavowing the hard line. By 1817, Wolcott was elected governor, and the opposition took control of the Assembly. The next year the Council was taken from the Federalists, and a Constitutional Convention met to plan a new government. That very year the work of the convention wa finished but approved by the just-expanded electorate of the state.36

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Constitution of 1818: The New Government

The new Constitution began with a 21-section Declaration of Rights. Here are excerpts from the first four:

Sec. 1. That all men when they form a social compact are equal in rights; and that no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive . . . privileges from the community.

Sec. 2. That all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority . . .; and that they have at all tines an undeniable . . . right to alter their form of government in such manner as they may think expedient.

Sec. 3. The exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be free to all persons in this state . . .

Sec. 4. Mo preference shall be given by law to any Christian sect or mode of worship.

The following characteristics of the new government are arranged to relate to items one through twelve above to enable the student to see how the criticisms of the old government, in many cases, were dealt with by the new one.

 1. Judges are still appointed by the General Assembly, but their terms of office are fixed in the Constitution. Supreme and Superior Court judges will serve during good behavior or until they reach the age of seventy. They may be impeached by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
 2. The governor is no longer a member of the Council (now called the Senate). He has independent power as the head of the executive branch and is responsible for the carrying out of the laws; department heads are all responsible to him. He is captain-general of the militia. He may veto bills, but vetoes may be overridden by a simple majority of both houses. The lieutenant-governor assumes the duties of governor in the latter’s absence or incapacitation. He presides over the Senate, voting if there is a tie.
 3. The legislature, consisting of a house of representatives and a senate, performs only legislative work except for the appointing of judges.
 4. Voters must be white, male, twenty-one, and town residents for six months. In addition they must have either a freehold worth seven dollars a year or have served in the militia within the previous year or have paid taxes.
 5. No one can serve in the General Assembly if he is any kind of judge or a Congressman or a federal officeholder or a sheriff or deputy sheriff.
 6. All voting for state offices will be done in April on the same day, in one stage, without a separate, previous nominating process.
 7. All voting will be done by secret ballot.
 8. Even before the Constitution was written, the Tolerationists had had a gallery built in the Senate, and the Constitution confirmed the principle of public debate in the legislature.
 9. Twelve senators are to be elected at large. Districting was not adopted until 1827.
10. Each town will retain in the house of representatives the same number of representatives it has had (one or two); new towns will elect one representative. A system of annual sessions was adopted, one year in Hartford, one year in New Haven. Representation according to population was not adopted until 1965 (by court order).
11. The religious freedom issue was taken care of in the Declaration of Rights, relevant portions of which have been quoted above.
12. My amendments to the Constitution can be made upon the approval of two-thirds of both houses of the legislature, followed by the approval of the voters in towns.37
It is important to recognize that change continues to take place. The two-thirds legislative override provision and the switch to biennial sessions and back again, and the four-year term for state officers are only a few examples of the attempt to keep the government effective in changing tines and responsive to the needs of the people.

How open does Connecticut wish to be? How much behavior should be prescribed, and how much left free to the desires of the citizens? It is hoped that students will now want to discuss some of the issues mentioned on the first page of this presentation and debate whether such laws represent narrow-minded authoritarian control or enlightened guidelines for the welfare of all the people of Connecticut.

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Objectives and Strategies

The foregoing material will be used by me in two sections. The Puritan material will comprise a three-week unit to begin the 8th grade social studies year. Between this and the second section dealing with the agitation leading to the 1818 Constitution will be a long unit covering the causes of the American Revolution, the Declaration, the U. S. Constitution, and the U. S. Bill of Rights.

This means that whereas I am presuming the first section will be a real introduction to Colonial America, I expect that students will come to the second section with a knowledge of the principles underlying the national government and the 1787 solution to the problems of that government, which became apparent under the Articles. I trust this will cause Connecticut schoolchildren to express some interest that our state was a little late in writing a Constitution, in separation of church and state, and in instituting a system of checks and balances in its government. The result would be that the unit would serve as an answer to their question, Why?

In addition, my second section leads to a unit on Connecticut government in which each student must write a bill as a member of our “legislature.” It will thus contribute a reality factor to the discussion, which underlies both units, as to whether one can use the powers of government to create the society he wants.

These are objectives I have in mind for the students:

1. to understand that each society sets up a government and passes laws which reflect its deepest concerns;
2. to understand that such will be effectual only as long as the people of that society feel those things are important;
3. to examine reasons why such consensus breaks open;
4. to observe these issues as they are revealed in the events of Connecticut’s past and present;
5. to feel what it is like to be part of a “standing order” and to be a “dissenter;”
6. to use effectively the vocabulary necessary in such a discussion.
The teacher reading this material will readily appreciate the difficulties inherent in introducing students to this material. I would make the following suggestions.

1. Do not use this material unless the concepts involved in the story of these changes in Connecticut (during the period in question) are of interest to you. Certain discrete portions of the above material I have used with students, and when I am excited about communicating a particular trend or change or distinction, they can generally appreciate its significance and, hence, “learn” it.
2. Choose in advance the areas and concepts you want to hit hard during the unit. There is too much material here to be “dumped” on the students, so you must decide whether to stress government, democracy, laws, or religion, for example, or whether to make sure they know about pluralism, theocracy, constitutionalism, separation of church and state, or any others.
3. I hope you will become curious, as I have now, to find out more than what is written herein and that you will want to probe further in the books suggested.

First Section (3 weeks)

From the items which follow you may select however many you wish to stimulate the students’ thinking. Choose according to your interest and the amount of tine you have available. It should be stressed that the use of any item presupposes the teacher’s having read all the material in the unit which relates to it.

Before beginning on the “items,” it will be best to give the students a well-structured outside or library assignment concerning what a Puritan is and what he is likely to believe. In this way the important information does not have to be expounded by you to the students; rather, the students will be contributing on their part. By “will-structured” I mean that the students will know quite specifically what sort of information to look for and places to find it; in addition, it will be clear in what form their information should be turned in: a list of words or a set of sentences or a number of quotations with inferences drawn. Ii the assignment is “a report on the Puritans,” I believe the teachers misses an opportunity to channel their efforts towards the use of basic reading, writing, and thinking skills.

Item #1. The example rules (near the beginning of the unit) which were in effect in l7th century Connecticut. It should not be hard to get a discussion going on questions such as the following:

Are these good laws?

If not, why not?

Are there laws today which are like these?

Can you think of any laws which today might make America better?

What purposes did these laws serve?

What kind of people were these who made these rules?

What more do we need to know about these people if we are even to understand why these laws were passed?

It might be valuable to collect a list of America’s five most pressing domestic problems, then send the students home, each to return with an idea for a law which might aid in solving each problem.

Item #2. The letter to Bishop Laud about Thomas Hooker.

What kind of a person was Thomas Hooker?

What sorts of ideas do you think he was preaching?

If you knew that Hooker was a “Puritan,” would that give you an idea about what he might have been saying?

What kind of ideas would excite you, if you heard someone proclaim them in public?

What sorts of people might be upset, like the writer of the letter, by his success?

At this point I would not feed them much specific information about Puritan beliefs but listen to their impressions of what a Puritan was. Remind them that they were like the Pilgrims and were among the first settlers of America, which implies there were ways in which these people were “different” which somehow must have caused their trans-Atlantic journey. Better not to give the whole Puritan concept away just not.

Item #3. The description of St. Stephen’s Parish, London. Using their knowledge of their own town, have the students consider what would be thought to be appropriate concerns for a church in Connecticut today, especially compared with St. Stephen’s concerns in 1630.

What is the main difference?

Why the difference?

Which system is better?

In the discussion introduce the idea of separation of church and state and ask them if it is a good idea. What did these people not worry about it?

Item #4. Thomas Hooker’s “three points.”

Are these ideas things that you could accept?

Is there anything particularly “Puritan” about them?

Do you think Thomas Hooker would have approved the laws in Item #1?

The point is, of course, to emphasize that, for that tine, Connecticut Puritans had reasonably radical ideas of government in which were the seeds of our concept of “democracy.” I am going to introduce, at the sane tine, the paragraph on rights which introduced the Code of 1650.

Preamble (my translation): if the kind of liberty that humanity and christianity calls for flourishes, then there will be tranquility and stability in our churches and Commonwealth; but if men are deprived of, or denied, their liberties, then both will be disturbed, if not ruined:

It is therefore ordered by this Court and authority thereof, that no man’s life shall be taken away; no man’s honor or good name shall be stained; no man’s person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor in any way punished; no man shall be deprived of his wife or children; no man’s goods or estate shall be taken away from him nor any way damaged . . . unless it be by the virtue or equity of some express law of the country warranting the same, established by a General Court and sufficiently published, or in case of the defect of a law, in any particular case, by the word of God. (Smucker, 53f.)

Here is a beginning of our requirement for “due process.” Puritan government was not modern democracy and civil rights, but it was not all benighted tyrannical intolerance of free expression. Discuss with the students the loopholes in the words: which people will choose the leaders? In what areas will be leaders be able to control? What kinds of laws are going to be made? What sorts of punishments will be possible—all those in the above paragraph? This will serve as an introduction to the next two items.

Item #5. Chart A: the Fundamental Orders. After giving the students a chance to look it over, a. spend some time discussing difficult words and asking questions about unclear portions; b. ask, How do you like this government? What would you change in it? Try to get at some of the problems described in the text.

Item #6. Three examples of Capital Laws and Four sections of the Code of 1650.

a. What are the basic values and beliefs of these people?
b. under what conditions could a society with such laws exist?
c. Would anyone be unhappy if such a society existed?
d. which rules would be easiest to enforce? hardest?
Summary: these might be appropriate discussion questions to conclude this section, before moving on to Massachusetts Bay in 1760.

How can you reconcile the political openness and regard for rights with the attempt to exert so much control over people’s lives?

How free were the people of early Connecticut in politics? in religion? from the colony government? from the King? from God?

If you were the leader of a settlement in the wilderness, what kinds of controls would you want to establish?

Second Section (3 weeks)

There is more material that would be needed to do what I want to do with this section, but here are at least some ideas:

1. McLoughlin and Larned supply quantities of material useful for what could be very interesting case studies of Baptist and Separate societies, illustrative of community splits and problems of religious freedom.
2. Using Purcell as a resource and as a guide to piles of more material in newspapers and pamphlets, Federalist arguments can be found which can be used by the students to balance the twelve criticisms of the government of that time. You might arm one half of the class against the other half so that Republicans and Federalists can have a go at each other in a modern remake of an election campaign just before 1818, with one suggesting the creation of a State Constitution, the other supporting the existing government.
3. The following four pages contain expressions of Federalist and Republican opinion from Pircell’s book, and that book is supplied with many more on both sides. I am going to cut them out and pass them around to see if the students can begin to spot typical arguments of each party, thus familiarizing themselves with the main issues from both points of view.
4. Without additional material, students can a. study Chart B and see what criticisms they might raise against it; then b. compare their list with the twelve criticisms, the c. in groups write a new plan of government to remedy the situation.

Republican Views

(We are friends of liberty and the Constitution.)

(The State should be divided into districts, so that each part of Connecticut may be represented in Congress and on the local level, each part might elect an assistant in the Council.)

(The State has no constitution.) 1

Those states which are most under the hierarchical yoke will be last . . . The favorite theme of uniting church and state, has been more cherished in New England than in any other part of the United States, and more in Connecticut than any other state. The numerous advocates of this system will not yield, ‘till the influence of truth, and the voice of the people become too powerful for further resistance. 2

(We are against the stand-up law and in favor of secrecy in elections and an extension of the suffrage.)

(Church constitutions should be abolished; religious support should not be compulsory. The people of Connecticut are politically ignorant, for) they have been trained too much in the habit of trusting the concerns of religion and policy to their rulers. (We should have a constitutional convention, which will cost the people about five cents each. The printed result could be made available to every freeman for another five cents; then the state would have a constitution, and every freeman would know whether a law was constitutional or not. What a saving in lawyers’ fees!) 3

(It is hoped that if there is a constitution, religious liberty will be given to all,) despite the deep rooted modes and habits. (I am not too hopeful, though, because of) the long accustomed habits of Connecticut, the prejudices of the people, and the present connection that exists between religion and property—religion and honor—religion and education. 4

(There is no constitution in this state.) The people of Connecticut have never been asked, by those in authority, what form of government they would choose; nor in fact, whether they would have any form at all. For want of a specific constitution, the rulers run without bridle or bit, or anything to draw them up to the ring-bolt. Should the legislature make a law, to perpetuate themselves in office for life, the law would immediately become part of their constitution: and who would call them to account therefor? 5

You exhibit to the world the rare and perhaps unprecedented example of a people peaceably and quietly consenting to be governed without any compact which secures rights to yourselves, or delegates powers to your rulers . . . I am ready to admit that you have been influenced by a sacred regard for order and government, otherwise you would not, ever since the American Revolution, have consented to be governed by a charter given your ancestors by a British King and which, ever since your independence has separated you from Britain, has been imposed on you by an act of a legislature not authorized to make the imposition. 6

(Your legislators have been honest in the past, but sometimes men become intoxicated with power. You have re-elected them from force of habit, not because of their proven worth, for there is no way to judge that. Little by little your rulers may increase their power and declare that anyone who asks questions is guilty of disturbing the peace or of infidelity.) It is as if a majority of judges and justices has by law provided that the poor man, who trudged on foot his weary pilgrimage through life, should do the same quantity of labor in the public roads as the rich man, while the Justice or Judge, the Clergyman and Physician who encumbered the highways with his wagon’s six-cattle team and pleasure carriage, should bear no part of the burden. (Why shouldn’t the officials serve in the militia and defend the state, of whose wealth they are the chief holders? They have deprived you of an independent judiciary and a free vote.) 7

You cannot be insensible that the work of a Connecticut Legislator is an arduous, a weighty task. He has not only to guard the people against them- selves, but has also the more difficult . . . task of guarding the people against himself. Having no Constitution to limit him, he finds it necessary to be constantly on his guard against the delusions of power and Ambition. He has to contend against his most favorite wishes, his fondest hopes. When he finds it in his power to gratify these hopes—when he finds no check but in the elective voice of the people; and then, when he finds this elective voice practically confined by law to those who have similar interests with himself, prudence deserts her helm—ambition seizes it—and the rights of the people are lost in the usurpation of the statesman. 8

Toast: The State of Connecticut—May its civil rights soon have constitutional bounds—its professional men be confined within their limits, and its courts be reduced from annual dependence on Suitors and Advocates. 9

(Taxation is in no way based on a valuation of a person’s wealth, because it does not include the newer forms of wealth; it is unfair to the poor man. All attempts to make it more fair have been defeated by the special interests. This is all we can expect as long as the only constitution we have is “an unauthorized farce,” which perfect beings could live under but not ordinary people of the normal, work-a-day world.) 10

In Connecticut truth and reason are pervading the mass of the people. A hallowed jealousy is shaking their bigoted assemblies and the pontifical chair of the clergy totters beneath them. 11

Federalist Views

The very principle of admitting everybody to the right of suffrage prostrates the wealth of individuals to the rapaciousness of a merciless gang, who have nothing to lose and will delight in plundering their neighbors. 1

(It is absurd to believe that) that universal enjoyment of the right of suffrage is the best security for free elections and a pure administration. The reverse is proved by all experience to be the fact: that a liberal extension of the right of suffrage accelerates the growth of corruption, by multiplying the number of corruptible electors, and reducing the price of venal suffrages. 2

(all men should have equal protection before the law, whether they possess a single cow or a thousand acres, but not equal power to make that law. Just as not every man can be a judge or a college professor, so not every man is capable of sharing in government through voting.) 3

(Rome fell only when she extended her suffrage.) 4

(It is not true that sovereignty is derived from the people, or that officers are servants of the people, or that legislators are responsible to those who elect them. These ideas downgrade state officials, would make people sneer at law and government, and would cause big fights and arguments between parties seeking to elect the officers.) 5

(Good government means nothing to the penniless man who spends all his money in a tavern, or to the person who moves from place to place, or to the merchant who wealth is in movable goods. But to the landed man stability and good government are everything.) 6

(Life and liberty are safe under ordinary circumstances, but property demands more protection. The making of laws should be left to property owners, since nine-tenths of the work of the Legislature and the courts deals with protecting property. Universal suffrage which produce an ignorant electorate which could easily be controlled by demagogues.) 7

(The property requirement for voting is no hardship, because only a small amount is required.) 8

The loss of this happy influence of the clergy . . . is deeply to be regretted, and is to be ascribed to two causes—the increase of knowledge, and the growth of opposition to religion. Knowledge has induced the laity to think and to act for themselves, and an opposition to religion has curtailed the power of its supporters. 9

When we see the restless pursuit of the world; good order disregarded; laws, human and divine, trampled on; religion derided; and its professors made the scoff of the profane—When vice of every kind is rampant, its votaries applauded, and advantaged to lucrative and honorable station, then we justly fear for the safety of our civil and religious liberty.. 10

(The ministers do have influence, but that’s because of their divinely instituted office and their own inherent worth, for they have no power, only) an influence, which every sober man must regard as desirable in any community. 11

(The ministers) hold no offices, they are poor, they are not active political intriguers or electioneers. They only exert a quiet suffrage. They have preached against dangerous philosophy and infectious infidelity, and if, as the opposition maintains, this is hostile to republican principles, the clergy are not to be blamed. 12

The democratic newspapers abound with attacks upon the clergy—they, it seems, are to be driven from the exercise of a right not denied to any other citizen . . . Their characters entitle them to different treatment,— good men will not fail to resist this spirit of persecution, against a body of men so justly respectable for their learning, their love of genuine liberty, their virtue and their extensive influence in the promotion of the best interests of society. 13

(The country will be ruined by party struggles.)

(Those who are trying to overthrow the institutions of the State know that they must first destroy religion and undermine the popular reverence for the ministers before they can attain their purposes.)

(Republicans are new men, of little character and no family, but with definite political aspirations.)

The leaders of Democracy have for a long time railed at our rulers, our clergy, & our college, but we did not suppose they would venture publicly to denounce an institution whose object it is to suppress vice and immorality, or a society whose only object it is, without regard to sect, or nation, to place the pure work of truth and light into every hand within reach. Yet such is the deadly hostility of these professed friends of toleration to the religion of their fathers that they cannot even tolerate a society who would endeavor to discountenance vice and immorality much less an institution which would disseminate the mild principles of the Gospel of peace; and these seem to be the principal benefits they expect will result from a change of rulers in Connecticut. 14

(Republicans are immoral, irreligious, and lowly.)

(Republicans are dissenters. Federalists are) godly men, of sober, solid, and steady habits.

(Republicans are lawyers of uncertain practice and doubtful morality, holders of federal patronage, “mushroom candidates” and self-seeking demagogues who are deluding the ignorant voters.)

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Footnotes

1. The Blue Laws of Connecticut, ed. Samuel M. Smucker (Philadelphia, 1861), p. 91.
2. Ibid., p. 67.
3. Mary Jeanne Anderson Jones, Congregational Commonwealth: Connecticut, 1636-1662 (Middletown, Ct., 1968), p. 84.
4. Ibid., p. 47.
5. Ibid., p. 38f.
6. Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston, 1958), p. 7.
7. Jones, p. 4f. Ecclesia (“church”) means “called out.”
8. Albert Edward Van Dusen, Connecticut (New York, 1961), p. 14. I have modernized the language.
9. Ibid., p. 15f.; Jones, pp. 6, llf.
10. Isabel MacBeath Calder, New Haven Colony (New Haven, 1962, rep. 1970), p. 2f.
11. William K. Holdsworth, “Law and Society in Colonial Connecticut, 16361672” (unpubl. diss. Claremont, 1979), p. 91
12. Jones, ch. 3; Holdsworth, ch. 4.
13. Blue Laws, p. 67
14. Jones, pp. 102-105.
15. Blue Laws, pp. 89f., 97f., lOOf., lllf.
16. Richard L. Bushman, From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 (new York, 1970), pp. 4ff.
17. Jones, p. 37.
18. Holdsworth, p. 146.
19. Maria Louise Greene, The Development of Religious Liberty in Connecticut (Boston, 1905), pp. 165-170.
20. Richard J. Purcell, Connecticut in Transition, 1775-1818 (Middletown, Ct., 1918, rep. 1963), p. 61
21. Greene, pp. 151-154.
22. Ibid., pp. 154, 171, 174-180, 186ff., 192-195, 199ff., 216ff.
23. Ibid., p. 284f.
24. Ibid., pp. 372-378.
25. Ibid., ch X, XI, pp. 328-337.
26. Ibid., pp. 338-341.
27. Purcell, pp. 7-17.
28. Ibid., pp. 46-54.
29. Ibid., pp. 54-59.
30. Paul Wakeman Coons, The Achievement of Religious Liberty in Connecticut, Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut (New Haven, 1936), p. 27.
31. Ibid.
32. Purcell, p. xii.
33. Greene, p. 375n.
34. Purcell, ch. V.
35. Ibid., ch. VI.
36. Ibid., ch. VIII.
37. Ibid., ch. IX.

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A Brief Annotated Bibliography

++Balleh, Joan, Fairfield, Connecticut, 1661-1691: A Demographic Study of the Economic, Political, and Social Life of a New England Community,” unpubl. thesis, U. of Bridgeport, 1970. This is a well-documented glimpse into the Puritan-to Yankee stage of a town whose conservatism tends to be more secular than religious.

**The Blue Laws of Connecticut, ed. Samuel M. Smucker, Philadelphia, 1861. This is a useful compendium of seventeenth-century Connecticut documents, including the entire Code of 1650.+Bridenbaugh, Carl, Vexed and Troubled Englishmen, 1590-1642, New York, 1976. This makes engrossing reading and presents useful material to show the English religious, economic, social, and legal context of Puritans and Virginians.

+Calder, Isabel MacBeath, New Haven Colony, New Haven, 1934, 1970. An excellently complete, readable coverage of New Haven’s history as a colony, this book demonstrates how troubled its short existence was.

**Cohen, Sheldon, Connecticut’s Loyalist Gadfly: The Reverend Samuel Andrew Peters, American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1976. With an easy and flowing narrative, it is helpful in showing how Peters came to take the position he did and why Anglicans were looked upon with suspicion at that time.

++Collier, Christopher, “Steady Habits Considered and Reconsidered,” Connecticut Review, vol 5:2 (Apr. 1972), pp. 28-37. Within just a few pages, this article manages to summarize handily the range of historians’ opinions regarding the extent of consensus in Connecticut, especially during the period that this unit deals with. It is a good starting point from which one may take off in any of the directions he suggests.

**Coons, Paul Wakeman, The Achievement of Religious Liberty in Connecticut, Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut, Publication No. 60, New Haven, 1936. A tremendously helpful summary of the religious section of my unit’s concern, this pamphlet is a help in seeing the larger picture.

+Greene, Maria Louise, The Development of Religious Liberty in Connecticut, Boston 1905. A lucid narration of the gradual opening of Connecticut to religious pluralism; this book is especially good for examples of anti-Establishment opinion and for the English background.

++Holdsworth, William K., “Law and Society in Colonial Connecticut, 1636-1672,” unpubl. diss. Claremont Grad. Sch., 1974 Indispensable for the Puritan period, bit it is slow going. With meticulous scholarship it takes in both Connecticut and New Haven and should be read after Jones.

*Hoyt, Joseph B., The Connecticut Story, New Haven, 1961. Well-illustrated, with an emphasis on geography and economics, it is a fine book, but not helpful for political or religious history.

+Jones, Mary Jeanne Anderson, Congregational Commonwealth: Connecticut, 1636-1662, Middletown, Ct., 1968. A “must” for anyone interested in the Commonwealth period, this well-documented study reads easily, and its pages seem filled with living people.

*Johnston, Johanna, The Connecticut Colony, London, 1969. An attractively got-up book, with greatest emphasis placed on what might be considered “interesting” or “exciting;” this book will please junior-highs but give them little of substance regarding the dynamics of social change.

+Larned, Ellen D. History of Windham County 2 vols., Worcester, 1874-1880. This book could provide the material for an excellent case study or two concerning l8th-century religious dynamics: I chose, for example,to follow the Town of Canterbury straight through the book, and it is quite a story.

** & *Lee, W. Storrs, The Yankees of Connecticut, New York, 1957. An unusual book, it seeks to tackle various themes and deal with them without much regard for chronology, but it is enjoyable and puts life on history’s bones.

*McLoughlin, William G., New England Dissent, 1630-1833 2 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1971. This book promises to be the best book I didn’t read; its pages are full of descriptions of struggling dissenters and dissenting groups, with large sections on Connecticut.

**Morgan, Edmund, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop, Boston, 1958. This book must be read for an understanding of Puritanism from the inside; it narrows the distance between us and them. The “revisionist” account of the Hutchinson and Williams cases makes good reading.

+———. The Puritan Family, Harper Torch Books, New York, 1966, rev. A loving portrayal of its subject, the book is filled with many examples. It is not light reading: it is scholarly and comprehensive.

++Parrington, Vernon Louis, The Colonial Mind, 1600-1800, Harvest Books, New York, 1956. A probing analysis of personalities who played important roles in both sections of my unit; it seems provocative and will add depth to my understanding, but it is not an easy book.

**Powell, Sumner Chilton, Puritan Village, Anchor Books, Garden City, 1965. An almost-incredible study of Sudbury, Massachusetts, this book suggests that tensions existed in seventeenth-century New England towns between the restive young who wanted to get ahead and older leaders who liked things are they were. The struggle cuts across Puritan society and begins almost with the founding of the town. The Dedham study points to exactly the same problem, if you can find the title.

+Purcell, Richard J., Connecticut in Transition, 1775-1818, Middletown, Ct., 1918, 1963. An unusual book, it combines scholarship with a sense of the dramatic so that the reader becomes engrossed in the contest finally won by those who wanted a constitution for the State.

***Roth, David & Freeman Meyer, From Revolution to Constitution: Connecticut, 1763-1818, Center for Connecticut Studies, Chester, Ct., 1975. Chapter III of this book is a very readable review of the high spots of the events leading to the 1818 Constitution.

**Simpson, Alan, Puritanism in Old and New England, Chicago, 1955. A comprehensive and sympathetic look at Puritanism, this book appears to me to be of great potential help for anyone desiring more understanding of the movement.

*Soderlind, Arthur E., Colonial Connecticut, New York, 1976. This book is equally as attractive as Johnston, but it is much more meaty and delves into political and religious questions, managing to describe the Charter Oak incident in only one page:.

Taylor, Robert J., Colonial Connecticut: A History, Millwood, 1979. The only book on this list I have not seen, it comes very highly recommended.

**Van Dusen, Albert Edward, Connecticut, New York, 1961. An attractively-illustrated book, it does well on Hooker and the 1650 code; it is weak on the issues in the second section of my unit.

**Zeichner, Oscar, Connecticut’s Years of Controversy, 1750-1776. Excellent back background for the second section of this unit, the first two chapters are especially good and present some statistics in regard to the amount of participation in decision-making in the middle of the eighteenth century.

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