Myths And Facts About The Fundamental Orders

Connecticut is known as the “Constitution State,” not just because that’s what appears on many license plates, but because of a very old document known as the “Fundamental Orders,” which some argue represents the first written constitution in America. 

Not everyone agrees with the accuracy of that historical argument.  Attorney Michael Besso, former law clerk to Chief Justice Ellen Ash Peters, Assistant Attorney General, and member of the board of directors (and Editor-in-Chief) of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society, has researched the history of the Fundamental Orders in depth.  I invited him to share his thoughts as a guest blogger.

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The Rule Of Law In Colonial Connecticut

What, if anything, do Connecticut’s earliest legal documents have to say about the rule of law and its relationship to an orderly society?  Let’s start with a document known as the Fundamental Orders, adopted on January 14, 1639 (or perhaps 1638 according to some sources).  The phrase “Constitution State,” which we see so often on the license plate of the car in front of us, is based on the notion–accepted by some, disputed by others–that the Fundamental Orders represent the first written constitution in the western world.  The Orders (of which there were eleven) established a formal confederation among the towns of Windsor, Wethersfield and Hartford and set forth a form of government.  However, it is the introductory paragraph, a preamble of sorts, that explains why a government is desired: Read the rest of this entry »