Today, the Connecticut Tercentenary Silver Half Dollar Coin tells the story of the first constitution agreed upon by the colonists of Connecticut.
On January 14, 1639, the men of three towns, Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, voted for the Fundamental Orders to govern their colonies.
These orders resulted after a sermon by Rev. Thomas Hooker in May 1638. Rev. Hooker advised, “The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”
He finished his sermon with “As God has given us liberty let us take it.”
The men wrote the Fundamental Orders that set up their government without any allegiance to England or any other foreign government.
Several years later, the colonists obtained a Charter from England for their colonies; however, they still considered their Fundamental Orders the governing rules for their society.
The preamble to the Orders stated:
“For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth:”
The document was not long and included eleven orders.
The orders defined the governing offices, the elections of the officials serving in those offices and the method of overseeing the three towns.
The orders concluded with”14th January 1639 the 11 Orders above said are voted.”
Though people still debate whether the Fundamental Orders were a “constitution,” the Connecticut General Assembly voted in 1959 to designate their nickname as “The Constitution State.”
We remember 376 years ago…
The Connecticut Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with a medal signifying the Fundamental Orders of 1639 and a colorful oak tree in the background.