The New England Colonies

3f. Reaching to Connecticut

The Charter Oak
Upon his taking the throne, King James II demanded that Connecticut give up the charter granted by Charles II in 1662. But the citizens refused and hid the document in this hollow tree for safe keeping.

Despite a few internal problems, Massachusetts Bay Colony was thriving by the mid-1630s. It would only be a matter of time before individuals within the colony would consider expansion.

There were obstacles to consider. Establishing a new colony was never easy. Pequot Indian settlements west of the Connecticut River were an important consideration. Nevertheless, the Puritan experiment pushed forward, creating new colonies in the likeness of Massachusetts Bay.

Thomas Hooker was a devout Puritan minister. He had no quarrels with the religious teachings of the church. He did, however, object to linking voting rights with church membership, which had been the practice in Massachusetts Bay.

Thomas Hooker Monument
A statue to Thomas Hooker, one of the founders of Connecticut, stands in downtown Hartford.

In 1636, his family led a group of followers west and built a town known as Hartford. This would become the center of Connecticut colony. In religious practices Connecticut mirrored Massachusetts Bay. Politically, it allowed more access to non-church members.

In 1639, the citizens of Connecticut enacted the first written constitution in the western hemisphere. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut called for an elected governor and a two-house legislature. It served as a model for other colonial charters and even future state constitutions after independence was achieved.

In 1637, under the leadership of John Davenport, a second colony was formed in the Connecticut River Valley, revolved around the port of New Haven. Unlike the citizens in Hartford, the citizens were very strict about church membership and the political process. They even abolished juries because there was no mention of them in the Bible. Most citizens accused of a crime simply reported to the magistrate for their punishment, without even furnishing a defense.

Massachusetts Bay Colony
This map shows the area known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 17th century. Settlers soon branched out and settled the areas that would be known as Connecticut and Rhode Island.

New Haven was merged into its more democratic neighbor by King Charles II in 1662.

Connecticut provides a great example of the strictness of colonial society. Laws based on scripture, called Blue Laws, were applied to Connecticut residents. Examples include the death penalty for crimes that seem minor by modern standards. Blue laws condemned to death any citizen who was convicted of blaspheming the name of God or cursing their natural father or mother. These laws were in effect at least as late as 1672 in colonial Connecticut.

On the Web
New Haven's founders not only hoped to create a Christian utopia, they also saw an opportunity to establish a commercial empire that would control Long Island Sound.
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About Connecticut
What's Connecticut's motto? How about their nickname? This official Connecticut State website offers a brief history of the "The Constitution State."
Thomas Hooker: Beholding the Majesty of God
Separation of church and state isn't a new hot topic; it was a major issue in Puritan New England. Thomas Hooker, a Puritan minister, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded Hartford, Connecticut. Although a devout Puritan, he advocated the separation of religion from politics.
New Haven, Connecticut
Founded shortly after Hartford, New Haven was the second settlement in Connecticut. The history of the city and a few pictures are available at this, the official website of the city of New Haven. From its founding by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton in 1638, to the many famous people that have come from New Haven, this website covers a wide range of topics.
Thomas Hooker Tries Democracy
Thomas Hooker was one of the first settlers to the New World that exhibited the democratic principles that the United States were founded upon. This website examines Hooker's role in the roots of American liberty, which happens to be the topic of a recent book. Find out how Hooker's beliefs influenced American politics.
Pequot History
Thomas Hooker and John Davenport were certainly not the first settlers to enjoy the benefits of Connecticut. Native American tribes had lived in the area for years before these men arrived. The Pequot were one Native American group that occupied the area both before and during English settlement. Their history is presented at this in-depth, informative website. What happended to the Pequot and other Native American groups is examined in detail.
The Society of Colonial Wars: Connecticut
The colony founded at New Haven, Connecticut by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton was an independent colony. But this was only the beginning of New Haven's unique role in Connecticut history. This website presents a unique perspective of New Haven and Connecticut history. What happened, for instance, after the death of England's King Charles I? How was Connecticut involved? Find out here.
The name Connecticut comes from the Native American word Quinatucquet which means "beside the long river" or ""long tidal river."
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