Fundamental Orders of Connecticut are arguably the foundations of democracy in America. They are also believed to be the first constitution created in the new world. The style and formalism of the Fundamental Orders served as precursors to the modern constitution that was enacted 150 years later. They were adopted in January 1639 by a number of early puritan towns in Connecticut like Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield. This was done with the aim of establishing independent rule of law that was distinguishably more progressive from the earlier and more restrictive Anglican Law imposed by England. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut became the rule of law for Connecticut. The three people who were most influential in its inception and creation were John Haynes, Roger Ludlow, and Thomas Hooker In effect, it was a document that went against English rule. This is perhaps why there are no records of the proceedings that brought about the Fundamental Orders because the citizens of the towns wanted to stay anonymous to avoid retaliation. Lets take a look back on the history of Connecticut.
Like the modern Federal Constitution, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut outline a number of common rights that were to be given equally to the farmers and other free people of the three towns. For example, the Orders make the link between the individual rights of citizens and the government’s purpose to uphold all those rights strikingly clear. The powers granted to the government are stated through limitations of how power could be used. It also enacted a free share in voting and elections, beginning the secret ballot box voting method.
The Fundamental Orders consist of 11 orders, which bound the people of the three Connecticut towns to the laws created in a similar way to New England statute laws. The orders were revolutionary by their consideration to the wellbeing of the community at large over the wellbeing of the individual. The significance of this is that the health of the community was formally made to be more important than any given citizen.
In the document itself, there is a beginning, preamble, and written description of the 11 orders which were saved for the history records. It is highly detailed, covering many different aspects of government based on political principles that many have retrospectively praised for their insight.
The first order explains the process of election, stating that there will be two courts made every year to elect Magistrates and other public officers. It further stipulates the length of time they can be in power. The second order explains the voting process. In it, it clearly specifies that every citizen should bring their own piece of paper with them to the polling place with their chosen candidate. Other orders go into further detail about the split of power between the towns, the power of official electorates, the structure of official offices, and tax standards.
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