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§ 88. In 1685, a quo warranto was issued by King James against the colony for the repeal of the charter. No judgment appears to have been rendered upon it; but the colony offered its submission to the will of the crown; and Sir Edward Andros, in 1687, went to Hartford, and in the name of the crown declared the government dissolved.1 They did not, however, surrender the charter; but secreted it in an oak, which is still venerated; and immediately after the revolution of 1688, they resumed the exercise of all its powers. The successors of the Stuarts silently suffered them to retain it until the American Revolution, without any struggle or resistance.2 The charter continued to be maintained as a fundamental law of the State, until the year 1818, when a new constitution of government was framed and adopted by the people.


§ 89. The laws of Connecticut were, in many respects, similar to those of Massachusetts. At an early period after the charter they passed an act which may be deemed a bill of rights. By it, it was declared 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 any ways 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 endangered under color of law, or countenance of authority, unless it be by virtue or equity of some express law of this colony, warranting the same, established by the General Court, and sufficiently published; or in case of the defects of a law in any particular case, by some clear and plain rule of the Word of God, in which the whole court shall concur." 4 The trial by jury, in civil and criminal cases, was also secured; and if the court were dissatisfied with the verdict, they might send back the jury to consider the same a second and third time, but not further.5 The governor was to be chosen, as the charter provided, by the freemen. Every town was to send one or two deputies or representatives to the General Assembly; but every freeman was to give his

1 1 Holmes's Ann. 415, 421, 429, 442; 1 Chalm Ann. 297, 298, 301, 304, 306; 1 Hutch. Hist. 339, 406, note.

2 Ibid.

8 2 Doug. Summ. 171 to 176, 193 to 202.

4 Colony Laws of Connecticut, edition by Greene, 1715–1718, folio, (New London,)

p. 1.

5 Id, p. 2. The practice continued down to the establishment of the new constitution in 1818.

voice in the election of assistants and other public officers.1 No person was entitled to be made a freeman, unless he owned lands in freehold of forty shillings' value per annum, or £ 40 personal estate.2

§ 90. In respect to offences, their criminal code proceeded upon the same general foundation as that of Massachusetts, declaring those capital which were so declared in the Holy Scriptures, and citing them as authority for this purpose. Among the capital offences were idolatry, blasphemy of Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, witchcraft, murder, murder through guile by poisoning or other devilish practices, bestiality, sodomy, rape, man-stealing, false witness, conspiracy against the colony, arson, children cursing or smiting father or mother, being a stubborn or rebellious son, and treason.3

§ 91. In respect to religious concerns, their laws provided that all persons should attend public worship, and that the towns should support and pay the ministers of religion. And at first the choice of the minister was confided to the major part of the householders of the town; the church, as such, having nothing to do with the choice. But in 1708, an act was passed, (doubtless by the influence of the clergy,) by which the choice of ministers was vested in the inhabitants of the town who were church-members; and the same year the celebrated platform at Saybrook was approved, which has continued down to our day to regulate, in discipline and in doctrine, the ecclesiastical concerns of the State.4

§ 92. The spirit of toleration was not more liberal here than in most of the other colonies. No persons were allowed to embody themselves into church estate without the consent of the General Assembly, and the approbation of the neighboring churches; and no ministry or church administration was entertained or authorized separate from, and in opposition to, that openly and publicly observed and dispensed by the approved minister of the place, except with the approbation and consent aforesaid.5 Quakers, Ranters, Adamites, and other notorious heretics, (as they were called,) were to be committed to prison or sent out of the colony,

1 Colony Laws of Connecticut, edition by Greene, 1715-1718, folio, (New Lon don,) p. 27, 30.

8 Id. 12.

2 Id. p. 41.

* Id. p. 29, 84, 85, 110, 141. The Constitution of 1818 has made a great change in

the rights and powers of the ministers and parishes in ecclesiastical affairs.

5 Id. p. 29.

by order of the governor and assistants. Nor does the zeal of persecution appear at all to have abated until, in pursuance of the statutes of 1 William and Mary, dissenters were allowed the liberty of conscience without molestation.2

§ 93. In respect to real estate, the descent and distribution was directed to be among all the children, giving the eldest son a double share; conveyances in fraud of creditors were declared void; lands were made liable to be set off to creditors on executions by the appraisement of three appraisers.3

The process in courts of justice was required to be in the name of the reigning king.4 Persons having no estate might be relieved from imprisonment by two assistants; but if the creditor required it, he should satisfy the debt by service.5 Depositions were allowed as evidence in civil suits. No person was permitted to plead in behalf of another person on trial for delinquency, except directly to matter of law, a provision somewhat singular in our annals, though in entire conformity to the English law in capital felonies. Bills and bonds were made assignable, and suits allowed in the name of the assignees.8


Magistrates, justices of the peace, and ministers were authorized to marry persons; and divorces a vinculo allowed for adultery, fraudulent contract, or desertion for three years. Men and women, having a husband or wife in foreign parts, were not allowed to abide in the colony, so separated, above two years, without liberty from the General Court.


Towns were required to support public schools under regulations similar, for the most part, to those of Massachusetts; and an especial maritime code was enacted, regulating the rights and duties and authorities of ship-owners, seamen, and others concerned in navigation.10

Such are the principal provisions of the colonial legislation of Connecticut.

1 Colony Laws of Conn., edition by Greene, 1715-1718, folio, (New London,) p.


2 Id. p. 134.

3 Id. p. 33, 61, 164.

5 Id. P. 6.

7 Id. p. 26.

4 Id. p.


6 Id. p. 116.
8 Id. p. 7.

9 Id. p. 84.

10 Id. p. 70. A similar code existed in Massachusetts, enacted in 1668.



§ 94. RHODE ISLAND was originally settled by emigrants from Massachusetts, fleeing thither to escape from religious persecution; and it still boasts of Roger Williams as its founder, and as the early defender of religious freedom and the rights of conscience. One body of them purchased the island which has given the name to the State, and another the territory of the Providence Plantations from the Indians, and began their settlements in both places nearly at the same period, viz. in 1636 and 1638.1 They entered into separate voluntary associations of government. But finding their associations not sufficient to protect them against the encroachments of Massachusetts, and having no title under any of the royal patents, they sent Roger Williams to England in 1643 to procure a surer foundation both of title and government. He succeeded in obtaining from the Earl of Warwick (in 1643) a charter of incorporation of Providence Plantations; 2 and also, in 1644, a charter from the two houses of Parliament (Charles the First being then driven from his capital) for the incorporation of the towns of Providence, Newport, and Portsmouth, for the absolute government of themselves, but according to the laws of England.3

§ 95. Under this charter an assembly was convened in 1647, consisting of the collective freemen of the various plantations.4 The legislative power was vested in a court of commissioners of six persons, chosen by each of the four towns then in existence.

1 1 Hutch. Hist. 72; 1 Holmes's Annals, 225, 233, 246; 1 Chalm. Annals, 269, 270 ; Hutch. Coll. 413, 414, 415; Marsh. Colon. ch. 3, p. 99, 100; Robertson's America, B. 10; 2 Doug. Summ. 76 to 90; 1 Pitkin's Hist. 46. Mr. Chalmers says, that Providence was settled in the beginning of 1635; and Dr. Holmes, in 1636. (1 Chalm. Annals, 270; 1 Holmes's Annals, 233.)

2 1 Hutch. Hist. 39, note; Walsh's Appeal, 429; 1 Pitk. Hist. 46, 47, 48; 2 Doug. Summ. 80.

8 1 Chalm. 271, 272; Hutch. Coll. 415, 416; [1 R. I. Hist. Rec. 143; Arnold, Hist. of Rhode Island, I. 114, 200.]

* 1 Chalm. Annals, 273; 1 Holmes's Annals, 283; Walsh's Appeal, 429; 2 Doug. Summ. 80.

The whole executive power seems to have been vested in a president and four assistants, who were chosen from the freemen, and formed the supreme court for the administration of justice. Every township, forming within itself a corporation, elected a council of six for the management of its peculiar affairs, and for the settlement of the smallest disputes.1 The council of state of the Commonwealth soon afterwards interfered to suspend their government; but the distractions at home prevented any serious interference by Parliament in the administration of their affairs; and they continued to act under their former government until the restoration of Charles the Second.2 That event seems to have given great satisfaction to these plantations. They immediately proclaimed the king, and sent an agent to England; and in July, 1663, after some opposition, they succeeded in obtaining a charter from the crown.3

§ 96. That charter incorporated the inhabitants by the name of the Governor and Company of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England in America, conferring on them the usual powers of corporations. The executive power was lodged in a governor, deputy-governor, and ten assistants, chosen by the freemen. The supreme legislative authority was vested in a General Assembly, consisting of a governor, deputygovernor, ten assistants, and deputies from the respective towns, chosen by the freemen, (six for Newport, four for Providence, Portsmouth, and Warwick, and two for other towns,) the governor or deputy and six assistants being always present. The General Assembly were authorized to admit freemen, choose officers, make laws and ordinances, so as that they were "not contrary and repugnant unto, but as near as may be agreeable to, the laws of this our realm of England, considering the nature and constitution of the place and people; to create and organize courts; to punish offences according to the course of other corporations in England"; to array the martial force of the colony for the common defence, and enforce martial law; and to exercise other important powers and prerogatives. It further provided for a free fishery on the coasts; and that all the inhabitants and children born there

1 1 Chalm. Annals, 273; 1 Holmes's Annals, 283.

Marsh. Colon. ch. 5, p. 133.

2 1 Chalm. Annals, 274; 1 Holmes's Annals, 297; * 1 Chalm. Annals, 274; 1 Holmes's Annals, 329; [Arnold, Hist. of Rhode Island,

I. 290; Palfrey, Hist. of New England, II. 565.]

4 2 Haz. Coll. 612 to 623; 2 Doug. Summ. 81.

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