The Fundamental Orders of 1638

In the spring of 1638 three Connecticut towns, Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, chose representatives and held a general court at Hartford. At its opening session the Reverend Thomas Hooker preached a powerful sermon on the text that "the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people." On January 14 following, by the Julian calendar in use at the time, which would January 24, 1639, by today's Gregorian calendar, the constitution given here was adopted by the freemen of the three towns assembled at Hartford, and is usually named The Fundamental Orders. Nowhere in this great document is there a reference to "our dread Sovereign" or "our gracious Lord the King," — nor to any government or power outside of Connecticut itself. It did not even limit the vote to members of Puritan congregations. This appears to be the first written constitution in the Western tradition which created a government, and it is easily seen to be the prototype of our Federal Constitution, adopted exactly one hundred and fifty years later. However, see also the Iroquois Constitution and the Mayflower Compact of earlier times. Note that the year recorded in the document is 1638, because the British calendar in use at the time began the new year on March 25 instead of January 1 as does the Gregorian calendar we use today. Britain did not convert to the Gregorian calendar until 1751, when 11 days had to be added to their dates to get the Gregorian dates. In 1639 they were 10 days behind the Gregorian calendar. - To read The Fundamental Orders the link to download the 4 page PDF is below:

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