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Our ancestors, having smarted bitterly under the rod of persecution, in their native country, established their ecclesiastical constitution on a very liben! basis. They wholly renounced the canon law, which bad been the source of the most intolerable and diversified abuse and oppression, in the countries where it had been admitted ; they gave to the people the power of selecting teachers, agreeable to their wishes, instead of receiving them from the mandate of the lord of the manor, who had no interest in their spiritual welfare; and they authorized them to provide, by a convenient mode, for the support of the gospel ministry, instead of subjecting them to the payment of tithes, a tax not only extremely odious and inconvenient, but which operates as a severe check on the industry of the people, and the improvements of agriculture.
Our ancestors were sensible of the immense superiority of a well informed people, over the ignorant and illiterate ; and it was the special object of their attention to establish a system of education, that should extend the means of instruction to every individual. For this purpose, common schools were established in every ecclesiastical society ; and there has rarely been an instance of a person, who could not read and write, and who did not understand enough of arithmetic for the ordinary business of life. And now, by the liberal fund established for the support of schools, every child, wbether poor or rich, has an opportunity of acquiring a good common education, free from expense ; a provision of far greater consequence to preserve and perpetuate our civil rights, than all the constitutional checks and balances that can be devised by the wit of man.
In these institutions, the people constitute, in their individual capacity, an important part of the government. This gives them a personal interest and influence in the administration of it, and a consideration and consequence unknown to despotic governments, where the rulers are every thing, and the people nothing. Hence, they derive a dignity and independence of sentiment peculiar to freemen, and that singular spirit of enterprise, and energy of character, the effects of which have been displayed in almost every part of the globe.
In 1696, so many new statutes had been made as to render a revision useful and proper; and John Allyn, James Fitch, and Eleaser Kimberly, the two former being assistants, and the latter secretary, were appointed a committee to revise the statutes, and to consider what alterations and additions were necessary to render them more effectual in maintaining righteousness, and promoting the weal and prosperity of the nation. This revision was completed in 1700 ; but the edition was not published till 1702.
Another edition was published in 1714, comprising the additional statutes then in force.
In 1742, the subject again came under the consideration of the legislature; and Roger Wolcott, Thomas Fitch, Jonathan Trumbull, and John Bulkley, the three former of whom were successively governors of the colony, and the latter a judge of the superior court, were appointed a committee to revise the statutes, with the usual powers, except as to acts relating to real estate, in which no alteration was to be made. This work was completed, approved, and published, in 1750. Governor Fitch, who was an eminent lawyer at that day, is said to have had the principal agency in performing the work. The statutes were much compressed, and arranged in a different and better form ; but without any material alterations or additions.
In 1769, a new edition, with the additional statutes, was found necessary.
The dissolution of our connexion with the British empire, accelerated an. other revision of the statutes, within a shorter period than usual. So slight had been our connexion with that government, and so little had they interfered in our internal concerns, that the transition from a dependent to a sovereign state, was almost imperceptible. No alteration was necessary, but to erase the name of “ His Majesty,” from our legal proceedings, and insert the name and authority of the state ; and the administration of the government proceeded in the same manner as before the declaration of independence. Of course, instead of framing a new constitution, it was deemed sufficient to continue that in force, which had originated from the consent of the people. A revision, however, of the laws, was necessary, to adapt them to the new order of things. Ac. cordingly, on the return of peace, in 1783, Richard Law, and Roger Sherman, then judges of the superior court, were invested with power to digest all the statutes relating to the same subject into one ; and to reduce the whole to a regular alphabetical order, with such alterations, additions, exclusions, and amendments, as they should judge expedient. This revision was completed, and adopted, in January, 1784, at an adjourned session of the general assembly, holden for that purpose. In this revision, the temporary and repealed statutes were omitted; the arrangement was simplified and improved; and many valvable emendations and additions were introduced.
In 1795, the statutes again underwent a partial revision. Chauncey Goodrich, Jonathan Brace, and Enoch Perkins were appointed a committee, with powers limited to compile and expunge ; and they confined their labors to bringing together the several statutes relating to the same subject, and to expunging those, which had been superseded or repealed, or had grown obsolete, or had expired. This was approved of, in 1796 ; and an edition was published accordingly.
So soon as the year 1807, another edition was found to be necessary; and on the application of Hudson & Goodwin, printers in Hartford, Governor Treadwell, Enoch Perkins and Thomas Day, were appointed a committee to superintend the publication, with power to omit those which were repealed, and to insert notes of the times when the statutes were passed, with marginal notes. This committee divided the statutes into titles, chapters, and sections, expunged the statutes wholly repealed, noted the sections of statutes which had been repealed, and added many historical and explanatory notes, and references to the periods when the several provisions were originally passed.
Though the people had long acquiesced under the form of government derived from the charter, and sanctioned by the legislature ; yet it was considered by many, that we had no constitution, as our government under the charter had never received the explicit approbation of the people, subsequent to the declaration of independence. It was also considered to be inconsistent with the dignity of a free nation, to hold their rights, even nominally, by the tenure of a royal grant ; and that it was proper the powers of the government should be divided into separate departments, and individual rights be secured, by a constitution, that should control the legislature itself. It was, therefore, thought adviseable to call a convention for that object. Accordingly, in 1818, i convention was assembled, who agreed upon a constitution, that was ratified by the people. The most prominent advantages derived from it, are, that it divides the government into three branches, the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary, which are confided to separate magistracies ; and also secures the independence of the judiciary, by a permanent appointment.
The constitution produced such an important change in our jurisprudence, that another revision became necessary; and in May, 1819, Thomus Day and Lemuel Whitman were appointed a committee, to examine the statute laws, and to recommend such alterations and provisions as should be necessary and expedient to render the statutes conformable to the constitution. They reported to the legislature, in 1820, a bill to repeal certain statutes, incompatible with the provisions of the constitution ; and, after pointing out the defects of our code, they suggested, that to remedy these defects would require a general revision of the statutes. Accordingly, at this time, the undersigned were appointed a committee, with ample powers for that purpose ; and having undertaken to perform that duty, they made the following report to the legislature, at their session, in May, 1821.
“ To the Honorable General Assembly of the state of Connecti
cut, now in session.
“The committee, appointed at the last session, to revise the statutes of this state,
REPORT, That they have attended to the subject confided to them, and now lay before the legislature an entire revision of the public statutes, as the result of their labors. Impressed with the importance and utility of revising and amending the statuie laws of the state, at proper intervals of time, and especially at this period, when the adoption of a new constitution forms an interesting æra in our juridical history, the committee have not hesitated to cxercise, in their full extent, the ample powers given them, in an attempt to present to their fellow citizens, a concise, perspicuous and comprehensive code, in conformity to the views and wishes of the legislature.
“ The difficulty of diffusing a general knowledge of a voluminous code, and the perplexity and confusion arising from an intermixture of laws in force and not in force, have induced the committee to omit all statutes, and parts of statutes, which have been directly repealed, or superseded by new provisions, or become obsolete by the change of manners and customs, or inconsistent with the sentiments of the age, or repugnant to the principles and spirit of the constitution. As nothing contributes more to facilitate the acquisition of the knowledge of a science, than a methodical arrangement and distribution of the parts, it has been a principal object with the committee, under appropriate and comprehensive titles, to bring together all the statutes, and parts of stat. utes, relating to the same subject, in their natural order and connexion, so as to exhibit a systematic view of the whole, in the most intelligible form. In doing this, they have sometimes varied the phraseology, and have suggested such additions and alterations as they judged would tend to improve and complete our juridical system. The statutes, which have been enacted since the adoption of the constitution, have required very little variation; and as nearly the whole ground of legislation has been occupied, it has been thought expedient to propose but few new provisions. As it would render this report too voluminous to detail minutely the additions, alterations and new provisions, which have been recommended, with the reasons therefor, this subject is reserved for oral communication and explanation.
“ The repetition of similar regulations, though relating to different subjects, has been avoided, as far possible. The powers and privileges granted to cities,
by the various acts incorporating them, are nearly the same. These have been embodied in one act, of nearly the same length, that each would have required separately. The same has been done with regard to boroughs. This was found to be impracticable with regard to banks; but by omitting temposary regulations, the acts incorporating them have been greatly abridged.
“Acts wholly of a private nature, such as those which relate to manufacturing, insurance and aqueduct companies, and the like, have been omitted, as they would greatly increase the size of the volume of statutes, without answering any public purpose. If it should, however, be, deemed adviseable, they can be retained ; and they might be very much shortened, by the omission of temporary provisions. As it is not intended, that private rights, vested by statute, should be affected by this revision, it is -recommended to remove all doubt, that an act be passed, declaring that private rights shall not be prejudiced in any manner, by the omission or alteration of any statute, and shall remain the same as if no revision had taken place.
“ The statutes, by this revision, will probably be reduced to about one third of their present size; and will comprehend every regulation of a public nature, Row in practical operation. It is interesting to contemplate the conciseness, perspicuity, and simplicity of our code, in comparison with what it would have been, had the acts been retained as they were passed, from the origin of the government. One volume, of a moderate size, will contain a body of statutes, as general, and comprehensive in their regulations, as will be found in many volumes, in countries where they have been continued in the original form in which they were first promulgated. Our citizens, with little difficulty and expense, can become acquainted with the laws that govern their daily conduct; but where no revision is ever made, the statute law becomes so unwieldy and complicated as to be out of the reach of the body of the people; and they are compelled to depend on the advice, the opinion, and the information of professional men, in the most common concerns of life. To have conferred on their fellow citizens such an inestimable benefit, will reflect the highest credit on the patriotism of the legislature ; and it is a source of the purest satisfaction to the committee, to have contributed their exertions to promote the welfare of a community, whose free constitution they ardently pray may be perpetual."
Such of the acts thus reported, as had received but little alteration, were referred to joint committees for examination. The others were brought before the general assembly, in the form of original bills, and were fully considered in each house. The statutes omitted by the committee of revision, were examined by a joint committee, with instructions to report whether any of them ought to be retained. In the course of the session, the whole subject underwent a patient and careful investigation; and the reported acts were adopted by the legislature, with such omissions, additions and alterations, as they thought proper to make ; and at the close, an act was passed, confirming them as the laws of the state, and repealing all others, with suitable savings for the protection of vested rights, and the public convenience. The undersigned were then appointed a committee to superintend the printing and publication. We were particularly instructed and authorized to arrange the statutes under proper titles, in alphabetical order, accompanied with such marginal notes and references as should seem proper ; to prefix thereto the declaration of independence, the
constitution of the United States, and the constitution of this state; to subjoin a general index ; and to correct any errors that might intervene in the publication. These powers we have endeavored to execute, with a fidelity, proportioned, in some degree, to their importance.