« AnteriorContinuar »
BE L. S. E IT REMEMBERED, That on the twenty-fifth day of September,
in the forty-sixth year of the independence of the United States of America, SAMUEL G. GOODRICH, and HUNTINGTON & HOPKINS, of the said district, have deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof they.claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit: “ The public Statute Laws of the State of Connecti. cut, as revised and enacted, by the General Assembly, in May 1821; to which are prefix. ed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Connecticut. Arranged and published under the authority of the General Assembly."
In conformity to the act of the Congress of the UNITED STATES, entitled, “An act “ for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and “ Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein men. * tioned."
CHARLES A. INGERSOLL,
Clerk of the District of Connecticut. A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me,
CHARLES A. INGERSOLL,
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
ROBERTS & BURR, PRINTERS.
The first settlers of Connecticut were distinguished by a sincere and ardent attachment to the principles of civil and religious literty, as well as a just sense of the necessity of law and government for its security and protection. Animated with the prospect of obtaining this object, they abandoned the land of their fathers, and came to the wilds of America. They commenced a settlement at the towns of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield, in 1635, under a temporary commission from the colony of Massachusetts, where they first landed, and from whence they removed hither : but on discovering they w
were without that jurisdiction, they, in 1639, established a government for them. selves.
It is interesting to contemplate the little band of heroic adventurers, in a wilderness, surrounded by savage nations, and struggling for their existence, calmly and deliberately laying the foundation of a commonwealth, upon principles of freedom, unknown to the country from which they emigrated, and which has secured the most invaluable blessings to their posterity. Here is one of the few instances, where the people, in a state of nature, (as our ancestors, in a political view, then were,) have had a fair opportunity to convene in a body, and, by mutual assent, enter into a state of society, and form the social contract. Here is an instance, in which a government has been instituted, by roluntary compact, and a constitution framed, agreeably to the wishes, and for the sole benefit, of the people.
In that rude age, unacquainted with the true theory of goveritment, they did not attempt to distribute the several powers to different departments. A govemor and six magistrates were to be annually chosen, by all the freemen; and representatives from each town ; who constituted the general court, in which all power was concentrated. But as the people retained the privilege of an annual election of their rulers, they had ample security for their civil rights ;
emphatically a government of the people. Our ancestors were as solicitous to frame a good code of laws, as they were lo establish a good form of government. Instead of servilely adhering to the complicated laws of their native country, they were ambitious of framing a code for themselves, better adapted to their condition and state of society, and more consonant to their enlarged views of civil liberty. No act was ever pasred, formally recognizing or defining the authority of the common law. It was, by general consent, considered to be their law, so far as it was applicable to their circuz mstances, and not varied by their own regulations. For a while, the legislature enacted statutes, as occasion required ; but they soon directed their minds to the framing of a complete code. Accordingly, in 1646, they requested Mr. Ludlow, a distinguished jurist, and a leading character, to compile
and it was
a body of laws for the commonwealth. Owing to the novelty and difficulty of the undertaking, it was not completed till 1650. The code was digested under proper heads, and comprised the statutes then in force, with the necessary additional regulations, and was well adapted to the state of things at that early age.
The year 1662, was an important epoch in the political and juridical history of our country. Though our ancestors had formed a constitution, by their own authority, yet as they considered themselves to be a component part of the British empire, they applied to the British crown for a charter, and governor Winthrop was appointed an agent to solicit the royal favor. Such was the ad. dress with which the application was managed, or so favorable was that particular time to the wishes of the applicants, that they obtained from Charles II. a charter bottomed on the constitution they had formed by voluntary compact, which not only secured the most extensive rights and privileges, but render. ed them almost independent of the British crown. It is inexplicable, that such a monarch as Charles, who had so little regard for the rights of his subjects at home, should have given to a distant colony such extensive powers : but he had no anticipation, that, by the liberal charters he was granting to the colonies in America, he was cherishing a spirit, which, at a future day, would divest the sceptre of his successors of one of its brightest gems, and lay the foundation of a Republic, which has not its parallel in the annals of the world, for the freedom of its constitution, the energy of its character, and the extent of its territory. By the charter, the whole power was vested in a governor, lieutenant-governor, and twelve senators, or assistants, as they were called, and representatives from the several towns, to be chosen annually by the freemen. They had an unlimited authority to erect judicatories, to appoint officers, and to establish all necessary laws and regulations. A government, more popular, in form, and in principle, can hardly be imagined ; and yet so strong has been the sense always entertained, by the people, of the duty and necessity of subordination to law and government, that no violence, tumult or convulsion has been experienced. This charter comprehended the colony of New-Haven, which was coeval with Connecticut, and nearly similar in laws and manners. The two colonies were thus incorporated into one.
Our ancestors considered it an important object, that the statutes should be plain and concise, so as to be accessible to every capacity. Accordingly, at an early period, they adopted the excellent practice of revising them, at proper intervals of time, by which they were greatly abridged and simplified, and rendered much more intelligible.
In 1671, as sundry additional acts had been passed, after the promulgation of the code, and as the new charter had produced a change in their government, it was thought proper a revision should be made, to reduce them to a uniform code. The governor, lieutenant-governor and a majority of the assistants, were appointed for that purpose ; who completed the work, so that it was approved, by the legislature, in 1672.
Before this time, the laws had been promulgated, by written copies, and by directing them to be read in the respective towns. But as this mode had become inconvenient, the new code was directed to be printed; which was accordingly done, at Boston, with a preface strongly characteristic of the manners and sentiments of the age, breathing the most ardent piety to their God, the sincerest loyalty to their sovereign, and the deepest solicitude for the welfare of
the people. The address was, “ To our beloved brethren and neighbors, the Whabitants of the colony of Connecticut, the general court of that colony wish grace and peace in our Lord Jesus.” Among the rest is this passage. in these our laws, although we may seem to vary or differ, yet it is not our purpose to repugn the statute laws of England, so far as we understand them; professing ourselves always ready and willing to receive light for emendation or alteration, as we may have opportunity ; our whole aim in all being to please and glorify God, to approve ourselves loyal subjects to our sovereign, and to promote the welfare of his people, in all godliness and honesty, in peace, which will be the more establishing to his majesty's crown and dignity, and best answer his religious directions to us in our charter: And that pure religion and undefiled before God, according to the gospel of our Lord Jesus, may be maintained amongst us, which was the end of the first planters, who settled these foundations, and ought to be the endeavor of those that shall succeed, to uphold and encourage unto all generations."
The division and arrangement of the code of 1650, was retained, and the additional statutes were inserted, in their proper places. In this code, we find those wise and peculiar regulations, by which ourcountry has been distinguished. Political liberty and civil rights are placed on the most favorable footing. The early legislators, not unmindful of the hardship and oppression under which their ancestors had groaned, from the feodal burdens and restraints on lands, declared, that all lands should be free from all fines and licences for aljenation, and from all heriots, wardships, liveries, primer seisins, year and day, waste, escheats, and forfeitures; and should be holden by the tenure of free and common socage, the freest tenure in England; so that every landhold. er had an absolute dominion and property in the soil, with the power of disposing of it, as he pleased ; and being secured in the fruits of bis labor, was animated by the bighest inducement to cultivation and improvement.
Instead of following the practice of their native country, in the complicated mode of civil process, and the endless labyrinth of forms in legal proceedings, they adopted a concise and plain mode of bringing the parties before the court; and they proceeded in the trial of the cause without circuity or delay, and with a facility and dispatch, that greatly contributed to promote the ends of justice. Instead of volumes to detail the practice of the several courts, a few pages are sufficient for that purpose ; and the merits of the cause are brought to view, on the trial, with as much clearness, certainty and fairness, as where the most complicated forms of the common law are made use of.
In this code, we find the institution of towns, ecclesiastical societies, and common schools, which have produced a most important effect on society. No institutions can be better calculated than towns to manage the minute and local concerns of the community. Accordingly, they were charged with the duty of supporting the poor, and of making and repairing roads and bridges, with various other powers of considerable importance. They were enabled to hold meetings, to make by-laws, and to appoint the necessary officers, of various descriptions, to execute the powers, and discharge the duties, confided to the towns. Here, the people meet in primary assemblies; and, in the exercise of their authority, constitute, in miniature, a real democracy. Here, the energies of the nation may be called forth, in the most effectual manner, in a popular cause; and it was by the instrumentality of towns, that Connecticut made such astonishing efforts in the struggle that led to the independence of our country.