Colonial Government and Politics

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How were the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut important?

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The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were established in 1638 as a formal plan of government for the colony of Connecticut. Previously, that colony was a collection of three loosely-affiliated towns who lacked a structure of government that encompassed them all. They agreed to elect a governor and to have a "general court" that would legislate for the colony. In short, the leaders of the towns in Connecticut established a government that they would all in turn agree to recognize. For this reason, the Fundamental Orders are essentially the founding document of that colony, which of course later became a state. Some have claimed that the document is even more significant than that. They argue that the Fundamental Orders is actually the first written constitution in the Atlantic World and therefore marks the beginning of a tradition of constitutional government in what would later become the United States. Others claim that the document is not really a constitution, or that there were previous documents (such as the Mayflower Compact) that essentially did the same thing as the Fundamental Orders. Nor, really, did it establish self-rule as is often claimed—it was actually approved by King Charles II of Britain. At the very least, however, the drafting and approval of the Fundamental Orders marked the birth of the colony of Connecticut.

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