History of Connecticut

From Academic Kids

The History of Connecticut begins as a number of unrelated colonial villages. These ventures gradually coalesced into larger units until they were finally combined under a single royal charter in 1662.


Colonies in Connecticut

The Dutch were the first Europeans in Connecticut. In 1614 Adriaen Block explored the coast of Long Island Sound, and sailed up the Connecticut River at least as far as modern Hartford, Connecticut. By 1623, the new Dutch West India Company regularly traded for furs there and ten years later they fortified it for protection from the Pequot Indians as well as from the expanding English colonies. They fortified the site, which was named "House of Hope"1, but encroaching English colonization made them agree to withdraw in the Treaty of Hartford, and by 1654 they were gone.

The first English colonists came from the Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and they settled at Windsor in 1633, Wethersfield (1634), and Hartford (1636). The Bay colony also built Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the River in 1636. Another Puritan group started the New Haven Colony in 1637. The Massachusetts colonies did not seek to absorb their progeny in Connecticut and Rhode Island into the Massachusetts governments. Communication and travel was too difficult, and it was also convenient to have a place for nonconformists to go.

The English settlement and trading post at Windsor especially threatened the Dutch trade, since it was upriver and more accessible to the Indians from the interior. That fall and winter the Dutch sent a party upriver as far as modern Springfield, Massachusetts spreading gifts to convince the Indians to bring their trade to the Dutch post at Hartford. Unfortunately they also spread smallpox and by the end of the 1633-34 winter the Indian population of the entire valley was reduced from over 8,000 to less than 2,000. This left the fertile valley wide open to further settlement.

The Pequot War

Main article: Pequot War.

The Pequot War is the first serious armed conflict between the indigenous peoples and the settlers in New England. The ravages of disease, coupled with trade pressures invited the Pequots to tighten their hold on the river tribes. Additional incidents began to involve the colonists in the area in 1635 and next spring their raid on Wethersfield prompted the three towns to meet. Following the raid on wethersfield, the war climaxed when 300 Pequot men, women, and children were burned out of their village, hunted down and massacred.

On May 1, 1637 they each sent delegates to the first General Court held at the meeting house in Hartford. This was the start of self government in Connecticut. They pooled their militia under the command of John Mason of Windsor, and declared war on the Pequots. When the war was over, there were officially no more Pequots. The Treaty of Hartford in 1638 reached agreements with the other tribes that gave the colonists the Pequot lands.

Under the Fundamental Orders

Main article: Fundamental Orders of Connecticut The River Towns had created a general government when faced with the demands of a war. In 1639, they took the unprecedented step of documenting the source and form of that government. They enumerated individual rights and concluded that a free people were the only source of government's authority. Rapid growth and expansion grew under this new regime.

In 1662 the Connecticut Colony had succeeded in gaining a Royal Charter that embodied and confirmed the self-government that they had created with the Fundamental Orders. The only significant change was that it called for a single Connecticut government. Since 1638, the New Haven Colony had been independent of the river towns, but there was another factor added to the Charter. The new government in New York, under the Duke of York (a distrusted Catholic), had already taken their settlements on Long Island. By January, 1665 they gave in and sent delegates from their towns to the general court.

Indian pressures were relieved for some time by the severity and ferocity of the Pequot War. King Philip's War (1675-1676) brought renewed fighting to Connecticut. Although primarily a war of Massachusetts, Connecticut provided men and supplies. This war effectively removed any remaining Indian influence in Connecticut.

The Dominion of New England

In 1686, Sir Edmund Andros was commissioned as the Royal Governor of the Dominion of New England. Andros maintained that his commission superseded their 1662 Charter. At first, Connecticut ignored this situation. But in late October of 1687, Andros arrived with troops and naval support. Governor Robert Treat had no choice but to convene the assembly. Andros met with the governor and General Court on the evening of October 31, 1687.

Governor Andros praised their industry and government, but after he read them his commission, he demanded their charter. As they placed it on the table, people blew out all the candles. When the light was restored the charter was missing. According to legend, it was hidden in the Charter Oak. Sir Edmund named four members to his Council for the Government of New England and proceeded to his capital at Boston.

Since Andros viewed New York and Massachusetts as the important parts of his Dominion, he mostly ignored Connecticut. Aside from some taxes demanded and sent to Boston, Connecticut also mostly ignored the new government. When word that the Glorious Revolution had placed William and Mary on the throne, the citizens of Boston drove Andros into exile. The Connecticut court met and voted on May 9, 1689 to restore the Charter. They also reelected Robert Treat as governor each year until 1698.


1. "House of Hope" has also been identified as "Good Hope" and "Hope" in other published accounts of the period. It depends on it was translated ath the time.

The American Revolution (1775-1789)

Connecticut was the only one of the 13 colonies involved in the American Revolution that did not have an internal revolution of its own. It had been largely self-governing since its beginnings. Governor Jonathan Trumbull was elected every year from 1769 to 1784. Connecticut's government continued unchanged even after the revolution, until the United States Constitution was adopted in 1789.

Early United States (1789-1818)

The 1818 Constitution (1818-1890)

Up until this time, Connecticut had adhered to the 1662 Charter, and with the independce of the American colonies over forty years prior, much of what the Charter stood for was no longer relevant. In 1818, a new constitution was adopted that was the first piece of written legislation to separate church and state, and equality given to all religions. Gubernatioral powers were also expanded as well as increased independence for courts by allowing their judges to serve life terms. To read 1818 constution go to [1] (http://www.sots.state.ct.us/RegisterManual/SectionI/1818CTCO.HTM).


The Modern Era (After 1890)


Due to Connecticut's rapid industralization in the late 19th century, cities such as New Haven, Waterbury, and Hartford became attractive prospects for immigrant populations. These groups hailed from mostly Italy, Ireland, Poland, and other Eastern European countries, brining much needed labor and Catholicism to a historically Protestant state. A great number of Jewish people settled as well, making Connecicut's population almost 30% immigrant by 1910. And things were just about to get better.

World War I came as a shock to many Americans who never thought such a faraway European conflict could ever affect them. Yet for the relatively short period of time the United States was involved in the conflict (1917-1918), munitions were the most prosperous business in Connecticut, and would remain so until the Great Depression.

WIth the rising unemployment in both urban and rural areas, Connecticut Democrats saw their chance to return to power. The hero of the movement was Yale English professor Governor Wilbur L. Cross (1931-1939), who emulated much of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies by creating new public services and instituted a minumum wage.

However, in 1938 the Democratic party was wracked by controversy, which qucikly allowed the Republicans to gain control once again, with Governor Raymond E. Baldwin. Connecticut would remain a rather competitive, two-party state.

A lingering Depression soon gave way to unparalled opportunity with the United States involvement in World War II (1941-1945). Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States Armed Forces was ranked nineteenth in the world. Therefore, it was imperative that all American industries were transformed in favor of the war effort, and Connecticut's were no exception. It led the country in new military equipment including Pratt and Whitney airplanes, Cheney silk parachutes, and Electric boat submarines. This was coupled with traditonal manufacturing including guns, ships, uniforms, muntions, and artillery. Although these industries waned somewhat following the war, their use was spurred by a more ideological conflict: the Cold War. In the 1950s, Connecticut became the first state to supply the contry with nuclear-powered submarines. The increased job market lead Connecticut to hold the title of highest per capita income at the beginning of the 1960s. The increased standard of living could be seen in the various suburban neighborhoods that began to develop outside major cities. Former small towns became locations for large-scale development, a trend that contiues to this day.

Connecticut thrived until the 1980s, with many well-known corporations moving to Fairfield County, including General Electric, American Brands, and Union Carbide. Modern Connecticut became a predominantly suburban, middle-class state, with small pockets of rural areas, whose existence was perpetuated by their relative isolation from highways and cities.

It was at this time that Connecticut began to acquire a significant African-American and Latino population in many of its cities, and they did not excel to the same living conditions as their white counterparts. The poor conditions that many inhabited were cause for militant movements in many areas that pushed for the gentrification of ghettos and the desegragation of the school system.

Ultimately, the Supreme court had to intervene. In 1964, legislation was reappropriated and adopted a new constitution which allowed "one person, one vote." The purpose of this was so that the cities could have equal representation in the Connecticut state legislature, rather than be dominated by small towns.

With their newly "reconquered" land, the Pequot's intitiated plans for the construction a multi-million dollar casino complex to be built on reservation land. The Foxwoods Casino was completed in 1992 and the enormous revenue it received made the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation one of the wealthiest in the country. With the newfound money, great educational and cultural inititives were carried out, including the construction of the Mashantucket Pequot Museaum and Research Center. The Mohegan Reservation gained political recognition shortly thereafeter, and in 1994 opened another successful casino near the town of Uncasville.

More recently, Connecticut now allows Same-Sex Marriges.

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