This Day in the Law
January 14

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut Colony Adopted (1638)

On January 14, 1638, the "Fundamental Orders" of the Connecticut Colony council were adopted. These Orders are considered by some scholars to be the very first written constitution in Western tradition that created a functioning government! However, the Orders do not contain many elements found in traditional constitutions. Still, the Fundamental Orders have earned Connecticut the nickname "The Constitution State."

Robert Ludlow drafted the Fundamental Orders, which set up the structure and powers of the government in the Connecticut Colony. The Orders established the Connecticut Colony as a self-regulated body, and contained some basic principles that were used in the formation of the United States Constitution. The Orders also provided basic individuals rights, like allowing all free men to share in electing their magistrates, and the use of secret paper ballots in the elections.

A Royal Charter from England essentially replaced the Fundamental Orders in 1662, but even the Charter contained portions of the Orders' rights. Today, the individual rights in the Orders are still included as a "Declaration of Rights" in the first article of the current Connecticut Constitution, as adopted in 1965.