What Is a Summary of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut?

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut set up governmental rules in early Connecticut, providing for free elections, secret balloting, the guarantee of specified individual rights, and limited, defined governmental powers. Composed of a preamble and 11 orders, it mandated an elected governor and magistrates with legislative, executive and judicial powers.

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were written by Roger Ludlow to address basic issues of the colony. Connecticut was first settled by Massachusetts immigrants who wanted faster religious reforms, but they had no legal basis under which to organize. Ludlow was tasked by Massachusetts to create a fundamental document to help the new townships function in an orderly fashion. Working closely with the most powerful citizens of Connecticut's few small towns, Ludlow crafted a document that was adopted by the colony of Connecticut in 1639.

Much of the wording and rules in the Fundamental Orders were retained when this document was superseded by a charter issued by King James II. Later, King Charles II's newly-appointed Governor Andros demanded the charter be returned when he took office, but it was hidden in an oak and, after the Glorious Revolution, reinstated as the governing document of Connecticut. Wording from the Fundamental Orders still exists in Connecticut's modern constitution, and its principles of guaranteed individual rights and limited government helped shape the U.S. Constitution.