At the time of granting the New England Charters, the Crown of Great Britain had no idea of any real interest or property in the American lands. The Pope, as Vicar of Christ, pretended, very early, to have an absolute right, in fee simple, to the earth and all that was therein, but more particularly to the Countries and persons of hereticks, which he constantly gave away among his favourites. When the Crown of Great Britain threw off its submission to the Pope, or, in other words, by setting itself at the head of the Church, became Pope of Great Britain, this old, whimsically arrogant Nation was, in degree, restrained; and Queen Elizabeth, in the Year 1579, most graciously gave to Sir Walter Raleigh all North America from
On Sir Walter's attainder, this was supposed to revert to the Crown, and in 1606, James I, in consequence of the same principle, granted the South part of the above, to a Company then called the London Company; and in 1620, granted the northernmost part to a Company called the Plymouth Company, containing within its bounds all the lands from 40° to 45° north latitude, and west to the South-Seas. This Company granted, 1631 to certain persons, that tract described in this Charter, which you will see was very liberal, and rendered them (as in reality they were) independent of the Crown for holding their lands; they having, at their own expense, purchased or conquered them from the natives, the original and sole owners.
The Settlement of Connecticut began in 1634 when they came into a Voluntary Compact of Government, and governed under it, until their Charter, in 1662, without any difficulty. They were never fond of making many laws; Nor is it good policy in any State, but the worst of all in a new one. The laws, or similar ones to those which I have turned down to, are necessary in a new Colony, in which the highest wisdom is to increase, as fast as possible, the inhabitants, and at the same time to regulate them well.
The first is to secure the general and inalienable rights of man to the settlers; without this, no inhabitants, worth having, will adventure. This, therefore, requires the Closest and earliest attention.
Next to this, is the mode or rule by which civil actions may be brought, or the surest ways and means by which every individual may obtain his right.
Then a provision for the safety of the Community against high handed offenders, housebreakers, &c.
There are two ways of regulating a Community; one by correcting every offender, and the other to prevent the offence itself; to effect the latter, education must be attended to as a matter of more importance than all the laws which can be framed, as it is better to be able to prevent, than after, to correct a disease.
Peace officers will be necessary, and these ought to be chosen by the people, for the people are more engaged to support an officer of their own in the execution of his trust, than they will ever be in supporting one forced upon them.
Some regulation of civil courts ought early to be made; the most simple and least expensive is best; an honest judge will support his dignity without a large salary, and a dishonest one can have no real dignity at any rate. The General Assembly must be the supreme fountain of power in such a state, in constituting which, every free man ought to have his voice. The elections should be frequent, at least annually; and to this body every officer ought to be amenable for his conduct.
Every impediment in the way of increase of people should be removed, of course marriage must be made easy.
Overgrown estates are generally the consequence of an unequal division of interest, left by a subject at his decease. This is prevented by an equal or nearly equal right of inheritance. This has taken place in all the New England Colonies, and in Pennsylvania to their great emolument.
All fees of office ought to be stated and known, and they should be stated as low as possible.
Some crimes are so dangerous in their tendency, that capital punishments are necessary; the fewer of these, consistent with the safety of the State, the better.
There ought to be some terms on which a man becomes free of the Community. They should be easy and simple; and everyone encouraged to qualify himself, in character and interest, to comply with them; and these terms should be calculated to bind the person in the strongest manner, and engage him in its interest.
A new Colony, in the first place, should be divided into small townships or districts, each of which ought to be empowered to regulate their own internal affairs; and to have and enjoy every liberty and privilege not inconsistent with the good of the whole.
Tenure of lands is a capital object, and so is the mode of taking out grants for, and laying them out. If individuals are permitted to engross large tracts, and lay them out as they please, the population of the country will be retarded.
Precarious must be the possession of the finest country in the world, if the inhabitants have not the means and skill of defending it. A militia regulation must, therefore, in all prudent policy, be one of the first.
Though entire liberty of conscience ought everywhere to be allowed, yet the keeping up among a people a regular and stated
Forms of oaths are ever best, as they are concise, and carry with them a solemn simplicity of appeal to the Divine Being; and to preserve their force, care should be had to avoid too frequent a repetition of them, and on ordinary occasions.
The preservation of the peace being the capital object of government, no man should be permitted, on any occasion, to be the avenger of the wrongs he has, or conceives he has, received; but, if possible, every one should be brought to submit to the decision of the law of the country in every private as well as publick injury.
Providing for the poor is an act of humanity; but to prevent their being numerous and burdensome to the society is at once humane and an act of the highest and soundest policy; and to effect it, the education of children, and the manners of the lower orders orders are constantly to be attended to.
As, in a well ordered government, every one's person and property should be equally secure, so each should pay equally, or on the same scale, for the expenses in supporting the same.
In a new and wild country, it will be deemed, perhaps, impossible to erect schools; but the consequences are so great and lasting that every difficulty ought to be encountered rather than give up so necessary, so important an institution. A school will secure the morals and manners, and at the same time tend to collect people together in society, and promote and preserve civilization.
The throwing a country into towns, and allowing these towns particular privileges like corporations in England or America, tends to unite the people, and, as in the least family there is, generally, the best economy, so these towns will conduct the internal and domestick prudentials better than larger bodies, and give strength, soundness and solidity to the basis of the State.
Sir, you have in the foregoing, the outlines of the policy of the Connecticut Government, in as concise a view as I could; the great and leading principles of which will, I conceive, apply to any new State; and the sooner they are applied the better it will be for the health and prosperity of the rising community.
An equal and certain security of life, liberty and property; an equal share in the rights of legislation and an equal distribution of the benefits resulting from Society; with an early attention to the principles, morals and manners of the whole, are the great first
Thursday morning, November 2, 1775.
Two laws, I see I have run over without noting upon; the one is for punishing vagabonds, by setting them to hard labour. The other, for the punishment of theft, which you may think too light, but I think too severe; or, in other words, I would avoid infamous punishments, such as cropping, branding, whipping, &c., and substitute hard labour in their stead.