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Rare “Address to the People of the State of Connecticut,” the Report of Delegates from 97 Towns Who Met to Call for a Democratic Non-Theocratic State Constitution
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An important document in American constitutional and religious history.

“Excellent as may appear the government of Connecticut to those, who have administered it… yet to us… it has been and is an unequal government, constantly tending to the increase of aristocracies and to the consequent humiliation of men and principles, friendly to our revolution. The government is indeed good for those, who have enjoyed all power and privileges under it…”

Three months earlier, Abraham Bishop gave an oration celebrating the re-election of President Jefferson. In it, he argued that the Declaration of Independence made the 1662 Royal Charter void, and that Connecticut’s General Assembly had “usurped the rights of the people” by preventing the passage of a State Constitution. “Thus all the abuses inflicted on us when subjects of a crown, were fastened on us anew... We still suffer from the old restrictions on the right to vote; we are still ruled by the whims of seven men…. Not only do they make laws, but they plead before justices of their own appointment, and … interpret the laws of their own making…. Is this an instrument of government for freemen?... We demand a constitution…”

On August 29, 1804, responding to Bishop’s call for a gathering in New-Haven to discuss replacing King Charles II’s Charter, delegates from 97 towns met, and adopted and ordered the printing of this Address. The Federalist-Congregationalist governing party reacted by warning that everyone should fear these radical Jeffersonian Democratic Republican underminers of all religion. “All the friends of stable government [should] support the Standing Order,”they said, as the five state justices who attended the meeting, including its chairman, were fired.  

The harsh reaction of Church and State government actually proved the point of the Address. But it still took the War of 1812, the trial of journalists and other political enemies by partisan judges, culture wars as the officially established Congregational church become more fundamentalist (ie, a “Society for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Good Morals,” ultimately causing many members to fly from the church of eternal damnation to less Calvinist denominations), the foundation of a Toleration Party that voted with Republicans, the collapse of the national Federalist Party, and the “Revolution of 1817” before succeeding. Fourteen years after this Address, a new Constitution that dis-established the Congregational Church and created separate executive, legislative and judicial branches in the “Constitution State.”

[CONNECTICUT]. “Address to the People of the State of Connecticut,” broadsheet, August 29, 1804, New Haven, CT. Signed in type by William Judd, Chairman. 2 pp., 10½ x 18 in.

Inventory #26603.99       Price: $7,500

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

In a perfect state of society (were such possible) we should need no constitution, but universal experience has shewn the insecurity of trusting mere men to set bounds to their own power… Private interest, ambition or temper may tempt the legislator to sudden and dangerous exercises of power, but a constitution is to the people a permanent shelter and defence. As our situation now is, what one legislature does may be revoked by the next, but what the people do in their collective capacity is done permanently for every man and cannot be revoked in haste or without the full consent of the people.-

If a constitution shall declare taxation and representation inseparable, the legislator cannot separate them with his breath. / If a constitution shall give permanence and independence to judges, the legislator cannot make judges annually dependent on his will. / If a constitution shall establish the qualifications of a freeman, the legislator cannot change them. / If a constitution shall separate the legislative, executive and judicial powers, the legislator cannot unite them in his own person.

It has been said that every thing has gone well in Connecticut. Supposing this were true, yet who will ensure that this shall be the case with the next generation or even for the next year? Men’s zeal of popularity and for retaining their places is some guaranty for political safety, but not a permanent one…  <page 1/column 2>

If all things are now right, let the voice of the people establish them as they are. If any amendments are desireable, let the people have opportunity to make them.

Excellent as may appear the government of Connecticut to those, who have administered it and to their favorites, yet to us, who belong to the majority of the Union, it has been and is an unequal government, constantly tending to the increase of aristocracies and to the consequent humiliation of men and principles, friendly to our revolution. The government is indeed good for those, who have enjoyed all power and privileges under it… It is to us a bad government, because men thus uncontrolled have concentrated in themselves, the few, that power of the many, which all wise governments have separated….In seasons of party a constitution is an invaluable instrument.  <p2/c1>

If it be a fact that the people of Connecticut are their own worst enemies; if they are ignorant and unable to discern their true interests; if amidst the blaze of light on the subject of free government, which has been all about them, they are able to discover no political safety but in reliance on men of high passions, powerful interests, and wholly uncontrolled, then indeed we may as well proceed on the charter of king Charles: but in the quiet habits of our people we discern no such humility of character...<p2/c2>

To gain a fair standing among the free nations of the earth we feel that in addressing ourselves to the people, we submit to a safe and judicious tribunal the important question, whether we will have a state constitution?...

Signed by Order of the meeting, William Judd, Chairman / H.W. Edwards / I. Whitman, Clerks”

Historical Background
The Federalist reaction to the above address, led by Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. who was just elected governor for his seventh term, was fast and furious. Trumbull and the Council declared that, as William Judd and four other justices of the peace had published their opinion that “there is no Constitution of civil government in the state of Connecticut,” they should have their commissions revoked. David Daggett, chosen to respond, declared the New Haven address “an outrage upon decency.” The day after the hearing, a bill to revoke the commissions was passed unanimously by the governor and council, and by a significant majority in the Lower House.

Major Judd, the Chairman of the meeting that issued this Address, took ill after his arrival in New Haven. His supporters asserted that his death was caused by his efforts to save himself and friends who were tried for their participation.

Thwarted by the election, the Connecticut Republican’s second general convention, in August, 1806, at Litchfield, was even bolder, creating even more conservative disdain. The Federalists, the party of “Standing Order,” had extremely effective arguments in their pockets: the party controlled several thousand Church and State patronage appointments.  

Eventually, many in the state grew to recognize the injustice of ignoring political minorities, or of Federalist state attorneys prosecuting Republican editors under the Alien and Sedition Acts, which of course damaged any claims to an independent judiciary, or of religious discrimination.  So, in 1812, the ruling Federalist – Presbyterian Church party declared a culture war, organizing “a Society for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Good Morals.”

In 1815, members of dissident religious denominations combined with the democratic Republicans to form the Toleration Party. In what became known as The Revolution of 1817, they took control of the lower house of the General Assembly and thus elected a governor. Next, they substantially expanded the franchise by removing property requirements, though still preventing anyone other than white men who paid taxes or served in the militia from voting. By a one-vote margin, the new Assembly called for a constitutional convention that required only a simple majority to approve a proposed constitution.

The constitutional convention convened in Hartford in 1818, writing a constitution that disestablished the Congregational Church; separated executive, legislative, and judicial powers; and affirmed the newly expanded electorate. It was approved by a statewide referendum, by a vote of 13,918 to 12,364, remaining in operation until it was replaced in 1965.

William Judd (1743-1804), the Chairman of the meeting and signer of this Address, graduated from Yale College in 1763, began a law practice in Farmington, and represented his town in the Connecticut General Assembly. He served as a major in the state militia and a captain in the Continental Army. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Judd as commissioner of bankruptcy for Connecticut. He died shortly after having his judgeship revoked as punishment for his participation in the 1804 convention.

Shaw & Shoemaker 6151. See also Sabin 36846 (“William Judd’s Address to the People … of Connecticut on the … removal of himself and four other Justices from Office, by the General Assembly … For declaring … their opinion that the people of the State are … without … Civil Government”)

Condition: Printed in two columns, recto and verso; light toning, upper right corner skillfully repaired; green cloth slipcase and chemise, green morocco spine lettered gilt.

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