Way Back When ... 1818
On Oct 12, 1818, Connecticut Gov. Oliver Wolcott issued a proclamation declaring the new state constitution approved and ratified, and henceforth “the supreme law of the State.”
The proclamation followed a statewide referendum exactly one week before, on Oct. 5, that had seen the proposed revision of government win approval by only 1,554 votes. The 13,918 votes for ratification represented just under 53 percent of the 26,282 total votes cast, a decidedly slim endorsement for such a profound change in government. The new constitution abolished the state religion, created a state Senate and independent judiciary, gave the governor more power, and let all adult white men vote.
Opponents of the constitution — members of the state’s venerable “Standing Order” who had benefited for generations from government based on the Royal Charter of 1662 — were quick to underscore just how slim the “for” majority was, and to suggest that it had been obtained by political subterfuge. They claimed, for example, that the three weeks allowed for the proposed constitution to be printed and distributed for public consideration had been absurdly short, resulting in only a small proportion of the state’s electorate even seeing the complex document before having to vote on it. They further charged that in many places — particularly New Haven, but also Fairfield, Newtown, and Middletown — the voting process had been engineered to stifle opposition to the constitution.
By ensuring the ratification vote preceded any debate on the constitution’s provisions, they said, the pro-constitution party had left its opponents voiceless and unable to make the case against ratification.
Such complaints, though loudly raised and widely
The year a new state constitution was approved and ratified in Connecticut.