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The Development of Religious Liberty in Connecticut by M. Louise Greene, Ph. D.

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with grandiloquent pseudonyms and frequently marked "Papers, please
copy" in order to secure for them a larger public. Fantastic bits of
natural science, or what purported to be such, and stilted admonitions
to virtue, as well as poems, eulogies, and obituaries, were admitted
to the columns of these colonial papers. In 1786, the "Connecticut
Courant" apologized for its meagre reports of legislative proceedings,
especially of those of the Upper House, Council, or Senate, and
promised to give full details. This reporting was a new thing, and it
was fully five years more before the practice became general among the
half dozen papers published in Connecticut. [l] Space was also given
in the papers to the reproduction of selections, even whole chapters,
from current and popular writers. Among such letters was a series on
"the Establishment of the Worship of the Deity essential to National
Happiness." In one of the letters, the author suggests:--

To secure the advantages ... allow me to propose _a general and
equitable tax collected from all the rateable members of a state,
for the support of the public teachers of religion, of all
denominations, within the state...._ Let a moderate poll tax be
added to a tax of a specified sum on the pound, and levied on all
the subjects of a state and collected with the public tax, and
paid out to the public teachers of religion of the several
denominations in proportion to the number of polls or families,
belonging to each respectively; or according to their
estimates. [For]

1. It would be equitable.

2. It would be for the good order of the civil state.

3. All ought to contribute to such a religious education of the
people as would conduce to civil order.

4. It would promote the peace in towns and societies.

5. It would do away with the legal expenses consequent upon
difficulties in collecting rates.

6. It would "extinguish the ardor of the founders of new delusions
and their weak and mercenary abettors."

7. It would prevent separation except upon the firmest principles;
"the powerful motive of saving a penny or two in the pound, would
cease to operate, because their tax would continue still the same,
go where they will." [174]

It was also suggested that the Assembly should fix ministers' salaries
at so much per hundred families, and that congregations should be
permitted to add to the annual grant by voluntary contributions. These
are but examples of the reaching out of the public mind for some
equitable method of enforcing the support of public worship,--a
principle to which the majority still adhered.

The Laws of the State of Connecticut, under which after the Revolution
parishes were organized, contained no reference to the Episcopal
church as such. All societies and congregations were placed on the
same footing precisely, _i.e._, they "had power to provide for
the support of public worship by the rent or sale of pews or slips in
the meeting-house, by the establishment of funds, or in any other way
they might deem expedient." With this amount of freedom Episcopalians
were content, since by the consecration, in 1784, of Samuel Seabury,
Bishop of Connecticut, their ecclesiastical equipment was complete.[m]
Further, many of them had been Tories, and, satisfied with the
clemency shown them at the close of the war by the authorities, they
gladly affiliated with them in all Federal measures of national
importance, and also, for over thirty years, in all local issues.

From 1783 to 1787 there was throughout the United States a general
disintegration of political parties. [175] Federalists and nascent
Anti-Federalists were alike seeking some basis for a safe national
existence. The Constitution once established, political parties
differentiated themselves as the party in power and the "out-party"
developed their respective interpretations of the Constitution and of
measures permitted under it. The Anti-Federalist party in Connecticut
is sometimes said to have been born in 1783 out of opposition both to
the Commutation Act of the Continental Congress, voting five years'
full pay instead of half-pay for life to the Revolutionary officers,
and to the formation of the Cincinnati. Both of these measures touched
the main spring of party difference. America had caste as well as
Europe. Though of a different type, it existed in every town and
county. There were the people of position, attained by family
standing, professional prominence, superior intelligence (rarely by
wealth alone), and then, as now, by natural leadership. There were the
common people of ordinary abilities and meagre possessions, who looked
up to this first class. Between the two there was an invisible
barrier. The customs of the day emphasized it. Yet the institutions
of the land and its democracy demanded that this barrier, not
impassable to men of parts and character who could push up from the
masses, should never become insurmountable, as it often did under a
monarchy; that it should be steadily leveled by intrusting the
governing power more and more to the whole people, rather than to a
few leaders; and by educating the masses up to their responsibilities.
But many of the leading Federalists preferred to concentrate power in
the hands of the few, hesitating to trust the judgment of the great
body of citizens with the new and novel government. And to the people
at large any measure that bore a remote resemblance to monarchical
institutions or monarchical aspirations--however far remote from
either--was subject to suspicion and antagonism. The Cincinnati might
be the beginning of a nobility, and half-pay or five years' full pay
to the officers ignored the common soldiery who had done most of the
fighting, and who had suffered even more severely in their
fortunes.[n] When the measures of the first Congress pressed hardest
upon the impoverished landed proprietors of the South and upon the
small farmers in other sections, of the country, they welded the
landed aristocracy of the South and the democracy of the North into
the Anti-Federal party. Add to their sense of impoverishment, their
common hatred of England, and these classes would hold their prejudice
longer than the merchants, the lawyers, and the clergy, whose
business, studies, and labors would tend to soften the antagonism
created by the war. New England, however, was largely Federal, and
Connecticut was one of the strongholds of that party, priding herself
upon returning Federal electors as long as there was the shadow of the
Federal name to vote for. Moreover, the "Presbyterian Consociated
Congregational Church" and the Federalists were so closely allied that
the party of the government and the party of the Establishment were
familiarly and collectively known as the "Standing Order." During the
early years of statehood, by far the larger number of the dissenters
were also good Federalists. But they drew away from the party at a
later date, when the Democratic-Republicans began, in their
Connecticut state politics, to call for a broader suffrage and full
religious liberty, while the Federal Standing Order still continued to
claim, as within its patronage, legal favors, political office, and
the honors of judicial, military, and civil life.

After the Revolution, the rapidly increasing Baptists continued their
warfare waged against certificates and in behalf of religious liberty.
Methodists soon sympathized, for Methodist itinerants, entering
Connecticut in 1789, gained a footing, in spite of much opposition and
real oppression through fines and imprisonments, [o] and quickly made
many converts. Their preachers urged upon penurious and backward
members the importance of voluntary support of the gospel in almost
the same words as those of the Baptist leader: "It is as real
_robbery_ to neglect the _ordinances_ of God, as it is to
force people to support preachers who will not trust his influence for
a temporal living." [176] Baptists, Methodists, and many other
dissenters were far from satisfied with their status, and the
government from time to time was forced to take notice of the
dissatisfaction. Temporary legislation was enacted to allay the
unrest, but, as there was a settled determination to protect the
Establishment and to keep the political leadership among its friends,
the various measures were not successful. For instance, the
legislature in 1785-86 had arranged for the sale of the Western Lands
and for the money expected from their sale to be divided among the
various Christian bodies, and it had also enacted--

that there shall be reserved to the public five hundred acres of
land in each township for the support of the gospel ministry and
five hundred acres more for the support of schools in such towns
forever; and two hundred and forty acres of good ground in each
town to be granted in fee simple to the first gospel minister who
shall settle in such town. [177]

Nothing is here said of the Presbyterians, or of any other sect, yet
that denomination was sure to receive the greater benefit under the
working of the law. They were a wealthy body, and in the next year,
they began, under the General Association of Connecticut, to renew
their earlier efforts for an organized planting of missions. Attempts
to establish missionary posts were begun as early as 1774, but they
had been interrupted by the war, and were not revived until 1780, when
two missionaries were sent to Vermont. After a little, the missionary
spirit languished through lack of support; but interest had been
roused again by the promised lands and money from the sales in the
Western Reserve, and by the contributions that, flowing in from 1788
to 1791, warranted the dispatch of missionaries into the western field
in 1792, and regularly thereafter. [178]

Turning to the religious and more strictly theological side of the
development of toleration, there was within the Establishment itself a
gradual modification of opinion concerning membership. It was
witnessed to by the contents of a book entitled "Christian Forbearance
to Weak Consciences a Duty of the Gospel," by John Lewis of Stepney
parish, Wethersfield. It was sent out in 1789 for the purpose of
"Attempting to prove that Persons, absenting themselves from the
Lord's Table, through honest scruples of Conscience, is not such a
breach of Covenant but that they partake other Privileges." One may
recall that twenty years previous, 1769-71, Dr. Bellamy was thundering
not only against the Half-Way Covenant, but also against the
Stoddardean view of the Lord's Supper as a "means" of grace,--as a
sacrament the partaking of which would help unworthy or unconverted
men to conversion and to the leading of moral and holy lives. One
might, for a moment, anticipate that the Wethersfield pastor was
harking back to the old idea. But this was not his point of view. "I
reprobate," he writes,"the idea of a Half-Way Covenant, or sealing of
such a covenant." [179] Lewis contended that all seekers after
holiness were to enter the church through the "very same covenant,"
but that to all of them were to be extended the same and all church
privileges, and that they were to accept them "as far as in their
conscience they can see their way clear, hoping for further light." If
they could accept baptism and church oversight, and could not, because
of honest scruples of conscience (lest they were not worthy), approach
the Lord's Table, they were not for that reason to be considered
reprobates. As to such charity opening a way for persons of immoral
lives to creep into the churches or to put off willfully the partaking
of communion, the author's experience of many years had proved the
contrary, though he could not deny that the possibility of hypocrisy
and backsliding might exist under any form of membership.

As a side light upon the growth of toleration during twenty years
within the churches of the Establishment, two entries in President
Stiles's diary may be quoted. Writing in 1769, to the Rev. Noah Wells
of Stamford, Conn., with reference to the call of the Rev. Samuel
Hopkins to a pastorate in Newport, R. I., where Dr. Stiles was then
preaching, the latter says: "If I find him (Hopkins) of a Disposition
to live in an honorable Friendship, I shall gladly cultivate it. But
he must not expect that I recede from my Sentiments both in Theology
and ecclesiastical Polity more than he from his, in which I presume he
is immovably fixed. We shall certainly differ in some things. I shall
endeavor to my utmost to live with him as a Brother; as I think (it)
dishonorable that in almost every populous place on this Continent,
where there are two or more Presb.[yterian] or Cong.[regational] Chhs.
[churches], they should be at greater variance than Prot. [estants]
and Romanists: witness every city or Town from Georgia to Nova Scotia
(except Portsm'th) [p] where there are more Presb. chhs than one. The
Wound is well nigh healed here, may it not break out again." [180]
Writing some two years after the appearance of Lewis's book, President
Stiles, commenting upon the fact that each dissenting sect was so
absolutely sure that it alone had the only perfect type of faith and
polity, notes the greater tolerance among the Congregational churches,
for the latter were not as a rule close communion churches, as were
those of the dissenting sects.

Indeed, the intolerance shown towards dissenters was by this time not
so much sectarian, not so much a lack of tolerance toward slightly
varying fundamentals of faith, form of worship, and organization, as
an intolerance based upon the conviction that the body politic must be
protected by a state church. There was, of course, a little of the
exasperating sense of superiority in belonging to the favored
Establishment. The old objection to dissent as heresy--as a sin for
which the community was responsible--had for the most part given way
to opposition to it as introducing a system of voluntary contributions
for the support of religion. And there was a very general and
well-defined fear that such a support would prove inadequate. If so,
deterioration of the state and of its people would follow. For
individual worth and character, many among the dissenters were highly
respected, and the great body of them were esteemed good citizens.
Among the churches, some few of the established ones were beginning to
have their own services occasionally conducted by dissenting
ministers. The First Society of Canterbury entered a vote to this
effect in 1791. As the churches translated more liberally the Articles
of the Saybrook Platform, they approached a polity more in common with
that of Separatist and Baptist. By 1800, the teachings of John Wise of
Ipswich, reinforced by those of Nathaniel Emmons, "the father of
modern Congregationalism," had permeated all New England. Wise, in his
efforts to revive the independence of the single churches, had
exploded the Barrowism which New England usage had introduced into
original Congregationalism, and the rebound had carried the churches
as far beyond the Cambridge Platform towards original Brownism as the
Presbyterian movement had carried their polity away from the Cambridge
instrument. The later Edwardean school had devoted itself to the
discussion of doctrine rather than to polity, and, in the alliance
with Presbyterianism outside of Connecticut, it had affiliated without
attaching much weight to differences in church government. Their
common interest, at first, was to unite against a possible supremacy
of the Church of England, and against the danger to their own churches
and to good government from the increase of dissenters. Later, their
united efforts were directed to forwarding Christian missions in order
that the gospel might not be left out of the civilization on the
frontier. In this later work, they had competitors as soon as the
Baptists and Methodists became strongly organized bodies. Accordingly
Presbyterians and Congregationalists still further sank their
differences of discipline in the Plan of Union of 1801, formed for the
furtherance of the mission work. Thus it was many years before
questions of polity again took front rank in the Congregational
churches. Already their very indifference to it, the long years of the
gradual abandonment of the Saybrook system, together with the
development in civil life of a broader conception of humanity, had
tended to bring back the independence of the individual church, while
custom had preserved the inroojted principle of church-fellowship. It
needed only Nathaniel Emmons to embody practice and opinion in a
system that should break away from the aristocratic Congregationalism,
the semi-Presbyterianized Congregationalism of the eighteenth century,
and give to the nineteenth a democracy in the Church equivalent to
that in the State. Emmons, however, carried his theory to extremes
[q] when opposing ministerial associations; yet with some
modifications modern Congregationalism is essentially that of his
school. Church polity, however, did not become a topic of general
interest for at least half a century more, nor was it formulated anew
until the Albany Convention of 1862 passed "upon the local work and
responsibility of a Congregational Church."

From the politico-ecclesiastical point of view, the legislative
measures in the history of Connecticut, during the fifteen years after
the colony became a state, that are of chief importance are the
Certificate Laws and Western Land bills. In order to properly
appreciate their significance this summary of the industrial, social,
and religious life of the Connecticut people during the years
following the Revolution was necessary.


[a] Five towns were laid out in 1785; from 1784 to 1787, twenty-one in
all; from 1787 to 1800, ten; and from 1800 to 1818,
eleven.--Hollister, _Hist, of Connecticut_, pp. 469-70.

[b] Of the seven hundred members of the Susquehanna Land Company,
formed in 1754, six hundred and thirty-eight were Connecticut men. A
summer settlement was made on the Delaware in 1757 and on the
Susquehanna in 1762. The first permanent settlement was in 1769. At
the close of the Revolution, renewed attempts to colonize resulted in
a reign of lawlessness and bloodshed.

[c] Horses, cattle, beef, pork, stages, flour, grain. During the
European wars, the United States exported foodstuffs in great
quantities, to feed both French and English armies, amounting to over
100,000 men.

[d] President Stiles was interested in silk culture and in the
manufacture of silk. His commencement gown in 1789 was of Connecticut
make. Through the efforts of General Humphreys (1784-94) attempts were
made to introduce the Spanish merino sheep and to establish factories
for fine broadcloth. Iron works were set up in different parts of the
state. The earliest cotton factories centred about Pomfret. Clocks,
watches, cut shingle-nails, paper, stone, and earthenware pottery,
were among the manufactures started in Norwalk between 1767 and 1773,
while in Windham, hosiery, silk and tacks were manufactured.

[e] In 1701 the General Court enacted that the May session of the
Legislature should be held at New Haven, and the October one at
Hartford. This was a concession to the former sovereignty of the New
Haven Colony. The arrangement continued until 1873. The biennial
sessions, introduced by the constitution of 1818, alternated between
the two capitols.

[f] "Mr. Dwight is enlarging hia School to comprehend the Ladies,
... promising to carry them through a course of belles Lettres,
Geography, Philosophy, and Astronomy. The spirit for Academy making is
vigorous."--_Stiles Diary_, iii, 247.

Of the academies, the more famous were Lebanon, Plainfield, Greenfield
(under Dr. Dwight), Norwich, Windham, Waterbury (for both sexes), and
Stratfield from 1783 to 1786. There was also a second school in
Norwich from 1783 to 1786. See _Stiles Diary_, iii, 248.

[g] Harvard Divinity School was established 1815; Yale, 1822.
Previously both universities had each a professor of divinity.

[h] "For three years and three months before his [Bellamy's] death he
was disabled by a paralytic Shock, we impaired his Intellect as well
as debilitated his Body. Few were equal to him in the Desk & he was
Communicative and instructive in Conversation upon religious
Subjects." The passage closes with the prophecy, "His numerous noisy
Writings have blazed their day, and one Generation more will put them
to sleep."--_Stiles Diary_, March 16, 1790 (on hearing the news
of Bellamy's death). See vol. iii, pp. 384-385. See Trumbull, ii, 159,
for a more favorable opinion.

[i] Referring to the successor of Dr. Wales in the Yale chair of
divinity, Pres. Stiles wrote, "An Old Divinity man will be acceptable
to all the Old Divy. _Ministers & to all the Churches_: a New
Divt man will be acceptable to all the New Divy. Ministers and to
_None of the Churches_, as none of the Chhs. in New Engl. are New
Divt."--_Stiles Diary_, iii, 506, note (Sept. 8, 1793). See also
under date of Nov. 16, 1786, where churches are said to take New
Divinity pastors "because they can get no others, but persons in the
parish know nothing of the New Theology."

[j] "Law Reports of the Superior and Supreme Courts, 1785-1788, by
E. Kirby. Just published at this office and ready for subscribers and
gentlemen disposed to purchase, for which most kinds of country
produce will be received."--Advertisement in _Litchfield Monitor_
of Apr. 13, 1789.

[k] Calhoun, Woodbury, Mason, Clayton, and Hubbard. Judge Reeve
retired in 1820; Judge Gould in 1833.

[l] Reporters were admitted to the national House of Representatives
in 1790 and to the Senate in 1802.

[m] Bishop Seabnry was consecrated by the Scotch non-juring bishops,
Nov. 14, 1786. The latter, about four years later, were restored to
their position as an integral part of the Anglican
hierarchy. Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Provoost of New York and Dr. William
White of Pennsylvania, on Feb. 4, 1787, were consecrated by the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York, assisted by the Bishops of Wells
and Peterborough, after a special Act of Parliament permitting the
consecration to take place without the usual oaths of allegiance to
the King as head of the church. In 1789, Bishop Seabury became
president of the House of Bishops thus formed in America. The
following year, James Madison of Virginia was consecrated by the
English bishops, thus giving to the United States three bishops after
the English succession, so that the validity of the Scottish rite
should hot be questioned in the consecration of future American

[n] The eighty dollars proposed for privates would not go far toward
mending broken fortunes, or care for broken constitutions and crippled

At the Middletown Convention, Sept. 3, 1783, delegates from Hartford,
Wethersfield, and Glastonbury met to denounce the Commutation Act. At
its adjourned meeting on Sept. 30 fifty towns, a majority in the
state, disapproved the Act in an address to the General Assembly, and
called attention to the Society of the Cincinnati. At the last
meeting, March, 1784, an address to the people of the state was framed
which condemned both the Commutation Act and the Cincinnati.--
J. H. Trumbull, _Notes on the Constitution_, p. 18. Noah Webster,
_History of the Parties in the United States_, pp. 317-320.

[o] Methodism was twenty-eight years old, when, in 1766, Robert
Strawbridge introduced it into New York, and Philip Embury preached
his first sermon in a sail-loft. In 1771, Francis Asbury, later Bishop
Asbury, was appointed John Wesley's "Assistant" in America. In 1773,
the first Annual Conference was held. Methodism rapidly spread in the
Middle and Southern states. By the year 1773-74, the year's increase
in members was nine hundred and thirteen; in 1774-75, ten hundred and
seventy-three. The preachers traveled on foot or on horseback,
preaching as they went; living on the smallest allowance; sleeping
where night overtook them; and meeting often with grudging
hospitality, suspicion, and, sometimes, open violence.

Methodism "began when Episcopacy was at its lowest point, both in
efficiency, and in the good-will of the people." It agreed with
Jonathan Edwards on the nature of personal religion, and separated
from the Church of England in this, the Methodist's central principle
of "conscious conversion" or "emotional experience." Later in New
England, Wesley's missionaries united in Methodist societies many of
the converts to the Edwardean theology.

At the opening of the Revolution, the whole body of Methodists were
within the Church of England. Of the English missionaries only Asbury,
Dempster, and Wharcott remained in America to carry on, with native
preachers, the work of proselytizing. It was "the only form of
religion that advanced in America during that dark period, and during
the war, it more than quadrupled both its ministry and members." At
the beginning of the war, it had eighty traveling preachers, beside
local preachers and exhorters; a membership of one thousand, and
auditors ten thousand. In 1784, there was a year's increase of
fourteen thousand nine hundred and eighty-eight members, and of one
hundred and four preachers to rejoice in the consecration of Bishop
Asbury. In the November of that year, Bishops Coke and Asbury,
organizing the "American Episcopal Church," in spite of Wesley's
anathemas probably led out one hundred thousand souls as the nucleus
of the new church.

For a while the Connecticut authorities refused to recognize "as sober
Dissenters" any converts other than the stationed preachers and their
charges. The persecutions which the Methodists suffered were those of
slander, the refusal to them of halls, churches, or public buildings;
the refusal to permit their ministers, unless located, to perform the
marriage ceremony; and petty fines, with occasional unjust

[p] Portsmouth, N. H.

[q] "A pure democracy which places every member of the church upon a
level and gives him perfect liberty with order." Under such a
definition of a church as this, its pastor becomes only a moderator at
its meetings, and every church is absolutely independent. It would
follow that from its decisions there could be no appeal. Emmons was
fond of declaring that "Association leads to Consociation;
Consociation leads to Presbyterianism; Presbyterianism leads to
Episcopacy; Episcopacy to Roman Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism is
an ultimate fact."

In spite of his teaching as to democracy, Emmons was as intolerant of
it in the State as he was earnest for it in the Church.



And make the bounds of Freedom wider yet.--Alfred Tennyson.

The legal recognition of conscience, the acknowledgment of fundamental
dogmas held in common, the gradual approachment of the various
religious organizations in polity, their common interest in education
and good government, would seem to furnish grounds for such mutual
esteem that the government would willingly do away with the
objectionable certificates. On the contrary, the old conception of a
state church, and of its value to the body politic, was so strongly
intrenched in the hearts of the majority of the people that they felt
it incumbent upon them to require the certificates as guarantees that
those who were without the Establishment were fulfilling their
religious duties. Particularly was this the case when new sects
continued to increase and radical opinions to spread among the
masses. And as the government saw these apparently destructive ideas
permeating the people, it endeavored, rather unwisely, to hem dissent
in closer bounds, and to favor still more Cougregationalists and

The aggressively successful proselytizing by the Methodists revived
the old dislike of rash exhorters and itinerant preachers, and the old
contempt for an ignorant and unlearned ministry. The proselytizing
movement had also created a suspicion that it was hypocritical, and
that it was masking a deliberate attempt to undermine the
Establishment. Outside this Methodist propaganda there were also all
sorts of unorthodox ideas that were spreading notions of Universalism,
Arianism, deism, atheism, and freethinking, and making many
converts. These proselytes were frequent among the untutored and
irresponsible members of society who caught at the doctrines of
greater freedom, and sometimes translated them, theoretically at least,
into principles of greater personal license; and where they did not do
this, the authorities felt sure that they would soon, and if
unrestrained by ecclesiastical law, would quickly become lawless,
first in religious affairs and then, as a consequence, in moral
ones. Not only in this radical class, but among the recognized
dissenters and among a minority of other, religious folk, there was a
tendency to question both the authority and the justice of the
government in its restrictive religious laws, its ecclesiastical
taxation, and its Sabbath-day legislation. Particularly was there
opposition to the fine for absence from public worship on Sunday,
unless excused by weighty reasons, and to the assessment upon every
one of a tax for the support of some form of recognized public
worship, even though the tax-payer had no personal interest or liking
for that which he was obliged to support. The feeling that such
injustice ought not to continue was strong among some members of the
Establishment. They found a powerful advocate in Judge Zephaniah Swift
of Windham, the author of the "System of the Laws of the State of

Judge Swift was a thorough-going Federalist, but so bitter an opponent
of the union of Church and State that his enemies, and even members of
his own party, taunted him with being a freethinker,--a serious charge
in those days. Nevertheless, Judge Swift held the loyalty of a county
and of one rather tolerant of dissent. "The Phenix or Windham Herald,"
founded in 1790, though Federal in politics, became Judge Swift's
organ; and so acceptable were his opinions, taken all in all, to the
community, that from 1787 to 1793 it returned this arch-enemy of the
Establishment as its deputy to the House, and then his congressional
district honored him with a seat in the national council until
1799. He became chief justice in 1806, and died in 1819, having lived
to see the charter constitution set aside and Church and State

The small Anti-Federal party in the state, though making but very few
converts at this time, and though of very little importance
politically, were the pronounced advocates of a wider suffrage, a
larger tolerance, and of radical changes in the method of
government. The last they believed necessary before any great
improvement in the terms of the franchise or in those of religious
toleration could be secured. "An Address to the Baptists, Quakers,
Rogerines, and all other denominations of Christians in Connecticut,
freed by law from supporting what has been called the 'Established
Religion,'" went the rounds of the newspapers urging continued
resistance to the support of any religious system that enforced a
tax. The "Address" closed with the cheerful prediction that, as their
numbers were increasing very rapidly, they might hope yet "to carry
the vote against those who have put on haughty airs and affected to
treat us as their inferiors."

Such seething opposition among various classes induced the government
to enact some special legislation; but it was unfortunately not of a
conciliatory character. In May, 1791, a law was passed varying the old
requirement that certificates, after being signed by a church officer,
should be lodged with the Society clerk, to the demand that they be
signed by two civil officers, or, where there was only one, by the
justice of the peace of the town in which the dissenter
lived. Considering that the justices were mostly Congregationalists,
the enactment amounted to an intrenchment of the Standing Order at the
expense of the dissenters. With these officers lay full power to pass
upon the validity of the certificates and upon the honesty of intent
on the part of the persons presenting them. The certificates read:--

We have examined the claim of ---- who says he is a Dissenter from
the Established Society of ---- and hath joined himself to a
church or Congregation of the name of ----; and that he ordinarily
attends upon the public worship of such Church or Congregation;
and that he contributes his share and proportion toward supporting
the public worship and ministry thereof, do upon examination find
that the above facts are true.


Justice of the Peace. [182]

A veritable doubt, spite, malice, prejudice, or mistaken zeal, might
determine the granting of the certificate to the dissenter.

The authorities defended this measure upon the ground that it was the
_civil_ effect of preaching that gives the _civil_
magistrate jurisdiction. "The law," they said, "has nothing to do
with _conscience_ and _principles_." [183] They further
declared that there were persons who were taking undue advantage of
the certificate exemptions, and that there were good reasons, to doubt
the validity of many of the certificates.

This Certificate Act roused the dissenters throughout the state. "In
public society meetings and in speaking universal abroad, sensible
that their numbers though scattered were large," they strove to create
a sentiment that should send to the next legislature a "body of
representatives who would remember their petition and see that equal
religious liberty should be established."

In regard to the certificates, a writer in the "Courant" exclaims:--

It is sometimes said that the giving of a certificate once a year
or once in a man's life is but a trifle, and none but the
obstinate will refuse it as none but the covetous desire it. True
it is but a trifle--ten times as much would be but a trifle if it
was right. If it must be done, let them who plead for it do the
little trifle; they have no scruples of conscience about
it.... The certificate law is as much worse than the tax on tea as
religious fetters are worse than civil. [184]

The Rev. John Leland's "The Rights of Conscience inalienable;
therefore Religious Opinions not cognizable by Law; Or The High flying
Churchman, stript of his legal Robe appears a yaho" was a powerful
arraignment of the government and defense of the right of all to
worship as conscience bade them. Leland had recently come from
Virginia and settled in New London. In the southern state he had been
one of the most influential among the Baptist ministers and a great
power in politics. In Virginia he had seen the separation of Church
and State in 1785, and had witnessed the benefits following that
policy. After the publication of his "Rights of Conscience" the
question before the Connecticut people became one of establishment or
disestablishment, because Leland, not content with showing the falsity
of the position that civil necessities required an established church,
or with a logical demonstration of the inalienable rights of
conscience, proceeded to boldly attack the Charter of Charles II as
being in no rightful sense the constitution of the state of
Connecticut. He maintained that, "Constitution" though it was called,
it was not such, because it had been enforced upon the people by a
mere vote of the legislature [a] and was a "constitution" never
"assented to further than passive obedience and non resistance" by the
people at large; a constitution--

contrary to the known sentiments of a far greater part of the
States in the Union; and inconsistent with the clear light of
liberty, which is spreading over the world in meridian splendor,
and dissipating those antique glooms of tyrannical darkness which
were ever opposed to free, equal, religious liberty among men.

Leland arraigns a union of Church and State that presupposes a need of
legislative support for religion, which the example of other states
has proved unnecessary; and which the experience of communities,
persisting in such union, has shown to be productive of evil, of
ignorance, superstition, persecution, lying and hypocrisy, a weakness
to the civil state, and a conversion of the Bible and of religion to
tools of statecraft and political trickery.

Government has no more to do with religious opinions of men than
it has with the principles of mathematics.... Truth disdains the
aid of law for its defence, ... it will stand upon its own
merit.... Is it just to balance the Establishment against the
rights guaranteed in the charter, and to enact a law which has no
saving clause to prevent taxation of Jew, Turk, Papist, Deist,
Atheist, for the support of a ministry in which they would not
share and which violated their conscience? [185]

Many Federalists of Judge Swift's type sympathized with Leland's bold
arraignment of the Establishment, if not with his view of the
unconstitutionality of the charter government. These men repudiated
the new certificate law.

The authorities felt that they had gone too far, and in October, 1791,
after an existence of only six months, they repealed the certificate
law by one hundred and five yeas to fifty-seven nays. The new law
that was substituted permitted each dissenter to write his own
certificate, release, or "sign-off," as the papers were colloquially
called, and required him to file it with the clerk of the Established
Society wherein he dwelt. [186] This favor was not so great a
privilege as it seemed. It bore hard upon the dissenters in two
ways. It created "Neuters," people who wished to be relieved from the
ecclesiastical taxes, but who were too indifferent to the principles
and welfare of the churches to which they allied themselves to
faithfully support them. For their churches to complain of such
persons to the authorities would only give the latter reasons for
enforcing the laws for the support of the Establishment. Then again,
the new certificate law did not relieve the dissenters who lived too
far from their churches to ordinarily attend them from petty fines and
from court wrangles as to the justice of them, for with the judges lay
the determination of what the words "far" and "near" and "ordinarily
do attend" in the laws meant. [b] The important question of how many
absences from church would prevent a man from claiming that he was a
regular attendant was thus left in the hands of judges, who were for
the most part prejudiced or partial. Many amusing and exasperating
legal quibbles occurred in the courts between judges, who were
determined to sentence for neglect of public worship, and defendants,
who were equally positive of their rights. Many dissenters attempted
later to ridicule the law out of existence by substituting for the

I certify that I differ in sentiment from the worship and ministry
in the ecclesiastical society of ---- in the town of ----
constituted bylaw within certain local bounds, and have chosen to
join myself to the (Insert here the name of society you have
joined) in the town of ----.

Dated at ---- this ---- day of ---- A. D.

declarations, undignified in wording and sometimes written in doggerel
rhyme. While granting the new certificate law, the Assembly were
careful to pass a minor ecclesiastical statute enforcing a fine of
from six to twelve shillings upon all who should neglect to observe
all public fasts and thanksgivings. [187] This law at times proved
unsatisfactory to the Episcopalians, for the Congregational fasts and
feasts were appointed by the authorities, who naturally did not
consider the Churchman's feeling when called upon to celebrate a feast
or thanksgiving during an Episcopalian season of fasting, or to
observe a public fast, to go in sackcloth, upon an anniversary that
should be marked by joy and praise.

In 1792, the year following the attempt to remodel the certificate
laws, certain legislative measures with reference to Yale College fed
the discontent among the dissenting sects. For some years there had
been an increasing dissatisfaction with the management of the
college. It culminated in 1792 in the reorganization of the governing
board, to which were added eight civilians, including the governor,
lieutenant-governor, and the six senior councilors or state
senators. At the same time, and in consideration of the admission of
laymen to the board, $40,000 was given to the college. [c] This money
was a part of the taxes which had been collected to meet the expenses
of the Revolutionary war, and which were in the state treasury when
the United States government offered to refund the state for such
expense. It was granted to the college on condition that she should
invest it in the new United States bonds, and that half the profits of
the investment should be at the disposal of the state. This
arrangement relieved the crippled finances of the college and
gratified many of its friends. But there were many who regarded the
measure as out-and-out favoritism to a Congregational college, and who
put no faith in the proposed half-sharing of profits. They maintained
that eventually the college would get the whole benefit of the money
that had been collected for other purposes, and from many persons who
could derive no benefit from such a disposal of it. These prophets
were not far wrong, for after Yale had paid into the state treasury a
little more than $13,000 she was relieved from further payments by a
repeal, in 1796, of the conditional clause of the grant.

This favoritism to Yale was not the only legislation to anger the
dissenters, and especially the Baptists. Another measure, mooted at
the same time as the certificate acts and the special grant to the
college, was accepted as a further mark of the government's
determination to ignore the rights of dissenters. In 1785-86 the
Assembly had granted lands for the support of the Gospel ministry, for
schools, and to the first minister to settle in each township of the
Western Reserve. This act, as has been shown, was considered to unduly
favor the Presbyterians. But little had come of this legislation
beyond the survey of the land and the opening of a land office there
for its sale. Five years later, in 1791, even though no part of the
tract had been sold, the Assembly introduced a new bill appropriating
the anticipated proceeds from the sale of the land to the several
ecclesiastical societies as a fund with which to pay their ministers
so as to enable them to do away with the tax for salaries. But the
excitement roused by the first certificate law--of 1791--was so great
that it was deemed prudent to continue this Western Land bill over to
the next session of the legislature, and there it was lost. The
session of May, 1792, contented itself with only such legislation in
regard to the Western Reserve as that by which it granted the "Fire
Lands," so called, a grant of 500,000 acres as indemnity to the
citizens of New London, Groton, Fairfield, Norwalk, and Danbury, for
the destruction of their property in the burning of their towns by
British troops.

As the lands of the Western Reserve did not sell well, [d] the
Assembly, in 1793, appointed a committee to dispose of the tract to
the highest bidder if the amount offered should be duly guaranteed
with interest; principal and interest payable to the state within four
or six years, whether paid in lump sum on demand, or by installments.
The sale was widely advertised both within and without the state. It
was now calculated that the amount realized from the sale of the lands
would be a sum yielding an annual interest of $60,000, or an average
of $600 to a town, beside a bonus to Yale of $8000. Therefore, the
Assembly, in October, 1793, voted that--

moneys arising from the sale of the territory belonging to the
State, lying west of the state of Pennsylvania, be, and the same
is hereby established a perpetual fund, the interest whereof is
granted, and shall be appropriated to the use and benefit of the
several ecclesiastical societies, churches, congregations of all
_denominations_ in this State, to be by them applied to the
support of their respective ministers or preachers of the Gospel,
and schools of education, under such rules and regulations as
shall be adopted by this or some future session of the General
Assembly. [188]

An earlier bill had been proposed, discussed, and tabled. This act was
originally a resolution framed by a large committee whose members
represented both the friends and opponents of the proposal for the
immediate sale of the lands. When the vote passed, it was by
eighty-three yeas to seventy nays in the House and by a large and
favorable majority in the Council.

One fault that the dissenters found with the law was that, under the
rules and regulations adopted by the Assembly, they believed that the
alternative which the law allowed of voting the money to the
ministerial fund, or to the school, would work to their
disadvantage. Where there were few dissenters, the Presbyterian vote
would carry the money over to the minister's use, and where there were
many, the same vote would be sufficient, if thrown, as it probably
would be, to direct the money to the school appropriation. It would
follow that the dissenters might never have the use of the money for
the support of their own worship.

The Baptists voiced the general opposition among the dissenters,--an
opposition so strong that it appealed to some of the conservatives as
sufficient reason in itself to condemn the law. "A Friend to Society"
wrote to the "Hartford Courant" that--

if a religion whose principles are universal love and harmony is
to be supported and promoted by a means which will blow up the
sparks of faction and party strife into a violent flame, it is a
new way of promoting religion. Much better would it be for the
State of Connecticut that their Western Lands should be sunk by an
earthquake and form part of the adjoining lake than that they
should be transplanted hither for a bone of contention.

Apart from sectarian interests, the law met with hostility. There were
those who thought that the money ought to be applied at once to the
remaining indebtedness of the state, rather than for it to wait for
another installment on the Revolutionary debt that was still due from
the national government. There were more who thought that the money
ought to go for the expenses of government, or for direct advantages,
such as the repair of bridges and highways. But the expenses of
government were light, [e] and, as a rule, the people were willing to
keep the highways in repair. There was still another party who
contended that the money should go for schools, both because they were
needed in larger numbers, and because they ought to be able to pay
larger salaries and not ones so small as to tempt only the farmer lad,
or the ambitious student, to keep a country school for a few months in
winter, or a somewhat similarly equipped woman to teach in summer. And
there was yet another party who were convinced that the money should
go to the support of the ministry, for they believed that morality
could be taught only by religion, and that the people were losing
interest in the latter because of the inferiority of the preachers
whom the small salaries and insecure support kept in the field. [189]

While this discussion of certificate laws, of grants to Yale, and of
grants of land and money to the ecclesiastical societies had been
constantly before the public, there had also been present a minor
grievance due to the Assembly's interest in the missionary work that
the General Association had extended to include parts of Vermont,
western New York, Pennsylvania, and the outlying settlements in
Ohio. In the western field the missionaries sent by Connecticut
frequently met those sent out by the Presbyterian General
Assembly. Drawn together by their interests in these missions in 1794,
the practice was begun of having three delegates from the General
Association meet with the Presbyterian General Assembly in their
annual convention, and three delegates from the General Assembly take
their seats in the yearly convocation of the General Association of
Connecticut. So long as the Connecticut churches were strongly
Presbyterian in sentiment, there was no clashing of interests among
the workers in the mission field. Naturally, Connecticut wanted to do
her full share of missionary work; and feeling the need of more money
for the purpose, the General Association, in 1792, appealed to the
legislature for permission to take up an annual collection for three
years. The Association hesitated to take up such a collection in all
the churches, dissenting or Established, without such permission. The
Baptists expressed their indignation at the wording of Governor
Huntington's proclamation, "that there be a contribution taken up in
every congregation for the support of the Presbyterian Missions in the
western territory." More than that, they refused to contribute, on the
ground that if the collection had been "recommended" they would gladly
have helped a Christian cause, but that it was inexpedient to yield to
a demand that all societies should contribute to the support of
missions that were entirely under the control of one religious
body. Furthermore, with reference to the appropriation of money from
the Western Lands, they would join with other dissenters in opposing
it, on the ground that, in order to obtain their share of the money,
they would have to admit their inferiority through the showing of the
compulsory certificates. Moreover, even the scant favor secured
through these was in danger from the continual favoritism of the
legislature, with its treasury open at all times to its Congregational
college, and with its enactments in favor of the Established Churches.

At the May session of the Assembly, 1794, the Baptists from all over
the state thronged the steps of the capitol at Hartford, angered
almost to the point of precipitating civil war. There John Leland
addressed them, urging the necessity of government; the power of
constitutional reform; arguing for rights of conscience, citing both
European and colonial history to prove their reasonableness and their
value to the body politic; and setting forth Connecticut's departure
from the glorious freedom mapped out by her founders. He declared to
that great and angry crowd:--

Government is a necessary evil and so a chosen good. Its business
is to preserve the life, liberty and property of the many units
that form the body politic.... When a constitution of government
is formed, it should be simple and explicit; the powers that are
vested in, and work to be performed by each department should be
defined with the utmost perspicuity; and this constitution should
be attended to as scrupulously by men in office as the Bible
should be by all religionists.... Let the people first be
convinced of the deficiency of the constitution, and remove the
defects thereof, and then, those in office can change the
administration upon constitutional grounds.

* * * * *

[The right to worship] God according to the dictates of
conscience, without being prohibited, directed or controlled
therein by human law, either in _time, place or manner_,
cannot be surrendered up to the general government for an
equivalent. [190]

Had not Governor Haynes said to Roger Williams, "The Most High God
hath provided and cut out this part of the world for a refuge and
receptacle for all sorts of consciences?" How had not Connecticut
fallen? How passed her ancient glory, how ignored her charter's
rights? How firm a grip upon her had that incubus of her own raising,
the pernicious union of Church and State? Break that, as elsewhere it
had been broken, and then as freemen demand a constitution
guaranteeing both civil and religious liberty.

The result of the widespread hostility was the attempt at the May
session of 1794 to repeal the offensive law. The Lower House did
repeal it, after a lively debate, by a vote of 109 yeas to 58 nays,
but the Council, or Upper House, where the conservatives were
intrenched, refused to pass the bill. However, they were induced to
pass a resolution suspending the sale of the lands. The debate in the
House was published verbatim in the "Hartford Gazette" of May 19,
1794, and was copied by the papers throughout the state. In the
following October a bill was passed by the Council, but continued over
by the House and ordered to be printed in all the papers, that the
people might have opportunity to consider it before it should come up
to be passed upon by their representatives in the May session of
1795. [191] The terms of the bill were that the principal sum of money
received from the sale of the Western Lands should be apportioned
among the several school societies according to the list of polls and
rateable estates, and that the interest arising from the money so
divided should be appropriated to the support of schools that were
kept according to the law, or to the support of the public worship of
God and the Christian ministry, "as the majority of the legal voters
should annually determine." [192]

The proposed law was subjected to public scrutiny of all sorts. It was
agitated in town meetings, and the discussions for and against it were
noticed in the newspapers, where much space was given to its
consideration. Ministers made it the subject of their
sermons. Dr. Dwight discoursed upon the subject in his Thanksgiving
sermon. [193] When the proposed bill came up before the legislature,
it encountered considerable opposition, but after some modifications
it became a law. As in school societies the dissenters had an equal
vote, and in all town affairs were worth conciliating, there was more
justice in the new law than in the old, where the ecclesiastical
society was made the unit of division. From 1717 to 1793 the towns,
parishes, and occasionally the ecclesiastical societies had charge of
the schools. [194] But in 1794 school districts were authorized and
the change to them begun. Such districts could, upon the vote of two
thirds of all the qualified voters, locate schools, lay taxes to build
and repair them, and appoint a collector to gather such rates. The act
of May, 1795, appropriating the money from the Western Lands to the
schools, provided also that the school districts should be erected
into school societies to whom the money should be distributed, and by
whom the interest thereon should be expended; and that it should go
"to no other Use or Purpose whatsoever; except in the Case and under
the circumstances hereafter mentioned." The circumstances here
referred to were in cases where two thirds of the legal voters in a
school society meeting, legally warned, voted to use the interest
money for the support of the ministry in that Society, and appealed to
the General Assembly for permission to so use the money. Upon such an
expression of the wish of voters, the General Assembly was empowered
to answer in the affirmative. The act also repealed that of 1793. The
legislature appointed another commission for the sale of the
lands. They were sold in the following October for $1,200,000. By this
legislation was laid the foundation of Connecticut's School Fund. The
Connecticut Land Company, which had made the purchase, petitioned the
legislature in 1797 that Connecticut should surrender her jurisdiction
over the lands to the United States. The state complied. In 1798 the
organization of the new school societies was perfected, and the
control of the schools passed entirely into their hands until the
district system of 1856 was adopted.

The Western Land bills had resulted in the establishment of a public
school fund and in its just distribution, without reference to
sectarianism, among the people. All the agitation attending both the
certificate acts and Western Land bills had demonstrated the intense
opposition of the dissenting minority, and that they were beginning to
look to the increase of their numbers and the power of the ballot as
the only means of changing the vexatious laws under which they were
treated as inferiors. To the Congregationalists, strong both as the
Established Church and as members of the Federal party, which counted
many adherents among all the dissenting sects, the possibility that
any voting strength could be brought against them, adequate to oppose
their party measures, seemed improbable. Such a possibility must be
very remote. Yet within twenty years, they were to see the downfall of
the Federal party, of the Established Church, and of Connecticut's
charter government.


[a] The vote of the Assembly was: "That the ancient form of civil
government, containing the charter from Charles the Second, King of
England, and adopted by the people of this State, shall be and remain
the Civil Constitution of the State under the sole authority of the
people thereof, independent of any King, or ftince whatever. And that
this Republic is and shall forever be and remain a free, sovereign,
and independent State, by the name of the State of
Connecticut."--Revision of Acts and Laws, Ed. 1784, p. 1.

[b] "Courts and juries had usually been composed of what was
considered the standing church, and they had frequently practiced such
quibbles and finesse with respect to the forms of certificates and the
nature of dissenting congregations as to defeat the benevolent
intentions of the law."--Swift's _System of Laws_, pp. 146, 147.

[c] Yale received in all $40,629.80. In 1871, six alumni replaced the
six senior councilors.

[d] So far the highest bid for the tract of land had been $350,000.

[e] The annual expenses were estimated to be approximately $90,000. In
_Advice to Connecticut Folks_, 1786, occurs the following

Necessary Unneces'y
Governor's salary, L300 L300
Lieutenant-Governor's, 100 100
Upper House attendance and travel
60 days at L10 per day, 600 600
Lower House attendance and travel
170 members at 6s. a day, 60 days, 3,060 1,530 L1,530
Five Judges of the Superior Court at
24s. a day, suppose 150 days, 900 900
Forty Judges of Inferior Court at
9s. a day, suppose 40 days, 720 720
Six thousand actions in the year, the
legal expenses of each, suppose L3, 18,000 1,000 17,000
Gratuities to 120 lawyers, suppose
L50 each, 6,000 1,000 5,000
Two hundred clergymen at L100 each, 20,000 20,000
Five hundred schools at L20 a year, 10,000 10,000
Support of poor, 10,000 10,000
Bridges and other town expenses, 10,000 10,000
Contingencies and articles not
enumerated, 10,000 10,000
Total, L89,680 L66,150 L23,530

As a glimpse at society, it may be added that the _Advice_ itself
is an energetic and statistical condemnation of the prevalent use of
"Rum," estimated at L90,000 or "ninety-nine hundredths unnecessary
expense" in living. "Deny it if you can, good folks. Now say not a
word about taxes, Judges, lawyers, courts and women's extravagances.
Your government, your courts, your lawyers, your clergymen, your
schools and your poor, do not all cost you so much as one paltry
article which does you little or no good but is as destructive of your
lives as fire and brimstone."--Noah Webster's _Collection of
Essays,_ pp. 137-139.

The evil was beginning to be recognized in all its danger. Here and
there voluntary temperance clubs were beginning to be formed among the
better classes, but it was a time when hardly a contract was closed
without a stipulation of a certain quantity of rum for each workman.



As well dam up the waters of the Nile with Bullrushes as to fetter
the steps of Freedom.--L. M. Child.

Leland's attack upon the constitution of Connecticut during the
excitement over the Western Land bills called for new tactics on the
part of the dissenters. Thus far, in all their antagonism to the union
of Church and State, there had been on their part practically no
attack upon the constitution itself. Yet even as early as 1786 the
Anti-Federalists had proclaimed that the state of Connecticut was
without a constitution; that the charter government fell with the
Declaration of Independence; and that its adoption by the legislature
as a state constitution was an unwarranted excess of authority. The
Anti-Federalists maintained also that many of the charter provisions
were either outgrown or unsuited to the needs of the state. But the
majority of the dissenters, like the Constitutional Reform party of
recent date, preferred redress for their grievances through
legislation rather than through the uprooting of an ancient and
cherished constitution. Accordingly, it was not until the elections of
1804-6 that this question of a new constitution could reasonably be
made a campaign issue. But from 1793 the dissenters began to lean
towards affiliation with the Democratic-Republican [a] party, the
successors to the Anti-Federal; yet it was not until toward the close
of the War of 1812 that the Republican party made large gains in
Connecticut and the dissenters began to feel sure that the dawn of
religious liberty was at hand. But before that time the Republicans
made three distinct though abortive attempts to secure the electoral

The Anti-Federalists early began to probe for weak spots in the
constitutional government of Connecticut. The Fundamental Orders had
given four deputies to each of the three original towns, and had made
the number of deputies from each new town proportionate to its
population. The Charter had limited the deputies to two from each
town. The Fundamental Orders gave the General Court, composed of
Governor, Magistrates or Assistants, and Deputies, supreme governing
power, including, together with that of legislation, the granting of
levies, the admission of freemen, the disposal of public lands, and
the organization of courts. It had also a general supervision over
individuals, magistrates, and courts, with power to revise decisions
and to mete out punishments. The Charter of 1662 did not materially
alter the laws and customs of the government as previously established
under the Fundamental Orders, or the "first written constitution." The
Charter emphasized the executive, and began the segregation of the
Upper House or Council, since by it the "Particular Court" of the
founders became the Governor's Council, serving upon like occasions,
but requiring the presence of at least six magistrates for the
transaction of business. The Particular Court had consisted of the
Governor or Deputy-Governor, and three Assistants. In emergencies
occurring during adjournment of the General Court, the Particular
Court was to serve in place of the larger body. After 1647 this
special court could consist of two or three magistrates who, in the
absence of the Governor or Deputy-Governor, chose one of their number
to act as moderator. After 1662 the formula of the General Court "Be
it ordered, enacted and decreed" was changed to "Be it enacted by the
Governor and Council and House of Representatives in General Court
assembled." At the regular session of the General Court or General
Assembly, the Councilors first sat as a separate body in 1698. After
the Declaration of Independence this Upper House or Council became the
Senate, and for many years was referred to under any one of the three

The power of the General Court--this jumble of legislative, executive,
and judicial--worked well so long as the community consisted of a few
hundred or a few thousand souls with little diversity of sentiment or
industrial interest. It was not until the last quarter of the
eighteenth century that the inefficiency of the "first written
constitution" began to be felt. Then there arose the need of a new
constitution to modify the body of laws and customs that had grown up;
to destroy much of the erroneous legislation that in effect perverted
or nullified their original intent; and to furnish a constitutional
basis for the government of a larger and less homogeneous people. Here
and there a few thoughtful men, irrespective of their church or party,
were beginning to apprehend the difficulty of piloting a democratic
state under the old royal charter. The more prominent among them
belonged to the Anti-Federal party, and naturally they sought to
expose the constitutional difficulties which they believed impeded
progress. [b]

One of the earliest party tilts grew out of the increase of new towns
and the unequal development of some of the older ones. Then as now,
though on a much smaller scale, the unit of town representation
threatened rotten boroughs and a fictitious representation of the will
of the majority as represented by the delegates to the Lower
House. The state in 1786 had not recovered from the exhaustion due to
the Revolutionary War, and the support of the many new deputies, due
to the increase of the towns, was a burden which the October
legislation of that year attempted to lighten. With the object of
cutting down state expenses a bill was introduced into the House to
refer to the freemen some proposition for reducing the number of their
delegates and for equalizing representation. Mr. James Davenport of
Stamford moved to substitute for the bill [c] another in which this
reduction should be made by the legislature without submitting the
proposed change to the freemen. This was objected to on the ground
that a reduction of delegates was a constitutional question, "the
Assembly having no right to alter the representation without authority
given by their constituents." The supporters of the bill contended
with Mr. Davenport that--

_we have no Constitution_ but the laws of the State. The
_Charter is not the Constitution_. By the Revolution
_that_ was abrogated. A law of the State gave a subsequent
sanction to that which was before of no force; if that law be
valid, any alteration made by a later act will also be valid; if
not, we have no Constitution, so defined, as to preclude the
Legislature from exercising _any_ power necessary for the
good of the people.

The bill was carried over to the May session of 1787, when it was
defeated by sixty-two yeas to seventy-five nays, the towns of
Hartford, East Hartford, Berlin, Stamford and Woodbury favoring it. A
confidential letter of February, 1787, from Dr. Gale, the probable
author of "Brief, decent but free Remarks or Observations on Several
Laws passed by the Honorable Legislature of the State of Connecticut
since the year 1775, by a Friend to his Country," suggested that in
addition to the reduction of representatives, laws should be passed
forbidding any citizen to hold, at the same time, more than one place
of public trust, either civil or military, and also requiring an
increase in the number of councilors, or senators, from the total of
twelve to three from each county. [d] Dr. Gale believed that if these
senators should be elected by each county, and not upon a general
ticket, the change would be beneficial. [195]

In regard to the senators, the Fundamental Orders prescribed that
nominations for the magistrates should be made by the towns through
their deputies to the fall session of the General Court, and that the
election should take place the following spring at the Court of
Elections. As the life of the colony expanded, modifications of this
rule were made; in time, vote by proxy took the place of the freeman's
presence at the Court of Election. After 1689, the Assistants to be
nominated, twenty in number, were balloted for in the fall town
meetings. The sealed lists were sent to the legislature, where they
were opened, and the ticket for the spring election was made out from
the twenty names receiving the largest vote. The Court could no longer
as in earlier times add any new names. Hence, the custom grew up of
listing nominations, not according to popularity, but first according
to seniority in office, and then according to the number of votes
received. These lists were published in the papers throughout the
state. The candidates for election were presented at the April town
meetings, where each name was read in order and voted upon. A much
later enactment provided twelve ballots, and forbade any one to cast
more than twelve, whether for or against a candidate or in blank. If a
man held any one of his slips in reserve for a more satisfactory
candidate, he had none for the teller, and thus the secrecy of the
ballot was almost destroyed. New candidates or those not up for
reelection, whose names appeared at the foot of the list, whatever the
number of votes received, were sometimes kept waiting years for an
election, until those above them had died in office or resigned. [e]
For instance, Jonathan Ingersoll received 4600 votes in nomination in
1792, while the senior councilor, William Williams, had only 2000; yet
Williams's name was preferred, and Ingersoll's had to wait over
another year, when he was again nominated and elected, and held his
seat from 1793 to 1798. An election was a wearisome affair, and many
men would not stay until the voting upon the list was finished,
preferring for various reasons to cast an early ballot. The natural
tendency was to support the experienced and known, even if
indifferently efficient councilor, rather than to vote for an untried
and unfamiliar man whose name would come up later, or even for popular
men who could not be proposed until far into the day. As a result the
party in power felt assured of their continuance in office. Moreover,
proxies for the election were returned in April, but the result was
not announced until the legislature met in May, nor was there any
supervision compelling an honest count. Thus it was easy to keep in
office Federal candidates, and thus the Senate, or Council, came to
reflect public opinion about twenty years behind the popular
sentiment. Furthermore, the clergy of the Establishment would get
together and talk matters over before the elections, and the parish
minister would endeavor to direct his people's vote according to his
opinion of what was best for the commonwealth. This ministerial
influence was not shaken until about 1817.

There was still another grievance against the Council besides that
just mentioned. It had come to be almost a Privy Council for advice
and consultation. Furthermore it was, until 1807, the Supreme Court of
the state to which lay appeals in all cases, civil or criminal, where
errors of law had been committed in the trial courts. Its twelve
members were mostly, if not all, lawyers, holding a tremendous power
of patronage over the members of the Lower House, many of whom were
also lawyers, eager for preferment; over the courts throughout the
state, from which, since 1792, the old non-professional judges had
been debarred, and also over the militia, whose officers, from the
earliest times, had been appointed by the General Court. Further, the
united action of the two houses was necessary to pass or to repeal a
law, and thus much important legislation centred upon a majority of
seven in the Council.

Furthermore, at the opening of the nineteenth century, the courts of
law also were thought to need reorganizing. The judges were declared
partisan, as they naturally would be under the conditions of their
appointment. The Republicans could not meet the Federals upon an equal
footing in the state tribunals. They were disparaged in their business
relations, "were treated as a degraded party, and this treatment was
extended to all the individuals of the party however worthy or
respectable; in fact as the Saxons were treated by the Normans and the
Irish by the English government." [196]

Because of these political conditions, early in statehood, there were
three schools of politicians; namely, those who approved a
constitutional convention, expressly called to frame a new
constitution; those who wished such a convention merely to amend the
existing charter-constitution; and those, until 1800, predominately in
the majority, who were convinced that whether the state had a
constitution or not was a most frivolous and baneful question, mooted
only by "visionary theorists," or by those who were desirous of a
change, no matter how disastrous it might be to good government. The
conservative party held that, since the charter had been drawn
according to the tenor of a draft submitted by Winthrop and outlining
the government according to the Fundamental Orders, framed in 1639 by
the "inhabitants and residents of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield,"
the charter was not a grant of privileges but an approval asked and
obtained for a government already existing. Consequently, such
government as had been exercised before and was continued under the
charter was essentially a creation of the people. It therefore needed
only the declarative act of the legislature to annul those clauses of
the charter that bound the colony to the crown and to continue over
into statehood the government of the colonial period. Further,
granting that the separation from Great Britain annulled the
constitution, the subsequent conduct of the people in assenting to,
approving of, and acquiescing in such acts of the legislature, had
established and rendered those acts valid and binding, and had given
them all the force and authority of an express contract. [197] Such
discussion of constitutional questions, confined at first to the few,
spread among the many after Leland's attack upon the charter, and were
debated with great earnestness. Leland's attack gained him, at the
time, comparatively few adherents, but it brought the question of
disestablishment fairly before the people, demonstrating to the
discontented that there was very little hope for larger liberty, for
greater justice, until the power of legislation, granted by the old
charter, should be curtailed, and the bond between Church and State

The growth in Connecticut of the Democratic-Republican party, outside
its following among Methodists, Baptists and a few radical thinkers,
was very slow. The Episcopalians were held in much higher esteem by
the Federal members of the Establishment, or "Standing Order," as they
were called, than were the other dissenters. Yet notwithstanding the
wealth and conservatism of the sect, they were looked at askance when
it came to giving them political office, for the old dislike to a
Churchman still lingered in New England. Accordingly, they were
somewhat dissatisfied at the treatment they received as political
allies of the Standing Order, and, in order to quiet their incipient
discontent, the government thought best to occasionally extend some
small favor to them. So in 1799, the legislature granted them a
charter for a fund for their bishop which they were trying to
raise. About the same time, Yale first conferred upon an Episcopal
clergyman the title of doctor of divinity. The transfer of the annual
fast day to coincide with Good Friday was appreciated by the
Churchmen. The change was first made in 1795, and came about through
Governor Huntington's friendship for Bishop Seabury, and because of a
desire to remove from the public mind a misapprehension, arising from
the refusal of the Episcopal church in New London to comply with
President Washington's proclamation for a national Thanksgiving. [f]
From 1797 this change of fast-day became customary. It removed the
long-standing complaint that Presbyterian days of fasting or rejoicing
frequently occurred during Episcopal feasts or fasts. At an earlier
period, the ignoring of such public proclamations was sometimes made
the occasion for imposing fines for the benefit of the Establishment.

As has been said, the Republican gains were greater among the
Methodists and Baptists. This was partly because not a few among
these dissenters associated Jefferson's party with his efforts towards
disestablishment in Virginia in 1785. Out of Connecticut's population
of two hundred and fifty thousand, the Republicans counted upon
recruits from the Methodist body, numbering, in 1802, one thousand six
hundred and fifty-eight, and from the Baptists, approximating four
thousand six hundred and sixty members. In 1798-1800 the division of
the Federalists over national issues strengthened the Republicans in
Connecticut, as they were the successors to the Anti-Federalists,
those "visionary theorists" of 1786. The new Democratic-Republican
party received further additions to their ranks through the opposition
in Connecticut to the Federal and obnoxious "Stand-up Law" of
1801. This law, which required a man to stand when voting for the
nomination of senators, "was made to catch the secret vote of the
Republicans," [198] and revealed at once the opposition of every
dissenter, debtor, employee, or of any one who had cause to fear
injury to himself if he gave an honest vote. It was passed by a
compact and reunited body of Federalists whose boast was that no
division upon national questions could affect their unity and strength
in the Land of Steady Habits.

The Republican-Democratic party in the state would have gained
recruits more rapidly had it not been for its attitude as a national
party toward France. To appreciate the situation in Connecticut, one
must consider, first of all, the influence of the French
Revolution. One must realize the intense interest, the mingled
exultation and terror with which conservatives who, though they might
differ in their religious preferences, were yet the rank and file of
the state, watched its varying aspects from its outbreak in 1789 on
through the years of its earliest experiments in statecraft, of its
exaggerated exploitation of "liberty, equality, and fraternity," and
of its casting off of all religious bonds and trammels. As the Federal
party lost its sympathy with the French cause the attitude of the
nation changed. The consolidated factions of the Anti-Federalists,
however, increased their ardor for the French republic, and took from
1792 the name Democratic-Republican. They carried their keen sympathy
even to expressing their French sentiments by their dress and
manners. The change in the national attitude was reflected in
Connecticut by the whole-hearted antipathy of large numbers of her
people to what they considered "radicalism of the most destructive
character." English Arianism and Arminianism, with which the
Edwardeans had waged war, were nothing compared to the influx of
French infidelity and atheism which appeared to be sweeping over the
land. Books formerly guarded by the clergy were on sale
everywhere. They found among the masses many like Aaron Burr, who,
during his period of study with Dr. Bellamy, had preferred the logic
of the printed books upon the shelves to that of the master who placed
them there. Dr. Bellamy proposed to confute the pernicious arguments
of these books, bringing them one by one before his select body of
students, so that they should be able to guide their future
parishioners when the insidious poison of these dangerous authors,
these "followers of Satan," should force its way among them.

All sects attempted to oppose such an influx of irreligion. All but
the Episcopalians fell back upon revivals as their chief means. In
these revivals the Methodists and Congregationalists were perhaps the
most successful in securing converts. The policy of the Episcopal
church did not favor this phase of religious life. It felt that its
whole attitude was a protest against exaggerated liberty, or license,
and against all atheistical ideas. During the revivals the Baptists,
also, added largely to their numbers. The Methodists, however, brought
to their revival meetings the peculiar strength of fervent proselytes
to a new faith; of one rapidly becoming popular, appealing strongly to
the emotions, and having a touch of martyrdom still clinging to its
profession. Among those Federalists who were also Congregationalists,
the French Revolution was believed to be the "result of a combination
long since formed in Europe by infidels and atheists to root out and
effectually destroy religion and civil government." Holding this
opinion; seeing the Baptists and Methodists increasing in importance,
both in the nation and in the state; watching the continual increase
of the unorthodox and of the freethinker, and perceiving the growing
loss of confidence in the Federal party both in the nation and the
state, the Standing Order felt itself face to face with imminent
peril. It scented danger to itself and to the existence of the
commonwealth. But it sadly lacked a great leader, until the year 1795,
when it found one in the recently elected president of Yale, the
Rev. Timothy Dwight. He was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards, and was a
man of amazing energy, of varied training, and of great personal

In his experience Dr. Dwight counted a college education, a
theological training under Jonathan Edwards, Jr., a tutorship at Yale,
a chaplaincy among the rough soldiers of the war of the Revolution,
home-life on his father's farm at Northampton, where the men in the
field vied with each other "to rake or hoe beside Timothy" in order to
hear him talk. In political life Dr. Dwight had served an
apprenticeship in the General Court of Massachusetts, where he sat as
deputy from Northampton. He had had experience as a preacher in
several small towns, and as pastor at Greenfield Hill, a part of
Fairfield. There he had added to his income by establishing the
Greenfield Academy for both sexes. Upon accepting the presidency of
Yale he became also professor of theology, and in addition he took
under his special care the courses in rhetoric and oratory. These last
two, together with literature, had, he thought, been entirely too much
neglected. [g] His coming was a forecast of the man of the nineteenth
century.[199] Dr. Stiles had been a fine type of the
eighteenth. Dr. Dwight was a man of less acquirements in languages,
but he was a more accurate scholar, of broader intelligence, and with
a mind well stocked and ready. He had a pleasing power of expression,
was tactful, and could readily adapt himself to men and
circumstances. It was he who was to give Yale its initial movement
from college to university. He himself was to become a celebrated
teacher and theologian. He was to be one of the founders of the New
England school, whose principles Dr. Taylor, in 1827, was to make
known under the name of the New Haven Theology. [h] In his own day
Dr. Dwight was equally celebrated as a power both in religion and
politics. "Pope Dwight" his enemies termed him, and they nicknamed
his ministerial following his "bishops," while they dubbed the Council
or Senators "his Twelve Cardinals."

Outside his college duties, and as a part of his care for its
spiritual welfare, President Dwight's immediate purpose was to combine
all forces that could be used to stem the dangerous currents rushing
against the bulwarks of Church and State. He had early favored the
drawing together of Congregational and Presbyterian bodies. He had
discerned, as early as 1792, a stirring of new life in the religious
world, the breaking down of the apathy of half a century that had been
indicated by revivals in places far scattered, not only throughout New
England but in other states. Towns in Massachusetts, with East Haddam
and Lyme in Connecticut, had been roused as early as the year
named. That element of personal experience which had been so marked a
feature of the Great Awakening reappeared, but without that excessive
emotionalism [i] which characterized the earlier revival. Nor was
there any such pronounced leadership as then. There was the same
conviction of sinfulness, the peace after its acknowledgment, and the
joyous satisfaction in the determination to lead an upright life,
seeking God's grace and will. Recognition of this spiritual awakening
had in some measure entered into the proposed disposal of the money
from the Western Lands, as it had also in the discussion of the joint
missionary work of 1791-1794, and again in 1797-98, [200] when the
General Association of Connecticut was incorporated as the Connecticut
Missionary Society, [j] In all of these movements President Dwight had
taken an active part. Upon entering the presidency of Yale he at once
began a series of sermons, which he delivered Sunday mornings, and
which were so arranged that in each four years the course was
complete. These lectures were his "Theology Explained and Defended,"
first published in 1818. President Dwight, with the leading
Presbyterian or Congregational ministers, together with the Methodist
and Baptist clergy, continued to favor the revival movement. This
reached its height in 1807. From beginning to end it lasted nearly a
quarter of a century, and was punctuated by the revival years of 1798,
1800, and 1802, that were especially fruitful of conversions in
Connecticut. That of 1802 attracted large numbers of the college
students. The success of the revivals was marked by increasing
austerities, such as the denunciation of amusements, both public and
private, and the revival of dead-letter laws for the more strict
observance of Sunday. Traveling or driving was prohibited without a
pass signed by a justice of the peace. Travelers were held up over
"holy time." Attempts were made to prevent the young people from
gathering in companies on Sunday evenings after the Sabbath was
legally over. Too much hilarity, though innocent, was condemned. Such
restrictions were extremely distasteful to a large minority in the
state, and seemed to many citizens only repeated proofs of how closely
the government and the Presbyterian-Congregational church were banded
together. Accordingly the Republicans began to think it was time to
test the strength of such a platform as they could put forth while
making a bid for the whole dissenting vote.

The election of Adams and Jefferson [k] in 1797 was a spur to both
parties, lending hope to the scattered Republicans, and prodding the
recently over-confident Federalists. In March, 1798, the whole nation
was roused almost to forgetfulness of party lines by the anger created
by the publication of the "X Y Z Papers." A few months later the
Federal party, through its Alien and Sedition laws, had lost its
renewed hold upon the nation. Connecticut denounced the Virginia and
Kentucky resolutions of 1798-99, and was to all appearances stanchly
Federal. But her leaders were looking for another presidential
candidate than Adams, while the Republicans, elate with the
anticipated national victory in 1800, were making preparations to
catch any and every dissatisfied voter in the state. The scattered
Republican clubs and committees awoke to new activity. As Jefferson
kept his party well in hand, and let the national dissatisfaction
increase that he might rush to victory at the presidential election of
1800, so the Connecticut Republicans matured their plans. They did not
formally organize their party till 1800, first making sure of their
great leader as the nation's executive, and almost of his
reelection. Then they began to urge the acceptance of their platform
upon the oppressed Connecticut dissenters, and to taunt the Federal
Episcopalians with an allegiance that as late as 1802 had not been
thought of sufficient worth to warrant the small favor of a college
charter for their academy at Cheshire. The Federalists attempted to
disarm the Episcopal dissatisfaction over the refusal by granting them
a license for a lottery to raise $15,000 for the bishop's fund.

The leader of the Republicans in Connecticut was Pierpont Edwards, a
recently appointed United States district judge. He was brother of
Jonathan Edwards, Jr., for years the pastor of the North Church at New
Haven, and in 1800 president of Union College. This Republican leader
was the maternal uncle of his opponent in Federal state politics,
President Dwight, and also of the Republican Vice-President, Aaron
Burr. Another nephew of his was Theodore Dwight, the brother of
Yale's president, who led the Federal civilians, and who was editor of
the "Hartford Courant," the organ of the Connecticut Federalists. The
Hartford "American Mercury" voiced the sentiments of the
Republicans. The latter party throughout the state was formally
organized in 1800 at a meeting in New Haven, the home of Mr. Edwards
and of his henchman, Abraham Bishop, son of that city's mayor.

The close personal relationship of the leaders, [l] the scorn of the
radicals, the abhorrence of the conservatives for the principles,
opinions, and even, in some cases, habits of life of their opponents,
entered into the strife and vituperation of the political campaigns
from 1800 to 1806. Personalities were unsparing, passion rose high,
and speeches were bitter. This was particularly the case in New Haven,
where Abraham Bishop's impudent boldness of attack and denunciation
was exaggerated by his father's position. Samuel Bishop, the father,
was a man of seventy-seven, and old in the service of both Church and
State. He was senior deacon in the North Church, or what was at that
time known as the Church of the United White Haven and Fair Haven
Societies. He was also a justice of the peace, town clerk, and mayor
of the city. The last office was held, according to the charter,
during the pleasure of the legislature. Samuel Bishop was also chief
judge of the court of common pleas for New Haven County, and sole
judge of probate, annual offices which the General Assembly had
re-conferred upon him in 1800 and in 1801. His son was a graduate of
Yale (1778). He was a lawyer of somewhat indifferent practice, and
from 1791 to 1798 clerk of the county court under his father, while
from 1798 he had been clerk of the superior court. Before settling
down to practice at the bar he had lived abroad, and had been caught
in the whirl of French thought and democratic ideas. He had returned
home bearing words of recommendation to Washington's secretary of
state from Jefferson's European friends. A personal meeting with that
party leader had added to Bishop's enthusiasm. For some years he had
lived in Boston, and tried his hand at literature. He had returned to
New Haven in 1791, and had thrown himself into politics. He purposely
exaggerated his opinions. He was careless of his unorthodox
expressions even to the verge of blasphemy. Though himself a believer
in God, he was perhaps what one would probably have termed a little
later a Unitarian. His enemies exaggerated his exaggerations,--and
Unitarianism was a crime according to the Connecticut statutes. [m]

In his speeches and essays Abraham Bishop struck out boldly, with
earnestness, logic, shrewd wit, and irony, and, as has been said, at
times with dangerous irreverence,--often with down-right impudence
when that would serve his purpose. An illustration of his extreme use
of it was in 1800, about the time of the organization of the
Republican party throughout the state.

He had been honored with the Phi Beta Kappa oration, annually
delivered on the eve of the Yale Commencement, then in September. A
polished literary effort was expected. He broke tradition, courtesy,
and every implied obligation in the choice of his subject. In August
he sent to the committee his paper for their acceptance or refusal. It
was entitled "The Extent and Power of Political Delusions," and was an
out and out campaign document. The presidential election was due in
November! Further, Bishop made political capital of the anticipated
refusal of his paper, which was not sent him until the eleventh
hour. The readers of the morning paper, wherein the committee offered
an apology for the change of speakers at the Society's meeting to be
held that night, were confronted by the announcement that the refused
address would be given to all who cared to listen to it in the parlors
of the White Haven church that same evening, and by the still further
notice that copies of it were fresh from the printer's hands and were
ready to be distributed to the remotest parts of the state. Needless
to state, the Phi Beta Kappa audience dwindled away to swell the crowd
of fifteen hundred, wherein Bishop gleefully counted "eight clergymen
and many ladies." The address met with great favor, and the
Wallingford Republicans at their celebration of March 11, 1801, in
honor of the election of Jefferson and Burr, asked Mr. Bishop to be
their orator. [n]

To top Bishop's insult,--as it was regarded by every friend of the
Standing Order,--came in the following spring Jefferson's displacement
of Elizur Goodrich, President Adams's appointee as collector of the
port of New Haven, and the substitution of Samuel Bishop. President
Jefferson considered himself at liberty to make this change; and all
the more so because President Adams had made the appointment as one of
his last official acts, when he must have known it would have been
unacceptable to the incoming Republican administration. The merchants
of New Haven immediately united in a petition to President Jefferson,
in which they declared that Samuel Bishop was too old to perform the
duties of the office, and, moreover, not acquainted with
accounts. Assuming that his son Abraham would assist him, they
denounced the latter as "entirely destitute of public confidence, so
conspicuous for his enmity to commerce and opposition to order, so
odious to his fellow citizens, that we presume his warmest partizans
would not have hazarded a recommendation of him." Notwithstanding
this protest the appointment was continued, the President pointing out
the honors bestowed upon the father and the care with which he,
Jefferson, had investigated the case before acting upon it. Reproving
the authorities for so long excluding the Republicans entirely from
office, Jefferson expressed his regret at finding upon his accession
to the presidency not even a "moderate participation in office in the
hands of the majority." He further stated that when such a situation
was in some measure relieved he would be only too glad to make the
question "Is he capable? Is he honest? Is he faithful to the
Constitution?" the only tests for obtaining and holding office. Samuel
Bishop died in 1803, and the collector ship was then bestowed upon his
son, who held it until his death in 1829.

In Connecticut the two political parties prepared for conflict. The
Republicans desired a new constitution and disestablishment. The old
constitutional and religious debates were opened and fiercely fought
out in pamphlet, press, sermon, and political oration. Noah Webster
replied to the "Extent and Power of Political Delusion" by "A Rod for
the Fool's Back." John Leland published his famous Hartford speech as
"A Blow at the Root, a fashionable Fast-Day Sermon," and his "High
Flying Churchman," as contributions in behalf of civil and religious
liberty. Abraham Bishop took up the latter topic in his "Wallingford
Address, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against Christianity and the
Government of the United States," published in 1802, as well as in his
"Extent and Power of Political Delusion" of 1800. A fair type of
Mr. Bishop's style and treatment is shown in his "Connecticut
Republicanism," a campaign document, wherein he sets forth his opinion
of the union of Church and State. [o]

In his campaign document under the title "Connecticut Republicanism"
Bishop declared:

Christianity has suffered more by the attempts to unite church and
state than by all the deistical writings, yet the men who denounce
them are pronounced atheists and no proof of their atheism is
required but their opposition to Federal measures.... Church and
state cannot be better served than by keeping them distinct and by
placing them where they ought to be, above, instead of beneath the
control of men who care no more for either of them than they can
turn to their personal benefit. The self-styled friends of order
have in all nations been the cause of all the convulsions and
distresses which have agitated the world.... The clergyman
preaches politics, the civilian prates of orthodoxy, and if any
man refuse to join their coalition they endeavor to hunt him down
to the tune "The Church is in danger."... In 1787 this visible
intolerance had abated in New England; there was no written law in
force that none but church-members should be free burgesses: yet
the avowed charge of Christ's church was in our law-books, some
nice points of theology were settled in our statutes and the
common law of church and state was in full force.... The
Trinitarian doctrine is established by laws, and the denial of it
is placed in the rank of felony. Though we have ceased to
transplant from town to town Quakers, New Lights, and Baptists;
yet the dissenters from our prevailing denominations are even at
this moment praying for a repeal of those laws which abridge the
rights of conscience.

* * * * *

Break the league of church and state which first subjugates your
consciences, then treating your understanding like galley slaves,
robs you of religion and civil freedom.... Thirty thousand freemen
are against the union of church and state. Thirty thousand more
men, deprived of voting because they are not rich or learned
enough, are ready to join them. [201]

In his "Wallingford Address," Bishop exclaims "The clerical
_politician_ is a useless preacher; the _political_
Christian is a dangerous statesman." On the title page of this address
appeared the epigram, "Our statesmen to the Constitution; our Clergy
to the Bible." The unfortunately irreverent parallel which Bishop drew
between the Saviour of the world and the leader of the national
Republican party, or of the democracy or common people, gave to the
epigram an evil significance not intended, and to its author a
reputation not wholly deserved.

David Daggett, a prominent New Haven Federalist and lawyer, [p] tried
in "Facts are Stubborn Things" to refute the charge that the people
were priest-ridden, the legislature arbitrary and tyrannical, the
clergy bigots. In the course of his argument he gives an account of
the reception of a Baptist petition which, voicing the smouldering
discontent that was kept burning by the certificate law, had been
presented to the legislature. Daggett charged the Republicans with
instituting the custom of holding their party meetings in Hartford and
New Haven at the time of the meeting of the Assembly in those cities,
and of making the political gathering a means of directing what topics
should be brought up for discussion in the House of Representatives,
and what discussed in their party organ the "American Mercury."
Daggett accused the Republicans of purposely choosing subjects of
discussion of an inflammable character, and declared that it was in
Babcock's paper (so called from its editor) that the Baptist petition
originated, which, circulated through the state, received some three
thousand signatures, "many of whom doubtless sought the public good."
[202] The petition was presented for trial in 1802 and a day set for
its hearing, upon which Mr. Pierpont Edwards and Mr. Gideon Granger
were to advocate it. The gentlemen, according to Mr. Daggett's
account, did not appear, and of course no trial was held. Instead, the
Assembly referred it to a committee of eighteen from the two
houses. Mr. Daggett insisted that "it was thoroughly canvassed, and
every gentleman professed himself entirely satisfied that there was no
ground of complaint which the Legislature could remove, except John
T. Peters, Esq., who declared that nothing short of an entire repeal
of the law for the support of religion would accord with his idea."

The truth of the matter was that the committee were chiefly
Federalists. Mr. Peters was a Republican. In their answer to the
petition, the committee assumed that it "was an equitable principle,
that every member of the society should, in some way, contribute to
the support of religious institutions and so the complaint of those
who declined to support any such institution was invalid." If there
was ground for complaint because of sequestration of property for the
benefit of Presbyterians only, the committee failed to find any such
cause, and if such existed, the proper channel of appeal was through
the courts. All other complaints in the petition were considered to
be answered by the assumption that the legislature had the right, on
the ground of utility, to compel contributions for the support of
religion, schools, and courts, whether or not every individual
taxpayer had need of them. The next year, 1803, the petition gained a
hearing, but that was all. It continued to be presented at every
session of the Assembly, and was first heard by both houses in
1815. It was finally withdrawn at the session that passed the bill for
the new constitution of 1818.

As one of the preliminary steps in the education of the people in
Republican principles and aims, John Strong of Norwich in 1804 founded
the "True Republican," thus giving a second paper for the
dissemination of Republican opinions. From 1792 the "Phenix or Windham
Herald" had been dealing telling blows at the Establishment and at the
courts of law through a discussion in its columns carried on by Judge
Swift, the inveterate foe of the union of Church and State, and a
lawyer, frank to avow that partiality existed in the administration of
justice. Though both the paper and the judge were strongly Federal in
their politics, they were both materially helping the Republican
advocates of reform. From the Windham press came, also, a
republication of "A Review of the Ecclesiastical Establishments of
Europe," edited by R. Huntington, with special reference to the
bearing of its arguments upon the conditions existing in Connecticut,
where illustration could be found of the absurdities and dangers that
the book had been originally written to expose. In 1803 John Leland,
representing forty-two Baptist clergymen, twenty licensed exhorters,
four thousand communicants, and twenty thousand attendants, sent out
another plea for disestablishment in his "Van Tromp lowering his Peak
with a Broadside, containing a Plea for the Baptists of Connecticut."
In it he urges that thirteen states have already granted religious
liberty, and that many of them have formed newer constitutions since
the Revolution. Such should also be the case in Connecticut. Moreover,
it could readily be accomplished at the small cost of five cents per
man. Such a small sum would pay the expenses of a convention to
formulate a constitution and another to ratify it, while five cents
more per person would furnish every citizen with a copy of the
proposed document, so that each could decide for himself upon the
constitutionality of any measure proposed, and would no longer be
obliged to read pamphlet after pamphlet or column after column in the
newspaper to determine its validity. [203]

All this was preparatory; and the first purely political note of
warning and call to battle for a new constitution was sounded by
Abraham Bishop at Hartford, May 11, 1804, in his "Oration in Honor of
the Election of President Jefferson and the peaceful acquisition of
Louisiana." He sums up the situation thus:--

Connecticut has no Constitution. On the day independence was
declared, the old charter of Charles II became null and void. It
was derived from royal authority, and went down with royal
authority. Then, the people ought to have met in convention and
framed a Constitution. But the General Assembly interposed,
usurped the rights of the people, and enacted that the government
provided for in the charter should he the civil constitution of
the State. Thus all the abuses inflicted on us when subjects of a
crown, were fastened on us anew when we became citizens of a free
republic. We still live under the old jumble of legislative,
executive and judicial powers, called a Charter. We still suffer
from the old restrictions on the right to vote; we are still ruled
by the whims of seven men. Twelve make the council. Seven form a
majority, and in the hands of these seven are all powers,
legislative, executive and judicial. Without their leave no law
can pass; no law can be repealed. On them more than half of the
House of the Assembly is dependent for re-appointments as
justices, judges, or for promotion in the militia. By their breath
are, each year, brought into official life six judges of the
Superior Court, twenty-eight of the probate, forty of county
courts, and five hundred and ten justices of the peace, and, as
often as they please, all the sheriffs. Not only do they make
laws, but they plead before justices of their own appointment, and
as a Court of Errors interpret the laws of their own making. Is
this a Constitution? Is this an instrument of government for
freemen? And who may be freemen? No one who does not have a
freehold estate worth seven dollars a year, or a personal estate
on the tax list of one hundred and thirty-four dollars.... For
these evils there is but one remedy, and this remedy we demand
shall be applied. _We demand a constitution that shall separate
the legislative, executive and judicial power, extend the
freeman's oath to men who labor on highways, who serve in the
militia, who pay small taxes, but possess no estates._ [204]

Abraham Bishop threw down the gauntlet, and in the following July his
party issued a circular letter. It emanated from the Republican
General Committee, of which Pierpont Edwards was chairman. It stated
"that many very respectable Republicans are of the opinion that it is
high time to speak to the citizens of Connecticut plainly and
explicitly on the subject of forming a constitution; but this ought
not to be done without the approbation of the party." A general
meeting was proposed to be held in New Haven on August 29, 1804. In
response, ninety-seven towns sent Republican delegates to assemble at
the state house in New Haven on that date. Major William Judd of
Farmington was chosen chairman. The meeting was held with closed
doors, and a series of resolutions was passed in favor of adopting a
new constitution. It was declared "the unanimous opinion of this
meeting that the people of this state are at present without a
constitution of civil government," and "that it is expedient to take
measures preparatory to the formation of the Constitution and that a
committee be appointed to draft an Address to the People of this State
on that subject." The address reported by this committee was printed
in New Haven on a small half-sheet with double columns, and ten
thousand copies were ordered distributed through the state.

The issue was fairly before the people. From the Federal side, just
before the September elections, came David Daggett's "Count the Cost,"
in which he ably reviewed the Republican manifesto, impugning the
motives of the leaders of the Republican party, and eloquently urging
every friend of the Standing Order and every freeman to "count the
cost" before voting with the Republicans for the proposed reform.

The fall election of 1804 was lost to the Republicans, for while they
made many gains here and there throughout the state, [q] the immediate
slight access to the Federal ranks showed that the people generally
were not yet ready for a constitutional change.

As one result of the defeat at the polls, there arose a wider sympathy
for the defeated party. When the legislature met in October, the
Federal leaders resolved to administer punishment to the defeated
Republicans. So strong was the popular feeling, and so determined the
attitude of the legislature, that it summoned before it all five of
the justices of the peace [r] who had attended the New Haven
convention of August 29, to show why they did not deserve to be
deprived of their commissions. Their oath of office ran "to be true
and faithful to the Governor and Company of this state, and the
Constitution and government thereof." What right, the Federals asked,
had they to attack a constitution they had sworn to uphold? At the
same time, several of the militia, known to be of Republican
sympathies, were also deposed or superseded. Mr. Pierpont Edwards was
allowed to make the defense for the justices. Mr. Daggett appeared for
the state. Reviewing the proceedings of the Republican meeting,
Mr. Daggett traced the history of the government of the colony and
state in order to demonstrate that the charter was peculiarly a
constitution of the people, "_made by the people_ and in a sense
not applicable to any other people." He declared the New Haven
"address" an outrage upon decency, and it to be the duty of the
Assembly to withdraw their commissions from men who questioned the
existence of the constitution under which they held them. The day
after the hearing, a bill to revoke the commissions was passed
unanimously by the governor and council, and by a majority of eleven
in the Lower House, the vote standing 67 yeas to 56 nays. This attempt
to stifle public opinion won a general acknowledgment that the
minority were oppressed. The feeling of sympathy thus roused was
increased by the death of Major Judd, who had been taken ill after his
arrival in New Haven. His partisans asserted that his death was
caused by his efforts to save himself and friends, and his consequent
obligation to appear at the trial when really too ill to be about. The
day after his death, the Republicans published and distributed
broadcast his "Address to the people of the State of Connecticut on
the subject of the removal of himself and four other justices from

From this time forward the minority thoroughly realized that it was
"not a matter of talking down but of voting down their opponents."
Their leaders also understood it. Bishop entered the lists, not only
against his political antagonist David Daggett, but against such men
as Professor Silliman, Simeon Baldwin, Noah Webster, Theodore Dwight,
and against the clergy, led by President Dwight, Simon Backus, Isaac
Lewis, John Evans, and a host of secondary men who turned their
pulpits into lecture desks and the public fasts and feasts into
electioneering occasions. Their general plea was that religion
preserved the morals of the people, and consequently their civil
prosperity, and hence the need for state support. Occasionally one
would insist that it was a matter of conscience with the Presbyterians
which made them enforce ecclesiastical taxes and fines, and that all
had been given the dissenters that could be; that the Presbyterians
had "yielded every privilege they themselves enjoyed and subjected
them (the dissenters) to no inconvenience, not absolutely
indispensable to the countenance of the practice" (of dissent). David
Daggett maintained that there was a just and wide-spread alarm lest
the Republicans should undermine all religion, and therefore it
behooved all the friends of stable government to support the Standing

The Republicans vigorously contested the elections of 1804,1805, and
1806. Their second general convention, that of August, 1806, at
Litchfield, was more outspoken in its criticism, and so much bolder in
its demands that many conservative people hesitated to follow its
programme. The Republican gains were so small that after 1806 there
was a lull in the agitation for constitutional reform for some
years. It was well understood that the religious establishment was the
greatest clog upon the government. It was also thoroughly understood
by many that its destruction meant the destruction of the Federal
party in Connecticut. Consequently the Federal patronage distributed
the several thousand offices within the gift of Church and State with
a "liberality equalled only by the fidelity with which they were paid
for." So firm was the Federal control over the state that even in 1804
they risked antagonizing the Episcopalians by again refusing to
charter the Cheshire Academy as a college with authority to confer
degrees in art, divinity, and law. In the face of a strong protest, it
was refused again in 1810. The House approved this last petition, but
the Council rejected it. Naturally, the Episcopalians felt still more
aggrieved when in 1812 the charter was once more refused; but still
they did not desert the Federal party. The latter clung to the spoils
of office for their partisans, to the old restrictive franchise, and
to the obnoxious Stand-up Law, nor were they less disdainful of the
dissenters and of the Republican minority.

Yet many of their best men had come to feel that there was wrong and
injustice done the minority; that there should be a stop put to the
open ignoring of Democratic lawyers, numbering in their ranks many men
of wide learning and of great practical ability; that the spectacle of
a Federal state-attorney prosecuting Republican editors was not
edifying, and that the imprisonment of such offenders and their trial
before a hostile judiciary opened that branch of the state government
to damaging and dangerous suspicion. [205]

In July, 1812, a meeting was called in Judge Baldwin's office in New
Haven, with President Dwight in the chair, to organize a Society for
the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Good Morals. At this
meeting the political situation was thoroughly discussed, and measures
were taken to cope with it.

I am persuaded [wrote the Rev. Lyman Beecher to Rev. Asahel Hooker in
the following November] that the time has come when it becomes every
friend of the State to wake up and exert his whole influence to save
it from innovation.... That the effort to supplant Governor Smith [s]
will be made is certain unless at an early stage the noise of rising
opposition will be so great as to deter them; and if it is made, a
separation is made in the Federal party and a coalition with
Democracy, which will in my opinion be permanent, unless the overthrow
by the election should throw them into despair or inspire repentance.

If we stand idle we lose our habits and institutions piecemeal, as
fast as innovations and ambitions shall dare to urge on the work.

My request is that you will see Mr. Theodore Dwight, expressing to him
your views on the subject, ... and that you will in your region touch
every spring, _lay_ or clerical, which you can touch prudently,
that these men do not steal a march upon us, and that the rising
opposition may meet them early, before they have gathered
strength. Every blow struck now will have double the effect it will
after the parties are formed and the lines drawn. I hope we shall not
act independently, but I hope we shall all act, who fear God or regard
men. [206]

Writing of the meeting to organize the Society for the Suppression of
Vice and the Formation of Good Morals, Dr. Beecher in his
"Autobiography" gives a sketch of the politics of the time that had
led up to the occasion. One of the prominent actors of the time, he
tells us that this meeting, composed of prominent Federalists of all
classes, was unusual, for--

it was a new thing in that day for the clergy and laymen to meet
on the same level and co-operate. It was the first time there had
ever been such a consultation in our day. The ministers had always
managed things themselves, for in those days the ministers were
all politicians. They had always been used to it from the
beginning.... On election day they had a festival, and, fact is,
when they got together they would talk over who should be
Governor, and who Lieutenant-Governor, and who in the Upper House,
and their councils would prevail. Now it was a part of the old
steady habits of the state ... that the Lieutenant-Governor should
succeed to the governorship. And it was the breaking up of this
custom by the civilians, against the influence of the clergy, that
first shook the stability of the Standing Order and the Federal
party in the state. Lieutenant Governor Treadwell (1810) was a
stiff man, and the time had come when many nlen did not like that
sort of thing. He had been active in the enforcement of the
Sabbath laws, and had brought on himself the odium of the opposing
party. Hence of the civilians of our party, David Daggett and
other wire-pullers, worked to have him superseded, and Roger
Griswold, the ablest man in Congress, put in his stead. That was
rank rebellion against the ministerial candidate. But Daggett
controlled the whole of Fairfleld County bar, and Griswold was a
favorite with the lawyers, and the Democrats helped them because
they saw how it would work; so there was no election by the
people, and Treadwell was acting Governor till 1811, when Griswold
was chosen. The lawyers, in talking about it, said: "We have
served the clergy long enough; we must take another man, and they
must look out for themselves." Throwing Treadwell over in 1811
broke the charm and divided the party; persons of third-rate
ability on our side who wanted to be somebody deserted; all the
infidels in the state had long been leading on that side ... minor
sects had swollen and complained of certificates. Our efforts to
reform morals by law were unpopular. [t]

Finally the Episcopalians went over to the Democrats. The Episcopal
split was due to a foolish and arbitrary proceeding on the part of the
Federals. In the spring of 1814, a petition was presented to the
General Assembly for the incorporation of the Phoanix Bank of
Hartford, offering "in conformity to the precedents in other states,
to pay for the privilege of the incorporation herein prayed for, the
sum of sixty thousand dollars to be collected (being a Premium to be
advanced by the stockholders) as fast as the successive instalments of
the capital stock shall be paid in; and to be appropriated, if in the
opinion of your Honors it shall be deemed expedient, in such
proportion as shall by your Honors be thought proper, to the use of
the Corporation of Yale College, of the Medical Institution,
established in the city of New Haven, and to the corporation of the
Trustees of the Fund of the Bishop of the Episcopal church in this
state, or for any purpose whatever, which to your Honors may seem
best." The capital asked for was $1,500,000. "The purpose of this
offer [u] a was a double one,--creating an interest in favor of the
Bank Charter among Episcopalians and retaining their influence on the
side of the Charter Government, as there was no inconsiderable amount
of talent among them." The Bishop's Fund, slowly gathering since 1799,
amounted to barely $6000. This bonus would give it a good start, and
conciliate the Episcopalians, still indignant at the refusal of the
Assembly to incorporate their college. When presented to the Assembly,
the Lower House favored the bank charter; the Council, rejecting it,
appointed a committee to consider its request. They soon originated an
act of incorporation, granting a capital of $1,000,000, and ordered

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