The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action

By Joseph F. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

The Connecticut Open Town Meeting

The original patent of Connecticut was a March 19, 1631, grant by Robert, earl of Warwick and president of the Council of Plymouth, to William Viscount Say and Seal et al. to ‘‘all that part of New England…which lies and extends itself from a river there, called Harranganset river.’’ 1 Connecticut first was settled in 1634 by immigrants from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who founded Wethersfield. Hartford and Windsor were founded the following year. Bruce C. Daniels maintained that the settlers of Connecticut were ‘‘Puritan zealots who hoped to continue the Massachusetts experiment in another geographic area.’’ 2 Benjamin Trumbull reported that a principal reason for the migration of persons from the Massachusetts Bay Colony ‘‘was that they should be more out of the way and trouble of a general governor of New England, who, at this time, was an object of great fear in all the plantations.’’ 3

The three Connecticut river towns—Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield— each lacked a charter but united themselves in a General Court and surrendered most of their powers to it. Although the towns possessed relatively broad powers within the limits set by the General Court, the structure of the towns was uniform as the court decreed that towns had to create specified town offices and detailed their duties. 4 The town meeting was brought to Connecticut from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and functioned in a manner similar to that in the colony, where initially there was no separation of civil and ecclesiastical matters.

Major changes have occurred in town meeting government in Connecticut, where towns range in population from 630 in Union to 52,960 in Fairfield. The election of town officers no longer is part of the annual town meeting, as in the New England states north of Connecticut, since town elections are governed by state election laws. However, voters in five towns—Bristol, Milford, New Haven, Stratford, and Westport—are authorized by special acts of the Connecticut

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The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Chapter 1 - Law-Making by Assembled Citizens 1
  • Chapter 2 - Genesis of the Town Meeting 15
  • Chapter 3 - The Massachusetts Open Town Meeting 27
  • Chapter 4 - The New Hampshire Open Town Meeting 59
  • Chapter 5 - The Vermont Open Town Meeting 83
  • Chapter 6 - The Maine Open Town Meeting 103
  • Chapter 7 - The Connecticut Open Town Meeting 117
  • Chapter 8 - The Rhode Island Financial Town Meeting 129
  • Chapter 9 - The Representative Town Meeting 139
  • Chapter 10 - Democratic Law-Making 163
  • Appendix I 195
  • Appendix II 197
  • Appendix III 199
  • Appendix IV 207
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 229
  • About the Author 233
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