Charters Without Constitutions
"The Provinces of [ Connecticut and Rhode Island]," complained British undersecretary William Knox in 1763, "are modeled upon the Ideas of corporate Towns; they . . . enact what Laws they please with[out] any Check or Controul, nor has the Crown any Hold, or scarcely any knowledge of them."1 After independence was declared, these two colonies saw no need to adopt formal constitutions, but continued to rely on their royal charters to the extent they were consistent with independence.
Connecticut's charter of 1662, which originated in town meetings, was reaffirmed by the General Assembly in October 1776 and remained operative until the adoption of a constitution and bill of rights in 1818. 2 The charter contained no list of the rights of individuals, hardly a surprise in that it was approved by Charles II and that few precedents existed for such a list until the English Declaration of Rights of 1689. Recognition in the Declaration of the rights to petition and to have arms were directed against the abuses of Charles II. Nonetheless, the charter of 1662 presupposed an armed people who the governor was authorized: