This State, comprising an area of substantially 5000 square miles, was one of the thirteen colonies which, in 1776, declared their independence from England. It was among the first to ratify the Federal Constitution under which, in 1789, the republic known as the United States of America established its present form of government. The population enrolled in the census of 1900 was 908,420, and in 1908 undoubtedly exceeded 1,000,000, the increase being in the cities, while the rural communities barely held their own. Manufacturing industries, rather than agricultural or commercial, are the principal resources of the State.
The first English settlement was established on the Connecticut River at Windsor by traders from the Plymouth Colony in 1633. In the same year the Dutch from New Amsterdam had sailed up the river and erected a trading house and fort where the city of Hartford now stands, a few miles below Windsor. The Dutch soon after withdrew, leaving the English to establish the first permanent settlements within the boundaries of Connecticut. Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut River, was settled by the English in 1636, and New Haven by colonists from Massachusetts Bay in 1638. In 1664 the New Haven Colony, then comprising the various settlements along the coast, was forced to unite with those in the Connecticut valley, thus forming one commonwealth thereafter known as Connecticut.
On 24 January, 1639, settlers of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield then "cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining" united in the adoption of the first written constitution known in history. The "Fundimental Orders", as they were called, established a Christian commonwealth, and provided for the election of a governor and other magistrates, together with a General Court having both legislative and judicial powers. This General Court consisted of deputies who were to be Freemen elected from the several towns. The towns named above were each to send four deputies, and other towns thereafter added to the jurisdiction were to send such numbers as the court should judge meet, to be reasonably proportioned to the number of Freemen in each town. In 1661 Governor Winthrop was sent to England to petition the king for a charter confirming such privileges and liberties as were necessary for the permanent welfare of the colony. He secured from the reigning sovereign, Charles II, a most liberal charter which remained the organic law of the commonwealth until the adoption of the present State Constitution in 1818, almost half a century after the State had severed its allegiance to the English Crown. This charter conferred upon the people of the colony the right to elect their own governor and other officers, and the largest measure of self-government. It is of interest to note the territorial boundaries of the colony set forth in the charter. It was bounded on the east by Narragansett Bay, on the north by the line of the Massachusetts Plantation, and on the south by the sea. It was to extend to the west in longitude with the line of the Massachusetts Colony to the South Sea "on the west part with the islands there adjoining".
In 1786 Connecticut ceded to the United States all its public land, reserving, however, about three and a half million acres in what is now the State of Ohio. This was known for many years as the "Connecticut Reserve" or "Western Reserve". The legislature granted some five hundred thousand acres of the reservation to the citizens of the towns of Danbury, Fairfield, Norwalk, New London, and Groton to indemnify them for special losses during the War of the Revolution when these towns were burned by the British troops. The grant was afterwards known as the "Fire Lands". In 1795 a committee was appointed to dispose of the reservation. It was sold to a syndicate organized to effect the purchase for $1,200,000. The income from this fund is devoted to the support of common schools, and the State Constitution declares it shall never be directed to any other purpose.
The present Constitution was adopted in 1818. Under its provisions the town is the basis of representation in the lower house of the legislature rather than population. This has brought about, by the growth of the larger cities and towns, a most undemocratic form of government. The cities of New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport, each having a population of more than 100,000, have only two representatives in the lower house, while a large number of towns with a population of less than 1000 have the same number of representatives. In 1902 a constitutional convention was held in the hope that this inequitable system of representation would be corrected. The convention was so constituted, however, as to make any hope of a radical change of the system of representation impossible. The convention numbered 167 delegates, one from each town. The constitution finally proposed by this convention made but a slight change in the basis of representation, and was rejected by the people when submitted for their ratification.
The early settlers of Connecticut were for the most part English of the upper middle class. Their ministers, many of them, had been clergymen of the Established Church who had been deprived of their English livings for non-conformity. Their devoted congregations followed them across the Atlantic and founded the settlement at Massachusetts Bay. From thence came chiefly the first emigrants, attracted by the fertile soil of the Connecticut valley and the sequestered harbours along the Sound. Before the War of the Revolution, however, Ireland had contributed quite a noticeable percentage to the population of the various settlements. This seems to be established from the considerable number of Irish names disclosed in the official military documents of that period. The vast majority of the population, however, remained distinctively English of Puritan origin until the great emigration set in from Ireland, prompted by the disastrous famine in 1846. There is also a considerable German element distributed pretty evenly throughout the State. Since the close of the Civil War French Canadians have come down from the Province of Quebec, and have settled more numerously in the eastern part of the State where they have found employment in the manufacturing towns. More recently the Italians, in large numbers, have located in the cities and larger towns. New Haven, alone, it is estimated, has an Italian population of upwards of 20,000. Russian Jews have also become very numerous, principally in the cities, while Scandinavians, Lithuanians, and Greeks are becoming an increasingly prominent element of the urban population. In common with all the other States of the Atlantic seaboard, while the language and customs of the Anglo-Saxon are still overwhelmingly dominant, the strain of English blood is becoming more and more attenuated with the passing of each decade. In colonial times and during the earlier days of the Republic, Connecticut occupied a place of distinction and commanding influence among her sister commonwealths. At the close of the War of the Revolution she was the eighth in respect to population among the thirteen States that formed the Union, having by the census of 1790, 238,141 souls. She furnished, however, 31,959 soldiers to armies of the Revolution, thus exceeding by 5281 the number furnished by Virginia, then the most populous of all the States, and having at that time more than three times the population of Connecticut. In this respect Connecticut was surpassed only by Massachusetts, which furnished 67,097 soldiers, from a population of 475,257 souls.
The planters of the Connecticut River towns, in formulating their first constitution in 1639, were all of them Puritans of the sect subsequently known throughout all of the New England States as Congregationalists. The distinctive theory of their ecclesiastical polity regarded each congregation as a self-governing body, with power to formulate its own creed and prescribe its own conditions of membership. They repudiated all allegiance to any central ecclesiastical authority, and the various congregations or churches, as they were then called, were independent and self-governing, bound to each other by ties of fellowship and community of interest, rather than by canons prescribed by any superior ecclesiastical authority. (See CONGREGATIONALISM.) There was from the very first, however, the most intimate relation between the churches and the civil authority. Church membership was an indispensable qualification for civil office, and for the exercise of the rights of Freemen. In the preamble of their first constitution they declared that they were entering into a combination or confederation "to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also the discipline of the churches which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced among us". Freedom of religious worship, as now understood and demanded everywhere in America, was a principle to which they accorded but scant and reluctant acceptance. For a century and a half Congregationalism was the established religion supported by public taxation. Other Christian sects were merely tolerated. Not until the adoption of the Constitution of 1818 did the principle of true religious freedom receive governmental recognition. It was then declared that it being the duty of all men to worship the Supreme Being, and to render their worship in the mode most consistent with the dictates of their consciences, that no person should by law be compelled to join or support, be classed with, or associated to any congregation, church or religious association. It was further declared that every society or denomination of Christians should have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges. Among such powers was specified authority in such denominations to support and maintain ministers or teachers, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of such society only, to be laid by a majority vote of the legal voters assembled at any society meeting warned and held according to law or in any mariner. It was further provided that any person might separate himself from the society or denomination of Christians to which he belonged by leaving a written notice to that effect with the clerk of the society, and should thereupon cease to be liable for any future expenses incurred by such society. This power of taxation has for many years ceased to be exercised by the constituent societies of any of the denominations, which are now usually maintained by pew rents, voluntary offerings, and the income of specific charitable trusts where such exist.
The observance of Sunday has always been strictly provided for by law. The statutes now in force had their origin about the beginning of the eighteenth century. They forbid any secular business or labour, except works of necessity or mercy, the keeping open of any shop, warehouse, or manufacturing establishment, the exposing of any property for sale, or the engaging in any sport on Sunday, and the person offending may be fined not to exceed fifty dollars. These statutes also provide that any person who is present at any concert of music, dancing, or other public diversion on Sunday, or the evening thereof, may be fined not more than four dollars. The keeping open of saloons and sale of liquor on Sunday is also prohibited under severe penalties. These laws still have public opinion strongly in their favour, and are in consequence pretty generally respected and enforced. Special laws allow the running of railway trains and trolley cars on Sundays during such hours and with such frequency as the State railroad commissioners may, from time to time, prescribe.
All judges and magistrates, clerks of courts, and certain other officials in special cases are empowered by statute to administer oaths. An oath of faithful performance is usually required from the incumbent before entering upon the duties of any public office. Administrators and others when making return of the duties they have performed are required to make oath that the duties have been faithfully performed or that the return they make thereof is true and correct. The ceremonial of the oath universally employed is by raising the right hand in the presence of the magistrate administering it, who recites the statutory form, always beginning with the words "You solemnly swear", and ending with the invocation "So help you God". For many years the statutes have permitted any person having conscientious scruples to affirm in lieu of being sworn. Such persons "solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare", "upon the pains and penalties of perjury". If the authority administering the oath shall have reason to believe that any other ceremony will be more binding upon the conscience of a witness, he may permit or require any other ceremony to e used.
Statutes against blasphemy and profanity have been in existence since the settlement of the colony, and in the seventeenth century these crimes were severely punished. The statutes now in force are traced to legislation of 1642 and 1650, and provide that one who shall blaspheme against God, either person of the Holy Trinity, the Christian religion, or the holy Scriptures, shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars and imprisoned not more than one year, and bound to his good behaviour. One who shall use any profane oath or wickedly curse another shall be fined one dollar.
It has always been the custom to open each daily session of both houses of the General Assembly with prayer, and chaplains are appointed by each body whose salaries are fixed by law. It is still the custom to open each term of the Supreme and Superior courts with prayer. The clerk invites some clergyman to perform that office, and pays him an honorarium which is taxed in the regular expenses of the court. The great festival of Christmas received little recognition among the Congregationalists of Connecticut and the other New England States until the latter half of the nineteenth century. Almost from the settlement of the colony it was the custom for the governor to proclaim a day of thanksgiving in the late autumn to be observed as a religious holiday. It was originally intended to be and is still considered as a sort of harvest festival, and has long been esteemed in Connecticut as a day for family reunions and feasting. It was not until Episcopalians or, still later, Catholics became such prominent factors in the population that the 25th of December was declared by statute to be a legal holiday. Good Friday, as such, has never been made a legal holiday. The earlier settlers and their descendants were accustomed to observe a day in the early spring, proclaimed by legal authority as a day of fasting and prayer. For many years now it has been the custom for the governor to select Good Friday for the annual spring fast. Thus Christmas and Good Friday have in recent years received somewhat indirectly the recognition of civil authority. No statutes have been enacted, however, to compel their observance, and the statutes relating to Sunday observance are in no way applicable to these days. No other holy days of the Church are recognized in any manner by the law.
No privilege under the law attaches in any way to communications made to a priest under the seal of confession. As yet such privilege extends only to communications between a lawyer and his client, which the common law of England has always protected. It may be doubted if a law extending such privilege to priests or indeed to clergymen of any denomination could be passed through the legislature as at present constituted. No instance, however, exists, certainly in recent years, where an attempt has been made in any court of justice to compel a priest to disclose any knowledge which came to him through the confessional, and it is quite certain that public opinion would strongly disapprove any such attempt.
The statutes of Connecticut contain quite elaborate provisions regulating ecclesiastical societies and the incorporation of churches. Many of those still in force were originally passed when the Congregational denomination was practically the State religion, and its various ecclesiastical societies had power to lay taxes for their support. Originally such a society was distinct from the church, constituting a separate organization. Individuals might be legal members of the society and not members of the church. This condition still remains in many communities, although, as before stated, one may escape liability of taxation by withdrawing from the society. It would be legally possible for an ecclesiastical society to be incorporated under these laws for the purpose of maintaining a church in communion with the Catholic Church. In early times before statutes were enacted for the organization and government of these societies, the several towns had the functions of ecclesiastical societies.
In recent years special statutory provisions have been made for the government of other denominations. Prior to 1866, when a law was passed having special reference to the Catholic Church, the title to most of its property was vested in the bishop and his successors. In that year an act was passed by the legislature providing for the organization of a corporation in connexion with any Catholic church or congregation. Such corporation consists of the bishop and vicar-general of the diocese, the pastor and two laymen of the congregation. The lay members are appointed annually by the ex-officio or clerical members. Such corporation is empowered to hold all property conveyed to it for the purpose of maintaining religious worship according to the doctrine, discipline, and ritual of the Catholic Church, and for the support of the educational or charitable institutions of that church. A restriction exists to the effect that no one incorporated church or congregation may possess an amount of property, except church buildings, parsonages, school-houses, asylums and cemeteries, the annual income of which exceeds three thousand dollars. Such corporation shall at all times be subject to the general laws and discipline of the Catholic Church, and shall hold and enjoy its franchise solely for the purposes above mentioned. Upon a forfeiture of its franchise or surrender of its charter its property vests in the bishop and his successors, in trust for such congregation. This law has in the main worked with entire satisfaction. Property of various religious orders is usually legally vested in a corporation either specially chartered or organized under the general laws of the State where the mother-house of the community is located.
In the general statute providing for exemption from taxation are included buildings exclusively occupied as colleges, academies, churches, public school-houses, or infirmaries, and parsonages of any ecclesiastical society to the value of five thousand dollars, while used solely as such. So also are buildings belonging to and used exclusively for scientific, literary, benevolent or ecclesiastical societies. Clergymen are not exempt under the law from liability to perform jury duty or rendering military service. They are, however, rarely if ever found in a jury panel, for the reason that it is not customary to place their names on the lists from which jurors are drawn.
The laws relating to marriage require that no persons shall be married until one of them under oath shall inform the registrar of the town in which the marriage is to be celebrated of the name, age, colour, occupation, birthplace, residence and condition (whether single, widowed, or divorced) of each. The registrar thereupon issues a certificate that the parties have complied with the provisions of law, which certificate is a license to any person authorized to celebrate marriage, to join them in marriage in that town. No such certificate shall be issued if either party is a minor without the written consent of the parent or guardian of such minor. The person celebrating the marriage is required to certify that fact upon the license, stating the time and place of such marriage, and return the same to the registrar before or during the first week of the month following the marriage. If be fails to do so he is liable to a fine of ten dollars. All judges and justices of the peace and ordained or licensed clergymen belonging to the State or any other State, so long as they continue in the work of the ministry, may join persons in marriage. A clergyman in solemnizing marriage is regarded in the law as a public officer, and his acts in that capacity are prima facie evidence of his character. Any person who attempts to join persons in marriage, knowing that he is not authorized so to do, may be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Divorces are granted by the superior court on any of the following grounds: adultery; fraudulent contract; wilful desertion for three years with total neglect of duty; seven years' absence, whereabouts unknown, habitual intemperance; intolerable cruelty; sentence to imprisonment for life, or for any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty punishable by imprisonment in the State's prison. The General Assembly may pass an act dissolving a marriage so far as its civic relation is concerned, but in recent years applications to that body have been regarded with disfavour and are very exceptional. Notwithstanding the fact that the judges have in recent years been increasingly vigilant in requiring strict proof of the facts upon which, under the law, a divorce may be adjudged, the number of divorces has alarmingly increased.
The State is well supplied with hospitals and orphan asylums. The former, located in all of the principal cities, are, most of them, controlled by secular corporations, but in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven, Catholic hospitals have been established in recent years. All hospitals, secular and Catholic, receive liberal annual grants from the State. Several orphan asylums are supported by the charity of non-Catholics, while the St. Francis Asylum, located in New Haven, provides for the needs of the Catholic population. County houses for dependent children who would otherwise have to be committed to the town poorhouses are established by law in each county and supported by public grants.
For many years the sale of spirituous and intoxicating liquors has been regulated by a law which secures local option to each city and town. On petition of twenty-five legal voters of any town a secret ballot must be held at the next annual election on the question of licence or no licence. Unless the vote is in the affirmative the sale of liquor in that town is absolutely prohibited, except by a public agent for limited purposes of necessity. Licences are granted by the county commissioners. The licence fee in towns of over 3000 inhabitants is $450, and in other towns $250. The business of the licencees is very strictly regulated by law, and their places must be closed from twelve o'clock at night until five the next morning, and on Sundays and all days on which any public election is held.
There is one State prison, located at Wethersfield, a reformatory for boys at Meriden, and an industrial school for girls at Middletown. No reformatory for adult convicts has yet been established in the State, though the matter has received legislative sanction, and the establishment of such a reformatory will doubtless be accomplished.
The statute of wills has been in force from the establishment of the colony. All persons of sound mind above eighteen years of age may dispose of their estate by will. A will must be in writing, subscribed by the testator, and attested by three witnesses, each of them subscribing in his presence.
The common law of public and charitable uses has always been in force in Connecticut. Grants for the "maintenance of the ministry of the Gospel", of schools of learning, the relief of the poor, the maintenance of any cemetery or lot therein, or monuments thereon, are especially declared to be within the law of charitable uses.
New Haven, the principal city, having a population in 1900 of 108,027, and in 1908 estimated to be upwards of 125,000, is chiefly noted as being the seat of Yale University. The college from which this university has grown was chartered as a collegiate school by the Colonial Assembly in 1701, and first opened at Saybrook a town at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Its promoters were the leading Congregational ministers of the colony, nearly all of whom had been graduated at Harvard College which had been founded at Cambridge by the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1636. In 1718 the college was transferred to New Haven where the first building was erected, and where it took the name of Yale College on account of a donation of books and money of the value of about £800, made by Elihu Yale. Yale was born near Boston in 1648, but on his maturity removed to England where he died in 1721, never having returned to the colonies. The declared intention of the founders of the College was to educate young men for the ministry of the Congregational sect, then, and for many years after, the established religion of the colony. It received from time to time substantial grants from the Colonial Assembly, and the only one of its ancient group of buildings still remaining, and recently restored, was erected with funds granted for that purpose by the legislature. In 1715 it received a new charter.
To the original college other faculties and departments have from time to time been added. In 1812 a school of medicine was established; in 1822, theology; in 1824, law; in 1847, a school of science, now known as the Sheffield Scientific School; in 1868, a school of fine arts; in 1894, a department of music, and in 1900, a forest school. These several schools and departments, together with the Peabody Museum of Natural History, founded in 1866, and the Winchester Observatory in 1871, together constitute Yale University. More than 3,000 students are enrolled in all of its departments, and its various faculties number 320 professors and instructors. Its libraries contain about 500,000 volumes. In 1907 its property and funds amounted to nearly nine millions of dollars in value, and it expended in that year more than one million dollars in its operations. Yale has long since ceased to be denominational or sectarian in its character and influence, and has become substantially a secular institution. Upwards of 300 Catholics are numbered among its students, and several among the instructors.
Other colleges in the State are Trinity, established in Hartford, the capital of the State, by the Episcopalians in 1824, which has 200 students, and Wesleyan University at Middletown, chartered in 1831, and under the control of the Methodist Episcopalians. This institution has about 350 students, and thirty-five professors and instructors. There is no State university, as such, although a school of agriculture was established by the State in the town of Mansfield in 1881, upon the bequest of Augustus Storrs. This institution now receives the income of the various grants from the United States to Connecticut for the maintenance of colleges for instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts, and is duly incorporated as the Connecticut Agricultural College. It has an enrollment of about 140 students, with twenty-eight professors and instructors. The Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University maintains advanced courses in civil, mechanical, electrical, and mining engineering, which are pursued by large numbers of students.
In the State system of public schools, high schools are maintained in all cities and considerable towns, and district or grammar schools are conveniently accessible to every child in the State. The public schools have a total enrollment of 163,141 pupils, with 4,281 teachers. The total amount expended for the maintenance of these schools, including expenditures for new buildings and repairs, was for the year 1905, $3,795,259. Besides the State schools, good schools of the grammar grade are maintained in most of the larger Catholic parishes. There are 75 of these parochial schools in the State, with 31,877 pupils, and 714 teachers. The teachers are almost exclusively members of various sisterhoods. The establishment of these parochial schools has cost the Catholic population of the State $3,290,700, and the annual cost of their maintenance has reached the sum of $475,355. These schools receive no aid from the State or other public funds.
The See of Hartford was erected 18 September, 1843, with jurisdiction over the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island. These States had formerly been included in the Diocese of Boston. The first Bishop of Hartford was the Right Reverend William Taylor, who, with his successors, maintained the episcopal residence in the city of Providence until 1872, when Rhode Island was set apart as the Diocese of Providence, and Bishop McFarland then took up his residence in Hartford. In 1835 a census taken by Bishop Fenwick of Boston found about 720 Catholics in Connecticut, and in 1844 Catholics numbered 4817. In 1890 they had increased to 152,945, outnumbering the communicants of all Protestant denominations by more than 5000. In 1899 the Catholic population in Connecticut exceeded 250,000, and in 1908 had reached 395,354, with a remaining non-Catholic population of 725,000. Neither the coloured nor the Indian races contribute appreciably to this number. For the most part the Catholics of Connecticut are of Irish ancestry, largely augmented by the German, Italian, French Canadian, and Polish immigrations of recent years. Comparatively few trace their ancestry to the early settlers of the colony, and these generally are converts or belong to the families of converts. The number of conversions has been slowly but steadily increasing, but the enormous growth of the Catholic Church in Connecticut is still chiefly due to the great tide of immigration from European countries during the last half-century.
The Congregationalists are the most numerous of the Protestant denominations, having, according to the religious census taken in 1890, 59,154 members. The same census disclosed 26,652 Protestant Episcopalians, 29,411 Methodists, and 22,372 Baptists. It is notable that of Presbyterians, probably in other parts of the United States one of the most numerous of the Protestant bodies, there were in Connecticut at the time of the taking of this census only 1680 communicants.
HOLLISTER, History of Connecticut (New Haven, 1855), II; LIVERMORE, Republic of New Haven (Baltimore, 1886); BARBER, Connecticut Historical Collections (New Haven, 1836); TRUMBULL, History of Connecticut (New London, 1898), II; Colonial Records of Connecticut, eds. TRUMBULL and HOADLEY (Hartford, 1850-1890), XV; New Haven Colonial Records ed. HOADLEY (Hartford, 1857-8), II; O'DONNELL, History of the Diocese of Hartford (Boston, 1900).
APA citation. (1908). Connecticut. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04253b.htm
MLA citation. "Connecticut." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04253b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.