« PreviousContinue »
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1838,
BY CASE, TIFFANY & CO.,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Connecticut.
THE first settlers of the New-Haven colony, and also of the colony of Connecticut, were emigrants from England. Soon after the arrival of the former, in 1638, finding themselves destitute of any laws as rules of action to govern their small but intrepid band, knowing that all civil societies required laws, both for the protection of their persons and estates, the colonists soon organized and constituted a General Court, in 1639, appointed such officers as were required, constituted courts, and enacted such laws as the exigences of the occasion demanded, in the infancy of the government. And as their numbers increased, and settlements extended, other laws were enacted to punish offenders, protect life, liberty, and property from injury, and were added from session to session of the General Court. As no printing establishment had yet been in operation in the colony, the laws were promulgated to the people by written copies of them delivered to the constables in the jurisdiction, whose duty it was to declare them to their subjects on lecture days, and at such other times as the citizens of the plantations should be assembled. This mode of enacting and declaring the laws, continued until their laws became numerous, and therefore inconvenient and difficult, not only for the people, but the courts, to retain them in recollection. It was therefore ordered by the General Court of the Colony, in 1665, that some able, judicious and godly man should be appointed, to form a code of laws for the (New-Haven) colony. Governor Eaton was appointed for this purpose, and desired by the General Court, for his own instruction, and to aid him in this arduous task, to examine the laws of the colony of Massachusetts, and also the Discourse on Civil Government in a New Plantation, by the Rev. Mr. Cotton. Governor Eaton accepted the appointment, and
soon perfected a code of laws for the colony, (very many of which were extracted from the Massachusetts code) which were presented to the elders of the jurisdiction, and by them examined and approved; when the General Court ordered five hundred copies to be printed for the use of the New-Haven colonists.Governor Hopkins being at this time in England, and being a gentleman of education; and sustaining an exalted reputation in all the New England colonies, was selected to procure the printing to be executed in England. The copy was therefore forwarded to him for this purpose; which he soon procured to be effected under his special direction and inspection, (at the Crown, in Pope's-head Alley, London, in 1656,) and returned them immediately to the colony.
It has been generally supposed that the laws enacted by the New-Haven colony previous to the code by Governor Eaton in 1655, formed the code of Blue Laws so highly celebrated in this country.-Peters says that many of what have been termed "Blue Laws," were not suffered to be recorded, but were to be made so familiar with the people, that recording them would be unnecessary; until the laws of that colony were systematized by Governor Eaton and printed in 1656, at which time many of the laws previous to 1656 were expunged, and new laws added. At this time New-Haven was a distinct colony from that of Connecticut. The latter was composed of the towns of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield, and some wild and unsettled territory contiguous to them. The term "blue laws," attached to this early code of laws, is said to have originated from the fact that the first printed laws in the New Haven colony were enveloped in blue colored paper; and from this circumstance I am inclined to believe that the term "Blue Laws of Connecticut,” is incorrect, but should be the Blue Laws of New-Haven Colony; for it appears that the first printed laws in either colony were those composed by Gov. Eaton, which are said to have been enveloped in blue paper, so that we are to conclude that the Eaton code of 1656 were in fact the blue laws, if a code of blue laws were ever in force here, and not exclusively the acts passed previous to that period. It will readily be discovered by the reader of the blue laws, and the early laws of the Massachusetts colony, that the code by Gov. Eaton (for New-Haven colony) was composed almost entirely of the laws of Massachusetts, in doing which,
Gov. Eaton made the sacred volume his guide, and has cited scripture in all cases upon which his laws were founded; and where he has adopted the laws of other colonies, has enlarged and defined their meaning, to avoid doubts and caviling amongst the colonists, most of which laws are now incorporated in the statute book of this state, not couched in the original language and phraseology, but embracing the same principles, and punishing like offences. Indeed that code of laws has been the foundation of the civil government of the State, and all our praiseworthy institutions, both civil and religious, can be traced from the present code of laws in this State, to those compiled by Governor Eaton nearly two centuries since. And however strange the fact may appear, but two volumes of the five hundred printed in 1656, are to be found in this country, as known to the compiler, of which valuable antiquity a certified and correct copy is published in this work. The loss of which (original) to future generations would be irreparable; for no antiquities so amply and satisfactorily shew the improvement of the age for two hundred years past, as the laws of civil government (of 1656 compared with the present,)—the acts and records of the legislature for one hundred and fifty years from the first settlement in New England, prove that the march of improvement has fully kept pace with that of time. Indeed it appears chimerical to the present generation, that the improvement for two centuries in advance should be equal even to the last fifty years in this country. It is to preserve these literary antiquities that the compiler has collected and published them, and brought them together into a single volume, that they may never be lost to posterity.
Also are included in this work, several of the laws of Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies, from 1657, for several years in succession, which have been obtained through a correct source, and are to be relied upon as true transcripts of record, punishing the denomination of christians called Quakers, who came into those colonies, which will be as new and highly interesting to most of the citizens of New-England, as to the inhabitants of the South or West. No man can peruse these laws without a chill in every vein, and be ready to disbelieve that so uncharitable a spirit could ever have existed and been exercised in America, in a country whose freedom, civilly and religiously consid
ered, was its boast, and by a class of citizens, too, who themselves had, (then recently) abandoned home and the friends of their childhood, for the sole purpose of enjoying their own religious opinions, and escaping the persecution of the Church of England; and that as soon as circumstances had placed them in the ascendancy in this country, should have forgotten the smarts, pains and penalties, so lately inflicted upon themselves in their native country, and for exercising that freedom of opinion which they had been refused, and were then so pleasantly enjoying for which opinions, the Quakers were whipped, branded, had their ears cut off, their tongues bored with hot irons, and were banished, upon the pain of death in case of their return, and actually executed upon the gallows. If the Quakers violated any laws of the colony, they should have been punished for snch violation, and not for their religious opinions.
Also is included the record of the arges and sentence of banishment of the Rev. Roger Williams and others by the court and clergy of the colony in 1635.
Also a few pages of the first record ever made in Connecticut, in the year 1635, soon after the first emigrants settled in Hartford, which is included merely for its antiquity, more than two centuries having expired since the facts recorded transpired.
Also the criminal code of laws passed by the General Court of Connecticut on the 1st day of December, 1642, which is inserted for the purpose of shewing the reader the similarity of the criminal laws (at that time) in the different colonies in New-England.
The compiler is aware that some few of the illiberal in this community may be dissatisfied with the publication of a part of these important antiquities, apprehending that the literary or moral character of the *Puritan Fathers of New England may be implicated by such publication. But when they reflect that no man at that day was licenced as a clergyman to preach until he was familiar with the three learned languages, (which is far more than is now required,) it will be at once yielded that the literary clergy of that day would not suffer by a comparison with
This name was given to a party which appeared in England in the year 1565, who opposed the liturgy and ceremonies of the Church of England. They acquired this denomination from their professed design to establish a purer form of worship and discipline.
Those who were first styled Puritans were Presbyterians; but the term was afterwards applied to others who differed from the Church of England, (also called Dissenters).-[Hayward 83.