April 19: Connecticut (Finally) Approves U.S. Bill of Rights

Today in 1939, Connecticut became the last state in the the union (which consisted of 48 states at the time) to ratify the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights — 150 years after the list of amendments were first proposed.

Why the delay?  It certainly wasn’t because Connecticans didn’t place a high value on securing individual rights — on the contrary, Connecticut’s colonial government had codified one of the earliest set of individual rights in American history in 1650, which included protections against murder, slander, forgery, and theft.

In fact, the Connecticut General Assembly had actually voted in favor of ratifying the ten amendments back in 1789, but a procedural inconsistency between the upper and lower houses of the state legislature had prevented the vote from becoming official.  Thankfully, the General Assembly’s technical error didn’t jeopardize the adoption of the Bill of Rights.  According to the Constitution, 3/4 of the states had to approve of the amendments in order for them to become law, and that threshold had already been met by the time Connecticut would have registered its formal approval.

On April 19, 1939, as the nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, Connecticut followed the example of Massachusetts and Georgia (the only two other states who had failed to officially ratify the Bill of Rights in the 18th century) and held a symbolic vote to ratify the amendments. Both houses of the General Assembly unanimously approved the measure, and thus Connecticut became the last state in the union to ratify the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Dated a few days after the unanimous General Assembly vote, this was one of several official notices sent to Congress related to Connecticut’s belated approval of the original Bill of Rights.

Further Reading

The Code of 1650 or ‘Ludlow’s Code‘” State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library

Ratifying the Bill of Rights… in 1939Pieces of History, the National Archives