On September 15, 1818, three weeks after they first assembled at the state house in Hartford, delegates voted 134 to 61 to approve a newly-written state constitution and submit it to a vote of the people of Connecticut for ratification. In a particularly radical, last-minute twist, the delegates also voted to require only a simple electoral majority in order to ratify the new constitution, instead of a supermajority. (In comparison, any amendments to the federal Constitution, from which the Constitution of 1818 borrowed several precedents, require ratification from a supermajority of states in order to pass.)
Written by a committee of popularly-elected delegates, the new Constitution of 1818 would become Connecticut’s first constitution that was both written and ratified by the people of Connecticut, overturning nearly two centuries of oligarchical rule — first by British royalty, and then by a self-perpetuating aristocracy of politically-connected families known as “the Standing Order” who had dominated colonial and state government throughout the 18th century. By implemented universal white male suffrage, the new Constitution promised to break the stranglehold the Standing Order had over the electorate. The Constitution of 1818 also formally severed all connections between the Congregational Church and state government; reorganized Connecticut’s government into three clearly-defined executive, legislative, and judicial branches; and included a list of 21 individual rights that the state could not nullify.
Three weeks after the delegates agreed to send the new Constitution to a popular vote, the people of Connecticut ratified it by a vote of 53% to 47%, with a total of 26,282 votes cast. A new Constitution for the Constitution State, written for and approved by the people themselves, was well on its way to becoming a reality on this day in Connecticut history.
“Exploring the Legacy of Connecticut’s 1818 Constitution: Background and Links to Resources,” connecticuthistory.org
“Commemorating the Constitution of 1818,” Connecticut Explored