April 19: Connecticut Ratifies the Bill of Rights — 150 Years Late


Today in 1939, Connecticut became the last state in the the union to ratify the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights — 150 years after the list of amendments was first proposed.

Why the delay? It certainly wasn’t because Connecticans didn’t care about securing individual rights. Connecticut’s colonial government codified one of the earliest sets of individual rights in American history in 1650, through a set of laws that included personal protections against murder, slander, forgery, and theft.

More to the point, the Connecticut General Assembly had also voted in favor of ratifying the 10 amendments back in 1789, when they were first presented. A procedural inconsistency between the upper and lower houses of the state legislature, however, had prevented the vote from becoming official. Thankfully, the General Assembly’s technical error didn’t jeopardize the adoption of the Bill of Rights. The Constitution required 3/4 of the states to approve amendments for them to become law, and that threshold had already been met.

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 two other states that had failed to officially ratify the Bill of Rights in the 18th century) and held a vote to ratify the amendments. Both houses of the General Assembly unanimously approved the measure, and Connecticut became the last state to ratify the U.S. Bill of Rights — today in Connecticut history.

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, National Archives