Categories: Constitution of 1818

Exploring the Legacy of Connecticut’s 1818 Constitution: Ideas for Approaching the Subject


Your Town in 1818

What was life like in your town in 1818? Who were the people? The industries? What issues did people care about most? How did the issues surrounding the Constitutional Convention affect life in your town?

Agricultural Crisis

Depleted and rocky soil, smaller farms, unsustainable farming practices, and colder-than-normal temperatures conspired to bring about an agricultural crisis in Connecticut that helped foment calls for meaningful change. How does the fight for natural resources often make its way into political debate?

Church and State

The Constitution of 1818 mandated a separation of church and state. A failure to follow church doctrines were no longer punishable by law. In addition, membership and support of the Congregational Church was no longer a requirement to hold political office. Equality before the law only applied to all “Christian sects,” however. Should religion have a role in politics and vice-versa? Why or why not?

Checks and Balances in a System of Government

The Constitution of 1818 gave greater power to the judicial branch of government. For example, rulings of the judicial branch could no longer be overruled by the executive branch. This change lends itself to discussions of the checks and balances employed in our system of government.

Events Overseas

Several events occurring outside the United States in the early 19th century helped shape political debate in Connecticut. Among these events was the French Revolution and the events leading up to the War of 1812. There are numerous ways to explore Connecticut’s 1818 constitution by looking at the impacts of intercontinental economies and American foreign policy at the time of the constitutional debates.

Hartford Convention of 1814

The Hartford Convention was a direct response to dissatisfaction with national policy. The resolutions that came out of the convention furthered political divisions in the state. An exploration of the consequences of the convention and the reasons behind its formation opens itself up to a multitude of discussions.

How Do You Assess Imperfect Progress?

The elimination of property ownership as a requirement for voting paved the way for universal white male suffrage. This was considered important progress in establishing voting rights for all, but it still required voters to be white and male, which brings into question the degree of progress this stipulation truly provided.

How Governments Organize

What are the different ways governments organize and why? How do these different forms of government operate and whom do they serve? What brings about changes to government and why? How have those changes manifested themselves in Connecticut through the years?

How People Modify Governments That Aren’t Working for Them

When a government is no longer meeting the needs of its constituents, there are a variety of measures these constituents might employ to bring about change. The changes brought about by the Constitution of 1818 represent only one way of accomplishing this. There are several others worthy of discussion/exploration.

Leaving the State

An agricultural crisis, political oppression, and religious intolerance were just some of the reasons a significant portion of Connecticut’s population left the state in the early nineteenth century. There are any number of other reasons this could occur as well. Today, Connecticut is once again struggling to keep residents from leaving the state.

Media Coverage of Political Divisions

Around the time of the debates over the constitution, newspaper coverage of the issue became extremely divided along political lines. While many readers relied on newspapers to be their “source of truth” for unfolding events in the legislature, instead the supposed “unbiased” reporting of events often tried to influence readers to align themselves with the publisher’s political views.

Population Shifts

The elimination of property ownership as a requirement for voting reflected demographic changes in Connecticut. As the state began transitioning from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, residents moved off their farms and into urban centers.

Voting Rights

Why is history full of restrictions placed on (and battles over) who has the right to vote? What do these battles tell us about societal power structures? Does the term “democracy” carry different connotations for different people?

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