Grade 5 – The Fundamental Orders: Rules and Laws for Early Colonial Connecticut


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Politics and Government, Colonization and Settlement
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Hartford, WethersfieldWindsor, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Constitution, Civics, Voting Rights, Government, Freemen, Colonies
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History

Historical Background
The Fundamental Orders provided the framework for the government of Connecticut Colony—originally just the towns of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield—from 1639 to 1662. The document was inspired by Thomas Hooker’s sermon of May 31, 1638, and consisted of a preamble and 11 “orders” (or laws). The Fundamental Orders spelled out when general courts should be held, how the governor and magistrates should be chosen, and who could vote. Although Connecticut was an English colony at the time, the document does not make any reference to the authority of the crown—only to that of God.

The Fundamental Orders identified two types of voters—“admitted inhabitants” and “freemen.” Not everyone living in a town was an “admitted inhabitant.” Paupers, itinerants, or other undesirable newcomers could be “warned off” from a town or refused admission. Adult male “inhabitants” could vote for local officials at town meetings and could also elect deputies to attend the General Court in Hartford. “Freemen” were a more selective group. Only they could serve as deputies and vote for the governor and magistrates. While in New Haven Colony only church members could become freemen, in the Connecticut Colony any adult man of good character with a certain amount of property could be admitted as a freeman, if he was willing and able to travel to Hartford to take the Oath of Loyalty and be sworn in by the General Court. Although there was nothing in Connecticut law until 1814 that said you must be white to be a freeman, there is no evidence that there were freemen of African descent in Connecticut in the 1600s.

It is largely thanks to the Fundamental Orders—considered by some to be the first written constitution in western democratic tradition—that Connecticut is nicknamed the “Constitution State.”

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What is the best way to organize a government?
How did laws and rules in the colonies both promote and hinder freedom and equality?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Why did the people of Connecticut create the Fundamental Orders?
  • Why were the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut important and what do they tell us about colonial Connecticut?
  • Who was allowed to vote under the Fundamental Orders? Who was not allowed to vote?
  • Who should be allowed to participate in government/civic life?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Fundamental Orders of 1639. RG 001:001 Records of the Colony of Connecticut, State Archives, Connecticut State Library.

You can view the rest of the original document here:

Full text of the Fundamental Orders is available through The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Download the “What it says…”/”What it means…” Fundamental Orders Cards. Print enough single-sided copies for each student or group of students. Cut each set into two piles of cards—one for “What it says…” and one for “What it means…”
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

1) Open with a discussion of who makes rules and laws that affect the kids in your class. Why do these rules and laws exist? What would happen without rules and laws? How can people work to change rules or laws that they think are unfair?
2) Next, move on to a discussion about who made the rules and laws that governed the various American colonies. (Note: While some colonies were governed directly through a royal charter, Connecticut did not have a charter until 1662.)
3) Introduce the Fundamental Orders as one of the founding documents in Connecticut history, although one that can be difficult to understand. Project the image of at least the first page of the document. Ask students to make observations.
4) Having students working individually, in pairs, or groups, distribute the sets of “What it says…”/”What it means…” cards. Give students time to read and try to match the original language of the document with its meaning.
5) Ask students what they could figure out about how Connecticut Colony was organized and governed in the 1600s. Address some of the supporting or compelling questions and solicit additional questions from the class. Discuss how and where students could find answers.
6) Wrap up by brainstorming some later documents that changed how the colony—or later the state and nation—were governed (e.g. Charter of 1662, United States Constitution, Connecticut Constitution of 1818, Connecticut Constitution of 1965.)

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Based on their study of the Fundamental Orders and other background information (available through the sources listed below or in the Teacher Snapshot above), as well as an investigation of voting requirements today, students will make a graphic organizer comparing who could (and could not) vote in Connecticut in 1639 with who can (and cannot) vote in Connecticut today.
  • Students will research the history of voting rights in the United States and create a timeline showing when different groups achieved (or lost) the right to vote.
  • Working individually or in groups, students will create a charter/constitution for their classroom, including a process for how new rules can be introduced and how rules considered unfair can be challenged.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

Grade 5 – Mapping the New World: Dutch Maps of the Colonies


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Environment, Exploration and Discovery, Native Americans
Theme
The Impact of Geography on History
Town
Guilford, Hartford, Watertown, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Colonist, Colonization, Colony, Explorers, Geography, Natural Resources, Indigenous People, Dutch, Map
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History

Historical Background
In 1614 Dutch explorer Adriaen Block sailed along the Connecticut coast and up the Versche (Fresh) River—the Dutch name for the Connecticut River—as far as what is now Hartford. In 1633 the Dutch established a fortified trading post there. It was called the Huys de Hope—the House of Hope. For decades there was conflict between the Dutch in New Netherland and the English who came to settle in the same area. In 1650, the Dutch finally gave up their lands in Connecticut to the English.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How did the physical geography of New England affect how the colonies developed? 

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What resources were available in the different colonies and how were those resources used?
  • How did the colonists’ use of natural resources and establishment of permanent settlements affect the indigenous people of the region?
  • Why were the New England colonies focused on trade?
  • In what ways, and for whom, was America a land of opportunity during the 1600s?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Willem Blaeu (Dutch), Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova, 1635 - This map is held in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library
Willem Blaeu (Dutch), Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova, 1635 – This map is held in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

This map was based on a map drawn by Adriaen Block. It is oriented with west at the top. The map shows “Nieu Pleimouth” (Plymouth) and the Noord (North) Rivier (today called the Hudson), as well as the Versche (Fresh) River. It also includes images of native animals (probably never seen in real life by the artist), examples of Native American canoes and fortified villages, and European-style sailing ships.

Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ
Nicolaes Visscher (Dutch), Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ, 1685 – Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

This later map features some of the same pictures and details as Blaeu’s map. It also includes the Fort de Goede Hoop (another name for the House of Hope) and some English settlements, such as Herfort (Hartford), Gilfort (Guilford), and Watertuyn (Watertown).

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Using the Library of Congress’s Primary Source Analysis process, give students time to examine the first of the two maps, and ask them to OBSERVE, REFLECT, and QUESTION.

  1. Observe: Describe what you see. What do you notice first? What information does the map provide? What geographic elements are included? Which way is north/south/east/west, and how do you know? What places are shown on the map? Are there words on the map? Pictures? What are they?
  2. Reflect: Why do you think this map was made? What do you think was important to the people who made this map? Does the map give us any clues about the time in which it was made?
  3. Question: What does this map make you wonder?

Repeat with the later map and have students compare and contrast.

You may then choose to address some of the supporting questions (above) or focus on the questions that students have developed as part of their inquiry.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  1. Using evidence from the historic maps, as well as additional information gathered through readings and classroom discussions, students will make their own map of Connecticut showing the natural resources that attracted European colonists to the area. Start with a blank outline map like this one. Have students draw in major rivers and hilly regions, and then add simple images for fish/shellfish, woods/timber, beavers (for fur), other native animals, farmland, etc. in appropriate areas of the map.
  2. Using evidence from the historic maps, as well as additional information gathered through readings and classroom discussions, students will imagine that they are sailors on Adriaen Block’s ship, the Onrust, during its exploration of the Connecticut coast and the Fresh (Connecticut) River. They will write fictionalized letters home to a loved one in Amsterdam describing their experiences and observations.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

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Grade 5 – To Join, or Not to Join, George Washington’s Army

Detail of a recruitment poster for George Washington’s Continental Army

TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Revolutionary War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Norwich, Statewide
Related Search Terms
American Revolution, Continental Army, Black Soldiers, Recruitment Posters, Equality, Valley Forge
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

 Why do people enlist in the military?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How did the Continental army get recruits to join?
  • Why would a young man want to enlist in the Continental army?
  • How might an enslaved man feel about serving in the Continental army?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Recruitment poster for George Washington’s Continental army
Recruitment poster for George Washington’s Continental army – Connecticut Historical Society

This poster uses much hyperbole, including a “truly liberal and generous…bounty of TWELVE dollars, a fully sufficient supply of good and handsome clothing, a large and ample ration of provisions” and the chance for one to “embrace this opportunity of spending a few happy years in viewing…this beautiful continent,…return with pockets FULL of money and his head COVERED with laurels.” (Note: students may need to be told or reminded that many 18th-century documents used the “long s,” which looks like an “f,” at the beginning or in the middle of words in place of the familiar “s.”)

Slave Backus Fox enlistment document, 1781
Slave Backus Fox enlistment document, 1781 – Connecticut Historical Society

Certification that Beriah Bill purchased a slave named Backus Fox and enlisted him in the Continental Service in Norwich, Connecticut. Note that “enlisted for a class” means that Backus counted towards the town’s quota of soldiers they were required to provide to the army. Sometimes enslaved men who enlisted were allowed by their owners to keep a portion or all of their wages earned, but this document makes no reference to any such agreement. This is a hand-written, notarized statement.

Slave Backus Fox enlistment document, 1781 – Transcriptionpage

Transcription of the above document for students who may have difficulty deciphering the 18th-century handwriting.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by showing students the recruitment poster and asking them (as a group, individually, or with a partner) to generate observations and questions about it. Have students share their observations and questions.

Some questions that might be addressed include:

  • What is the purpose of the poster?
  • Who is the target audience for this poster?
  • What words, phrases, or images does the poster use to persuade recruits to join?

Next, show or distribute the Backus Fox document (and transcription) and ask students to share or note down:

  • What facts they know for sure from the document
  • What guesses they can make based on the evidence in the document
  • What questions they have

Some questions for discussion might include:

  • Why would the author of the document enlist an enslaved man in the Continental army?
  • How were the quotas for each town determined? What was the quota for our town? How can we find out?
  • How might the enslaved man feel about serving in the army?

Wrap up with a class discussion of the differences in perspective of free recruits and enslaved soldiers.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students can write historical fiction letters home from the war from the point of view of either a free or enslaved recruit about enlisting in the Continental army, researching historically accurate details. Students should explore motivations and expectations that led to their enlistment. They may also choose to write from the point of view of someone who paid a substitute to serve in his place, writing to explain his decision. If you wish to display the letters, final copies could be written on parchment-type paper.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

Grade 5 – Nathan Hale: A Connecticut Hero

Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale

by Rachel DiSilvestro


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Nathan Hale, Revolutionary War
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Coventry, East Haddam, New London, Norwalk, Statewide
Related Search Terms
American Revolution, Hero, Patriot, Spy
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What makes a hero?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What actions make a hero?
  • What characteristics describe a hero?
  • How can words and pictures make people perceive someone as a hero?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson:

  Document commissioning Nathan Hale a Captain

Document commissioning Nathan Hale a captain in the nineteenth regiment of foot command by Colonel Charles Webb. Signed by John Hancock – Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale
Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale, the Hero-Martyr of the American RevolutionNew York Public Library Digital Collections, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by asking students to define a “hero.” What characteristics or actions make a person a hero?

Have students examine the document commissioning Nathan Hale as a captain in the army of the United Colonies.

  • Look for words in the document that describe Hale’s character or the expectations for his behavior. (Students may need assistance defining unfamiliar terms or expressions.)
  • Students should discuss these terms and compare with their previous definition of a hero.

Show students the illustration (created much later–in the 1850s) depicting the last words of Nathan Hale, just prior to his hanging by the British.

  • What do students see/notice in the image?
  • How would they describe the various characters in the image?
  • What questions do they have about what they see?
  • What guesses can they make about what is happening?

Explain that the image was created about 75 years after the events shown.

  • What do you think the artist’s purpose was in creating the image?
  • What did the artist want you to feel about Nathan Hale?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students will discuss why Connecticut chose Nathan Hale as the state hero, considering important American values and how these contribute to our American identity. Students will then investigate other people who played “heroic” roles in the American Revolution or in Connecticut’s history, and present their findings through a “Museum of Heroes” (posters, songs, role-playing, etc.).

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles to READ

Grade 5 – The Pequot War


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Native Americans, Pequot War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Griswold, Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington, Preston, Stonington
Related Search Terms
Pequot War, 17th century, Pre-colonial, Colonization, Indigenous People, Colonists
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How does colonization affect indigenous people?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What issues or cultural practices contributed to the conflict between indigenous peoples and European colonists in Connecticut?
  • What was the Pequot War about?
  • How do the primary sources left behind affect our knowledge or understanding of a conflict?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

The figure of the Indians' fort or palizado in New England and the manner of the destroying it by Captayne Underhill and Captayne Mason / RH, 1638 - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
The figure of the Indians’ fort or palizado in New England and the manner of the destroying it by Captayne Underhill and Captayne Mason / RH, 1638 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The image shows the attack on the Pequot village at Mystic, Connecticut, by English soldiers and their allies, including the Narragansett. This was one of the major battles of the Pequot War (1636-1637). The image is included in John Underhill’s account of the Pequot War. John Underhill was second in command to John Mason, the commander of the Connecticut colonial forces during the Pequot War. This birds-eye view depicts the destruction of the village, which left over 400 Pequot men, women, and children dead.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by showing the image and asking students to share their observations about what they see. If students begin to make inferences, encourage them to use the visual evidence by asking, “What do you see that makes you say that?”

You may wish to guide the looking by suggesting students “read” the image from the inside/center out, ending with the words in the upper left corner.

After discussing students’ observations and guesses based on the evidence, ask students to develop their own questions based on the image. Have students discuss their questions, fine-tune them, and think about what other resources (primary or secondary) they could use to find answers.

Some questions for discussion might include:

  • Who created this image and why?
  • Who are the figures?
  • What are the structures?
  • What is going on?
  • From whose perspective is it drawn? What are the clues?
  • How might the image be different if it had been drawn from the Pequot perspective? Or the Narragansett perspective?
  • Where could we learn more?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

After examination of the image and further research, have students consider the Pequot War from the perspective of a Pequot man, woman, or child; the perspective of an English soldier; or the perspective of a Narragansett man allied with the English. Presentations could take the form of a dramatic dialogue or skit, a letter written 20 years after the conflict, or an alternative illustration of the events in Mystic.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

Grade 5 – Caleb Brewster & The Culper Ring

by Nick Merullo


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Revolutionary War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Bridgeport, Fairfield
Related Search Terms
American Revolution, Caleb Brewster, The Culper Spy Ring
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

 In what ways did “ordinary” Americans contribute to the American Revolution?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Why did the Continental army rely on contributions from civilians?
  • How did women contribute to the Revolution?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

A-H of the Culper Spy Ring Code - Library of Congress and MountVernon.org
A-H of the Culper Spy Ring Code – Library of Congress and MountVernon.org

The image above is a page from the coding index used by the Culper Spy Ring, a group of colonist civilians working as spies who gathered and reported intelligence to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Caleb Brewster was a key member of the organization. Brewster served as a courier delivering messages to agents in Connecticut and Long Island across the Long Island Sound. His long—standing friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge, Washington’s chief intelligence officer, and his reputation as an expert seaman, made him the perfect man for the job.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close reading of the page and consider:

  • What words can they recognize on the page?
  • Why might some of these words need to be written in code?
  • What are some benefits of using numbers instead of words?
  • How might the results of the Revolution changed if these messages were discovered by the enemy?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Have students research the Culper Ring and present findings:

  • Create a map detailing one of Brewster’s excursions from the coast of Connecticut to Long Island.
  • Write a letter from the perspective of General Washington to Caleb Brewster.
  • Have students create their own coding system and write a secret message between spies.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Articles to READ
Field Trips and Programs

Grade 5 – New London’s Role in American Independence

by Laura Krenicki
William J. Johnston Middle School, Colchester


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Arts, Revolutionary War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
New London, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, Daniel Huntington, Benedict Arnold, New London, American Revolution, Revolutionary War
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What was Connecticut’s role in the American Revolution?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How do museums in Connecticut and elsewhere in New England help us understand the American Revolution?
  • How do museums represent American identity?
  • Are museums trustworthy places to learn about U.S. history?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Daniel Huntington, Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, 1854-1856 - Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut
Daniel Huntington, Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, 1854-1856 – Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut

This painting of Abigail Hinman is on display at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. The story of the painting is that Abigail was home in New London while her husband, a sea captain, was away on a voyage. Suddenly, outside of her home, Abigail heard a commotion and witnessed the city of New London being destroyed by red-coated soldiers. Surprisingly, she saw Benedict Arnold, a family friend from the nearby town of Norwich, was one of the soldiers. He commanded the soldiers to spare her property, but Abigail was not blind to his blatant act of treason.

(Daniel Huntington (1816-1906) this link shows other paintings by the same artist). Ask students why the image of Abigail is so different from the other subjects in the the paintings.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close reading of the image of Abigail. What do students notice about her style of dress, her posture/expression, the background, etc.? What clues are there as to the time period of the image? Where is it? What is going on?

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

There is little written about Abigail Hinman, although there is more information about her husband, Elisha (who wasn’t there for this event), and Benedict Arnold (seen in the background of the painting). Have students research the burning of New London and present their findings:

  • as a reenactment — students write a play that retells the story of New London.
  • through a living timeline — students each take a point in the history of the American Revolution and relate what happened in Connecticut on that date.
  • by recreating the scene — students may create a visual representation of the event through a drawing, painting, photograph, video, or even a tableau. A student “voice” should then explain what the image represents to the rest of the class or audience.
  • through a letter — students should write a letter to the editor of the Connecticut Courant (now called the Hartford Courant) explaining what was taking place in New London and what should be done about it.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT

Grade 5 – George Washington’s Slave Census

by Laura Krenicki
William J. Johnston Middle School, Colchester


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Slavery & Abolition
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Statewide
Related Search Terms
George Washington, President, Slaves, Slavery, Enslaved
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What did the Founding Fathers really think about slavery?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How were slaves treated? Were all slaves treated the same?
  • What steps did some slave-owners take to protect slaves?
  • George Washington visited Connecticut on more than one occasion. How might he have encountered slavery here?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

1799-slave-census-first-page
The first page of the slave census in George Washington’s 1799 will. – Mount Vernon

George Washington Slave Census

George Washington died in 1799, and according to his will, all of his slaves were to be freed upon his death. His wife, Martha, however, had been married before, and she had slaves from her first marriage. According to the law, slave ownership passed along the male line, meaning Martha’s son from her first marriage managed the rights of those slaves. As some of the slaves intermarried, George’s “freed” slaves would not have wanted to leave their non-freed spouses or children.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close-reading of the slave census. Have students investigate:

  • How many different jobs can you identify on the slave census? Do these jobs appear to be farm jobs or skilled trades?
  • What is the relationship between the gender of the slave and the job that he or she performed?
  • Is there any evidence that children worked at Mount Vernon?
  • How might the work of slaves been different in Connecticut than in Virginia, and why? Or was it different?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Divide students into different groups and have each group decide what type of slave job they would perform. Randomly pass out cards with either G or M on them. Let students know the G means they are George’s slave or M is Martha’s. Now that George’s slaves are free, what would that mean for the rest? Have students decide what to do in each group and report out to the rest.

Extension: Group students into 3 or 4 and make them family groups. Have students decide how their family groups would be made up (for example, have mother, father, children, older family, etc.) Do the same as above with the G and M cards. How would this be different than the job activity? Have groups report out and compare to the earlier task.

Have students research slavery in Connecticut and compare it to slavery in Virginia. Are there similarities? Differences? Why do they think that is?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT

 

Grade 5 – Charter Oak: A Symbol of Independence

by Laura Krenicki
William J. Johnston Middle School, Colchester


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Politics & Government
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
Hartford, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Charter Oak, Independence, England, Colonial, Government, Connecticut Colony
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How would you protect your freedoms?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What is the significance of Connecticut’s contribution to America’s story?
  • How were the beginnings of a national identity created by colonies with very different purposes and varied governmental and economic systems?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Charles De Wolf Brownell, View of the Charter Oak, Hartford,  oil on canvas - The Wadsworth Atheneum and Connecticut History Illustrated
Charles De Wolf Brownell, View of the Charter Oak, Hartford, oil on canvas – The Wadsworth Atheneum and Connecticut History Illustrated

As a colony of England and English rule, Connecticut originally did not have any rights to govern themselves or even to make local laws. In 1662, King Charles II wrote a charter granting Connecticut the right to elect local leaders and even to create laws. The “Connecticut Charter” became an issue when King Charles II died and his brother, James II became the next king. James II didn’t want the Connecticut colony to have that much autonomy, so in 1667 he sent an ambassador, Sir Edmond Andros, to recall the charter.ConnecticutQuarter

During an interesting turn of events, in which colonist leaders and Andros met to debate the charter, the candles in the room suddenly went out. When order was restored, the charter, which had been on the table between the parties, was missing. It had been hidden in the trunk of a white oak tree so that it would be safe from Andros.

The Charter Oak became a symbol of American independence. Today, the image of the Charter Oak is commemorated on the Connecticut state quarter.

 

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Write the following question-focus statement on the board:

The legend of the Charter Oak is the story of our independence.

Have students generate questions, in small groups, to reflect on this statement. Narrow the list down to closed questions (ones that have a definite answer) and open questions (inquiry). Have students chose one or two to research.

Have students consider:

  • How might the history of the United States have turned out if the charter had not been taken?
  • Why did James II decide to take the charter back after his brother, Charles II, had issued it to the colonies?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Have students take the sides of the colonists and the English ambassadors and create a reenactment of the events. What would have been discussed? What would have happened if the ambassadors had taken the charter?

The Connecticut state flag does not contain the Charter Oak. Create a new design for the state flag that would include this iconic image.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO