What is the best way to organize a government?
How did laws and rules in the colonies both promote and hinder freedom and equality?
- 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?
Things you will need to teach this lesson.
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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…”|
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.)
- 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.