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Connecticut in the 19th century


Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

At the beginning of the 19th century, Connecticut was a politically conservative state and a stronghold of the Federalist Party, which was led by wealthy commercial interests and sought a stronger central government. Connecticut strongly opposed the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800 because Jefferson led the Republican forces opposing the Federalists and advocating individual and states’ rights.

Connecticut and the rest of New England had developed a prosperous maritime trade by 1800. But trade declined sharply after Jefferson initiated the Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibited U.S. vessels from trading with European nations.

The law was an attempt to get France and Britain, which were at war, to respect U.S. neutrality, but it succeeded only in causing economic hardship and widespread discontent among Americans, especially among merchants and sailors in places such as Connecticut.

When the United States and Britain went to war over neutrality issues in the War of 1812, Connecticut refused to furnish troops for national service. At the Hartford Convention in 1814, Connecticut Federalists and delegates from other New England states secretly discussed their common grievances against the federal government. Rumors spread that the states were considering seceding from the Union. The war ended soon after the convention, and no secession action was taken, but the Federalist Party was generally discredited and lost control of Connecticut.

In 1816 the Republicans in Connecticut united with religious minorities, especially Baptists and Anglicans, to challenge the influence of the Congregational Church and seek reform. They formed the Toleration Party, whose candidate, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., was elected governor in 1817. The next year a new constitution was adopted to replace the charter of 1662. Under the 1818 constitution, church and state were separated for the first time in Connecticut, with all religions given equal status. In addition, the power of the governor was expanded, courts were made more independent by giving judges lifetime appointments, and voting laws were made more liberal. "Connecticut" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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