Thomas Hooker - History

Thomas Hooker - History


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Thomas Hooker....................................


May 31: Rev. Thomas Hooker Declares “the People” the Foundation of Government

To many students of Connecticut history and colonial America, Thomas Hooker is considered the “founding father” of Connecticut. A Puritan minister who journeyed from England to Holland to Massachusetts in search of a place where he could preach his message of reformed Christianity free from persecution, Hooker served with distinction as the first established minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts for two years. Then, after enduring sustained theological disagreements with John Cotton and other Bostonian ministers, Hooker and his congregants decided to head southwest in the spring of 1636 to form a new church in what would become the new settlement of Hartford.

Hooker had a reputation as one of the most moving and eloquent speakers of his day. His ideas concerning suffrage and government were radically democratic, even by Puritan standards. The theological disagreements he had with the Puritans of Boston revolved around universal Christian suffrage — Hooker’s belief that voting rights should be extended to all Christian parishioners, instead of being restricted to full-fledged church members (who made up a much smaller percentage of the community). And on May 31, 1638, Hooker delivered his most famous sermon on authority and government in Hartford, declaring “The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of the people.”

In the first half of the 17th century, in a world dominated by monarchs and oligarchs where most ordinary people had little to no say in their governments, Hooker’s statement was truly revolutionary. Hooker’s remarks were memorable enough to survive via handwritten notes taken by Henry Wolcott Jr., who was in attendance the day Hooker preached his most famous sermon. Nor did his speech fall on deaf ears: six months later, in January 1639, Connecticut voters ratified the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the first known written constitution to form a basis of government. 150 years later, historian John Fiske praised the Fundamental Orders as “mark[ing] the beginnings of American democracy, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father.” The seeds were sown for one of America’s earliest political revolutions — today in Connecticut history.


Joseph Hooker: Early Life and Military Service

The grandson of a Revolutionary War captain, Joseph Hooker was born in Hadley, Massachusetts, on November 13, 1814. Hooker’s early education took place at Hopkins Academy in Massachusetts, and he went on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, ranking 29th out of 50 in his class upon graduation in 1837.

Did you know? After General Joseph Hooker’s involvement in the Battle of Williamsburg during the Civil War, a newspaper headline that was supposed to read 𠇏ighting—Joe Hooker” was accidentally printed as 𠇏ighting Joe Hooker” in the Northern press. The moniker 𠇏ighting Joe” stayed with Hooker for the rest of his life.

Hooker’s first field experience came in Florida during the Second Seminole War (1835-42). He later participated in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) as a staff officer, serving under the likes of famed General Winfield Scott and future U.S. President Zachary Taylor. A highly capable soldier, Hooker earned numerous accolades for bravery and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he served as assistant adjutant general of the Pacific Division in California.

Hooker resigned from the military in 1853 and settled in Sonoma, California, to pursue a career as a farmer and timber merchant. For the next several years he struggled to earn a living and—outside of a failed run for local political office—was known to devote much of his time to drinking and gambling. In 1858 he made an attempt to rejoin the military, but a request for a position as a lieutenant colonel was ignored by the War Department.


History

The First Church of Christ in Hartford, known as Center Church, was founded in 1632 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It had its roots in the village of Little Baddow, just east of Chelmsford in Essex County, England. It called Thomas Hooker to be its first pastor. As a result of disputes between Mr. Hooker and John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Hooker and a band of parishioners traveled on Indian trails from Cambridge to the Connecticut River valley and settled Hartford in 1636. Hartford is named for the town of Hertford, in Hertfordshire County, England, where Samuel Stone (Hooker’s colleague in ministry) was raised. Visit the websites of Center Church’s roots in England:

Four meeting houses have served its ministry in Hartford. The first two were located where the Old State House stands today. The first, built in 1636, was a small log structure and was given to Mr. Hooker to be his barn when the second was built in 1640. In 1739, the third meeting house was built on the present site of the current meeting house.

The fourth and present Meeting House was completed in 1807 at a cost of $32,000. The pulpit recess and barrel-vault ceiling were added in 1853. Originally fitted with clear glass windows, stained glass windows were given as memorials between 1881 and 1903. The first organ, purchased in 1822, was replaced with new instruments in 1835 (the case and façade pipes remain), 1883, and 1907. The present organ, built in 1954 by Hartford’s own Austin Organs, Inc., was renovated in 2004 (organ specification). The tower bell, first cast in England in 1633, continues to ring today.

Center Church has many daughter churches in the Hartford area. These include First Church, Farmington (1652), South Church, Hartford (1670), First Church, East Hartford (1702), First Church, West Hartford (1713), Asylum Hill Congregational Church (1865), and Immanuel Congregational Church (1899 – a merger of daughter churches North Church and Pearl Street Church).

Some specific historical highlights include:

1639: The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were adopted in the first meeting house by representatives from Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford. This document served as a model for the United States Constitution. As a prelude to the drafting of the Fundamental Orders, Thomas Hooker preached a sermon in which he stated, “The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of the people.”

1788: In the third Meeting House was the site of the Connecticut convention to ratify the United States Constitution.

1807: At the dedication of the fourth meeting house, the first performance in Hartford is given of the “Hallelujah!” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

1813: The first Roman Catholic Mass in Hartford is celebrated in the meeting house. Center Church continues to open its doors to expressions of faith other than its own.

1822: The Jubal Society is authorized to presents concerts in the meeting house. Concerts continue to this day through Music and the Arts at Center Church.

1865: Mary Warburton endowed a chapel on land the church purchased on Temple Street. Warburton Chapel served many immigrant families. It continues today as the Warburton Community Church.

1908: The Center Church House (at the corner of Gold and Lewis streets) is dedicated to the educational and social work of the church. It provides meeting spaces for many community programs.

1909: Center Church’s Camp Asto Wahmah begins its ministry at Columbia Lake.

1957: Center Church voted with other Congregational, Evangelical, Reformed, and Christian churches to merge in order to establish the nation-wide United Church of Christ.

1968: Center Church joins other downtown churches to found Center City Churches, now Hands of Hartford, a social services agency.

1994: Center Church votes to become an Open and Affirming congregation.

1999-2001: Extensive restoration of buildings in preparation for the twenty-first century.

2003: Center Church hosts the first covenanting service of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice.

2007: In its 375th anniversary year, Center Church opens its doors to the 12,000+ UCC Synod attendees as part of the UCC’s 50th anniversary. Twenty-six members and friends of the choir and church travel through England on a “Journey in the Footsteps of Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone.”


Thomas Hooker

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647) was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was known as an outstanding speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage.

Called today “the Father of Connecticut,” Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut, and cited by many as the inspiration for the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” cited by some as the world’s first written democratic constitution that established a representative government.

Most likely coming out of the county of Leicestershire, in the East Midlands region, the Hooker family was prominent at least as far back as the reign of Henry VIII. There is known to have been a great Hooker family in Devon, well-known throughout Southern England. The Devon branch produced the great theologian and clergyman, the Rev. Richard Hooker.

Thomas Hooker was likely born at Marefield or Birstall, Leicestershire, and went to school at Market Bosworth. He received his Bachelors of Arts from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1608, continuing there to earn his Masters of Arts in 1611. He stayed at Emmanuel as a fellow for a few years. After his stay at Emmanuel, Hooker preached at the Esher parish, where he earned a reputation as an excellent speaker.

Around 1626, Hooker became a lecturer at the Chelmsford Cathedral. However, in 1629 Archbishop William Laud suppressed church lecturers, and Hooker was forced to retire to Little Baddow. His leadership of Puritan sympathizers brought him a summons to the Court of High Commission. Forfeiting his bond, Hooker fled to Rotterdam, Holland, and from there immigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the Griffin.

Hooker arrived in Boston and settled in Newtown (later renamed Cambridge), where he became the pastor of the First Parish Church. His parish became known as “Mr. Hooker’s Company”.

Voting in Massachusetts was limited to freemen, individuals who had been formally admitted to their church after a detailed interrogation of their religious views and experiences. Hooker disagreed with this limitation of suffrage, putting him at odds with the influential pastor John Cotton. Owing to his conflict with Cotton and discontented with the suppression of Puritansuffrage and at odds with the colony leadership, Hooker and the Rev. Samuel Stone led a group of about 100 who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone’s place of birth: Hertford, in England.

This led to the founding of the Connecticut Colony. Hooker became more active in politics in Connecticut. The General Court representing Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford met at the end of May 1638 to frame a written constitution in order to establish a government for the commonwealth. Hooker preached the opening sermon at First Church of Hartford on May 31, declaring that “the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1639, freemen from these three settlements ratified the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” in what John Fiske called “the first written constitution known to history that created a government. It marked the beginnings of American democracy, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father. The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies.”

In recognition of this, on the wall of the narrow alleyway just outside the grounds near the Chelmsford Cathedral in Chelmsford, Essex, England, where he was town lecturer and curate, there is a Hooker Memorial Civic Plaque fixed high on the wall of the narrow alleyway, opposite the south porch, that reads: “Thomas Hooker, 1586 – 1647, Curate at St. Mary’s Church and Chelmsford Town Lecturer 1626-29. Founder of the State of Connecticut, Father of American Democracy.”

Thomas Hooker died during an “epidemical sickness” in 1647, at the age of 61. [More via Wikipedia][Iain Murray’s five part Banner of Truth series can be found here.]

The Works of Thomas Hooker

The Application of Redemption by the Effectual Work of the Word, and Spirit of Christ, for the Bringing Home of Lost Sinners to God. (702 pages)
[epub mobi txt web via EEBO]
The text is in rough shape. If you have some time and would like to help cleaning this up, let me know!

A Brief Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. (91 pages)
[pdf web via Google Books]
Matthew 6:9-13.

The Christian’s Two Chief Lessons: Self-Denial and Self-Trial. (224 pages)
[pdf via Digital Puritan]
Containing the following:

  1. Heautonaparnumenos, or A Treatise of Self-Denial (Matthew 16:24) – pdf, 100 pp.
  2. A Treatise of Self-Trial (2 Corinthians 13:5) – pdf, 84 pp.
  3. The Privilege of Adoption and Trial Thereof by Regeneration (John 1:12-13) – pdf, 19 pp.

A Comment Upon Christ’s Last Prayer in the Seventeenth of John. (460 pages)
John 17:20-26.

The Covenant of Grace Opened. (88 pages)
Genesis 17:23.

The Danger of Desertion. (19 pages)

Jeremiah 14:9. The farewell sermon of Thomas Hooker.

The Faithful Covenanter. (46 pages)

A sermon preached at Dedham lecture in Essex, on Deuteronomy 29:24-25.

Four Learned and Godly Treatises. (298 pages)

Containing the following:

  1. The Carnal Hypocrite (2 Timothy 3:5).
  2. The Churches’ Deliverances (Judges 10:13).
  3. The Deceitfulness of Sin (Psalm 119:29).
  4. Heavy Afflictions Breed Earnest Prayers from the Wicked (Proverbs 1:28-29).

The Immortality of Man’s Soul Proved Both by Scripture and Reason. (48 pages)

The Pattern of Perfection Exhibited in God’s Image on Adam, and God’s Covenant Made with Him. (398 pages)

Containing:

  1. The Pattern of Perfection Exhibited in God’s Image on Adam, and God’s Covenant Made with Him (Genesis 1:26).
  2. The Prayer of Faith (James 1:6).
  3. A Preparative to the Lord’s Supper.
  4. The Character of a Sound Christian, in Seventeen Marks.

The Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ. (159 pages)
[pdf epub web via Google Books]

The Saint’s Dignity and Duty. (266 pages)

Containing seven sermons:

  1. The Gift of Gifts (or, The End Why Christ Gave Himself, Titus 2:14).
  2. The Blessed Inhabitant (or, The Benefit of Christ’s Being in Believers, Romans 8:10).
  3. Grace Magnified (or, The Privileges of Those That are Under Grace, Romans 6:14).
  4. Wisdom’s Attendants (or, The Voice of Christ to Be Obeyed, Proverbs 8:32).
  5. The Activity of Faith (or, Abraham’s Imitators, Romans 4:12).
  6. Culpable Ignorance (or, The Danger of Ignorance Under Means, Isaiah 27:11).
  7. Willful Hardness (or, The Means of Grace Abused, Proverbs 29:1).

The Saint’s Guide in Three Treatises. (182 pages)

Containing:

  1. The Merror of Mercy (Genesis 6:13).
  2. The Carnal Man’s Condition (Romans 1:18).
  3. The Plantation of the Righteous (Psalm 1:3).

The Soul’s Exaltation. (351 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
A treatise containing:

  1. The Soul’s Union with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17) – pdf, 53 pp.
  2. The Soul’s Benefit from Union with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30) – pdf, 75 pp.
  3. The Soul’s Justification (2 Corinthians 5:21) – pdf, 181 pp.
  4. The Soul’s Ingrafting into Christ (Malachi 3:1) – pdf, 30 pp.

An Exposition of the Principles of Religion. (62 pages)

The Soul’s Humiliation. (252 pages)

Luke 15:14-18.

The Soul’s Implantation. (290 pages)

Containing:

  1. The Broken Heart (Isaiah 57:15).
  2. The Preparing of the Heart to Receive Christ (Luke 1:17).
  3. The Soul’s Ingrafting into Christ (Malachi 3:1).
    Available above as part of The Soul’s Exaltation.
  4. Spiritual Love and Joy (Galatians 5:22).

The Soul’s Possession of Christ: Showing How a Christian Should Put on Christ, and Be Able to Do All Things Through His Strength. (248 pages)

Romans 13:4. Also includes the sermon “Spiritual Munition”, a funeral sermon for Mr. Wilmott on 2 Kings 2:12.

The Soul’s Preparation for Christ. (258 pages)
[pdf web via Google Books][epub mobi txt web via EEBO]
Acts 2:37. Subtitled “A Treatise of Contrition, Wherein is discovered How God breaks the Heart, and Wounds the Soul, in the Conversion of a Sinner to Himself”.

The Soul’s Vocation or Effectual Calling to Christ. (668 pages)

John 6:45.

A Survey of the Sum of Church Discipline. (480 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
A series of treatises on church polity (government).

Three Godly Sermons. (144 pages)

Containing:

  1. The Wrath of God Against Sinners (Romans 1:18).
  2. The Striving of the Lord with Sinners (Genesis 6:3).
    or, A Godly and Profitable Sermon of God’s Eternity and Man’s Humanity.
  3. The Plantation of the Righteous (Psalm 1:3).

The Unbeliever’s Preparing for Christ. (342 pages)

A series of sermons:

  1. A sermon on Revelation 22:17.
  2. A sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:14.
  3. A sermon on Ezekiel 11:19.
  4. A sermon on Luke 19:42.
  5. A sermon on Matthew 20:3-6.
  6. Preparing for Christ (John 6:44).

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Thomas Hooker - History

Although most of New England's settlers were Puritans, these people did not agree about religious doctrine. Some, like the Pilgrims of Plymouth, believed that the Church of England should be renounced, while others, like Massachusetts Bay's leaders, felt that the English church could be reformed. Other issues that divided Puritans involved who could be admitted to church membership, who could be baptized, and who could take communion.

Disagreements over religious beliefs led to the formation of a number of new colonies. In 1636, Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), a Cambridge, Massachusetts minister, established the first English settlement in Connecticut. Convinced that government should rest on free consent, he extended voting rights beyond church members. Two years later, another Massachusetts group founded New Haven colony in order to combat moral laxness by setting strict standards for church membership and basing its laws on the Old Testament. This colony was incorporated by Connecticut in 1662.

In 1635, Massachusetts Bay colony banished Roger Williams (1604-1683), a Salem minister, for claiming that the civil government had no right to force people to worship in a particular way. Williams had even rejected the ideal that civil authorities could compel observance of the Sabbath. Equally troubling, he argued that Massachusetts's royal charter did not justify taking Indian land. Instead, Williams argued, the colonists had to negotiate fair treaties and pay for the land. Instead of returning to England, Williams headed toward the Narragansett Bay, where he founded Providence, which later became the capital of Rhode Island. From 1654 to 1657, Williams was president of Rhode Island colony. The New England Puritans, like many Americans before the nineteenth century, rejected the idea that prices should fluctuate freely according to the laws of supply and demand. Instead, they believed that there was a just wage for every trade and a just price for every good. Charging more than this just amount was "oppression," and authorities sought by law to prevent prices or wages from rising above a customary level.

Yet within a few decades of settlement, the Puritan blueprint of an organic, close-knit community, a stable, self-sufficient economy, and a carefully calibrated social hierarchy began to fray as New England became increasingly integrated into the Atlantic economy. To try to maintain traditional social distinctions, Massachusetts Bay colony in 1651 adopted a sumptuary law, which spelled out which persons could wear certain articles of clothing and jewelry.

But as early as the second half of the seventeenth century, a growing number of New Englanders were engaged in an intricate system of Atlantic commerce, selling fish, furs, and timber not only in England but throughout Catholic Europe, investing in shipbuilding, and transporting tobacco, wine, sugar, and slaves. Particularly important was trade with the West Indies and the Atlantic islands off of northwestern Africa. Such trade was highly competitive and risky, but over time it gradually created distinct classes of merchants, tradesmen, and commercially-oriented farmers.

For nearly half a century following the Pequot War, New England was free of major Indian wars. During this period, the region's indigenous people declined rapidly in numbers and suffered severe losses of land and cultural independence. During the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century, New England's indigenous population fell from 140,000 to 10,000, while the English population grew to 50,000. Meanwhile, the New England Puritans launched a concerted campaign to convert the Indians to Protestantism. John Eliot, New England's leading missionary, convinced about 2,000 to live in "praying towns," where they were expected to adopt white customs. New England Indians were also forced to accept the legal authority of colonial courts.

Faced with death, disease, and cultural disintegration, many of New England's native peoples decided to strike back. In 1675, the chief of the Pokanokets, Metacomet (whom the English called King Philip), forged a military alliance including about two-thirds of the region's Indians. In 1675, he led an attack on Swansea, Massachusetts. Over the next year, both sides raided villages and killed hundreds of victims. Twelve out of ninety New England towns were destroyed.

The last major Indian war in New England, King Philip's War, was the most destructive conflict, relative to the size of the population in American history. Five percent of New England's population was killed--a higher proportion than Germany, Britain, or the United States lost during World War II. Indian casualties were far higher perhaps 40 percent of New England's Indian population was killed or fled the region. When the war was over, the power of New England's Indians was broken. The region's remaining Indians would live in small, scattered communities, serving as the colonists' servants, slaves, and tenants.


Thomas Hooker was a Puritan preacher who left England under persecution and settled in Massachusetts. His congregation was unhappy in Massachusetts, though, and in June 1636 Hooker led about a hundred people to Hartford, Connecticut. About a year later they formed their own government. At the opening session of the General Court, on this day 31 May, 1638, Hooker preached a sermon that many historians see as the impulse for the colony&rsquos Fundamental Orders, the modern world&rsquos first written constitution, adopted in January 1639. We do not have the complete sermon, but only notes by Henry Wolcott, Jr. Those notes show a typical Puritan arrangement, in which appear doctrinal statements drawn from scripture, reasons to back up doctrinal assertions, and uses to which the teaching should be put. Today&rsquos excerpt is adapted from a transcription made by Douglas Shepherd.

&ldquoTEXT: Deuteronomy 1:13 &lsquoTake you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.&rsquo [also v. 15, &lsquoSo I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.&rsquo]

&ldquo1ST DOCTRINAL STATEMENT: The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God&rsquos own allowance

&ldquo2ND DOCTRINAL STATEMENT: The privilege of election which belongs to the people must not be exercised according to their whims but according to the blessed will and law of God.

&ldquo3RD DOCTRINAL STATEMENT: Those who have power to appoint officers and magistrates have it in their power also to set the bounds and limits of the power and places unto which they call them.

&ldquo1ST REASON: Because the foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.

&ldquo2ND REASON: Because by a free choice the hearts of the people will be more inclined to the love of the persons and more ready to? yield obedience.

&ldquo3RD REASON: Because of that duty and engagement of the people.

&ldquoUSE 1 Here is matter of thankful acknowledgement in the apprehension of Gods faithfulness towards us and the promotion of those mercies that God doth command and vouchsafe

&ldquoUSE 2 Reproof to dash the conceits of all those that shall oppose it.

&ldquoUSE 3 Exhortation to persuade us as God hath given us liberty to take it

&ldquoDOCTRINAL STATEMENT: That the wants of all creatures in general and of man in particular are great and numberless

&ldquoUSE 4 What course we should take to supply our great wants.&rdquo

Fiske, John. The Beginnings of New England: Or the Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty. St. Louis, 1889.


Life [ edit | edit source ]

Thomas Hooker was likely born at Marefield or Birstall, Leicestershire, [4] and went to school at Market Bosworth. [5]  In March 1604, he entered Queen's College, Cambridge as a scholarship student. [6]  He received hisBachelor of Arts from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1608, continuing there to earn his Master of Arts in 1611. [5][7][8]  He stayed at Emmanuel as a fellow for a few years. [5]  After his stay at Emmanuel, Hooker preached at the Esher parish sometime between 1618-20, where he earned a reputation as an excellent speaker. [5][8]  and became famous for his pastoral care of Mrs. Joan Drake, a depressive whose stages of spiritual regeneration became a model for his later theological thinking. While associated with the Drake household, he also met and married Susannah Garbrand, Mrs. Drake's woman-in-waiting (April 3, 1621) in Amersham, Mrs. Drake's own birthplace. [9]

Around 1626, Hooker became a lecturer or preacher at what was then St. Mary's parish church, Chelmsford (now the Chelmsford Cathedral) and curate to its rector, John Michaelson. [5]  However, in 1629 Archbishop William Laudsuppressed church lecturers, and Hooker was forced to retire to Little Baddow. [5]  His leadership of Puritan sympathizers brought him a summons to the Court of High Commission. Forfeiting his bond, Hooker fled toRotterdam (the Netherlands, [8]  and for a time considered a position in the English reformed church in Amsterdam, as assistant to its senior paster, the Rev. John Paget. [10]  From Holland, after a final clandestine trip to England to put his affairs in order, [11]  he immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the Griffin. [1][5]

Hooker arrived in Boston and settled in Newtown (later renamed Cambridge), where he became the pastor of the earliest established church there, known to its members as "The Church of Christ at Cambridge."  [12]  His congregation, some of whom may have been members of congregations he had served in England, [13]  became known as "Mr. Hooker's Company". [5]

Voting in Massachusetts was limited to freemen, individuals who had been formally admitted to their church after a detailed interrogation of their religious views and experiences. Hooker disagreed with this limitation of suffrage, putting him at odds with the influential pastor John Cotton. Owing to his conflict with Cotton and discontented with the suppression of Puritan suffrage and at odds with the colony leadership, [8] Hooker and the Rev. Samuel Stone led a group of about 100 [14]  who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone’s place of birth: Hertford, in England. [15]

This led to the founding of the Connecticut Colony. [5][16]  Hooker became more active in politics in Connecticut. The General Court representing Wethersfield, Windsor and Hartford met at the end of May 1638 to frame a written constitution in order to establish a government for the commonwealth. Hooker preached the opening sermon at First Church of Hartford on May 31, declaring that "the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people." [17]

On January 14, 1639, freemen from these three settlements ratified the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut" in what John Fiske called "the first written constitution known to history that created a government. It marked the beginnings of American democracy, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father. The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies." [18]

In recognition of this, on the wall of the narrow alleyway just outside the grounds near the Chelmsford Cathedral inChelmsford, Essex, England, where he was town lecturer and curate, there is a Blue Plaque fixed high on the wall of the narrow alleyway, opposite the south porch, that reads: "Thomas Hooker, 1586 - 1647, Curate at St. Mary’s Church and Chelmsford Town Lecturer 1626-29. Founder of the State of Connecticut, Father of American Democracy." [19]

The Rev. Hooker died during an "epidemical sickness" in 1647, at the age of 61. The location of his grave is unknown, although he is believed to be buried in Hartford's Ancient Burying Ground. Because there was no known portrait of him, the statue of him that stands nearby, in front of Hartford’s Old State House, was sculpted from the likenesses of his descendants. However, the city is not without a sense of humor regarding its origins. Each year, organizations and citizens of Hartford dress up in outrageous costumes to celebrate Hooker Day with the Hooker Day Parade. T-shirts sold in the Old State House proclaim "Hartford was founded by a Hooker."


October 20: Commemorating Thomas Hooker, Founder of Hartford

On October 20, 1950, a crowd of several hundred Connecticans gathered in front of the Old State House in Hartford to observe the unveiling of a new, eight-foot-tall statue of Thomas Hooker, the Puritan minister and “founding father” of Connecticut who founded the settlement of Hartford in 1636.

Born in England in 1586, Thomas Hooker developed a reputation as an accomplished minister and powerful speaker in Cambridge before his Separatist beliefs, which put him at odds with the established Church in England, compelled him to sail for the newly-established Massachusetts Bay colony in 1633. There, Hooker hoped he would be free to preach his messages of reformed Christianity without harassment, but sustained theological disagreements with Boston clergymen prompted Hooker and several dozen congregants to break away from Massachusetts and found a new settlement in the Connecticut River valley in 1636. Naming the new town Hartford after the old English village of the same name, Hooker led the colony for the next ten years until his death in 1647. On May 31, 1638, Hooker delivered a sermon on authority and government in Hartford wherein he famously declared “The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of the people,” which is cited by historians as one of the first documented expressions of American democracy.

Frances Laughlin Wadsworth in her studio, working on a model of her Thomas Hooker statue. (Connecticut Historical Society)

On the afternoon of October 20, 1950, just after 3:00pm, the mayor of Hartford officially accepted the gift of the new Thomas Hooker statue from the Society of the Descendants and Founders of Hartford. After some brief remarks, the crowd headed inside the Old State House for a reception featuring the statue’s sculptor, Frances Laughlin Wadsworth. Wadsworth had received her formal artistic training from European painters and sculptors after years of traveling through Europe as a young woman, but it wasn’t until she married Robert Wadsworth and moved to Hartford that she began to leave a lasting artistic legacy of her own. In addition to the Thomas Hooker statue, Wadsworth sculpted many other well-known Hartford works of art, including the famous statue of a young girl emerging from two hands to commemorate the American School for the Deaf (the statue can still be seen at the intersection of Asylum and Farmington Avenues in Hartford). Later in life, Wadsworth noted that the Hooker statue was one of her most challenging works, since there are no extant likenesses or descriptions of the famous Puritan minister. Instead, Wadsworth modeled the statue after studying the faces and likenesses of a number of Hooker’s descendants. Set upon a granite pedestal etched with Hooker’s famous words, the statue was indeed a fitting monument to one of the most larger-than-life figures in Connecticut history.


The Founding of Hartford

About 100 Puritans, led by the Rev. Thomas Hooker, created a settlement on the banks of the Connecticut River in June 1636. Though this became Hartford, Hooker and his followers were not the first Europeans on the scene. Dutch traders had already built a fort at the confluence of the Connecticut and Park rivers. (For more on their fate, visit the Adriaen's Landing page of this site.) Nevertheless, Hooker not only created a lasting colony but a form of government that influenced the creation of the U.S. Constitution a century and a half later.

A statue of Thomas Hooker stands in Old State House Square, in downtown Hartford. Photo: Karen O'Maxfield.

See below for more on Hooker. Visit the Connecticut State Library site for a list of the other founders.

How did the city get its name?

It was named for Hertford, England, the birthplace of one of Hooker's assistants, the Rev. Samuel Stone.

Who lived in the area before the Europeans arrived?

The Saukiogs (Black Earth) occupied the Hartford area before Europeans arrived. The Podunks lived across the Connecticut River in what is now East Hartford, Glastonbury, and South Windsor. The Tunxis tribe lived to the west, in what is now the Farmington area.

Dutch explorers, led by Adriaen Van Block, appeared in 1614 shortly thereafter, an outbreak of measles or smallpox killed at least one-third of the Podunk population.

A Podunk chief, Wahginnacut, journeyed to Massachusetts in 1631 and invited the English colonists there to found a new settlement in the Connecticut River Valley. He wanted protection from the feared and hated Pequot tribe, which occupied what is now the southeast corner of the state. When the English arrived, they found the Hartford area ruled by Saukiog chief Sequassen, who in 1636 sold them the land that became Hartford and West Hartford. Saquassen fought fiercely with both the Pequots and the Mohegans, who also lived to the southeast. The Saukiogs "suffered severe defeats," according to Albert Van Dusen, author of "Connecticut," the preeminent history of the state. "As a result," he wrote, "the Saukiogs remained quite friendly with the colonists and lived near Hartford until about 1730."

What was so special about the government created by Hooker and the other founders?

When he lectured in his native England, Hooker drew large crowds - and unfriendly scrutiny from the state-supported Church of England. The Puritans had been hoping to reform, or "purify," the church, but at that point the church was purging itself of Puritans, so Hooker was ordered to appear before the High Commission, also known as "the star chamber." Instead, he jumped bond and fled to Holland.

From Holland, Hooker and a group of his parishioners made the trying and dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settling in Cambridge, which was then known as Newtown. But they disliked the decidedly undemocratic ways of the colony's government and decided to investigate for themselves reports of fertile land in the Connecticut River Valley.

On May 31, 1638, exactly two years after he had set out from Newtown, Hooker delivered a sermon containing his vision of how the recently named Hartford should govern itself.

"The foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people," he said. He went on to argue that the "choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance" and that "they who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power also to set the bounds and limitations of the power and the place unto which they call them."

Historian Ellsworth Grant wrote, "These words were the first practical assertion ever made of the right of the governed not only to choose their rulers but to limit their powers."

The founders of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor used this sermon and others from Hooker as a basis for their Fundamental Orders, considered by some to be the world's first written constitution. It's why Connecticut came to be known as the Constitution State. The Connecticut State Library's website has the text of the orders.


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