On This Day
1639 – The “Fundamental Orders”, the first written constitution that created a government, is adopted in Connecticut.
The Fundamental Orders were adopted by the Connecticut Colony council on January 14, 1639 OS (January 24, 1639 NS). The fundamental orders describe the government set up by the Connecticut River towns, setting its structure and powers. They wanted the government to have access to the open ocean for trading.
The Orders have the features of a written constitution and are considered by one author to be the first written Constitution in the Western tradition, although the Mayflower Compact has an equal claim 19 years before. Thus, Connecticut earned its nickname of The Constitution State. Connecticut historian John Fiske was the first to claim that the Fundamental Orders were the first written Constitution, a claim disputed by some modern historians. The orders were transcribed into the official colony records by the colony’s secretary Thomas Welles. It was a Constitution the government that Massachusetts had set up. However, this Order gave men more voting rights and made more men eligible to run for elected positions.
Born On This Day
1886 – Hugh Lofting, English author and poet, created Doctor Dolittle (d. 1947)
Hugh John Lofting (14 January 1886 – 26 September 1947) was a British author, trained as a civil engineer, who created the character of Doctor Dolittle, one of the classics of children’s literature. Doctor Dolittle first appeared in the author’s illustrated letters to his children, written from the trenches while serving in the British Army during World War I.
Lofting was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire in January 1886 to parents of English and Irish ancestry. His eldest brother was Hilary Lofting, who later became a novelist in Australia, having emigrated there in 1915.
Hugh Lofting was educated at Mount St Mary’s College in Spinkhill, Derbyshire. From 1905 to 1906 he studied abroad, studying civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
He travelled widely as a civil engineer, before enlisting in the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army to serve in the First World War. Not wishing to write to his children about the brutality of the war, he wrote imaginative letters which later became the foundation of the successful Doctor Dolittle novels for children. Seriously wounded in the war, in 1919 Lofting moved with his family to Killingworth, Connecticut, in the US. He was married three times and had three children, one of whom, his son Christopher, is the executor of his literary estate.
Lofting commented, “For years it was a constant source of shock to me to find my writings amongst ‘juveniles’. It does not bother me any more now, but I still feel there should be a category of ‘seniles’ to offset the epithet.”
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