Title

The Roots of Radicalism: Natural Rights, Corporate Liberty, and Regional Factions in Colonial Connecticut, 1740-1766

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2016

Abstract

This essay traces the roots of radicalism in Connecticut to the religious and economic upheavals of the early 1740s. Thereafter, radical ideas developed through debates over the independence of Yale College, the nature of the colony's religious institutions, and the territorial expansion of a proprietary company. These debates had important similarities: All three addressed the validity of natural rights and the scope of corporate liberty, the right of groups to run themselves without outside interference. Moreover, the debates were politically bundled; the same men who held radical views on religion also held radical views on expansion. This faction led the ousters of Thomas Fitch, Governor of Connecticut, and Thomas Clap, President of Yale College. Building on its past radical arguments, this faction also provided the principal opposition to the Stamp Act. In this way, contrary to the standard history of the American Revolution, Connecticut radicalism began at home.

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