The Charter Oak Tree: Legend and Depictions
The Royal Charter of 1662 is one of the earliest and most significant legal documents in Connecticut history. The Charter, preceded only by the Fundamental Orders, is the source of the legend of the Charter Oak.
While the Fundamental Orders, prepared by Roger Ludlow and other leaders of the Colony in 1639, were considered the first constitution; the Charter was signed by an English king, Charles II, and virtually guaranteed Connecticut the right to govern itself.
In October 1687, on the order of the English crown, Sir Edmund Andros, Governor of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, was sent to Hartford with some 60 heavily armed troops to seize Connecticut's Charter, which authorized the colony to operate independently. During a long and increasingly tense meeting held at the Old State House, all of the candles were knocked over, plunging the room into darkness. Capt. Joseph Wadsworth of Hartford whisked the Charter out of the room, ran down Main Street, and hid it in an old hollow oak tree, where it remained hidden for almost two years.
In 1689, the people of Connecticut voted to re-establish the government according to the old Charter. Among the original 13 colonies, only Connecticut maintained self rule up to the American Revolution. The oak tree was blown down in a violent storm about 150 years later and made into a chair that is now displayed in the Capitol Building. The desk of the Governor of Connecticut, as well as the chairs for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate in the state capitol were made from wood salvaged from the Charter Oak. The Charter Oak grew at the corner of Charter Oak Ave. and Charter Oak Place. A marker designates the spot. The original Connecticut Charter may be seen at the Connecticut State Library (across from the Capitol).
The official seal was adopted in 1852. It features a hart crossing a stream, with a grapevine in the foreground representing the state, and an eagle as a crest representing the United States. On a scroll beneath is the motto "Post Nubila Phoebus", "after the clouds, - the sun".