Thomas Hooker was born into a Puritan family in Leicestershire County, England. He was educated at Cambridge and quickly developed into a highly talented preacher. He acquired a position in Chelmsford, a town noted for its taverns and boisterous citizens, but Hooker's preaching was credited for bringing order. Hooker eventually ran into trouble with religious authorities over theological matters and was forced to flee to Holland.
In 1633, Hooker and several dozen of his followers sailed to Massachusetts. Again Hooker ran into trouble for his religious views. John Cotton, one of Massachusetts' leading clergymen, held the position that only church members who owned property could have the vote. Hooker advanced a more democratic view, favoring the vote for all men, regardless of any religious or property qualification.
Hooker lost favor in the Bay Colony and relocated to Connecticut in 1636, where he was instrumental in the development of Hartford. Hooker continued to voice democratic principles and aided in the adoption of the Fundamental Orders in 1638, sometimes regarded (with some exaggeration) as the first written constitution. The franchise was given to adult males who had been accepted by a majority vote of their individual townships; this was democratic by the standards of the 17th century, but may not appear that way to modern observers.