Dutch and Puritan Law in New Netherland

William E. Nelson

in The Common Law in Colonial America

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199937752
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199301539 | DOI:
Dutch and Puritan Law in New Netherland

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By the 1660s Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam and the Hudson Valley had established a highly sophisticated and tightly centralized legal system firmly under the control of New Netherland's director general. Based on the civil-law system of the Netherlands, Dutch courts, functioning without juries and dependent on inquisitorial methods of proof like torture, had broad jurisdiction over all aspects of life, ranging from ordinary civil litigation through criminal law, regulatory law, and religion to family life. Meanwhile, on Long Island Puritan English settlers mainly from New England had brought with them a rude, untechnical, bastardized form of common law. Law on Long Island, administered without lawyers and sometimes by only semiliterate people, was highly decentralized, lacked structures of appellate review, and depended heavily on jury fact-finding. Long Island courts had limited jurisdiction, especially over criminal and regulatory matters.

Keywords: centralized; civil law; common law; juries; jurisdiction; regulatory; sophisticated; torture; untechnical

Chapter.  9778 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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