Pennsylvania: Government by Judiciary

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:
Pennsylvania: Government by Judiciary

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William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a haven for Quakers. He understood that to avoid future persecution, the Quakers would need to maintain their hegemony in his colony, and he turned to the common law to preserve that hegemony. He understood that hegemony rested on wealth and property and accordingly granted vast property holdings to his Quaker followers. He also appreciated how law, litigation, and lawyers protected property rights and for that reason turned to law. Curiously, he entrusted the law not to juries, which had saved him from persecution in England, but to judges, whom he and his proprietary successors would appoint. Those judges, in turn, developed an effective, common law legal order, in part by limiting their jurisdiction and undertaking to hear and resolve only matters over which they could exert substantial power.

Keywords: common law; judges; juries; jurisdiction; Penn; property; Quakers

Chapter.  11673 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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