William E. Nelson

in The Common Law of Colonial America

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780195327281
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870677 | DOI:

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By 1660, two regional bodies of law had begun to emerge in the continental English colonies—one in the North and one in the South. The North's law was more egalitarian; the South's, more hierarchical. The South treated its underclasses brutally, with the economic interest of the master class as the sole restraint on that brutality. The men of the North may not always have treated their women, children, or servants kindly, but the law required them to display greater moderation. The South's economy depended on the export of a cash crop, and its law reflected that economic reality. New England law, in contrast, promoted family farms in tight-knit communities. But elements of English common law were in use everywhere in America, and the common legal culture that all the colonists shared had begun to set them on a common political course.

Keywords: cash crop; common law; egalitarian; family farms; hierarchical; North; South

Chapter.  2474 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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