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The Common Law in Colonial AmericaVolume III: The Chesapeake and New England, 1660–1750$
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William E. Nelson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190465056

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190465056.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 September 2021

Center and Periphery

Center and Periphery

The Localization of Power in Colonial Virginia

(p.42) 4 Center and Periphery
The Common Law in Colonial America

William E. Nelson

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how the late seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century legal system of Virginia developed to preserve the power of local governments presided over by elite magistrates largely drawn from the wealthy planter class. The intensely local character of Virginia’s legal system, in turn, facilitated local policies that limited the spread of both sectarian Protestant as well as Catholic dissent, thereby keeping local Anglican elites in power. The local courts by exercising power limited the power the General Court was able to exercise. These local courts had jurisdiction over all civil and most criminal cases, many regulatory matters, and chancery litigation.

Keywords:   county courts, criminal law, General Court, legal profession, local oligarchies, regulatory offenses

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