The Seventeenth-Century Sheriff: A Comparative Study of the Sheriff in England and the Chesapeake Colonies, 1607-1689

The Seventeenth-Century Sheriff: A Comparative Study of the Sheriff in England and the Chesapeake Colonies, 1607-1689

The Seventeenth-Century Sheriff: A Comparative Study of the Sheriff in England and the Chesapeake Colonies, 1607-1689

The Seventeenth-Century Sheriff: A Comparative Study of the Sheriff in England and the Chesapeake Colonies, 1607-1689

Excerpt

It is generally accepted that the American Colonies of the seventeenth century derived their local political institutions from England and that such divergencies as arose were due mainly to environment. But how much of English institutional life was borrowed, and how much was found unadapted to the environment? Colonial local government was unquestionably of English origin, but the extent to which the administrative and judicial systems of England were consciously copied in the colonies, the nature of the divergencies that arose, the reasons for these divergencies, their breadth and ultimate importance constitute a field of research that has not yet been carefully worked.

Without a discussion of background the existing studies of local government in the colonies are incomplete. Many questions arise that are left unanswered. For example, though the descriptions of the colonial county court are detailed, one still feels impelled to seek its origin. The colonial county court resembled the English court of quarter-sessions, but how closely? To mention only one other of the numerous questions that arise: how nearly did the election system in Maryland correspond to that of England, from which it originated? Had pioneer conditions wrought important changes? We find little specific information in secondary works regarding the nature and extent of our institutional heritage from England and the manner of its reshaping by environment, though continuity and de-

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