Law and History Review


The People's Property Law: A Step Toward Building a New Legal Order in Revolutionary New York

Howard Pashman 

Like revolutionaries throughout the modern world, Americans built a new, stable legal order on property confiscated from their enemies. Early in the American War for Independence, colonial governments collapsed, British courts closed, and ordinary people took the law into their own hands. They created committees that enforced harsh, revolutionary justice. But remarkably, by the end of the War, they were able to develop the stable legal institutions of new governments.

Howard Pashman is a 2013–2014 Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellow at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law <>. He presented earlier versions of this article at the 2011 Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History and at the 2011 meeting of the American Society for Legal History. He thanks the participants at both events for their helpful suggestions. He also thanks Tim H. Breen, Sarah Barringer Gordon, Dylan Penningroth, Manya Brachear, Leah Fidelis T. Castañeda, and Kristen Stilt for reading earlier versions of this article and providing critical feedback.