Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies:
An Annotated Digital Catalogue
compiled by: Sharon Hamby O’Connor and Mary Sarah Bilder
with the assistance of: Charles Donahue, Jr. and Devon Coleman

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To search Part 1 of the database (13 US colonies) click here.
To search Part 2 of the database (Canada and the Caribbean) click here.

See notes on searching the database.

Access to the database is most easily obtained by using one of the search engines listed immediately above or clicking on one of the lists of contents given later on this page. There are many live links on these pages (gray); they cannot be seen on some mobile devices but can be seen by hovering over them.

In the century before the creation of the Supreme Court of the United States, the British Privy Council heard appeals from the 13 colonies that became the United States of America. The jurisdiction of that Council lasted longer in the North American colonies in Canada and the Caribbean. In a few instances it still exists today, exercised by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

This catalogue focuses on all currently known appeals from the colonial courts from the future United States (Part 1) and from Canada and the Caribbean (Part 2) before 1783. These appeals are organized in numbered reports (some containing cross appeals and related appeals in a single report): 257 reports from the US colonies, 19 from Canada, and 500 from the Caribbean. Most significantly, this site offers improved access to source material related to these appeals including images of 96 briefs of the appellant, the respondent, or both from 54 of the reports from the US colonies and, similarly, 188 briefs from 107 reports from Canada and the Caribbean.

There is a complete Introduction to this site. It contains information on complementary international projects addressing previously unpublished Privy Council cases from a later period and from India and Australia. In addition, it offers reflections on the significance of the contents of the catalogue and advice about how to navigate through it.

The site also contains;

  • Specific search options for each Part (Part 1) (Part 2).
  • A set of useful lists for each part (Part 1) (Part 2).
  • A PDF of the printed version of Part 1, which is also available by subscription in HeinOnline, and one of Part 2, which will soon be similarly available.
  • A memorandum addressed to students and enthusiasts that offers advice on how to use the catalogue for developing a paper for a course or for advancing research in the field.
  • Images of all the pages of Joseph H. Smith’s Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Plantations.
  • A PDF of an article by the principal authors that describes the project when they undertook it.

Tables of contents and useful lists for each Part may be accessed by clicking on the appropriate link below.

Part 1:

Contents by Colony, Report No., Case Name Contents by Colony, Report No. Only
Contents by Year, Report No., Case Name, Colony Useful Lists

 

Part 2:

Contents by Colony, Report No., Case Name Contents by Colony, Report No. Only
Contents by Year, Report No., Case Name, Colony Useful Lists

Recommended Citation for Part 1: Sharon Hamby O’Connor and Mary Sarah Bilder, with the assistance of Charles Donahue, Jr., Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue: Part 1 (Ames Foundation, 2014). A hard-cover version in paper may be obtained from W. S. Hein & Co.

Recommended Citation for Part 2: Sharon Hamby O’Connor and Mary Sarah Bilder, with the assistance of Charles Donahue, Jr. and Devon Coleman, Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue: Part 2 (Ames Foundation, 2021). A hard-cover version in paper will soon be available from W. S. Hein & Co.

The project is part of a series of online publications of the Ames Foundation. Additional assistance was provided by Boston College Law School and Harvard Law School.