Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies:
An Annotated Digital Catalogue: Part 1
compiled by: Sharon Hamby O’Connor and Mary Sarah Bilder
with the assistance of: Charles Donahue, Jr.

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To search the database click here.

See notes on searching the database.

Access to the database is most easily obtained by using one of the search engines or clicking on one of the lists of contents given at the bottom of 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 and from the other ‘American’ colonies in Canada and the Caribbean. This catalogue focuses on all currently known cases appealed from the colonial courts to the Privy Council from the future United States. There are 231 reports of such cases, a number totaling more than one-quarter (28%) of the 827 reports of such cases from the Americas from the late seventeenth century until 1783. For the appeals from the 13 colonies, the catalogue provides links to original documents in England and the United States. Most significantly, the site includes images of surviving briefs filed in 54 of these appeals. Known as ‘printed cases’, these briefs provide the ‘reasons’ for the appeals.

A similar catalogue of appeals from Canada and the Caribbean in the same period may be found in Part 2 of this website.

Current complementary international projects address previously unpublished Privy Council cases from a somewhat later period and colonial appeals from India and Australia.

The Privy Council today continues to hear appeals through its Judicial Committee.

There is a complete Introduction to the site. It contains, among other things, advice about how to navigate through the catalogue. Specific search options are available. The site also contains a set of useful lists, and a version of the catalogue in PDF.

The site also includes 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 are available on the site.

The project is part of a series of online publications of the Ames Foundation. Assistance was provided by Boston College Law School and Harvard Law School. Additional information about the project can be found in the attached essay (pdf).

Recommended Citation: 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.


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