The most unique and important of all early American law reports are those of Josiah Quincy Jr. (1744-1775). These are the first reports of continental America's oldest court, the Superior Court of Judicature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, direct ancestor to today's Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Quincy's candid accounts of events great and small shed light on life in the American colonies just before the Revolution. Reports such as ""Paxton's Case of the Writs of Assistance"" (1761) have become great landmarks of American constitutional law, cited by the Supreme Court of the United States. Others, such as Hanlon v. Thayer (1764), involved important women's rights, or, such as Oliver v. Sale (1762) and Allison v. Cockran (1764), vividly demonstrated the legal establishment of slavery. Even the so-called routine cases - those involving sale of goods and early consumer protection, keeping a 'bawdy house', women fighting for their children's legitimacy, pirates, apprentices, militia men, double-crossers and frauds, 'fences' for stolen goods, and many more - provide an invaluable picture of our early legal system and colonial society. Daniel R. Coquillette not only provides new annotations for these cases, first annotated by Samuel Quincy Jr. in 1865, but also includes an extensive introduction that sets out a lucid and compelling road map to these historic reports and their continuing significance.
Daniel R. Coquillette is J. Donald Monan, S.J., University Professor of Law at Boston College and Lester Kissel Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Neil Longley York is the Karl G. Maeser Professor of General Education and Chair of the History Department at Brigham Young University.