So here's my glass case:

My wikipedia article (it's still in my user page, I don't understand how to move it to the "real" wikipedia page. Can anyone help me?) gives an overview of the development of the judicial system in New Amsterdam/early New York.

While researching the secondary sources, it struck me that several authors, such as Alden Chester and Mrs. Schuyler van Rensselaer, suggest that the Dutch did not like the introduction of jury trials, without, however, pointing at evidence in primary sources. Robert C. Ritchie is the only author I could find that offers some indirect proof. He states that "The Dutch disliked juries because the English dominated them". I feel that such a statement should find its basis in something like a letter or an entry in a personal journal in which a Dutch person expresses his or her discontent with the concept of trial by jury. However, Ritchie offers no such evidence. He points out that the percentage of cases involving two Dutch litigants diminished after 1674, and that the composition of the juries at the time shows that they were predominantly made up of Englishmen. Furthermore, Ritchie (p. 143-144) suggests that the Dutch turned to the Reformed church for dispute resolution, again, without a reference to primary sources.

For my primary sources research I tried to find some more evidence of the Dutch "resistance" against jury trials. Researching the Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts was unsuccessful. Obviously, primary sources from 17th century New Netherlands are scarce and not easily accessible.

The only things that I found that could be taken (remotely) as proof of the objection of the Dutch to jury trials, were in the so-called Andros Papers.

I decided to scan some pages of the Records of New Amsterdam as well, which contain the (translated) Court minutes of New Amsterdam. I scanned the pages the entries that show the change to the English system and the introduction of jury trials, as well as the first session of the court with a jury on 27 June 1665. However, I could not find any reference to subsequent resistance of the Dutch to the system of jury trials.

I found two documents in the Andros papers that might be interesting: The first is a petition of Nicholas Bayard, who tried to appeal a verdict against him. He argues that his opponent obtained a favorable verdict of the jury, "some of them being no merchants, and without doubt also ignorant what the office of a vendu master is." Can this be taken as indicating that he doubted the suitability of the jurors? The Andros Papers contained several other such petitions, none of them making any argument alleging the ignorance of the jury.

The other pages (starting at p. 243) refer to the trial against Dutch leaders, among others one Mr. van Steenwijck. The records show that they initially did not have a trial by jury at the Court of Assizes (p. 246-247: "... that they are dissatisfied with the late proceedings against them at the Court of Assizes, where they had no Jury, it being not then desired by them...") , but that they now want a new trial, this time with a jury (p. 247: "...there shall forthwith be a special Court of Assizes called, (...) the which to be by a Jury.."). This seems clear evidence that the Dutch defendants initially dismissed the concept of a jury, but that they somehow reconsidered that decision.

All in all it was very hard to find any clear indication of a Dutch person's feeling towards the English concept of jury trials. I am still curious where Mrs. Schuyler van Rensselaer, Chester and Ritchie, got their information.

* I don't know how to put the pdf files online. Will e-mail them to Eben *

-- PaulinePhoa - 18 Dec 2011