Skip to main content

The Duke’s Laws

The Dukes Laws


Conquered Territory. New Netherland became New York when England defeated the Netherlands in the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1664. But English authorities confronted a delicate situation with the Dutch culture that had grown there since the colonys founding four decades earlier. They had to accommodate their new subjects and at the same time not alienate them.

Accommodation. The Dutch courts that had developed before 1664 were called burgomaster (mayoral) courts. They used a legal system derived from Roman law, unlike English courts, which used English common law. The burgomaster courts were awkward for the English, but the new governor, Francis Nichols, recognized that some accommodation would have to be worked out if he was to rule the colony. The agreements that resulted were known as the Dukes Laws because they operated under the authority of the proprietor, the kings brother, James, the Duke of York. Nichols agreed to preserve the authority of the Dutch courts if the Dutch citizens would swear allegiance to the English Crown; they agreed. Where English Puritans settled, Nichols created courts like the county courts of Massachusetts. And the prominent Dutch and English politicians who received enormous land grants on both sides of the Hudson River were allowed to administer their own manorial courts, just as the landed gentry had done in England since feudal times, although few in fact did.

Cultural Tensions. For several decades two different kinds of legal systems existed within New York simultaneously, but tensions between the Dutch and English settlers still did not disappear. The Dutch who gained economically from English rule formed an alliance with the English, but other Dutch residents felt alienated. An attempt in 1673 to restore Dutch rule failed. Members of the older Dutch community were particularly upset by the creation of the Dominion of New England in 1686, and after ousting the royal government some of them briefly ran the colony, in what became known as Leislers Rebellion.


Peter Charles Hoffer, Law and People in Colonial America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992);

Michael Kämmen, Colonial New York: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"The Duke’s Laws." American Eras. . 23 Jun. 2019 <>.

"The Duke’s Laws." American Eras. . (June 23, 2019).

"The Duke’s Laws." American Eras. . Retrieved June 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.