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Credit NationProperty Laws and Institutions in Early America$
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Claire Priest

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691158761

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691158761.001.0001

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The Backbone of Credit: The Institutional Foundations of Colonial America’s Economy of Credit and Collateral

The Backbone of Credit: The Institutional Foundations of Colonial America’s Economy of Credit and Collateral

Chapter:
(p.38) 2 The Backbone of Credit: The Institutional Foundations of Colonial America’s Economy of Credit and Collateral
Source:
Credit Nation
Author(s):

Claire Priest

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691158761.003.0003

This chapter begins by looking at the role of the common pleas courts in colonial credit relations, followed by an examination of the early history of title recording. Historical sources reveal that in most colonies, the adoption of local public title recording was driven both by concerns over convenience and by concerns about fraudulent conveyances — that is, problems arising from a lack of transparency in the purchase and mortgage markets. Most colonies offered a simple solution: mortgages and deeds could be recorded at the sessions of the common pleas courts. Public authentication of deeds and title recording streamlined the existing English conveyancing practices and allowed for the recording of all forms of property serving as collateral, including, most consequentially, slaves. The chapter also demonstrates how the process of securing property rights made some of the colonial legislatures stronger and more deeply intertwined with local institutions than they were before. Creating and empowering local administrations required the colonial legislatures to assert their authority, at times in the face of countervailing assertions of power by crown-appointed officials.

Keywords:   common pleas courts, colonial credit relations, title recording, colonial America, English conveyancing practices, collateral, property rights, colonial legislatures

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