The first law code printed in colonial America, the Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a codification of rights, duties, and criminal penalties. The General Lawes were a revision of the 1641 Bodie of Liberties, a compilation of rights assembled by the Massachusetts General Court. The General Lawes reflected a strong reliance on Puritanical morality and individual liberty, expressing fundamental principles that served as the basis for later legal codes and constitutions.

As early as 1635, Massachusetts’ legislature, the General Court, had sought ...

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