The Frontier Judicial System of Dakota Territory, 1861-1873

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




It is Lae purpose of this thesis to systematically study in detail the Dakota judicial system as related to its historical background and its formative frontier years from 1861 to 1873. It is an attempt to reveal the true nature of the judicial system and the people involved during this period.

The method used is a thorough research of available materials of the period under consideration. This is done in order to study the judicial system's historical background and that system itself--which includes its court structure, personnel, sessions, and cases. The basic research materials used are: (1) federal and territorial court records, (2) federal and territorial statutes, (3) newspapers, (4) published books and articles, and (5) unpublished materials. Historical narration, supplemented statistical summaries and maps as well as tables and biographies in appendices, is used to present the results of the research.

The important findings of the study seem to be: (1) the origins of the Dakota judicial system in various evolutionary forms can be traced back at least to England and the Continental European Kingdom of Lombardy, (2) while there is no continuity as such, the origins of the legal system used in Dakota can be followed in various evolutionary forms to England and Rome as well as all the way to the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, (3) the performances of the judges, hence the performance of the judicial system, appear to have been better than previously

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