John R. Aiken is Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He explains that the idea for this article came about while doing a monograph on popular law, in the early Colonial period.
Arbitration, was among the earliest methods of seeking justice in most of the American colonies in the 17th century. But it was more deeply imbedded in Roman-Dutch law of New Netherlands than in any of the common law colonies. Consequently, to understand the nature of arbitration in the law of New Netherlands, it is necessary to examine its deep roots in Roman-Dutch law. This requires an examination of the two basic sources of arbitration in Roman-Dutch law—Roman law, and customary law of the area that became the Netherlands.