Abstract: Americans in early New York, and likely in many of its sister provinces, created a distinctive constitutional tradition - they gave their political representatives the authority to interpret public law by making the legislature the forum that resolved claims against the government for money. That constitutional commitment to legislative adjudication profoundly affected the experience of government. The assembly became the center of everyday provincial administration in practice, and claimed a corresponding stature in theory, as the institution that protected the people's property in a newly literal sense. Legislative adjudication connected constituents directly to their representatives over matters of right; the interaction produced a novel kind of legality. Participants regarded the process of determining claims as one that involved law and legal obligation. At the same time, representatives treated the act of defining public debts as an important political matter. The tension created by a regime in which rights were both binding on the government and yet dependent on balancing public and private ends was mediated by the "public faith." The constitutional order of the community depended on whether, and how far, legislators could keep that faith.