Maxwell's Code was the first comprehensive criminal and civil legal code for the Northwest Territory.
During the summer of 1795, Governor Arthur St. Clair and two judges, John Cleves Symmes and George Turner, met in Cincinnati to adopt a legal code for the Northwest Territory. When completed these laws, known as Maxwell's Code, consisted of thirty-seven different laws. St. Clair and the judges decided that all of the laws had to have been passed previously in one of the original thirteen states. The laws restructured the court system then in effect in the Northwest Territory. They also protected residents against excessive taxes and declared that English common law would be the basis of legal decisions and laws in the Northwest Territory.
The Code was named for William Maxwell, a local printer who set the type, bound the books, and distributed the copies of the Code with the help of his wife and an apprentice.