WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, Esq.
VINERIAN PROFESSOR OF LAW AND
SOLICITOR GENERAL TO THE QUEEN.
ON THE LAWS
BOOKS 1-4 (1765-1769)
Based on the first edition, together with the most material corrections and additions in the second edition.
Translation of greek, latin, italian and french quotations (with some modifications) by J. W. Jones, Esq. (1823)
Footnotes have been converted to chapter end notes. Spelling has been modernized.
This electronic edition
© Copyright 2003, 2005 Lonang Institute
THE QUEEN’S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY,
THE FOLLOWING VIEW
OF THE LAWS AND CONSTITUTION
THE IMPROVEMENT AND PROTECTION OF WHICH
HAVE DISTINGUISHED THE REIGN
OF HER MAJESTY’S ROYAL CONSORT,
WITH ALL GRATITUDE AND HUMILITY,
MOST RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED
BY HER DUTIFUL
AND MOST OBEDIENT
The following sheets contain the substance of a course of lectures on the laws of England, which were read by the author in the university of Oxford. His original plan took it’s rise in the year 1753: and, notwithstanding the novelty of such an attempt in this age and country, and the prejudices usually conceived against any innovations in the established mode of education, he had the satisfaction to find (and he acknowledges it with a mixture of pride and gratitude) that his endeavors were encouraged and patronized by those, both in the university and out of it, whose good opinion and esteem he was principally desirous to obtain.
The death of Mr Viner in 1756, and his ample benefaction to the university for promoting the study of the law, produced about two years afterwards a regular and public establishment of what the author had privately undertaken. The knowledge of our laws and constitution was adopted as a liberal science by general academical authority; competent endowments were decreed for the support of a lecturer, and the perpetual encouragement of students; and the compiler of the ensuing commentaries had the honor to be elected the first Vinerian professor.
In this situation he was led, both by duty and inclination, to investigate the elements of the law, and the grounds of our civil polity, with greater assiduity and attention than many have thought it necessary to do. And yet all, who of late years have attended the public administration of justice, must be sensible that a masterly acquaintance with the general spirit of laws and the principles of universal jurisprudence, combined with an accurate knowledge of our own municipal constitutions, their original, reason, and history, hath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decisions, with which our ancestors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the pursuit of these inquiries, the author hath been able to rectify any errors which either himself or others may have heretofore imbibed, his pains will be sufficiently answered: and, if in some points he is still mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.
The labor indeed of these researches, and of a regular attention to his duty, for a series of so many years, he hath found inconsistent with his health, as well as his other avocations: and hath therefore desired the university’s permission to retire from his office, after the conclusion of the annual course in which he is at present engaged. But the hints, which he had collected for the use of his pupils, having been thought by some of his more experienced friends not wholly unworthy of the public eye, it is therefore with the less reluctance that he now commits them to the press: though probably the little degree of reputation, which their author may have acquired by the candor of an audience (a test widely different from that of a deliberate perusal) would have been better consulted by a total suppression of his lectures; had that been a matter entirely within his power.
For the truth is, that the present publication is as much the effect of necessity, as it is of choice. The notes which were taken by his hearers, have by some of them (too partial in his favor) been thought worth revising and transcribing; and these transcripts have been frequently lent to others. Hence copies have been multiplied, in their nature imperfect, if not erroneous; some of which have fallen into mercenary hands, and become the object of clandestine sale. Having therefore so much reason to apprehend a surreptitious impression, he chose rather to submit his own errors to the world, than to seem answerable for those of other men. And, with this apology, he commits himself to the indulgence of the public.