Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History

Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 1849466424

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

One of the most celebrated works in the Anglo-American legal tradition, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) has recently begun to attract renewed interest from legal and other scholars. The Commentaries no longer dominate legal education as they once did, especially in North America during the century after their first publication. But, they continue to be regularly cited in the judgments of superior courts of review on both sides of the Atlantic, and elsewhere throughout the common-law world. They also provide constitutional, cultural, intellectual, and legal historians with a remarkably comprehensive account of the role of law, lawyers, and the courts in the imperial superpower that was England on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The life and character of Blackstone himself, the nature and sources of his jurisprudence as expounded in the Commentaries, and the impact of his great book both within and beyond his native shores, are the main themes of this collection, which is now available in paperback. Individual essays cover: Blackstone's early architectural treatises and their relationship to the Commentaries * his idiosyncratic book collecting * his views of the role of judges * his interpretations on statutes, the law of marriage, the status of wives, natural law, property law, and the legalities of colonization * the varied reception of the Commentaries in the US and continental Europe. Blackstone's bibliography and iconography also receive attention. Combining the work of both eminent and emerging scholars, this interdisciplinary venture sheds welcome new light on a legal classic and its continued influence. [Subject: Legal History, Biography]

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minute of 26 August 1748 announced a revised plan of the new building on show in the bursary. Was this Blackstone’s handiwork? His brother-in-law James Clitherow thought so: in his biographical preface to Blackstone’s Law Reports he tells us that his subject ‘rectified several Mistakes in the Architecture’.14 With building work nearing completion, thoughts turned to furnishing the new Library. Blackstone was commissioned to order vases and busts to line the top of the gallery, and to talk to the

Lamont’s concluding remarks in his ÓDNB article. 6 Blackstone’s will is in TNA, PROB 11/1061/61. The Codrington reference is SR 54 d. 1–18 (or 19). For the provenance of the volumes and other bibliographical issues, see the Appendix to this chapter. The total given in the text is mine. The figures are taken from the indexes at the front of each volume, prepared by Blackstone and others. 7 MI Fry and G Davies, ‘William Prynne in the Huntington Library’ (1956) 20 Huntington Library Quarterly 53. I

vol 1, p 396. Speaking about the merits of the jury system, Blackstone worried that judges, ‘in spite of their own natural integrity, will have frequently an involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity’: Commentaries vol 3, p 379. 7 Commentaries vol 3, p 440. 8 Commentaries vol 3, pp 440–41. 9 Regarding fluctuations in the levels of litigation in the early modern period, see CW Brooks, Pettyfoggers and Vipers of the Commonwealth (Cambridge, 1986) 54–5. 10 Commentaries vol 3, p

women, and rarely made direct comparisons between the autonomy of wives and of servants. Wives were not owned, they were merely dependant, just as all men and women in England except for the monarch were dependant. As Blackstone explained in volume one, ‘Man, considered as a 39 He did, on occasion, refer to a wife’s husband as her ‘lord’, eg when explaining why the law regarded a wife murdering her husband as petty treason; Commentaries vol 4, p 75 40 Commentaries vol 2, p 498. 41 Ibid vol 1, p

best book in which to take a comprehensive view of the rudiments of English and American law is still the work now before us of this eminent jurist.43 Cooley went on to explain that the advantages of Blackstone’s Commentaries as the first book one opened to begin law study derived from two essential characteristics. (In this statement he sounds very much like St George Tucker, half a century before.)44 The first was its comprehensiveness and ‘scientific arrangement’. Cooley, like most of his

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