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Commentaries could have presented them to the world in a very different shape. These circumstances, however, stamp the work with every appearance of authenticity and genuineness. It is to be observed, that the cases contained in the first volume, which were taken by Mr. Blackstone while at the bar, are in a much more rough and incomplete state than those in the second volume, taken by him when on the bench. There, many of his own judgments are given very copiously and at great length, so that there is reason to conclude, that they are reported exactly as delivered by him, possibly from a written paper.
These Reports have been for some time not in the best repute, partly from an observation made upon them by Lord Mansfield, and partly from their own loose and imperfect style. His Lordship is reported to have said, in the case of Hassell v. Simpson, 1 Doug. 91, n.," We must not always rely on the words of Reports, though under great names. Mr. J. Blackstone's Reports are not very accurate." It was the case of Law v. Skinner, (reported in the second volume, p. 996), to which Lord Mansfield alluded, and which he seems not to have perfectly understood. It has been relied upon as an authority in many subsequent cases; see p. 997, n. (t). And in the case of Ackworth v. Kemp, 1 Doug. 43, when that of Sanderson v. Baker, as contained in 3 Wilson's Reports, 309, was cited, Lord Mansfield said, "The printed account of the case," (meaning that in Wilson), "shews the danger of inaccurate reports. I have a very correct report of it from Mr. J. Blackstone's own note, which I will read:" and he then read the case as reported in the second volume, p. 831. Serjeant WilLiams also bears testimony to the correctness of the case of Smith v. Parker, as reported by Mr. J. Blackstone, in his notes to the case of Jeffreson v. Morton, 2 Wms. Saund. 8 i;—see Vol. II. p. 1232, n. (v>), of this work. Several of the cases contained in this Work are also to be found in the collections of contemporary reporters. Almost all the King's Bench cases are to be found in the Reports of Sir James Burrows, and a great many of those decided in the Common Pleas, in the reports of Mr. Serjeant Wilson. It would be invidious to make comparisons between the merits of each: the cases collected by Sir J. Burrows are reported at very great length, but with such tiresome prolixity and wearisome minuteness, that one is almost inclined to prefer the conciseness and compendiousness of Sir W. Blackstone's notes. This observation applies in some measure to Mr. Serjeant Wilson's Reports.
It will appear from the foregoing account, that there was scope for great improvement in this new edition; and I shall proceed to state in what manner that has been attempted. I have examined the whole of the text, and have ventured occasionally to introduce a word to make a sentence complete: the word inserted will be found between brackets, thus [ ]. If the alteration or insertion of a word or phrase has materially altered the sense of a passage, that circumstance is explained in a note. I have also in some instances altered the spelling of the words to the modern usage; in others I have left it as it originally stood. I have also examined all the original references, and where the name only of a case is mentioned, I have given a reference to the book in which it is reported, if I have been able to meet with it in print. The labour of this part of the task can only be appreciated by gentlemen who have themselves been engaged in a similar undertaking. In the former edition, a full stop or point was used after every figure, and as the name of the case is sometimes placed before and sometimes after the reference, where the name of the case came between two references, it was difficult to say to which it belonged: this is now obviated by placing a comma only between the name of the case and its reference. In the same manner, the sentence connected with an authority cited is only separated from it by a semicolon. With regard to the notes, it was my intention originally to have collected merely the modern references, in the margin; but upon having to recur to modern editions of old reporters, in which that had been done, I found so much inconvenience from that plan, that I thought it adviseable to attempt an arrangement of them. To do this effectually, I have given a short abstract of the case or point bearing upon that in the text, so that the reader may see at once whether it will answer the purpose of his search to be at the trouble of consulting the cases referred to, and I have inserted the note or reference at the place where it seemed most applicable. I have also endeavoured to shew what cases have been over-ruled, and what have been recognised and confirmed by subsequent decisions, and the grounds for so doing: and where I have found any of the cases in the text observed upon by the Judges in more recent ones, I have taken the liberty of inserting that part of their judgment at some length. From these causes, the notes have increased in bulk beyond what was at first intended, though it has been my endeavour to compress the matter as much as possible. It probably will be said, that, in some instances, too much has been done; that, in others, the work has been left short;—so difficult is it to arrive at the proper mean. I
have formed an entire new Index to all the principal points, as well in the notes as in the text, which, it is hoped, will be more convenient than the former one. There is only one Index, and one Table of Cases to both volumes, as the same paging runs through both.
I Must be aware that there are many imperfections in this edition. It is, however, submitted to the kind consideration of the Profession, and I shall think that I have in some measure attained my object, if I have in any way contributed to render the Reports of Sir William Blackstone more generally acceptable and useful.
C. H. ELSLEY.
Patrick Brompton, Yorkshire,
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
i. HE well known, and highly established character of the Compiler of these Reports, not only as a consummate lawyer, but as an elegant, correct, and instructive writer, may very justly be thought sufficient to render an introductory discourse unnecessary.
And indeed of this the editor is so thoroughly sensible, that it is not his intention in this address to the reader, to say any thing in favour of a work, which, he is satisfied, the name alone in the title page will amply recommend.
But as there are some circumstances relative to these Reports, which, he is advised, are proper to be communicated with, them, he found the province he had undertaken would necessarily require a short introduction.
He has also been persuaded by many friends of the learned Judge, to pay a tribute due to the memory of so respectable a person, by imparting at the same time to the public a short account of his life, and gradual rise from a posthumous orphan to the dignity and high station he at last attained, which he filled so much to his own credit, and the future, as well as the present honour and advantage of the nation in general.
This the editor wished to have been the work of an abler pen*, but, being disappointed in those wishes, rather than injustice should be done to a character he so much esteemed, by an incorrect or injurious narrative, he has ventured, though totally unused to writing for the public eye, to undertake the task himself.
An intimate acquaintance with Mr. Justice Blackstone for above thirty years, the assistance of other friends who had known him much longer, and a short abstract of every circumstance of consequence in his life, written by himself with his accustomed accuracy, afford the editor ample materials for the purpose.
These he has collected, and endeavoured to arrange in such a manner, as to form a faithful and impartial account of the life of this great man; not only with a view to gratify the curiosity of the public, ever eager to learn something more than the mere name of every distinguished character: but, he flatters himself, that, in discharging this duty of friendship by the dead, he shall hold forth to the rising generation a bright example of a man, who, without fortune, family interest, or connexions, raised himself by a diligent attention to his studies, even from his earliest youth, and the strictest sense of every moral and religious duty, to a very eminent and honourable office in his profession; and which, had his health and constitution been equal to the faculties of his mind, would most probably have advanced him to one of the highest.
* The learned and ingenious Dr. Buckler, cited by the editor and many of his friends, Fellow of All-Souls College, and Custot Ar- he could not he prevailed on to do, on acchivnrum in the University of Oxford; one count of his declining state of health. He of Mr. Justice Blackstone's oldest and most died in December last, and has bequeathed a intimate friends; and in that, and every sum of money to the college, towards erectother respect, well qualified to have under- ing a statue in it, to the memory of Mr. Justaken this work; which, though much soli- tice Blackstone,—Note to the First Edition.
He was born on the 10th of July, 1723, in Cheapside, in the parish of St. Michael le Querne, at the house of his father, Mr. Charles Blackstone, a Silk-man, and citizen and bowyer of London; who was the third son of Mr. John Blackstone, an eminent Apothecary in Newgate-Street, descended from a family of that name in the West of England, at or near Salisbury: his mother was Mary, eldest daughter of Lovelace Bigg, Esquire, of Chilton Foliot in Wiltshire.
He was the youngest of four children; of whom John died an infant, Charles the eldest, and Henry the third, were educated at Winchester School, under the care of their uncle Dr. Bigg, warden of that society, and were afterwards both Fellows of New College, Oxford; Charles is still living, a Fellow of Winchester, and Vicar of Wimering in Hampshire: Henry, after having practised physic for some years, went into holy orders, and died in 1778, Vicar of Adderbury in Oxfordshire, a living in the gift of New College.
Their father died some months before the birth of William, the subject of these memoirs; and their mother died before he was twelve years old.
The being thus early in life deprived of both parents, an event generally deemed the greatest misfortune that can befall a child, proved in its consequences to him the very reverse: to that circumstance probably he was indebted for his future advancement, and that high literary character and reputation in his profession, which he has left behind him; to that circumstance the public too is probably indebted for the benefit it has received, and will receive, as long as the law of England remains, from the labours of his pen.
For, had his father lived, it is most likely, that the third son of a London tradesman, not of great affluence, would have been bred in the same line of life, and those parts, which have so much signalized the possessor of them, would have been lost in a warehouse or behind a counter.
But, even from his birth, the care both of his education and fortune was kindly undertaken by his maternal uncle, Mr. Thomas Bigg, an eminent Surgeon in London, and afterwards, on the death of his elder brothers, owner of the Chilton estate, which is still enjoyed by that family.
The affectionate, it may be said the parental, care this worthy man took of all his nephews, particularly in giving them liberal