Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by

CHILDS & PETERSON, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of

Pennsylvania

PREFACE BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.

The present edition of the Commentaries of Sir William Blackston has been prepared with especial reference to the use of American la students. The main object of the notes, selected and original, has bei to correct any statement in itself erroneous, and to explain what might 1 calculated to mislead. In some cases where the text appeared to pa over important topics, they have been introduced in order to render t] book complete as an institute of legal education. Besides the editions « Archbold, Christian, and Chitty, which have been republished in th country, the editor has drawn largely upon the valuable notes of M Justice Coleridge. The late English editions by James Stewart ar Robert Malcolm Kerr-in which all the recent alterations by statut have been referred to and incorporated-have been freely used, and : occasional note will be found from the late abridgment of Blackstone 1 Samuel Warren; and the attention of the student is especially called the notes added to the last chapter of the work, on the rise, progress, ar gradual improvement of the laws of England, for valuable sketches ! Coleridge, Johq.William Smith, Stewart, Warren, and Kerr, of the late enactments : to: which the Anerican editor has ventured to add son remarks upon.American farisprudence. Barron Field’s Analysis--a mo important:aia: to::the student in the work of self-examination-has bee added at the end: :On the whole, it is hoped that this edition—the fru of much care and toil, as much in rejecting (which does not appear) : in adopting (which does)—may meet the approbation of the professio and the public.

G. S. PPILADELPHIA, June. 1859.

W 2

jii

PREFACE.

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 its rise in the year 1753; and, notwithstanding the Lovelty 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 endeavours were encouraged and patronized by those, both in the university and out of it, whose good opinion and esteem ho was principally desirous to obtain.

The death of Mr. Viner in 1756, and his ample benefactions to the university for promoting the study of the law, produced about two years afterwards u 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 honour 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 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 anytered; and, if in some points he is still mistaken, the candid and judicious reäder wil nakedjo 'alb warcas: for the difficulties of a search so new, so extensive, and so laboridas.:

Nov. 2, 1765.

POSTSCRIPT.

Notwithstanding the diffidence expressed in the foregoing Preface, no sooner was the work completed, but many of its positions were vehemently attacked by zealots of all (even opposite) denominations, religious as well as civil; by some with a greater, by others with a less, degree of acrimony. To such of these animadverters as have fallen within the author's notice (for he doubts not but some have escaped it) he owes at least this obligation, that they have occasioned him from time to time to revise his work in respect to the particulars oljected to; to retract or expunge from it what appeared to be really erroneous; to amend or supply it when inaccurate or defective; to illustrate and explain it when obscure. But, where he thought the objections ill founded, he hath left and shall leave the book to defend itself, being fully of opinion that, if his principles be false and his doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from himself can make them right; if founded in truth and rectitude, no censure from others can make them wrong.

A MEMOIR

OF

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE,

BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.

Tee ambition of posthumous fame is very general, if not universal, among mankind. It is one of the strong arguments for our immortality, that we stretch out our desires beyond the brief span of our present existence and live in the future. A sad and dreary thought would it be to a man,-that of dying unwept by any one, unhonoured by any survivor, and entirely forgotten as soon as removed from sight. If not an actor upon the more prominent theatre of the world's history, within some narrower circle of society-his neighbourhood, his friends, his family, or at least his descendants—every one looks anxiously forward, in the hope that his memory will be respectfully cherished, his faults and foibles overlooked and excused, his virtues adorned in their fairest and loveliest colours. Whether, in that spirit-land where our immortal natures still live after their earthly tabernacles have crumbled to their original clay, they have any knowledge of or interest in the affairs of the world which they have left behind, we do not know: it has not been revealed to us. From that bourne no traveller has returned. The faculties and powers of the soul, especially memory,—the strong affections of the heart, all belonging to and constituting an inseparable part of its spiritual nature, as well as its unwearying activity even while the body reposes in soundest slumber, render it, to say the least, a reasonable conjecture that, though engaged in moral and intellectual employments and enjoyments much nobler and purer than earth's, they are still spectators—interested, curious spectators—in the works of God's providence which relate to his moral creation. The common superstitions of the people in all ages and countries, which may be regarded either as the tradition of an original revelation or the result of a stronglyimpressed innate sentiment, are not without weight on such a question. Such superstitions have intertwined themselves with the earliest poetry: they form a part of the legends of childhood: in spite of ourselves, we are all, more or less, believers in the communion of spirits. The man who has entirely cast off this prejudice or superstition, if we please to term it so, has lost one restraint which has been known to exert its salutary influence when even the sense of higher accountability has been disregarded. We may well fancy, then,

a power ir departed spirits of watching and tracing the influences of their own lives, writings, or actions upon those who have come after them. If these influences have been for human virtue and happiness, the wider and more extended the purer must be the pleasure afforded; if they are otherwise, they must be the source of bitter, unavailing, and never-ending regrets. Such considerations may well excite us to the practice of virtuous actions, to the cultivation of noble and generous sympathies and emotions: a part of their appropriate reward may be the observation hereafter of their widening circles as they spread with their influences for good the name we have borne, down to the remotest generation.

The fame of a lawyer, however much he may live in the public eye, and however large may seem the space he occupies in the public consideration, is in general a very narrow and circumscribed one. He is prominently useful in his own day and generation and among his contemporaries. He supports and defends the accused and oppressed; he maintains the cause of the poor and friendless; he succours those that are ready to perish; he counsels the ignorant, he guides and saves those who are wandering and out of the way, and, when "he has run his course and sleeps in blessings,” his bones "have a tomb of orphans' tears wept on them." How much untold good is done by an honest, wise, and generous man, in the full practice of this profession, which even those to whom he has consecrated his time and thoughts without the hope of adequate compensation never appreciate! How often, contrary to his own interest, does he succeed in calming the surges of passion, and leading the bitter partisan to measures of peace and compromise! How often does his beneficence possess that best and purest characteristic of the heavenly grace, that his right hand knoweth not what his left hand doeth! Yet-beyond the circle of his own profession, the student of which may occasionally meet with a few brief evidences of his learning and industry in print on the pages of some dusty report-book, and pause to spell his name and wonder who he was—posterity will scarcely ever hear of him, and his severest efforts and brightest intellectual achievements will sink forever in the night of oblivion. The important case of Taylor on the demise of Atkyns vs. Hurde was argued before Lord Mansfield and the court of King's Bench about one hundred years ago. The title to a large estate was at issue; knotty and difficult points of old lawlearning were required to be discussed, and they were discussed with exhausting research and ability. It is not to be doubted that the counsel engaged were the most eminent at the English bar. We have a further assurance from the character of some of them. Mr. Pratt,-afterwards Lord Camden, a name forever associated with English liberty, as the dauntless opponent of general warrants, and the champion of American colonial rights upon the floor of Parliament,-Mr. Yorke, son of Lord-Chancellor Hardwicke, the Hon. Charles Yorke, afterwards Lord-Chancellor, are named as of counsel for plaintiff. With them were Mr. Caldecot, the compiler of the Settlement Cases. Opposed to these men, there were for the defendant the names of Mr. Knowles, Mr. Perrot, and Mr. Sergeant Prime. Pratt and Yorke having occupied high poli

« PreviousContinue »