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COMMENTARIES

ON THE

LAWS OF ENGLAND.

IN FOUR BOOKS.

BY

Sir WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, KNT.

ONE OF THE JUSTICES OF HIS MAJESTY'S COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

WITH

NOTES SELECTED FROM THE EDITIONS OF ARCHBOLD, CHRISTIAN, COLERIDGE, CHITTY, STEWARA

KERR, AND OTHERS,

BARRON FIELD'S ANALYSIS,

AND

Additional Notes, and a Life of the Author,

BY

GEORGE SHARSWOOD,

CAIEP JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.-BOOKS I. & II.

PHILADELPHIA:

J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

1908

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 Distro da

Pennsylvania.

PREFACE BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.

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The present edition of the Commentaries of Sir William Blackstone has been prepared with especial reference to the use of American lawstudents. The main object of the notes, selected and original, has been to correct any statement in itself erroneous, and to explain what might be calculated to mislead. In some cases where the text appeared to pass over important topics, they have been introduced in order to render the book complete as an institute of legal education. Besides the editions of Archbold, Christian, and Chitty, which have been republished in this country, the editor has drawn largely upon the valuable notes of Mr. Justice Coleridge. The late English editions by James Stewart and Robert Malcolm Kerr-in which all the recent alterations by statutes have been referred to and incorporated -have been freely used, and an occasional note will be found from the late abridgment of Blackstone by Samuel Warren; and the attention of the student is especially called to the notes added to the last chapter of the work, on the rise, progress, and gradual improvement of the laws of England, for valuable sketches by Coleridge, John William Smith, Stewart, Warren, and Kerr, of the latest enactments, to which the American editor has ventured to add some remarks upon American jurisprudence. Barron Field's Analysis—a most important aid to the student in the work of self-examination-has been added at the end. On the whole, it is hoped that this edition-the fruit of much care and toil, as much in rejecting (which does not appear) as iu adopting (which does)-may meet the approbation of the profession aud the public.

G.B. PPILADELPHIA, June. 1859.

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PREFACE.

The following sheets contain the substance of a course of lectures co 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 uovelty 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 he was princi. pally 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 muni. cipal constitutions, their original, reason, and history, hath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decisions, with which our ancestors wero 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 heretoforo imbibed, his pains will be sufficiently answered; and if in some points be is stil! mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.

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 eren 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 objected to; to retract or expunge from 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.

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