BLTC Press Titles

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The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Characters of Theophrastus


Commentaries on the laws of England in four books

by William Blackstone



^jT'HE following sheets contain the substance of a course of leclures on the laws of England, which were read by the author in the univerfty of Oxford. His original plan took it's rife 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 eflablifhed mode of education, he had the satisfaction to fnd (and he acknowleges 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 principally desirous to obtain.

The death of Mr Viner in 1756, and his ample benefacJion to the university for promoting the fudy of the law, produced about two years afterwards a regular and public establishment of what the author had privately undertaken. The knowlege of our laws and confitution was adopted us a liberal science by general academical authority 3 *Ji

ty; competent endowments were decreed for the support of a leclurer, and the perpetual encouragement of students; and the compiler of the ensuing commentaries had the honour to be elecled the frjl Vinerian professor.

In this ftuation 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, yearshave 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 knowlege os 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 reclisy any errors which either himself or others may have heretofore imbibed, his pains will be sufficiently answered: and, if in some points he is fill mistaken, the candid andjudicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of ^ search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.

2 Nov. 1765.


NOTWITHSTANDING the diffidence expressed in the foregoing Preface, tto sooner was the ivork 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) be owes at least this obligation ; that they have occafioned him from time to time to revise bis work, in rejpecl to the particulars objecled to; to retracl 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 /hall leave the book to defend itself: being fully of opinion, that if his principles be false and his doclrines unwarrantable, no apology from himself can make them right; if sounded in truth and reclitude, no censure from others can make them wrong.

concerning this ninth edition,

H E editor judges it indispensible to preserve

the author's text intire. The alterations which will be found therein, since the publication of the last edition, were made by the author himself, as may appear from a corrected copy in his own handwriting *. What the editor hath chiefly attended to js, to note the alterations made by subsequent acts of parliament. These, together with some few other necessary observations, in order to prevent confusion, are inserted separate and distinct at the bottom of the page.

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