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Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English
jurist A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist legal scholarnot necessarily with a formal qualification in law or a lawyer, legal practitioner, although in the U ...
,
judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In th ...

judge
and
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
''. Born into a middle-class family in London, Blackstone was educated at
Charterhouse School (God having given, I gave) , established = , closed = , type = Public school Independent day A day is approximately the period during which the Earth completes one rotation around its ax ...
before matriculating at
Pembroke College, Oxford Pembroke College, a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education an ...

Pembroke College, Oxford
, in 1738. After switching to and completing a
Bachelor of Civil Law Bachelor of Civil Law (abbreviated BCL, or B.C.L.; la, Baccalaureus Civilis Legis) is the name of various degrees in law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set o ...
degree, he was made a
fellow A fellow is a broad concept whose exact meaning depends on context. In learned Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitudes, and preferences. The abili ...
of
All Souls, Oxford All Souls College (official name: College of the Souls of All the Faithful Departed) is a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Unique to All Souls, all of its members automatically beco ...
, on 2 November 1743, admitted to
Middle Temple The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court 300px, Combined arms of the four Inns of Court. Clockwise from top left: Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple, Gray's Inn, Inner Te ...

Middle Temple
, and
called to the Bar The call to the bar (rarely, call to bar) is a legal term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative cont ...
there in 1746. Following a slow start to his career as a barrister, Blackstone became heavily involved in university administration, becoming accountant, treasurer and bursar on 28 November 1746 and Senior Bursar in 1750. Blackstone is considered responsible for completing the Codrington Library and Warton Building, and simplifying the complex accounting system used by the college. On 3 July 1753 he formally gave up his practice as a barrister and instead embarked on a series of lectures on English law, the first of their kind. These were massively successful, earning him a total of £453 (£ in terms), and led to the publication of '' An Analysis of the Laws of England'' in 1756, which repeatedly sold out and was used to preface his later works. On 20 October 1759 Blackstone was confirmed as the first
Vinerian Professor of English Law The Vinerian Professorship of English Law, formerly Vinerian Professorship of Common Law, was established by Charles Viner who by his will, dated 29 December 1755, left about £12,000 to the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Ox ...
, immediately embarking on another series of lectures and publishing a similarly successful second treatise, titled '' A Discourse on the Study of the Law''. With his growing fame, he successfully returned to the bar and maintained a good practice, also securing election as
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliaments, this term implies members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different titl ...
for the
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of Hindon on 30 March 1761. In November 1765 he published the first of four volumes of ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
'', considered his ''magnum opus''; the completed work earned Blackstone £14,000 (£ in terms). After repeated failures, he successfully gained appointment to the judiciary as a Justice of the
Court of King's Bench The Court of King's Bench, formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was a court of common law in the English legal system. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century from the '' curia regis'', the King's Bench initi ...
on 16 February 1770, leaving to replace Edward Clive as a
Justice of the Common Pleas Justice of the Common Pleas was a puisne judicial position within the Court of Common Pleas of England and Wales, under the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Chief Justice. The Common Pleas was the primary court of common law within England and W ...
on 25 June. He remained in this position until his death, on 14 February 1780. Blackstone's four-volume ''Commentaries'' were designed to provide a complete overview of English law and were repeatedly republished in 1770, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1778 and in a posthumous edition in 1783. Reprints of the first edition, intended for practical use rather than antiquary interest, were published until the 1870s in England and Wales, and a working version by Henry John Stephen, first published in 1841, was reprinted until after the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. Legal education in England had stalled; Blackstone's work gave the law "at least a veneer of scholarly respectability".
William Searle Holdsworth Sir William Searle Holdsworth Sir William Searle Holdsworth (7 May 1871 – 2 January 1944) was an English legal historian and Vinerian Professor of English Law The Vinerian Professorship of English Law, formerly Vinerian Professorship of Comm ...
, one of Blackstone's successors as Vinerian Professor, argued that "If the Commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it very doubtful that
the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
, and other English speaking countries would have so universally adopted the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
." In the United States, the ''Commentaries'' influenced
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker, and economist. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fa ...

Alexander Hamilton
,
John Marshall John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...

John Marshall
,
James WilsonJames Wilson may refer to: Politicians and government officials Canada *James Wilson (Upper Canada politician) (1770–1847), English-born farmer and political figure in Upper Canada *James Crocket Wilson (1841–1899), Canadian MP from Quebec ...
,
John Jay John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of ...

John Jay
,
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific stud ...

John Adams
,
James Kent James Kent (July 31, 1763, Fredericksburg, Dutchess County, New York – December 12, 1847, New York City) was an United States, American jurist and legal scholar.Langbein, John H.Chancellor Kent and the History of Legal Literature(1993). Faculty S ...
and
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of governme ...

Abraham Lincoln
, and remain frequently cited in
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Supreme Court
decisions.


Early life and education

William's father, Charles Blackstone, was a silk mercer from
Cheapside Cheapside is a street in the City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and the prima ...

Cheapside
, the son of a wealthy
apothecary :''"Apothecary" may also refer to Pharmacy (shop) A pharmacy (also called "drugstore" in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of ...

apothecary
. He became firm friends with Thomas Bigg, a
surgeon In modern medicine Medicine is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, ...
and the son of Lovelace Bigg, a gentleman from
Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The count ...
. After Bigg's sister Mary came to London, Charles eventually persuaded her to marry him in 1718. This was not seen as a good match for her, but the couple lived happily and had four sons, three of whom lived into adulthood. Charles (born August 1719) and Henry (May 1722), both became fellows of
New College, Oxford New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford , mottoeng = The Lord is my light , established = , endowment = £6.1 billion (including colleges) (2019) , budget = £2.145 billion (2019–20) , ...

New College, Oxford
and took
holy orders In certain Christian churches Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church ...
. Their last son, William, was born on 10 July 1723, five months after Charles' death in February. Although Charles and Mary Blackstone were members of the
middle class The middle class is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an an ...
rather than landed gentry, they were particularly prosperous. Tax records show Charles Blackstone to have been the second most prosperous man in the parish in 1722, and death registers show that the family had several servants. This, along with Thomas Bigg's assistance to the family following Charles' death, helps explain the educational upbringing of the children. William Blackstone was sent to
Charterhouse School (God having given, I gave) , established = , closed = , type = Public school Independent day A day is approximately the period during which the Earth completes one rotation around its ax ...
in 1730, nominated by Charles Wither, a relative of Mary Blackstone. William did well there, and became head of the school by age 15. However, after Charles' death the family fortunes declined, and after Mary died (5 January 1736) the family's resources largely went to meet unpaid bills. William was able to remain at Charterhouse as a "poor scholar", having been named to that position in June 1735 after being nominated by
Sir Robert Walpole Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745; known between 1725 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole) was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Brit ...

Sir Robert Walpole
. Blackstone revelled in Charterhouse's academic curriculum, particularly the Latin poetry of Ovid and Virgil. He began to attract note as a poet at school, writing a 30-line set of rhyming couplets to celebrate the wedding of James Hotchkis, the headmaster. He also won a silver medal for his Latin verses on
John Milton John Milton (9 December 16088 November 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the under its Council of State and later under . He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best kno ...

John Milton
, gave the annual Latin oration in 1738, and was noted as having been the favourite student of his masters. On 1 October 1738, taking advantage of a new scholarship available to Charterhouse students, Blackstone matriculated at
Pembroke College, Oxford Pembroke College, a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education an ...

Pembroke College, Oxford
.Odgers (1918) p. 600


Oxford


Study

There are few surviving records of Blackstone's undergraduate term at Oxford, but the curriculum of Pembroke College had been set out in 1624, and Prest notes that it was probably still followed in 1738, so Blackstone would have studied
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, science, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics, geography and poetry. Blackstone was particularly good at Greek, mathematics and poetry, with his notes on
William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national p ...

William Shakespeare
being included in
George Steevens George Steevens George Steevens (10 May 1736 – 22 January 1800) was an English Shakespeare William Shakespeare (baptism, bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the grea ...
' 1781 edition of Shakespeare's plays. Many of Blackstone's undergraduate texts survive, and they include few legal texts, instead being wide-ranging; politics, current affairs, poetry, geometry and controversial theological texts. The last element is understandable, given his family's theological interests, but the more surprising element is the sheer number of texts he owned given his relative poverty as a student. On 9 July 1740, after only a year and a half as a Bachelor of Arts student, Blackstone was admitted to study for a
Bachelor of Civil Law Bachelor of Civil Law (abbreviated BCL, or B.C.L.; la, Baccalaureus Civilis Legis) is the name of various degrees in law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set o ...
degree, civil law being the only legal area recognised by his university. This degree course was seven years long, the first two "supposedly devoted to a broad course of reading in humane studies", which allowed him to study his own interests. On 20 November 1741 he was admitted to the
Middle Temple The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court 300px, Combined arms of the four Inns of Court. Clockwise from top left: Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple, Gray's Inn, Inner Te ...

Middle Temple
, the first step on the road to becoming a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialis ...

barrister
, but this imposed no obligations and simply allowed a legal career to be an option. At the time there was no proper legal education system, and Blackstone read (in his own time) '' Coke on Littleton'', the works of Henry Finch, and related legal tracts. In addition to his formal studies, Blackstone published a collection of poetry which included the draft version of ''The Lawyer to his Muse'', his most famous literary work. In 1743 he published ''Elements of Architecture'' and ''An Abridgement of Architecture'', two treatises on the rules governing the art of construction. His next work (1747) was ''The Pantheon: A Vision'', an anonymously published book of poetry covering the various religions in the world. It depicts a narrator's walking dream through the buildings of various religions, which are all (other than Christianity) depicted in a negative light. This followed his election as a
Fellow A fellow is a broad concept whose exact meaning depends on context. In learned Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitudes, and preferences. The abil ...
of
All Souls, Oxford All Souls College (official name: College of the Souls of All the Faithful Departed) is a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Unique to All Souls, all of its members automatically beco ...
on 2 November 1743, and his
call to the Bar The call to the bar (rarely, call to bar) is a legal term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative cont ...
by the Middle Temple on 28 November 1746. His call to the Bar saw Blackstone begin to alternate between Oxford and London, occupying chambers in but living at
All Souls College All Souls College (official name: College of the Souls of All the Faithful Departed) is a constituent college of the University of Oxford , mottoeng = Psalm 27, The Lord is my light , established = , endowment = £6.1 billion (inc ...
. As the central courts only sat for three months of the year, the rest of his time was spent on
Assize The courts of assize, or assizes (), were periodic courts held around England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England a ...
when his work at All Souls permitted. He regularly acted as a law reporter; his personal notes on cases start with ''Hankey v Trotman'' (1746). Blackstone's barrister practice began slowly; his first case in the
Court of King's Bench The Court of King's Bench, formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was a court of common law in the English legal system. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century from the '' curia regis'', the King's Bench initi ...
was in 1748, and he had only 6 additional motions there through 1751. Two appearances in the
Court of Chancery The Court of Chancery was a court of equity A court of equity, equity court or chancery court is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal dispu ...

Court of Chancery
are also noted, and he is known to have been consulted in
Roger Newdigate Sir Roger Newdigate, 5th Baronet (30 May 1719 – 23 November 1806) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
's long-running lawsuit there, but his early court appearances are infrequent. This is considered to have been due to bad luck, with his call to the Bar occurring at the same time as the massive contraction in business by the central courts, along with his singular lack of connections due to his status as an orphan from the middle class; he was described as "unrecognised and unemployed". He filled his time by acting as counsel for Oxford, and from May 1749 with his election as Recorder of
WallingfordWallingford may refer to: Places * Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom **Wallingford Castle the castle * Wallingford, Connecticut, United States * Wallingford, Iowa, United States * Wallingford, Kentucky, United States * Wallingford, ...
.


University administration

While dividing his time, Blackstone became an administrator at All Souls, securing appointment as accountant, treasurer and
bursar A bursar (derived from "bursa (; ota, بُروسه, Latin: Prusa) is a city in northwestern Turkey and the administrative center of Bursa Province. The list of cities in Turkey, fourth-most populous city in Turkey and List of largest cities ...
on 28 November 1746. Completion of the Codrington Library and Warton Building, first started in 1710 and 1720 respectively but not built until 1748, is attributed to his work. In 1749 he became Steward of the Manors, and in 1750 was made Senior Bursar. Records show a "perfectionist zeal" in organising the estates and finances of All Souls, and Blackstone was noted for massively simplifying the complex accounting system used by the college. In 1750 Blackstone completed his first legal tract, ''An Essay on Collateral Consanguinity'', which dealt with those claiming a familial tie to the founder or All Souls in an attempt to gain preeminence in elections. Completion of his
Doctor of Civil Law Doctor of Civil Law (DCL; la, Legis Civilis Doctor or Juris Civilis Doctor) is a degree offered by some universities, such as the University of Oxford, instead of the more common Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws (LLD) degrees. At Oxford, the degre ...
degree, which he was awarded in April 1750, admitted him to
Convocation A convocation (from the Latin ''wikt:convocare, convocare'' meaning "to call/come together", a translation of the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:ἐκκλησία, ἐκκλησία ''ekklēsia'') is a group of people formally assembled for a specia ...
, the governing body of Oxford, which elected the two burgesses who represented it in the House of Commons, along with most of the university officers. With this and with his continuing work at the university, Blackstone announced on 3 July 1753 his intentions to "no longer attend the Courts at Westminster, but to pursue my Profession in a Way more agreeable to me in all respects, by residing at Oxford to engraft upon this Resolution a Scheme which I am told may be beneficial to the University as well as myself", which was to give a set of lectures on the common law – the first lectures of that sort in the world. This was not entirely out of benevolence; according to Prest, Blackstone was likely aware that an Oxford alumnus, Charles Viner, was planning to endow a professorship of English law. The Regius Professorship of Civil Law had also become vacant in 1753; despite support from
Lord Mansfield William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, PC, SL (2 March 170520 March 1793) was a British barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litig ...

Lord Mansfield
, Blackstone had been rejected in favour of Robert Jenner, widely considered Blackstone's lesser intellectually but a far greater political mind. In addition, a private lecture series would be extremely lucrative. While his All Souls fellowship gave him £70 a year, records show that the lecture series brought him £116, £226 and £111 a year respectively from 1753 to 1755 – a total of £453 (£ in terms). A prospectus was issued on 23 June 1753, and with a class of approximately 20 students, the first set of lectures were completed by July 1754. Despite Blackstone's limited oratory skills and a speaking style described by
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
as "formal, precise and affected", Blackstone's lectures were warmly appreciated. The second and third series were far more popular, partly due to the then unusual use of printed handouts and lists of suggested reading. No copies of these handouts exist, but
Alexander Popham File:Littlecote House 01.jpg, Littlecote House, Wiltshire, the seat of the Popham family Alexander Popham (1605–1669) of Littlecote House, Littlecote, Wiltshire, was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons of England, House of Co ...
, later a close friend of Blackstone, attended the lectures and made notes, which survive. These show Blackstone's attempts to reduce English law to a logical system, with the division of subjects later being the basis for his ''Commentaries''. Following his lecture series, Blackstone became more prominent in convocation and other university activities. Oxford and Cambridge at the time had a strange system of law; due to their unique natures, they had exclusive jurisdiction over both academics and students in a fashion which followed either the common law or their own customs, based on the civil law. With his appointment as assessor (or chief legal officer) of the Chancellor's Court, Blackstone became far more involved in the university's peculiar legal system, and records show him sitting between eight and ten times a year from 1753 to 1759, mainly dealing with small claims of debt. He also wrote a manual on the Court's practice, and through his position gained a large number of contacts and connections, as well as visibility, which aided his legal career significantly. This period also saw Blackstone write his last known piece of poetry, ''Friendship: An Ode'', in 1756. In 1756 Blackstone published the first of his full legal texts, the 200 page '' An Analysis of the Laws of England''. Published by the
Clarendon Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press 200px, The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which used to be the headquarters of Cambridge University Press, and now serves as a conference centre for the Press. A university press is an academic ...
, the treatise was intended to demonstrate the "Order, and principal Divisions" of his lecture series, and a structured introduction to English law. Prest calls this "a marked advance on any previous introduction to English law . . including constitutional, civil and criminal law, public and private law, substantive law and procedure, as well as some introductory jurisprudential content".Prest (2008) p. 143 The initial print run of 1,000 copies almost immediately sold out, leading to the printing of three more 1,000-book lots over the next three years, which all sold out. A fifth edition was published in 1762,Prest (2008) p. 144 and a sixth, edited to take into account Blackstone's ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
'', in 1771. Because of the success of the ''Commentaries'', Prest remarks that "relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to this work"; at the time, however, it was hailed as "an elegant performance . . calculated to facilitate this branch of knowledge".


Vinerian Professor of English Law

On 8 March 1758, the group executing Charles Viner's
will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's ( testator) wishes as to how their property (estate (law), estate) is to be distributed after their death and as to which ...
reported to Convocation that Viner recommended creating a Chair of English Law, with a £200 salary. After much debate, this position was created, and on 20 October 1758 Blackstone was confirmed as the first
Vinerian Professor of English Law The Vinerian Professorship of English Law, formerly Vinerian Professorship of Common Law, was established by Charles Viner who by his will, dated 29 December 1755, left about £12,000 to the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Ox ...
. On 24 October he gave his first lecture, to "a crowded audience"; the text was soon printed and published as '' A Discourse on the Study of the Law''. The lecture was tremendously popular, being described as a "sensible, spirited and manly exhortation to the study of the law"; the initial print run sold out, necessitating the publication of another 1,000 copies, and it was used to preface later versions of the ''Analysis'' and the first volume of the ''Commentaries''. Within the university, however, Blackstone was not as popular. As soon as the lecture series opened, an anonymously written open letter was published charging that Blackstone had "violated the Statutes of the University, by arbitrarily changing the Day appointed for reading his solemn Lectures". Blackstone suffered a
nervous breakdown A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing In internal medici ...
soon after the first lecture, and on 24 November he launched a suit in the Chancellor's Court against "William Jackson of the City of Oxford Printer" for £500 damages, justified by Jackson "printing and publishing a scandalous Libell notoriously reflecting on the Character of him the said William Blackstone". Jackson had refused to reveal who ordered the anonymous pamphlet, leading to the suit, but it evidently did not proceed further. This suit, along with the struggle over the Vinerian Professorship and other controversies, damaged his reputation within the university, as evidenced by his failure to win election as Vice Warden in April 1759, losing to John White. Prest attributes Blackstone's unpopularity to specific personality traits, saying his "determination...in pursuit of causes to which he committed himself could irritate as well as intimidate those of a more relaxed disposition. While quick to take offence at perceived slights on his own character and motives, he could also show surprising indifference to the effect his words and actions might have on others". This marked the beginning of his break with Oxford, which coincided with his growing influence outside the university. In 1759
Lord Bute John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, (; 25 May 1713 – 10 March 1792), styled as Lord Bute between 1713 and 1723, was a British nobility, British nobleman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister of Kingdom of Great Britain ...

Lord Bute
, 's official tutor, requested copies of Blackstone's lectures, which he forwarded. Later that year Blackstone was paid £200 by the Prince, who became an "appreciative, loyal, and soon to be incomparably influential patron". This patronage, and Blackstone's purchase of a set of chambers in the
Inner Temple The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four (professional associations for s and judges) in London. To be and practise as a barrister in , a person must belong to one of these Inns. It is ...

Inner Temple
, also transferring to that Inn, were significant steps in his departure from Oxford. In 1759 Blackstone published another two works, ''The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest, with other authentic Instruments'', described as a "major piece of pioneering scholarship" leading to Blackstone's election to the Society of Antiquaries in February 1761, and ''A Treatise on the Law of Descents in Fee Simple'', which was later used, almost verbatim, as chapters 14 and 15 of the ''Commentaries''.


London


Work at the Bar

With sponsorship from the Prince of Wales and his success with the ''Analysis'', Blackstone began work as a barrister, although he kept up his lecture series at Oxford. By 1760 he had become "a very eminent figure indeed in the world of letters", and his legal practice grew as a result. Although not considered a great barrister of the period, he maintained a steady flow of cases, primarily in the King's Bench and
Exchequer of Pleas The Exchequer of Pleas, or Court of Exchequer, was a court that dealt with matters of equity (law), equity, a set of legal principles based on natural law and Common law#History, common law in England and Wales. Originally part of the ''curia re ...
. On the death of the third
Earl of Abingdon The Grant of deed of Arms of Earl of Abingdon, 1682 V&A Museum no. W.25:1 to 3-1987 Earl of Abingdon is a title in the Peerage of England The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before the Act of Uni ...
, Blackstone was retained as counsel for the executors and trustees to oversee the family's attempts to pay off debts and meet other obligations. On 5 May 1761 he married Sarah Clitherow, a member of a family of lesser gentry from
Middlesex Middlesex (; abbreviation: Middx) is a Historic counties of England, historic county in South East England, southeast England. Its area is almost entirely within the wider urbanised area of London and mostly within the Ceremonial counties of En ...

Middlesex
. Their first child, William Bertie Blackstone, born 21 August 1762, did not survive to adulthood. Seven more children were born; Henry, James, Sarah, Mary, Philippa, William, Charles, and George, who also died in childhood. The Blackstones had a large estate in
WallingfordWallingford may refer to: Places * Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom **Wallingford Castle the castle * Wallingford, Connecticut, United States * Wallingford, Iowa, United States * Wallingford, Kentucky, United States * Wallingford, ...
in Berkshire, including 120 acres (46 ha) of
pasture Pasture (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

pasture
land around the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the The Isis, River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At , it is the longest river entirely in England and the Longest rivers of the United Kingdom, se ...
and the right of
advowson Advowson () or patronage is the right in English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals ...
over St Peter's Church. In February 1761 Blackstone was considered as a potential
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
candidate for the
rotten borough Old Sarum in Wiltshire, an uninhabited hill which until 1832 elected two Members of Parliament. Painting by John Constable, 1829 A rotten or pocket borough, also known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a parliamentary borough ...
of Hindon in Wiltshire. After consultation with friends, he agreed to this prospect – at the same time refusing the offer of appointment as
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland The Court of King's Bench The Court of King's Bench, formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was a court of common law in the English legal system. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century from the '' curia re ...
. On 30 March 1761 he was returned for Hindon, and took his seat. This did not limit his legal work, initially, with the seat being given without a requirement to attend or vote in a particular way, and the grant of a
patent of precedence A patent of precedence is a grant to an individual by letters patent upLetters patent transferring a predecessor of the Nancy Nancy may refer to: Places France * Nancy, France, a city in the northeastern French department of Meurthe-et-Mo ...
at the same time actually increased the demand on his time. Court records show him pleading before
Lord Mansfield William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, PC, SL (2 March 170520 March 1793) was a British barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litig ...

Lord Mansfield
in the Court of King's Bench soon after his election, and acting as counsel in ''Tonson v Collins'', a copyright case, ''Thiquet v Bath'', an important case on international law, and ''R v '', acting for the prosecution in a feud over
Louis XV Louis XV (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774), known as Louis the Beloved (french: le Bien-Aimé), was King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached ...
's newly appointed cross-dressing Ambassador to the United Kingdom. With this increase in his practice, Blackstone also saw an increase in his out-of-court work, writing opinions and recommendations for various Oxford colleges, the MP Jonathan Rashleigh and the fourth
Earl of Abingdon The Grant of deed of Arms of Earl of Abingdon, 1682 V&A Museum no. W.25:1 to 3-1987 Earl of Abingdon is a title in the Peerage of England The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before the Act of Uni ...

Earl of Abingdon
, who paid him to draft several private Acts of Parliament. In December 1761, he asked
Lord Shelburne William Petty Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, (2 May 17377 May 1805; known as The Earl of Shelburne between 1761 and 1784, by which title he is generally known to history) was an Irish-born British Whig statesman who was the first ...
, a patron, for his assistance in gaining appointment as
Chief Justice of Chester The Justice of Chester was the chief judicial authority for the county palatine of Chester, from the establishment of the county until the abolition of the Great Sessions in Wales and the palatine judicature in 1830. Within the County Palatine (wh ...
, writing again in July 1762 to "prevail upon Lord Bute to recommend me to his Majesty's Notice", anticipating an upcoming vacancy in the
Court of Common Pleas A court of common pleas is a common kind of court structure found in various common law jurisdictions. The form originated with the Court of Common Pleas (England), Court of Common Pleas at Westminster, which was created to permit individuals to pr ...
. Parliamentary service was considered a "desirable if never absolutely essential qualification for would-be English judges", something that did not necessarily bode well for Blackstone. Naturally inarticulate and reticent, he was an infrequent and "indifferent" speaker during his first session of Parliament, speaking only 14 times in seven years. His chosen career did lend him to politics, in that the lawyers in the House of Commons were often added to select committees to provide them with technical expertise in drafting legislation. He again applied for a judicial post in December 1762, after an opening in the Exchequer of Pleas came up, but lost to George Perrott, a leading Exchequer barrister. The next five vacancies also failed to go to Blackstone, after the appointment of
Lord Camden Image:Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden by Nathaniel Dance, (later Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Bt).jpg, 250px, Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, by Nathaniel Dance-Holland Marquess Camden is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was create ...
(a Whig) as
Lord Chancellor The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking among the Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inheri ...
.


Commentaries on the Laws of England

In 1765 Blackstone announced his resignation from the Vinerian Chair, effective after his 1766 lectures. These were divided into two 14-lecture series, on "private wrongs" and "public wrongs" delivered between 12 February and 24 April. At this point Blackstone had published nothing new since ''A Treatise on the Law of Descents in Fee Simple'' in 1759. The decision to resign was most likely due to the increasing demands of his legal practice and the reduced profit from the lectures, which, after peaking at £340 in 1762, dropped to £239 a year later and to £203 for the final round of lectures in 1765–6. In response, Blackstone decided to publish a new book – ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
''. The first volume was published in November 1765, bringing the author £1,600 – the full work would eventually bring in over £14,000.
Owen RuffheadOwen Ruffhead (1723 – 25 October 1769) was a miscellaneous writer, and the descendant of a Welsh family who were bakers to King George I of Great Britain. Legal consultant and writer The junior Owen Ruffhead was born in Piccadilly. When still a ch ...
described Volume I as "masterly", noting that "Mr Blackstone is perhaps the first who has treated the body of the law in a liberal, elegant and constitutional manner. A vein of good sense and moderation runs through every page". Every copy was sold within six months, and the second and third volumes, published in October 1766 and June 1768, received a similar reception. The fourth and final volume appeared in 1770, dealing with Criminal Law. With the financial success of the ''Commentaries'', Blackstone moved in 1768 from his London property in Carey Fields to No. 55 Lincoln's Inn Fields. Neighbours included the
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna ; sc, Sardigna or ) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a connected to the , surrounded by the and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by and and , ...

Sardinia
n ambassador, , Lord Northington, John Morton and the Third Earl of Abingdon, making it an appropriate house for a "great and able Lawyer". Blackstone's treatise was republished in 1770, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1778 and in a posthumous edition in 1783. Reprints of the first edition, intended for practical use rather than antiquary interest, were published until the 1870s in England and Wales, and a working version by
Henry John Stephen Henry John Stephen (1787–1864) was an English legal writer and serjeant-at-law A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (ar ...
, first published in 1841, was reprinted until after the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. The first American edition was produced in 1772; prior to this, over 1,000 copies had already been sold in the Thirteen Colonies.


Judge

Even after the publication of the ''Commentaries'', Blackstone's chances of judicial appointment remained slim. While he was old enough, experienced enough and widely respected, the presence of Lord Camden as Lord Chancellor and Blackstone's lack of aristocratic patrons at the time hindered his chances. In January 1770, however, Lord Grafton's government began to fall, with Camden resigning on 17 January and Solicitor-General John Dunning, following him.
George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on th ...

George III
appointed
Lord North Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford (13 April 17325 August 1792), better known by his courtesy title Courtesy (from the word ''courteis'', from the 12th century) is gentle politeness and courtly manners. In the Middle Ages I ...
as Prime Minister, and North picked
Charles Yorke Charles Yorke Privy Council of the United Kingdom, PC (30 December 172220 January 1770) was Lord Chancellor, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Life The second son of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, he was born in London, and was educ ...
as Lord Chancellor. Yorke's death on 20 January, after holding the position for less than three days, left several important legal positions within the government open. As such, Blackstone, now MP for
WestburyWestbury may refer to: Places United Kingdom *Westbury, Buckinghamshire *Westbury, Shropshire *Westbury, Wiltshire *Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire *Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol *Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset United States *Westbury, Connecti ...
, was apparently approached to become Solicitor-General; he refused, not wanting to deal with the complicated duties attached to the position.Prest (2008) p. 255 On 9 February 1770 – apparently with the intervention of the King, and possibly
Lord Mansfield William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, PC, SL (2 March 170520 March 1793) was a British barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litig ...

Lord Mansfield
– Blackstone became a
Justice of the Common Pleas Justice of the Common Pleas was a puisne judicial position within the Court of Common Pleas of England and Wales, under the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Chief Justice. The Common Pleas was the primary court of common law within England and W ...
, succeeding Edward Clive, and was made a
Serjeant-at-Law #REDIRECT Serjeant-at-law#REDIRECT Serjeant-at-law A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers ...
on 12 February. After only four days it was announced that Joseph Yates was to move to the Common Pleas, and Blackstone was again sworn in as a judge, this time of the Court of King's Bench. This was apparently due to Yates' poor health; Lord Mansfield ran a busy court as
Lord Chief Justice The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales — different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict ...
, and it was felt that his transfer to the Common Pleas was for the best. Others commented that it was instead due to political and judicial disagreement, with Yates unwilling to stomach the changes which Mansfield made to English law. Blackstone sat regularly as a judge, despite bouts of ill health, and also served on various circuit courts. Prest describes him as an "exceptionally careful, conscientious and well-respected judge . . his judgments ranging between narrowly framed technicalities broad statements of public commentary". He was, however, considered a poor trial judge, being reversed on appeal more frequently than any of his peers. Blackstone returned to the Common Pleas on 25 June 1770, having spent less than six months in the King's Bench;
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
asserted that this was due to Mansfield's having Blackstone removed similarly to his removal of Yates. Bentham asserted that in the King's Bench, Blackstone was "always in hot water", and that there was "heartburning" between the two; Bentham's account is considered dubious because historically, Mansfield and Blackstone had an excellent relationship, with the third volume of the ''Commentaries'' describing Mansfield as "a judge, whose masterly acquaintance with the law of nations was known and revered by every state in Europe". There is only one recorded King's Bench case, ''R v Proprietors of Birmingham Canal Navigation'', in which Blackstone and Mansfield disagreed. In the Common Pleas, Blackstone operated under a civil jurisdiction rather than a mixed civil and criminal one. This played to his strengths, and many of his decisions are considered farsighted; the principle in ''Blaney v Hendricks'', for example, that interest is due on an account where money was lent, which anticipated Section 3 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934. Blackstone's decision in ''Goldswain's Case'' was later repeated by Lord Denning in ''Falmouth Boat Construction Co v Howell'' in 1950.


Criticism

English jurist
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
was a critic of Blackstone's theories. Others saw Blackstone's theories as inaccurate statements of English law, using the Constitutions of Clarendon, the Tractatus of Glanville and the 1689 Bill of Rights as particularly obvious examples of laws Blackstone omitted.


Death

Blackstone had long suffered from gout, and by November 1779 also had a nervous disorder which caused dizziness, high blood pressure, and possibly Diabetes mellitus type 2, diabetes. By 3 February 1780 he was too weak to write, and after "some Days almost totally insensible", he died on 14 February at age 56. After a service conducted by Bishop Barrington on 22 February, Blackstone was buried in the family vault under St Peter's Church, Wallingford. His estate at his death was worth less than £15,000; therefore William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland, William Eden secured a £400 annual royal pension for Sarah Blackstone. The initial reaction to Blackstone's death was subdued, but in December 1780 the Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford, All Souls College agreed that "a Statue be erected to the memory of Sr W Blackstone deceased". Constructed by John Bacon (sculptor, born 1740), John Bacon, the life-sized statue of Blackstone in his judicial robes cost £539, and has rested in the Codrington Library since 1872. His brother-in-law, James Clitherow, also published two volumes of Sir William Blackstone's Reports, his law reports which added £1,287 to the estate, and in 1782 the ''Biographical History of Sir William Blackstone'' appeared.


Legacy

Blackstone's primary legacy is his written work, specifically the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Demand for reprinted, abridged and translated versions was "almost inexhaustible" in the 18th and 19th centuries, although the ''Commentaries emphasis on the Parliamentary sovereignty, sovereignty of Parliament drew ire. Alexis de Tocqueville described Blackstone as "an inferior writer, without liberality of mind or depth of judgment". Other commentators differ; one described him as "the core element in the Age of Enlightenment, British Enlightenment", comparing him to Montesquieu, Cesare Beccaria, Beccaria and Voltaire. Academics have said that the ''Commentaries'' were crucial in changing English Law from a system based on actions to a system of substantive law. At the time of publication, the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
of England was still, in some ways, in its infancy, with people uncertain as to what the law was. The ''Commentaries'' helped to solidify legal thinking. At the same time, legal education had stalled, and Blackstone's work gave the Law "at least a veneer of scholarly respectability".
William Searle Holdsworth Sir William Searle Holdsworth Sir William Searle Holdsworth (7 May 1871 – 2 January 1944) was an English legal historian and Vinerian Professor of English Law The Vinerian Professorship of English Law, formerly Vinerian Professorship of Comm ...
, one of Blackstone's successors as Vinerian Professor of English Law, Vinerian Professor, argued that "if the Commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it very doubtful that [the United States], and other English speaking countries would have so universally adopted the [common] law".Holdsworth (1928) p. 157 The ''Commentaries'' had a particular influence in the United States; James Iredell, an original Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States wrote that the ''Commentaries'' were "Books admirably calculated for a young Student, and indeed may instruct the most learned . . Pleasure and Instruction go hand in hand". When the ''Commentaries'' were first printed in North America, 1,400 copies were ordered for Philadelphia alone. Academics have also noted the early reliance of the Supreme Court on the ''Commentaries'', probably due to a lack of US legal tradition at that time. The US academic Robert Ferguson notes that "all our formative documents – the United States Declaration of Independence, Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the seminal decisions of the Supreme Court under
John Marshall John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...

John Marshall
– were drafted by attorneys steeped in Sir William Blackstone's ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. So much was this the case that the ''Commentaries'' rank second only to the Bible as a literary and intellectual influence on the history of American institutions". Even towards the end of the twentieth century, the ''Commentaries'' were cited in Supreme Court decisions between 10 and 12 times a year.Miles (2000) p. 57 Within United States academia and practise, as well as within the judiciary, the ''Commentaries'' had a substantial impact; with the scarcity of law books on the frontier, they were "both the only law school and the only law library most American lawyers used to practise law in America for nearly a century after they were published". Blackstone had drawn up a plan for a dedicated School of Law, and submitted it to the University of Oxford; when the idea was rejected he included it in the ''Commentaries''. It is from this plan that the modern system of American law schools comes. Subscribers to the first edition of Blackstone, and later readers who were profoundly influenced by it, include James Iredell,
John Marshall John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...

John Marshall
,
James WilsonJames Wilson may refer to: Politicians and government officials Canada *James Wilson (Upper Canada politician) (1770–1847), English-born farmer and political figure in Upper Canada *James Crocket Wilson (1841–1899), Canadian MP from Quebec ...
,
John Jay John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of ...

John Jay
,
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific stud ...

John Adams
,
James Kent James Kent (July 31, 1763, Fredericksburg, Dutchess County, New York – December 12, 1847, New York City) was an United States, American jurist and legal scholar.Langbein, John H.Chancellor Kent and the History of Legal Literature(1993). Faculty S ...
and
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of governme ...

Abraham Lincoln
. In the early 1920s the American Bar Association presented a statue of Blackstone to the English Bar Association; however, at the time, the sculpture was too tall to be placed in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The sculpture, designed by Paul Wayland Bartlett was eventually cast in Europe and presented back to the US for display. United States Congress, Congress approved the placement of the sculpture in Washington, D.C. on 15 March 1943, and appropriated $10,000 for the installation. The bronze statue is a nine-foot (2.7 m) standing portrait of Blackstone wearing judicial robes and a long curly wig, holding a copy of ''Commentaries''. It is placed on a tall granite base and stands on Constitution Avenue and 3rd Street NW. The town of Blackstone, Virginia is named after him. The North Wall Frieze in the courtroom of the Supreme Court of the United States depicts William Blackstone, as one of the most influential legal commentators in world history.


Blackstone's Ratio or Blackstone's Formulation

Among the most well-known of Blackstone's contributions to judicial theory is his own statement of the principle that it "is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". While this argument originates at least as far back as Genesis 18:23–32 in the Bible,"''n'' Guilty Men"
146 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 173, Alexander Volokh, 1997.
as well as versions by Maimonides and John Fortescue (judge), Sir John Fortescue, Blackstone's analysis is the one picked up by Benjamin Franklin and others, so that the term has become known as "Blackstone's Ratio". As
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific stud ...

John Adams
, having studied Blackstone, put it: Blackstone's Ratio is a maxim of English law, having been established as such within a few decades of Blackstone's work being published. It is also cited in courts and law in the US, and is strongly emphasised to American law students.G. Tim Aynesworth, An illogical truism, Austin Am.-Statesman, 18 April 1996, at A14. Specifically, it is "drilled into [first year law students'] head[s] over and over again." Hurley Green, Sr., Shifting Scenes, Chi. Independent Bull., 2 January 1997, at 4.


Works

* ''Elements of Architecture'' (1743) * ''An Abridgement of Architecture'' (1743) * ''The Pantheon: A Vision'' (1747) * '' An Analysis of the Laws of England'' (1756) * '' A Discourse on the Study of the Law'' (1758) * ''The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest, with other authentic Instruments'' (1759) * ''A Treatise on the Law of Descents in Fee Simple'' (1759) * ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
'' (1766) * ''Sir William Blackstone's Reports, Reports in K.B. and C.P., from 1746 to 1779'' (1780)


See also

* U.S. Constitution#Republics and fundamental law, US Constitution, influences


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Sir William Blackstone
at th
Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive (ECPA)
* * * *
The Commentaries online at Archive.Org
{{DEFAULTSORT:Blackstone, William 1723 births 1780 deaths 18th-century English non-fiction writers 18th-century English male writers Alumni of Pembroke College, Oxford British MPs 1761–1768 British MPs 1768–1774 English barristers English legal professionals English legal scholars English legal writers Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford Justices of the Common Pleas Justices of the King's Bench Knights Bachelor Members of the Middle Temple Members of the Parliament of Great Britain for English constituencies People educated at Charterhouse School People from Wallingford, Oxfordshire Principals of New Inn Hall, Oxford Vinerian Professors of English Law Writers from London Deaths from heart disease