Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]




Ir is hardly necessary to say any thing of the merits of "Blackstone's Commentaries," at this period of time, when it has been adopted as the text-book of the student, and the most frequently consulted authority of the learned jurist.

Until the publication of the "Commentaries," there was no work, which presented the grand outlines of the interesting science of law, in a condensed and comprehensive shape.

As a work to be consulted by the profession, it is without an equal. As a compendious delineation of the rights and duties of individuals, embracing, in the most systematic form, the principles of social existence and civil liberty, it is invaluable to the unprofessional scholar and gentleman.

In an age so enlightened as the present, new discoveries are made in all the sister sciences, and new illustrations are constantly presented of the truth or falsity of previously formed theories or adopted opinions.

Hence the utility of adding copious notes and references to a work, in which the principles of English jurisprudence, as they existed at the time of its publication, are developed, but which have subsequently undergone material changes and alterations. It has been the business of the annotators of the "Commentaries," to note the various changes that have occurred in the principles of the common law, that in perusing the work, the reader may be enabled, at a glance, to ascertain not only how the law formerly was, but how far it has been adopted, modified, or entirely altered by subsequent adjudications.

The editor has extracted very liberally fi. the notes of Christian, Archbold, and Chitty. In the edition of Mr. Chitty, with the view of rendering it a work of "practical utility and convenient reference to the profession," he analyzed and compressed in the notes, the enactments of every statute of a public nature, and the reports of new decisions, as well in the common law as in the equity, ecclesiastical, admiralty, and military courts, down to the year 1826. Some notes, in relation to the law of an entirely local character, have been omitted in this edition, but all the notes applicable to the common law of this country, from the respective editions, or which were deemed to be useful to the American lawyer, have been retained.

To these I have added various American authorities, either in support of, or in opposition to, the principles of the English common


law, as I have found them adopted here. It was my original intention, to have introduced the various statutory provisions, as they exist in the respective states, either as they regarded the defining or enforcing of civil rights, or the punishment of criminal offences; but, finding them so various, I feared that the adoption of that plan would burthen the work too much with notes.

I have, therefore, confined my notes and references to the common law proceedings of our country, with a general reference to the statutes of the respective states, upon the subjects treated of in the


It was thought advisable to annex, by way of appendix, the Analysis of Barron Field, as affording an useful exercise for the student. I think its utility will not be questioned by any one who is desirous of indelibly fixing in his mind a correct understanding of the definition of terms, which are, in a great measure, the key of principles, or who wishes to attain a clear conception of the connection or dependance of principles.

If the adoption of the plan, that is above suggested, will aid the student in preparing himself for the pursuit of an honourable profession, or will afford to those who are actually employed in its prosecution, any facilities in their researches, I shall feel myself abundantly compensated for the clerical labour that has been bestowed upon this work.

New-York, July 10th, 1827.




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 novelty 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 principally desirous to obtain.

The death of Mr. VINER in 1756, and his ample benefaction to the university for promoting the study of the law, produced about two years afterwards a 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 the 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 answered: and, if in some points he is still mistaken, the candid and judieious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.

2 Nov. 1765.


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 objected 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.

« PředchozíPokračovat »