Sir William Blackstone


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Blackstone, Sir William,

1723–80, English jurist. At first unsuccessful in legal practice, he turned to scholarship and teaching. He became (1758) the first Vinerian professor of law at Oxford, where he inaugurated courses in English law. British universities had previously confined themselves to the study of Roman law. Blackstone published his lectures as Commentaries on the Laws of England (4 vol., 1765–69), a work that reduced to order and lucidity the formless bulk of English law. It ranks with the achievements of Sir Edward Coke and Sir Matthew Hale, Blackstone's great predecessors. Blackstone's Commentaries, written in an urbane, dignified, and clear style, is regarded as the most thorough treatment of the whole of English law ever produced by one man. It demonstrated that English law as a system of justice was comparable to Roman law and the civil law of the Continent. Blackstone has been criticized, notably by Jeremy Bentham, for a complacent belief that, in the main, English law was beyond improvement and for his failure to analyze exactly the social and historical factors underlying legal systems. Blackstone's book exerted tremendous influence on the legal profession and on the teaching of law in England and in the United States. In his later life Blackstone resumed practice, served in Parliament, was solicitor general to the queen, and was a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.

Bibliography

See The Sovereignty of the Law, selections from Blackstone's Commentaries, ed. and with an introd. by G. Jones (1973); biography by O. A. Lockmiller (1938); J. Bentham, A Comment on the Commentaries (ed. by C. W. Everett, 1928); P. Lucas, Essays in the Margin of Blackstone's Commentaries (1962).

References in periodicals archive ?
In going on to say that the sea by its nature cannot be owned, he is following two great jurists, Hugo de Grotius and Sir William Blackstone.
This book focuses on six men - Thomas Tyrwhitt, editor of Chaucer; George Tollet, country gentleman; Sir William Blackstone, distinguished lawyer; Thomas Holt White, retired ironmonger; Samuel Henley, translator of Vathek; and Francis Douce, Keeper of Manuscripts in the British Museum - who provided more than 1300 notes, some of them extended discussions of passages in the plays of the Renaissance dramatist.
To help answer that question and address the focus of this year's Oxford Round Table, The Influence of Sir William Blackstone on Business and American Education, I would suggest that we concentrate on principles as opposed to people, or perhaps better stated, on individuals who practice principles of a higher order, and should be recognized as true statesman, whether in business, government or education.
Sir William Blackstone underlined this cardinal rule of interpretation in his magisterial Commentaries on the Laws of England.