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.


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 ?
Neither did William Blackstone nor John Locke, yet the framers freely acknowledged their influence on the Constitution and American law.
In describing that system, the great English jurist William Blackstone said, "Better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.
The confusion springs from a section in the state standards that identifies Moses - along with William Blackstone, John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu - as an individual whose principles informed the nation's founding documents.
The marble friezes above the Supreme Court chamber depict 18 great lawgivers, including Moses, Solomon, King John and William Blackstone.
After a brief introduction, in which some key concepts are discussed, the author turns to the British roots of prerogative power in Chapter 2, with passages from the writings of John Locke, William Blackstone, Niccolo Machiavelli, and political scientist Clinton Rossiter.
William Blackstone, whose treatise on English common law became an authority for the development of American law, referred to those who became financially involved in litigation that did not concern them as "pests of civil society," who were "officiously interfering in other men's quarrels.
This lecture focused on the life and work of Sir William Blackstone, an English legal giant of the 1700s, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England is one of the most important historical works of legal scholarship in the English language.
In Britain it shaped the thinking of Edmund Burke, Edward Gibbon, William Blackstone, and Adam Smith, and in America its influence can be detected in the Federalists, particularly in the thought of Madison and Hamilton.
There is a presumption in the British judicial system that, as Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) said: "It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than one innocent should suffer.
I open Chitty again and begin to read the section, Life of the Author: "Sir William Blackstone was born on the 10th of July, 1723, in Cheapside, in the parish of St.
Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England
His distinction between the public and private purposes of the law finds implicit endorsement in David Lieberman's essay on William Blackstone and the "categories of English jurisprudence.