Monday, June 30, 2008

Blackstone, preface


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 it's 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 acknowleges[**p3 typo or archaic?] 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 knowlege 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
knowlege 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 judicious
reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of
a search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.

THE labour indeed of these researches, and of a regular
attention to his duty, for a series of so many years,
he hath found inconsistent with his health, as well as his

other avocations: and hath therefore desired the university's
permission to retire from his office, after the conclusion
of the annual course in which he is at present engaged.
But the hints, which he had collected for the use of his
pupils, having been thought by some of his more experienced
friends not wholly unworthy of the public eye, it is
therefore with the less reluctance that he now commits them
to the press: though probably the little degree of reputation,
which their author may have acquired by the candor
of an audience (a test widely different from that of a deliberate
perusal) would have been better consulted by a
total suppression of his lectures;----had that been a
matter intirely[**p3 typo or archaic?] within his power.

FOR the truth is, that the present publication is as
much the effect of necessity, as it is of choice. The notes
which were taken by his hearers, have by some of them
(too partial in his favour) been thought worth revising
and transcribing; and these transcripts have been frequently
lent to others. Hence copies have been multiplied,
in their nature imperfect, if not erroneous; some of which
have fallen into mercenary hands, and become the object
of clandestine sale. Having therefore so much reason to
apprehend a surreptitious impression, he chose rather to
submit his own errors to the world, than to seem answerable
for those of other men. And, with this apology, he
commits himself to the indulgence of the public.