18th century English jurist, author of Commentaries on the Laws of England
William Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone SL KC (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle-class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke College, Oxford in 1738. After switching to and completing a Bachelor of Civil Law degree, he was made a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford on 2 November 1743, admitted to Middle Temple and called to the Bar 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 (£65,000 in 2018 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.

Born

10 Jul 1723, in Cheapside, London

Died

14 Feb 1780, in Wallinford, Berkshire, England

Web Pages

Sir William Blackstone - Online Library of Liberty
Includes portrait, short biography and links to various of Blackstone's works and links to selected quotations
"Sir William Blackstone's (1723-1780) four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England assures him a place in history as one of the greatest scholars of English common law. Blackstone began his lectures on the common law in 1753. His Commentaries served as a primary instruction tool in England and America well into the nineteenth century and exerted a pronounced influence on the development of the American legal tradition."

Articles

Natural Law and the American Tradition, by Davis E. Keeler, The Freeman, May 1981
Discusses the influence of Edward Coke and William Blackstone in early colonial America
"In 1765, William Blackstone published his Commentaries on the Law and within a short time he became as well read in America as in England. These quotations are from an American edition published in Philadelphia in 1771: '... laws ... denote rules ... of human action ... that is the precepts by which man ... endowed with both reason and free will, is commanded to make use of those faculties in the general regulation of his behavior ... So when He created man ... He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature ... and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws. ...'"
The Courts and the New Deal, Part 1, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Jun 2005
First part of a four-part series examining how Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal affected federal courts and other legal practices; contrasts the thoughts of Blackstone and Bentham
"While we like to think of U.S. law originating with the Constitution, the real 'author' of the original legal system was William Blackstone, the great British jurist who wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England in the mid 1700s. ... It was Blackstone who championed the ideal of law as a shield of the innocent, a tool that in the hands of government was to protect the life, property, and liberty of individual persons. Law was not only to constrain (and punish) those who would steal or kill, but also to constrain the powers and activities of those who were part of the state."

Writings

On the Origin and Character of Rights, The Freeman, Mar 1981
Selection extracted from Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. I
"By the absolute rights of individuals we mean those which are so in their primary and strictest sense; such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it ... For the principal aim of society is to protect in the enjoyment of those absolute rights ..."
Related Topic: Rights

Books Authored

Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 1, 1769
"Of the Rights of Persons". Electronic text, in original spelling, available at the Avalon Project, Yale Law School
Related Topic: Law
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 2, 1769
"Of the Rights of Things". Electronic text, in original spelling, available at the Avalon Project, Yale Law School
Related Topic: Law
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 3, 1769
"Of Private Wrongs". Electronic text, in original spelling, available at the Avalon Project, Yale Law School
Related Topic: Law
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 4, 1769
"Of Public Wrongs". Electronic text, in original spelling, available at the Avalon Project, Yale Law School
Related Topic: Law

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "William Blackstone" as of 14 Mar 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.