History Facts, William Blackstone, and Law of God
Dinner Topics for Wednesday
William Blackstone Quotes
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this. ~Blackstone
The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed … tend in all their consequences to man’s felicity [happiness]. (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England. 1:29-60, 64)
Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are: neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner shall himself the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture. (Blackstone: Commentaries on the Laws of England)
Laws for human nature had been revealed by God, whereas the laws of the universe (natural law) must be learned through scientific investigation. (Commentaries, p.64) Blackstone stated that “upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws …” (Ibid., p.65)
“Free men have arms; slaves do not.”
― William Blackstone
“The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.”
― William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 4: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sir William Blackstone KC SL (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 £60,000 in 2014 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.
On 20 October 1758 Blackstone was confirmed as the first Vinerian Professor of English Law, immediately embarking on another series of lectures and publishing a similarly successful second treatise, titled A Discourse on the Study of the Law. With his growing fame, Blackstone successfully returned to the bar and maintained a good practice, also securing election as Tory Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Hindon on 30 March 1761. In February 1766 he published the first volume of Commentaries on the Laws of England, considered his magnum opus—the completed work earned Blackstone £1,648,000 in 2014 terms. After repeated failures, he successfully gained appointment to the judiciary as a Justice of the Court of King’s Bench on 16 February 1770, leaving to replace Edward Clive as a Justice of the Common Pleas on 25 June. He remained in this position until his death, on 14 February 1780.
Blackstone’s legacy and main work of note is his Commentaries. Designed to provide a complete overview of English law, the four-volume treatise was repeatedly republished in 1770, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1778 and in a posthumous edition in 1783. Reprints of the first edition, intended for practical use rather than antiquary interest, were published until the 1870s in England and Wales, and a working version by Henry John Stephen, first published in 1841, was reprinted until after the Second World War. Legal education in England had stalled; Blackstone’s work gave the law “at least a veneer of scholarly respectability”. William Searle Holdsworth, one of Blackstone’s successors as Vinerian Professor, argued that “If the Commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it very doubtful that [the United States], and other English speaking countries would have so universally adopted the common law.” In the United States, the Commentaries influenced John Marshall, James Wilson, John Jay, John Adams, James Kent and Abraham Lincoln, and remain frequently cited in Supreme Court decisions.