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to accept the coif, which he declined. In the year 1759, he published two small pieces merely relative to the University: the one intituled Reflections on the opinions of Messrs. Pratt, Morton, and Wilbraham, relating to Lord Litchfield's Disqualification, who was then a candidate for the Chancellorship; the other, A Case for the Opinion of Counsel on the Right of the University to make new Statutes.

In June, 1759, he bought chambers in the Temple, resigned the office of Assessor of the Vice-Chancellor's Court, which he had held for about six years, and, soon after, the Stewardship of All Souls College; and, in Michaelmas Term, resumed his attendance at Westminster; still continuing to pass some part of the year at Oxford, and to read his lectures there, at such times as did not interfere with the London Law Terms.

In November, 1759, he published a new edition of the Great Charter and Charter of the Forest; which added much to his former reputation, not only as a lawyer, but as an antiquarian and an able historian. The execution of the mechanical part

. of this edition, also, reflected great honour on the author, as the principal reformer of the Clarendon press, from whence no work had ever before issued equal in beauty to this.

This publication drew him into a short controversy with the late Dr. Lyttelton, then Dean of Exeter, and afterwards Bishop of Carlisle.—The Dean, to assist Mr. Blackstone in his publication, had favoured him with the collation of a very curious antient Roll, containing both the Great Charter and that of the Forest, of the 9th of Henry the 3rd, which he and many of his friends judged to be an original. The editor of the Charters, however, thought otherwise, and excused himself in a note in his Introduction) for having made no use of its various readings,

as the plan of his edition was confined to Charters which had "passed the Great Seal, or else to authentic entries and enrol“ments of record, under neither of which classes the Roll in “ question could be ranked.”

The Dean, concerned for the credit of his Roll, presented to the Antiquarian Society a vindication of its authenticity, dated June the 8th, 1761; and Mr. Blackstone delivered in an answer to the same learned body, dated May the 28th, 1762, alleging, as an excuse for the trouble he gave them, “ that he should “think himself wanting in that respect which he owed to the


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Society and Dr. Lyttelton, if he did not either own and cor“rect his mistake, in the octavo edition then preparing for the “press, or submit to the Society's judgment the reasons at large, “ upon which his suspicions were founded.” These reasons, we may suppose, were convincing, for here the dispute ended*.

About the same time, he also published a small Treatise on The Law of Descents in Fee Simple.

Upon the dissolution of Parliament in 1761, he was returned burgess for Hindon, in Wiltshire; and, on the 6th of May following, a patent of precedence was granted him to rank as King's Counsel, having, a few months before, declined the office of Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, in Ireland.

These marks of distinction, and the celebrity he had acquired as a writer, operating most favourably on the professional views of Mr. Blackstone, by a considerable increase of practice, on the 5th of May, 1761, he married Sarah, the eldest surviving daughter of the late James Clitherow, of Boston House, in the county of Middlesex, Esquire ; with whom he passed near nineteen years, in the enjoyment of the purest domestic and conjugal felicity, (for which no man was better calculated), and which, he used often to declare, was the happiest part of his life. By this lady he had nine children, the eldest and youngest of whom died infants ; seven survived him, viz. Henry, James, William, Charles, Sarah, Mary, and Philippa ; the eldest was not much above the age of sixteen at his death.

Having by his marriage vacated the fellowship at All-Souls, he was, on the 28th of July, 176], appointed Principal of New Inn Hall, by the Earl of Westmoreland, the then Chancellor of Oxford. This proved not only an agreeable residence, during the periods of delivering these lectures, but conferred a rank in the University which greatly facilitated his labours in promoting whatever he conceived to be useful and beneficial to that learned body.

*It may be here mentioned, that as an England on it, was one of those which all Antiquarian, and a member of this Socie- persons having the exercise of ecclesiasty, into which he was admitted February tical jurisdiction, were obliged by the stathe 5th, 1761, he wrote“ A Letter to the tute of the 1 Edw. VI. ch. 2, to make use “Honourable Daines Barrington, describ- of. This letter is printed in the 3rd vo‘ing an antique seal, with some observa- lume of the Archæologia; but his discus“tions on its original, and the two succes- sion of the merits of the Lyttelton Roll, “sive Controversies which the disuse of it though containing much good antiquarian * afterwards occasioned.”

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criticism, has not yet been made pubiice This Seal, having the royal arms of


About this time an attempt being made to restrain the power given him, as Professor, by the Vinerian statutes, to nominate a deputy to read the solemn lectures, he published a state of the case, for the perusal of the Members of Convocation, upon which it was dropped.

In the following year, 1762, he collected and re-published several of his pieces under the title of Law Tracts, in two volumes, octavo.

In 1763, on the establishment of the Queen's family, he was appointed Solicitor-General to her Majesty; and was chosen about the same time a Bencher of the Middle Temple.

Many imperfect and incorrect copies of his lectures being in circulation, and a pirated edition of them having been published, or preparing for publication, in Ireland, induced him to print a correct edition himself; and, in November, 1765, the first volume appeared, under the title of Commentaries on the Laws of England; and in the course of the four succeeding years the other three volumes.

In the year 1766, he resigned the Vinerian Professorship, and the Principality of New Inn Hall; finding he could not discharge the personal duties of the former, consistently with his professional attendance in London, or the delicacy of his feelings as an honest man.

When his views were first turned towards the Vinerian Professorship, he had formed a design of settling in Oxford for life: and flattered himself, that, by annexing the office of Professor to the Principality of one of the Halls, (or perhaps converting it into a college), and placing Mr. Viner's fellows and scholars under their Professor, a society might be established for students of the common law, similar to that of Trinity-hall in Cambridge, for civilians.

This plan was much favoured by Mr. Viner's will, by which he left to the University “ all his personal estate, books, &c., for the

constituting, establishing, and endowing one or more Fellowship or Fellowships, and Scholarship or Scholarships, in any College or Hall in the said University, as to the Convocation 6 shall be thought most proper for Students of the Common “ Law.” But, notwithstanding this plain direction to establish them in some College or Hall, the clause from the Delegates,


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which ratified this designation, was rejected by a negative in convocation.

This unexpected, and, as was assumed by his friends, unmerited rejection, destroyed Mr. Blackstone's prospects of a lasting settlement at Oxford. His views of an established society for the study of the common law were at an end, and no scope left for the exercise of that ardour for improvement which so strongly marked his character through life.

In 1768, Mr. Blackstone was returned to serve in parliament, for the borough of Westbury, in Wiltshire, and took part in the debates relative to the election of Mr. John Wilkes, when his adversaries in the house stated that many of the positions advanced by him on that occasion, were strongly opposed to the doctrines laid down in the Commentaries; and he was also attacked in a pamphlet supposed to have been written by Sir W. Meredith. To this pamphlet he published a reply, under the title of “ A Letter to the Author of the Question Stated,” which was severely commented upon by Junius, who concluded his bitter criticism thus:-“ If I were personally your enemy, I should dwell with a malignant pleasure upon those great and useful qualities you certainly possess, and by which you once acquired, though they could not preserve to you, the respect and esteem of your country. I should enumerate the honours you have lost, and the virtues you have disgraced; but having no private resentments to gratify, I think it sufficient to have given my opinion of your public conduct, leaving the punishment it deserves to the closet and to yourself."

In the same year, Dr. Priestly animadverted on some positions in the Commentaries, relative to offences against the doctrine of the Established Church, to which he published an answer.

The reputation of Mr. Blackstone as an able lawyer was now so thoroughly established, that, had he possessed a constitution equal to the fatigues attending the most extensive business of the profession, he might probably have obtained its most lucrative emoluments and highest offices. The offer of the SolicitorGeneralship, on the resignation of Mr. Dunning in January, 1770, opened the most flattering prospects to his view. But the attendance on its complicated duties at the Bar, and in the House of Commons, induced him to decline it.

He, however, readily accepted the office of Judge of the Com

mon Pleas, on the resignation of Mr. Justice Clive, and kissed his Majesty's hand on that appointment, February 9th, 1770; on the 12th of the same month, he was called to the degree of a Serjeant at Law, and chose for a motto on the rings distributed on that occasion, “ Secundis dubiisq. rectus.” But previous to the passing of his patent, Mr. Justice Yates having expressed an earnest wish to retire from the King's Bench into the Court of Common Pleas, Mr. Blackstone, from motives of personal esteem, consented. On the 16th February, he kissed his Majesty's hand on being appointed a Judge of the Court of King's Bench, and also received the honour of knighthood. On the evening of the same day, he was sworn into office before the Lords Commissioners Smythe and Aston, at the house of the former, in Bloomsbury Square. But, upon the death of Mr. Justice Yates, which happened on the 7th of June following, Sir William was appointed to his original seat in the Court of Common Pleas, and on Friday the 22nd kissed his Majesty's hand on the appointment. On the 25th he executed a resignation of his office of Judge of the King's Bench; his patent was sealed, and he was sworn in before the Lords Commissioners Smythe, Bathurst, and Aston, at the house of the former. He was succeeded in the King's Bench by Sir W. H. Ashhurst. On his promotion to the Bench he resigned the Recordership of Wallingford.

He seemed now arrived at the point he always wished for, and might justly be said to enjoy otium cum dignitate. Freed from the attendance at the Bar, and what he had still a greater aversion to, in the Senate, “where,” to use his own expression, “ amid the

rage of contending parties, a man of moderation must expect 66 to meet with no quarter from any side,” although he diligently and conscientiously attended the duties of the high office he was placed in, yet the leisure afforded by the legal vacations he dedicated to the private duties of this life, which, as the father of a numerous family, he found himself called upon to exercise; or to literary retirement, and the society of his friends, at his villa called Priory Place, in Wallingford, which be purchased soon after his marriage, though he had for some years before sometimes resided at it. His connection with this town, both from his office of Recorder, and his occasional residence there from about the year 1750, led him to promote every plan which could contribute

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