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gree, proved themselves of kin to the founder of All Souls' College, of being elected, in preference to all others, into that society. Those claims became now so numerous, that the college, with reason, complained of being frequently precluded from making choice of the most ingenious and deserving candidates. In this treatise. (his first publication) he endeavored to prove that, as the kindred to the founder, a popish ecclesiastic, could not but be collateral, the length of time elapsed since his death must, according to the rules both of the civil and canon law, have extinguished consanguinity; or that the whole race of mankind were equally the founder's kinsmen. This work, although it did not answer the end proposed, or convince the then visitor, did the author great credit, and showed he had read much, and well digested what he had read. And, most probably, the arguments contained in it had some weight with his grace, who succeeded to the see of Canterbury, and who, a few years afterward, on application to him as visitor of the college, formed a new regulation, which gave great satisfaction, limiting the number of founder's kin, whereby the inconvenience complained of was, in a great measure, removed, without altogether annihilating claims founded on the express words of the college statutes. In forming this new regulation, his grace made choice of Mr. Justice Blackstone as his common law assessor, together with that eminent civilian, Dr. Hay, well knowing how much he was master of the subject then under consideration.

Having attended the courts at Westminster for seven years, and finding the profits of his profession very inadequate to the expense, in the summer of the year 1753 he determined to retire to his fellowship and an academical life, continuing the practice of his profession as a provincial counsel. He had previously planned his lectures on the Laws of England, and in the ensuing Michaelmas Term he entered on his new province of reading those lectures, which, even at their commencement, such were the expectations formed from the acknowledged abilities of the lecturer, were attended by a very crowded class of young men of the first families, characters, and hopes.

In July, 1755, he was appointed one of the delegates of the Clarendon Press. Upon his entering on the duties of this office, he discovered many abuses which required correction; much mismanagement, which demanded new and important regulations. In order to obtain a thorough insight into the nature of both, he made himself master of the mechanical part of printing; and to promote and complete a reform, he printed a letter on the subject, addressed to Dr. Randolph, at that time vice-chancellor. This and his other endeavors produced the desired effect, and he had the pleasure of seeing, within the course of a year, the reform he had proposed carried into execution, much to the honor as well as the emolument of the University, and the satisfaction of all its friends. While engaged in these pursuits, he drew up a


small tract relative to the management of the University Press. This he left for the use of his successors in that office; and it was held in high esteem, and regarded by them as the ground-work, not only of the improvements then made, but of those also which were in contemplation.

About a year before this he published An Analysis of the Laws of England, as a guide to those who attended his lectures. The principle of this arrangement, which he afterward adopted in the Commentaries, was borrowed from Sir Matthew Hale, with some alterations which were not improvements. To scientific precision it has no pretensions; but it is simple, intelligible, and sufficiently convenient.

On the death of Dr. Coxed, warden of Winchester, in the year 1757, he was elected, by the surviving visitors of Michel's new foundation in Queen's College, into that body. This situation afforded fresh matter for his active genius to exercise itself upon; and it was chiefly by his means that this donation, which had been for some years subject of contention only, became a very valuable acquisition to the college, as well as an ornament to the University, by completing that handsome pile of building toward the High-street, which, for many years, had been little better than a confused heap of ruins. The ingrafting a new set of fellows and scholars into an old-established society was not an easy task, and here the difficulty had increased from the many unsuccessful attempts previously made, all of which had terminated in disputes between the members of the old and the visitors of the new foundation. Dr. Blackstone, however, was not disheartened, but pursued his plan for the improvement of Mr. Michel's original donation, without departing from his intention, to the entire satisfaction of the members of the old foundation, which, together with a body of statutes he drew for the purpose, was confirmed by act of Parliament in the year 1769.

Being engaged as counsel in the great contest for knights of the shire for the county of Oxford, in 1764, he very maturely considered a question then much agitated, Whether copyholders of a certain nature had a right to vote in county elections; and having committed his thoughts to paper, in the shape of a small treatise, he was prevailed upon by Sir Charles Mordaunt, and other members of Parliament, who had brought in a bill to settle that controverted point, to publish it in March, 1758, under the title of Considerations on Copyholders. The bill soon after passed into a law.

Mr. Viner having, by his will, left the copyright of his Abridg ment, together with other property to a considerable amount, to the University of Oxford, to found a professorship, fellowships, and scholarships of common law, Dr. Blackstone was, on the 20th of October, 1758, unanimously elected Vinerian professor. This situation (he informs us in his Introduction to the Commentaries) led him to investigate the elements of law, and the grounds of

our civil polity, with greater assiduity and attention than many have thought it necessary to do; and on the 25th of the same month he read his first introductory lecture, so celebrated for the elegance of its composition, which, at the request of the vicechancellor and heads of houses, he published, and afterward prefixed to the first volume of his Commentaries.

His lectures were received with such universal approbation, that he was requested to read them to the Prince of Wales (afterward George the Third). Being at that time engaged to a numerous class of pupils in the University, he thought himself bound to decline the request. But he transmitted copies of many of them for the perusal of his royal highness, who, far from being offended at an excuse grounded on so honorable a motive, sent him a handsome present as an acknowledgment of his merit.

In the course of this year he was strongly pressed by Lord Chief-justice Willes and Mr. Justice (afterward Earl) Bathurst to accept the coif, which he declined. In the year 1759 he published two small pieces merely relative to the University: the one entitled 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.

He had now acquired sufficient reputation and influence to hope for advancement in his profession from patronage, even if he should again fail of success as counsel, and with this expectation, 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 honor on the author, as the principal reformer of the Clarendon Press, from whence no work had before issued equal in beauty to this.

This publication drew him into a short controversy with the late Dr. Lyttleton, then Dean of Exeter, and afterward Bishop of Carlisle. The dean, to assist Blackstone in his publication, had favored him with the collation of a very curious ancient Roll, containing both the Great Charter and that of the Forest, of the 9th of Henry the Third, 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 enrolments 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 8th, 1761; and Blackstone delivered in an answer to the same learned body, dated May 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 society and Dr. Lyttleton, if he did not either own and correct 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 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, he 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 favorably on his professional views by bringing him a considerable increase of practice, chiefly, it would seem, as a chamber counsel, on the 5th of May, 1761, he married Sarah, the eldest surviving daughter of James Clitherow, of Boston House, in the county of Middlesex; with whom (says his biographer, Mr. Clitherow) 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. James, who died in 1831, went through nearly the same course of university preferment as his father; he was fellow of All Souls', Principal of New Inn Hall, Vinerian Professor, Deputy High Steward, and Assessor in the Vice-Chancellor's Court.

Having, by his marriage, given up the fellowship of All Souls', he was, on the 28th of July, 1761, appointed Principal of New Inn

* It may be here mentioned, that as an antiquarian, and a member of this society, into which he was admitted February the 5th, 1761, he wrote "A Letter to the Honorable Daines Barrington, describing an antique seal, with some observations on its original, and the two successive Controversies which the disuse of it afterward occasioned."

This seal, having the royal arms of

England on it, was one of those which all persons having the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, were obliged by the statute of the 1st Edward VI., chapter 2, to make use of. This letter is printed in the third volume of the Archæologia; but his discussion of the merits of the Lyttleton Roll, though containing much good antiquarian criticism, has not yet been made public.

Hall, by the Earl of Westmoreland, the then Chancellor of Oxford. This not only furnished him with an agreeable residence during the periods of delivering these lectures, but conferred a rank in the University which greatly facilitated his labors in promoting whatever he conceived to be useful and beneficial to that learned body.

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. But in the year 1766 he resigned the Vinerian professorship, finding he could not discharge the personal duties consistently with his professional attendance in London.

In 1762 he collected and republished 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 prepared for publication, in Ireland, he was induced to print a correct edition himself; and in November, 1765, twelve years after the delivery of his original lectures, the first volume appeared, under the title of Commentaries on the Laws of England; and the other three volumes were published in the course of the four succeeding years.

In 1766, with the Vinerian professorship, he resigned the principality of New Inn Hall. When his views were first turned toward 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 favored 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 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, which ratified this designation, was rejected by a negative in convocation. This unexpected and, as was assumed by his friends, unmerited rejection, destroyed 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 ardor for improvement which (in the opinion of Mr. Clitherow) so strongly marked his character through life.

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