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"It is not here that he turns the law into a castle for the purpose of opposing every idea of fundamental' reparation.

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"It is not here that he turns with scorn upon those beneficent legislators, whose care it has been to pluck the mask of Mystery from the face of Jurisprudence.

"If here, as every where, he is eager to hold the cup of flattery to high station, he has stopped short, however, in this place, of idolatry.*

"It is not, then, I say, this part, it is not even any part of that Introduction to which alone I have any thoughts of extending my examination, that is the principal seat of that poison, against which it was the purpose of this attempt to give an antidote. The subject handled in this part of the work is such as admits not of much to be said in the person of the censor. Employed, as we have seen, in settling matters of a preliminary nature-in drawing outlines, it is not in this part that there was occasion to enter into the details of any particular institution. If I chose the Introduction, then, in preference to any other part, it was on account of its affording the fairest specimen of the whole, and not on account of its affording the greatest scope for censure.

"Let us reverse the tablet. While with this freedom I expose our author's ill deserts, let me not be backward in acknowledging and paying homage to his various merits; a justice due, not to him alone, but to that public which now, for so many years, has been dealing out to him (it can not be supposed altogether without title) so large a measure of its applause.


Correct, elegant, unembarrassed, ornamented, the style is such

"In the seventh chapter of the first book, the king has attributes;' he possesses ubiquity;' he is all-perfect and immortal.' These childish paradoxes, begotten upon servility by false wit, are not more adverse to manly sentiment than to accurate apprehension. Far from contributing to place the institutions they are applied to in any clear point of view, they serve but to dazzle and confound, by giving to reality the air of fable. It is true, they are not altogether our author's invention; it is he, however, that has revived them, and that with improvements and additions.

"One might be apt to suppose they were no more than so many transient flashes of ornament; it is quite otherwise. He dwells upon them in sober sadness. The attribute of ubiquity,' in particular, he lays hold of, and makes it the basis of a chain of reasoning. He spins it out into consequences; he makes one thing 'follow' from it, and another thing be so and so 'for the same reason:' and he uses emphatic terms, as if for fear he should not be thought to be in earnest. 'From the ubiquity,' says our author [1 Comm., p.

270], 'it follows that the king can never be nonsuit; for a nonsuit is the desertion of the suit or action by the "non-appearance of the plaintiff in court."' 'For the same reason, also, the king is not said to appear by his attorney, as other men do; for he always appears, in contemplation of law, in his own proper person.'

"This is the case so soon as you come to the last sentence of the paragraph. For so long as you are at the last but two, 'it is the regal office, and not the royal person, that is always present.' All this is so drily and so strictly true, that it serves as the ground-work of a metaphor that is brought in to embellish and enliven it. The king, we see, is, that is to say, is not, present in court. The king's judges are present too. So far is plain downright truth. These judges, then, speaking metaphorically, are so many looking-glasses, which have this singular property, that when a man looks at them, instead of seeing his own face in them, he sees the king's. His judges,' says our author, ' are the mirror by which the king's image is reflected.'"

as could scarce fail to recommend a work still more vicious in point of matter to the multitude of readers.

"He it is, in short, who, first of all institutional writers, has taught Jurisprudence to speak the language of the scholar and the gentleman; put a polish upon that rugged science; cleansed her from the dust and cobwebs of the office; and, if he has not enriched her with that precision that is drawn only from the sterling treasury of the sciences, has decked her out, however, to advantage, from the toilet of classic erudition; enlivened her with metaphors and allusions; and sent her abroad, in some measure to instruct, and in still greater measure to entertain, the most miscellaneous, and even the most fastidious societies."

"The merit to which, as much, perhaps, as to any, the work stands indebted for its reputation, is the enchanting harmony of its numbers; a kind of merit that, of itself, is sufficient to give a certain degree of celebrity to a work devoid of every other. So much is man governed by the ear.”




"Not even in a censorial view would I be understood to deem them altogether without merit. For the institutions commented on, where they are capable of good reasons, good reasons are every now and then given; in which way, so far as it goes, one half of the censor's task is well accomplished. Nor is the dark side of the picture left absolutely untouched. Under the head of 'Trial by Jury' are some very just and interesting remarks on the yet-remaining imperfections of that mode of trial; and under that of Assurances by matter of Record,' on the lying and extortious jargon of recoveries. So little, however, are these particular remarks of a piece with the general disposition that shows itself so strongly throughout the work, indeed so plainly adverse to the general maxims that we have seen, that I can scarce bring myself to attribute them to our author. Not only disorder is announced by them, but remedies, well-imagined remedies, are pointed out. One would think some angel had been sowing wheat among our author's tares."

The warmth of Bentham's animadversions might be amply vindicated by their justice, and by the importance of the interests which he had at heart; to his somewhat limited commendation should be added the following remarks of a distinguished editor of the Commentaries, admirable alike for their good feeling and discrimination: "It is easy to point out their faults; and their general merits of lucid order, sound and clear exposition, and a style almost faultless in its kind, are also easily perceived and universally acknowledged; but it requires, perhaps, the study necessarily imposed upon an editor to understand fully the whole extent of praise to which the author is entitled; his materials should be seen in their crude and scattered state; the controversies examined, of which the result only is shortly given; what he has rejected, what he has forborne to say, should be known


before his learning, judgment, taste, and, above all, his total want of self-display, can be justly appreciated."-[Preface to Coleridge's Blackstone.]

On the style of the Commentaries a high panegyric has been pronounced by no less a critic than C. J. Fox, in a letter addressed to Mr. Trotter. "You, of course, read Blackstone over and over again; and if so, pray tell me whether you agree with me in thinking his style of English the very best among our modern writers; always easy and intelligible, far more exact than Hume, and less studied and made up than Robertson."* In the debate on the admission of Lord Ellenborough into the cabinet, the authority of Blackstone having been relied on, Fox said, "His purity of style I particularly admire. He was distinguished as much for simplicity and strength as any writer in the English language. He was perfectly free from all Gallicisms and ridiculous affectations, for which so many of our modern authors and orators are so remarkable. Upon this ground, therefore, I esteem Judge Blackstone; but as a constitutional writer he is by no means an object of my esteem; and for this, among other reasons, that he asserts the latter years of the reign of Charles the Second (I mean those which followed the enactment of the habeas corpus act) to have been the most constitutional period to be found in our history, not excepting any period that followed. Now it would be inconsistent with all the principles I have ever held to regard such a writer as a constitutional authority, much less to look up to him as an oracle."†

To these panegyrics may be added that of a writer whose judgment was always given in favor of elegant scholarship. "His Commentaries are the most correct and beautiful outline that ever was exhibited of any human science; but they alone will no more form a lawyer than a general map of the world, how accurately and elegantly soever it may be delineated, will make a geographer; if, indeed, all the titles, which he professed only to sketch in elementary discourses, were filled up with exactness and perspicuity, Englishmen might hope at length to possess a digest of their laws which would leave but little room for controversy, except in cases depending upon their particular circumstances; a work which every lover of humanity and peace must anxiously wish to see accomplished.”—[Sir W. Jones on Bailments.]

The notes of decisions which he had collected while at the bar and on the bench, and which he had himself prepared for the press, were published after his death agreeably to a direction in his will, "That his manuscript reports of cases determined in Westminster Hall, taken by himself, and contained in several large note-books, be published after his decease; and that the produce thereof be carried to, and considered as part of, his personal estate."

Trotter's Memoirs of Fox, p. 512.

+ Cobbett's Parl. Deb., vol. vi., p. 314.

They seem to be only such as he had selected out of many from his rough notes, either as being of a more interesting nature, or containing some essential point of law or practice. By far the greatest part of those contained in the first volume are of the Court of King's Bench, but there are some of the Courts of Chancery, Exchequer, and Exchequer Chamber on appeal. They begin with Michaelmas, 1746, the term in which he was called to the bar; and there are some of every term, except two, to Michaelmas, 1750, from whence there is an interval to Michaelmas, 1756. This, probably, arose from his residence being chiefly at Oxford during that period, and when much of his time had been occupied in composing his lectures, which he began to read in 1753, and in preparing for which he had been for some years before principally employed. This accounts for his want of leisure to revise such rough notes as he might have taken during that period, and to fit them for publication while they were fresh in his memory. In the three following years he attended the bar only in Michaelmas and Hilary terms, on account of his lectures; consequently, there are no reports of cases decided during the Easter and Trinity terms of those years; but from that time they continue in a regular series, with the exception of one term, when he was indisposed, and the two terms immediately preceding his being promoted to the bench, when he attended the Court of Exchequer only. These circumstances sufficiently prove that those reports were all taken by himself, except the arguments in the case of Burgess vs. Wheate, in the Court of Chancery, in Hilary term, 1759, which appear, by a remark subjoined, to have been communicated to him by Mr. Fazakerly.*

A considerable portion of the above much longer, and a short abstract of evarticle is extracted from the memoir pre- ery circumstance of consequence in his fixed to Sir William Blackstone's Reports, life, written by himself with his accusand written by his executor, Mr. James tomed accuracy, afford the editor ample Clitherow, who observes, that "an inti- materials for the purpose." This memoir mate acquaintance with Mr. Justice Black- has been corrected, and the other matestone for above thirty years, the assist- rials have been arranged by the editor of ance of other friends who had known him the second volume.

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