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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and forty-seven, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.
TO THE TWENTY-FIRST EDITION.
THE life of the author (which, though prefixed to the first, was prepared by the editor of the second, volume) has been principally extracted from the Memoir prefixed to Sir William Blackstone's Reports, and written by his executor and relative, Mr. James Clitherow. The analysis at the beginning of each volume has been taken from the author's Law Tracts, published in 1771. The entire text of the work has been rendered as pure and correct as possible by being collated with that of the edition of 1783. which was prepared by Dr. Burn from the copy containing the author's last corrections. The author's notes, also, have been carefully verified in every possible instance.
The editors have in their notes endeavored, in the first place. to correct the few original oversights of the author; in the next place, to state the alterations in the law since the time of Blackstone, so far as they affect the text; and, lastly, to expand such passages as did not seem sufficiently full, and to explain such as did not seem sufficiently clear, for an elementary work. Some few notes have also been inserted, which in strictness can not be included in any of the above classes, but such notes relate only to topics which have been much canvassed since the time of Blackstone, and are not of a technical nature; it being conceived that Mr. Chitty's attempt to expand "the Commentaries" into "a work of practical utility, and convenient reference to the profession in their daily avocations," is inconsistent, no less with the nature of the original work, than with the editorial character. Such of that gentleman's notes, however, as were thought valuable have been retained in this edition.
With respect to the first volume, the deep and varied researches into our national and constitutional history, which have taken place since the time of Blackstone, and the vast and valuable additions which have been made to our information upon the topics embraced in that volume, demanded at the hands of an editor. not only study and preparation for the task, of a more extensive and general, and less of a professional, character, than were required for the other volumes, but (especially upon the political
topics) peculiar delicacy and caution in its execution. Moreover, the number and variety of the subjects commented upon in the first book, and the extent of the statutory alterations effected in the law relating thereto, required the severest retrenchment of all superfluous matter, in order to bring the notes within reasonable compass; while, on the other hand, the universal interest of that book to us all, affecting, as it does, every natural and political person, and every public and private relationship of social life, gave to this volume more of a popular character, and therefore rendered too great conciseness in the notes both undesirable and dangerous. These, and many other peculiarities, materially added to the difficulty and responsibility of this part of the undertaking; and now that the editor submits his labors to the tribunal of the public, it would, indeed, be strangely presumptuous for him, with any due consideration of his own abilities and opportunities, to expect that his labors will not be peculiarly vulnerable to criticism. Nevertheless, he has at least the consolation of reflecting that, when he commenced his labors, he placed before himself no mean standard of excellence; that throughout the work he has devoted his best faculties to its execution; and that, although to reach the standard to which he aspired be beyond his power, yet the peculiar difficulties of his undertaking entitle him to expect peculiar indulgence.
Lincoln's Inn, April, 1844.
JOHN F. HARGRAVE.