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THE following fheets contain the fubftance of a courfe of lectures on the Laws of England, which were read by the author in the univerfity of OXFORD. His original plan took its rife in the year 1753: And, notwithstanding the novelty of fuch an attempt in this age and country, and the prejudices ufually conceived against any innovations in the established mode of education, he had the fatisfaction to find, (and he acknowledges it with a mixture of pride and gratitude) that his endeavours were encouraged and patronifed by thofe, both in the university and out of it, whofe good opinion and efteem he was principally defirous to obtain.

The death of Mr. VINER in 1756, and his ample benefaction to the univerfity for promoting the study of the law, produced, about two years afterwards, a regular and publick eftab-lishment of what the author had privately undertaken. The of our flitution was adopted as a liberal fcience by general academical authority; competent endowments were decreed for the fupport of a lecturer, and the perpetual encouragement of students: and the compiler of the enfuing Commentaries had the honour to be elected the first Vinerian profeffor.

In this fituation he was led, both by duty and inclination, to inveftigate the elements of the law, and the grounds of our civil polity, with greater affiduity and attention than many have thought it neceffary to do. And yet all, who of late years have attended the publick adminiftration of juftice, must be fenfible that a masterly acquaintance with the general fpirit of laws, and the principles of univerfal jurifprudence, combined with an accurate knowledge of our own municipal conftitutions, their original, reafon, dnd hiftory, hath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decifions, with which our anceflors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the purfuit of thefe inquiries, the author hath been able to rectify any errors which either himself or others may have heretofore imbibed, his pains will be fufficiently anfwered: And, if in fome points he is ftill mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a fearch fo new, fo extenfive, and fo laborious.

2 Nov. 1765.



fidence expreffed in the foregoing Preface, no fooner was the work completed, but many of its pofitions were vehemently attacked by zealots of all (even oppofite) denominations, religious as well as civil; by fome with a greater, by others with a lefs degree of acrimony. To fuch of thefe animadverters as have fallen within the author's notice (for he doubts not but fome have escaped it) he owes at least this obligation; that they have occafioned him from time to time to revife his work, in refpect to the particulars objected to; to retract or expunge from it what appeared to be really erroneous; to amend or fupply it when inaccurate or defective; to illuftrate and explain it when obfcure. But where he thought the objections ill founded, he hath left and fhall leave the book to defend itfelf: Being fully of opinion, that if his principles be falfe and his doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from him felf can make them right; if founded in truth and rectitude, no cenfure from others can make them wrong.

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To the Ninth London Edition.

THE editor judges it indifpenfable to pre

ferve the author's text entire. The alterations which will be found therein, fince the publication of the last edition, were made by the author himself, as may appear from a corrected copy in his own hand writing. What the editor has chiefly attended to is, to note the alterations made by subsequent acts of parliament. Thefe, together with fome few other neceffary obfervations, in order to prevent confufion, are inferted separate and diftinct at the bottom of the page.


July 20, 1783.

To the Eleventh and laft London Edition.

IN this edition, as in the laft, the author's text is preferved entire. The editor hath added not only the alterations made by acts of parliament fubfequent to the publication of the last edition, but also references to Mr. Douglas' and Mr. Cowper's reports of cafes in the king's bench, which were published fince. These, together with fome notes and obfervations of his own, the editor hath inferted separate and distinct at the bottem of the page, enclosed in brackets, thus [], and marked with Italick references,

Feb. 1, 1787.

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