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THE following Sheets contain the fubftance of a courfe of lectures on the laws of England, which were read by the author in the university 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 acknowleges it with a mixture of pride and gratitude) that his endeavours were encouraged and patronized by thofe, both in the university and out of it, whofe good opinion and esteem he was principally defirous to obtain.
The death of Mr VINER in 1756, and his ample benefaction to the univerfity for promoting the ftudy of the law, produced about two years afterwards a regular and public establishment of what the author had privately undertaken. The knowlege of our laws and conftitution was adopted as a liberal science by general academical authority;
rity; competent endowments were decreed for the Support 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 anď inclination, to investigate 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 public adminiftration of justice, must be fenfible that a mafterly acquaintance with the general fpirit of laws and the principles of univerfal jurisprudence, combined with an accurate knowlege of our own municipal conflitutions, their original, reafon, and history, hath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decifions, with which our ancestors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the purfuit of these 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 some points be is still mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a fearch fo new, fo extensive, and fo laborious.
2 Nov. 1765.
NOTWITHSTANDING the diffidence expressed 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 Some 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 leaft this obligation; that they have occafioned him from time to time to revise his work, in respect 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 shall leave the book to defend itself: being fully of opinion, that if his principles be falfe and bis doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from himfelf can make them right; if founded in truth and rectitude, no cenfure from others can make them wrong.