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decreed for the support of a lecturer, and the perpetual encouragement of students; and the compiler of the ensuing Commentaries had the honour to be elected the first Vinerian professor.
In this situation he was led, both by duty and inclination, to investigate the elements of the law, and the grounds of our civil polity, with greater assiduity and attention than many have thought it necessary to do. And yet all, who of late years have attended the public administration of justice, must be sensible that a masterly acquaintance with the general spirit of laws and the principles of universal jurisprudence, combined with an accurate knowledge of our own municipal constitutions, their original, reason, and history, bath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decisions, with which our ancestors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the pursuit 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 sufficiently answered: and, if in some points he is still mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a search so new, so extensive, and so laborious.
2 Nov. 1765.
NOTWITHSTANDING the diffidence expressed in the foregoing Preface, no sooner was the work compleated, but many of its positions were vehemently attacked by zealots of all (even opposite) denominations, religious as well as civil; by some with a greater, by others with a less degree of acrimony. To such of these animadverters as have fallen within the author's notice (for he doubts not but some have escaped it) he owes at least this obligation; that they have occasioned 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 supply it when inaccurate or defective; to illustrate and explain it when obscure 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 false and his doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from himself can make them right; if founded in truth and rectitude, no censure from others can make them wrong.
THE difcharge of a duty fimilar to that to which
the world is indebted for the Commentaries on the Laws of England, led the Editor to prefume, that in the course of his researches he might be able to collect fome obfervations which might be useful to the Public, and at the fame time it fuggefted the propriety of his exertions to contribute to the further improvement of that valuable production.
The extenfive fale of the preceding Editions has abundantly proved that the design meets with general approbation.
No alteration has been made in the Author's text; but the principal changes, which either the legislature or the decifions of the courts have introduced into the law fince the last corrections of the Author, are specified and explained by the Editor in the notes.*
The Commentaries on the Laws of England form an effential part of every Gentleman's library: the beautiful and lucid arrangement, the purity of the language, the claffic elegance of the quotations and
*The Editor's notes are separated from the Text and notes of the Author, by a line, and are referred to by figures, thus (1); and the pages of the former editions are preserved in the margin.
allufions, the clear and intelligible explanation of every subject, must always yield the reader as much pleasure as improvement; and wherever any conftitutional or legal queftion is agitated, they are the first, and, in general, the best authority referred to. What Pliny has faid of another eminent profeffor of Law may justly be applied to Sir William Blackftone; Quam peritus ille et privati juris et publici ! Quantum rerum, quantum exemplorum, quantum antiquitatis Nihil eft quod difcere velis, quod ille docere non poteft. Mihi certe, quoties aliquid abditum quæro, ille thefaurus eft. Plin. Epist. 1. 22.
In order to add to the utility of the Commentaries, as a book of general reference, the Editor has annexed fuch exceptions and particular inftances as he thought would render the information ftill fuller and more complete. Where he has prefumed to question any of the learned Commentator's doctrines, he has affigned his reasons for his doubt or diffent; but where he has difcovered any inaccuracy arifing merely from inadvertence, he has stated it without fcruple or ceremony. We should expect more than human excellence, if we imagined that a work, comprizing almost the whole fyftem of English jurifprudence, could be entirely free from miftakes. But it is a matter of great concern to the Profeffion and to the Public at large, that, in an Author fo univerfally read, fo deservedly admired, and in whom such confidence is reposed, every subject should be reviewed with fcrupulous and critical precifion. It has been, and
and it will continue to be, the Editor's peculiar study and ambition to advance this learned performance to as great a degree of accuracy and perfection as his attention and ability can effect; and he will always be grateful for any correction of his own errors, or for any useful remarks which may not have occurred to him in his Examination of the Commentaries.
To prevent any unfounded animadverfions, the Editor, or he ought rather perhaps to call himself the Annotator, wishes the purchasers of this Work to be informed, that he holds himself responsible for the utility and accuracy of the Notes in every Edition to which his name is prefixed; but that, with regard to every other circumftance attending the publication, he has no direction or control whatever.
Though the Notes in this Edition have been confiderably extended, yet there are fome important fubjects, which the Author has either entirely omitted, or too concisely touched upon; the Editor is therefore preparing to publish separately such additions as these deficiencies in the Commentaries feem to require.
The profeffional reader ought to be apprized, that the Editor in the Notes has frequently referred to Annotators and the Authors of Law Treatises in preference to original cafes, those learned writers in the places cited having generally collected all the original authorities, which would be too numerous to be introduced into a note to the Commentaries.