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STONE have always been considered as the best compressed treatise on the Laws of England that has been published. The great correctness of the work, the admirable arrangement of its parts, and the beauty and simplicity of the style, render it more than probable that we shall never see another work, upon the same subject and in so small a compass, to equal it. I might here quote the opinions of lord Mansfield, sir William Jones, and of many other judges and barristers of the first eminence, as to its merits;-opinions which panegyrise it in the strongest and most unqualified terms: but the merit of the work has long been so fully established, and so universally acknowledged, as to render this unnecessary.
IN 1765, and in the course of the four following years, the first edition of this work was published
and, as a novelty, it was doomed of course to sustain the virulent attacks of the critics of the day. Some censured it generally; others, more confident, attempted to point out particular defects; but all with the like success: for the real merit of the work rendered it triumphant. Some trivial faults, however, which really were in the work as it first appeared, the learned author, with that modesty and candour so characteristic of genuine merit, acknowledged and corrected in the second edition.
THE subsequent editions, to the eighth inclu sive, were published under the direction of the author, and met with those corrections from him which new statutes and judicial decisions from time to time rendered necessary. The manuscript of the ninth edition, which he had enriched with many valuable additions and authorities, was completed for the press prior to his death, and was afterwards edited by Doctor Burn. Thus far the work was entirely the author's.
THE tenth and eleventh editions were edited by Mr. Williams, without the addition of any new matter if we except the notice of a few statutes which had been passed in the intermediate time, and a few notes from Douglas's Reports, the Term
Reports, &c. But the four subsequent editions bear a different character. Mr. Christian, with a laudable zeal of rendering the Commentaries of greater practical utility, enlarged the work by the addition of many notes; and thus made it more valuable, not only to the student, but also to the practising barrister. Still however, in my opinion, there remained much to be done; not perhaps in rendering the work more complete, but in attaining that which seems to have been the principal object of the learned author of the Commentaries in their first publication,-the rendering the study of the law more pleasing and less difficult to the student. Whether the present edition be calculated to attain this object, is now submitted, with deference, to the Reader's judgment. I have only to add, that in preparing it for the press, I have taken considerable pains in rendering the text as perfect as possible, by collating it with others, by referring to most of the authorities cited, and by correcting those errors which had crept into many of the former editions; and the Reader will also find, that to inatters of minor importance, I have not been entirely inattentive.
I WOULD here willingly make my acknowledgments for the assistance I have derived in the annotations, from the most eminent works on our
law. But to mention them partially, would be invidious; and to give a list of the authors, might possibly be construed by the illiberal into an unnecessary, and of course vain, display of reading. I think it, however, necessary to observe, that in some cases where I have had recourse to treatises on different legal subjects, I have quoted the original authorities referred to in them, after having first satisfied myself of the correctness of their quotation and reference. This I have done from a conviction that it would be more satisfactory to the Reader to be at once referred to the original works, than that I should give him a mere reference to a reference.
THE present edition has already been submitted to individuals of the first abilities and eminence in the profession, and has met with their approbation; and should it now meet with a similar reception from the profession and the public, I shall consider myself more than fully compensated for the time I have devoted to the undertaking.
J. F. A.