Commentaries on the Laws of England
Book the First.
William Blackstone, Esq.
Vinerian Professor of Law,
Solicitor General to Her Majesty.
The Third Edition.
Printed at the Clarendon Press.
M. DCC. LXVIII.
The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty,
The following view
of the laws and constitution
the improvement and protection of which
have distinguished the reign
of Her Majesty’s Royal Consort,
with all gratitude and humility,
most respectfully inscribed
by her dutiful
and most obedient
The following sheets contain the substance of a course of lectures on the laws of England, which were read by the author in the university of Oxford. His original plan took it’s rise in the year 1753: and, notwithstanding the novelty of such an attempt in this age and country, and the prejudices usually conceived against any innovations in the established mode of education, he had the satisfaction to find (and he acknowleges it with a mixture of pride and gratitude) that his endeavours were encouraged and patronized by those, both in the university and out of it, whose good opinion and esteem he was principally desirous to obtain.
The death of Mr Viner in 1756, and his ample benefaction to the university for promoting the study 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 constitution was adopted as a liberal science by general academical authority; competent endowments were 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 knowlege of our own municipal constitutions, their original, reason, and history, hath 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.
The labour indeed of these researches, and of a regular attention to his duty, for a series of so many years, he hath found inconsistent with his health, as well as his other avocations: and hath therefore desired the university’s permission to retire from his office, after the conclusion of the annual course in which he is at present engaged. But the hints, which he had collected for the use of his pupils, having been thought by some of his more experienced friends not wholly unworthy of the public eye, it is therefore with the less reluctance that he now commits them to the press: though probably the little degree of reputation, which their author may have acquired by the candor of an audience (a test widely different from that of a deliberate perusal) would have been better consulted by a total suppression of his lectures;—had that been a matter intirely within his power.
For the truth is, that the present publication is as much the effect of necessity, as it is of choice. The notes which were taken by his hearers, have by some of them (too partial in his favour) been thought worth revising and transcribing; and these transcripts have been frequently lent to others. Hence copies have been multiplied, in their nature imperfect, if not erroneous; some of which have fallen into mercenary hands, and become the object of clandestine sale. Having therefore so much reason to apprehend a surreptitious impression, he chose rather to submit his own errors to the world, than to seem answerable for those of other men. And, with this apology, he commits himself to the indulgence of the public.
2 Nov. 1765.
On the Study of the Law.Page 3.
Of the Nature of Laws in general.38.
Of the Laws of England.63.
Of the Countries subject to the Laws of England.93.
Of the Rights of Persons.
Of the absolute Rights of Individuals.121.
Of the Parliament.146.
Of the King, and his Title.190.
Of the King’s royal Family.219.
Of the Councils belonging to the King.227.
Of the King’s Duties.233.
Of the King’s Prerogative.237.
Of the King’s Revenue.281.
Of subordinate Magistrates.338.
Of the Clergy.376.
Of the Civil State.396.
Of the Military and Maritime States.407.
Of Master and Servant.422.
Of Husband and Wife.433.
Of Parent and Child.446.
Of Guardian and Ward.460.
Of the Rights of Things.
Of Property, in general.Page 1.
Of incorporeal Hereditaments.20.
Of the feodal System.44.
Of the antient English Tenures.59.
Of the modern English Tenures.78.
Of freehold Estates, of Inheritance.103.
Of Freeholds, not of Inheritance.120.
Of Estates, less than Freehold.140.
Of Estates upon Condition.152.
Of Estates in Possession, Remainer, and Reversion.163.
Of the Title to Things real, in general.195.
Of Title by Descent.200.
Of Title by Purchase; and, first, by Escheat.241.
Of Title by Occupancy.258.
Of Title by Prescription.263.
Of Title by Forfeiture.267.
Of Title by Alienation.287.
Of Alienation by Deed.295.
Of Alienation by matter of Record.344.
Of Alienation by special Custom.365.
Of Alienation by Devise.373.
Of Things personal.384.
Of Property in Things personal.389.
Of Title to Things personal, by Occupancy.400.
Of Title by Prerogative, and Forfeiture.408.
Of Title by Custom.422.
Of Title by Succession, Marriage, and Judgment.430.
Of Title by Gift, Grant, and Contract.440.
Of Title by Bankruptcy.471.
Of Title by Testament, and Administration.489.
№. I. Vetus Carta Feoffamenti. Page i.
§. 1. Lease, or Bargain and Sale, for a Year. ii.
§. 2. Deed of Release. iii.
§. 1. Writ of Covenant, or Praecipe. xiv.
§. 2. The Licence to agree. ibid.
§. 3. The Concord. ibid.
§. 4. The Note, or Abstract. xv.
§. 5. The Foot, Chirograph, or Indentures of the Fine. ibid.
§. 6. Proclamations, endorsed upon the Fine, according to the Statutes. xvi.
§. 1. Writ of Entry fur Disseisin in the Post; or Praecipe. xvii.
§. 2. Exemplification of the Recovery Roll. ibid.
Of Private Wrongs.
Of Redress by the mere operation of Law.18.
Of Courts in general.22.
Of the Public Courts of Common Law and Equity.30.
Of Courts of a Special Jurisdiction.71.
Of the Cognizance of Private Wrongs.86.
Of Injuries to Personal Property.144.
Of Dispossession, or Ouster, of Chattels Real.198.
Of Injuries proceeding from, or affecting, the Crown.254.
Of Issue and Demurrer.314.
Of the several Species of Trial.325.
Of the Trial by Jury.349.
Of Judgment, and it’s Incidents.386.
Of Proceedings, in the nature of Appeals.402.
Of Proceedings in the Courts of Equity.426.
№. I. Proceedings on a Writ of Right Patent. Page i.
§. 1. Writ of Right patent in the Court Baron. ibid.
§. 2. Writ of Tolt, to remove it into the County Court. ibid.
§. 3. Writ of Pone, to remove it into the Court of Common Pleas. ii.
§. 4. Writ of Right, quia Dominus remisit Curiam. ibid.
§. 5. The Record, with award of Battel. iii.
§. 6. Trial by the grand Assise. v.
§. 1. The Original Writ. ibid.
§. 2. Copy of the Declaration against the casual Ejector; who gives Notice thereupon to the Tenant in Possession. ibid.
§. 3. The Rule of Court. ix.
§. 4. The Record. ibid.
§. 1. Original. ibid.
§. 2. Process. ibid.
§. 3. Bill of Middlesex, and Latitat thereupon, in the Court of King’s Bench. xviii.
§. 4. Writ of Quo minus in the Exchequer. xix.
§. 5. Special Bail; on the Arrest of the Defendant, pursuant to the Testatum Capias, in page xiv. ibid.
§. 6. The Record, as removed by Writ of Error. xxi.
§. 7. Process of Execution. xxvi.
Of Public Wrongs.
Of the Nature of Crimes; and their Punishment.Page 1.
Of the Persons Capable of committing Crimes.20.
Of Principals and Accessories.34.
Of Offences against God and Religion.41.
Of Offences against the Law of Nations.66.
Of High Treason.74.
Of Felonies, injurious to the King’s Prerogative.94.
Of Offences against Public Justice.127.
Of Offences against the Public Peace.142.
Of Offences against Public Trade.154.
Of Offences against the Persons of Individuals.205.
Of Offences against the Habitations of Individuals.220.
Of Offences against Private Property.229.
Of the means of Preventing offences.248.
Of Courts of a Criminal Jurisdiction.255.
Of Summary Convictions.277.
Of Commitment and Bail.293.
Of the several Modes of Prosecution.298.
Of Process upon an Indictment.313.
Of Arraignment, and it’s Incidents.317.
Of Plea, and Issue.326.
Of Trial, and Conviction.336.
Of the Benefit of Clergy.358.
Of Judgment, and it’s Consequences.368.
Of Reversal of Judgment.383.
Of Reprieve, and Pardon.387.
§. 1. Record of an Indictment and Conviction of Murder, at the Assises. Page i.
§. 2. Conviction of Manslaughter. iv.
§. 3. Entry of a trial instanter in the Court of King’s Bench, upon a collateral Issue; and Rule of Court for Execution thereon. v.
§. 4. Warrant of Execution on Judgment of Death, at the general Gaol-delivery in London and Middlesex. vi.
§. 5. Writ of Execution upon a judgment of Murder, before the King in Parliament. vii.