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THE following sheets contain the substance of

a course of leEtures on the laws of England, which were read by the author in the university of OXFORD. His original plan took its rise in tbe

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 bad the satisfaction to find (and be acknowleges it with a mixture of pride and gratitude) that bis 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 bis 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 bad privately undertaken. The knowlege of our laws and constitution was adopted as a liberal science by general academical autho

a 3


rity; competent endowments were decreed for the Support of a lecturer, and the perpetual encouragement of fudents ; and the compiler of the ensuing commentaries had the honour to be elected the first Vinerian profesor.


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 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 conftitutions, their original, reafon, and history, hath given a beauty and

energy to many modern judicial decisions, with wb.2.3 or ancestors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the pursuit of these inquiries, the author bath been able to re&tify any errors which either himself or others


have heretofore imbibed, his pains will be fufficiently answered ; and, if in some points he is fiill mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will nake dne ollowances for the difficulties of a Search fo niere', extensive, and

so laboriouser

2 Nov. 1765.


NOTWITHSTANDING the diffidence expressed in the foregoing Preface, no sooner was the work completed, 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 bave fallen within the author's notice (for be doubts not but some have escaped it) be 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 ; amend or supply it when inaccurate or defective ; to illustrate and explain it when obscure. But, where he thought the objeftions ill-founded, he hath left and shall leave the book to defend itself : being fully of opinion, that if his principles be false and bis doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from himself can make them right; if founded in truth and

no censure from others can make them

rectitude, wrong.






HE discharge of a duty similar to that, to which

the world is indebted for the Commentaries on the Laws of England, led the Editor to presume, that in the course of his researches he might be able to collect some observations not unuseful to the Public, and at the same time it suggested the propriety of his endeavouring to contribute to the further improvement of that valuable production.

Impreffed with these ideas, he had formed the resolution to subjoin a variety of notes to the text, and a supplement to each chapter, where the subject seemed important and unexhausted, and in this manner to extend the whole to five volumes.

But as it would have required a great length of time to have completed so extensive a design, he was induced to supply the present Proprietors of the work, who were preparing a new edition, with the notes, and to reserve the consideration of such subjects, as have not an immediate reference to any paffage in the Commentaries for a separate supplemental volume.

In this edition the author's text is in no instance altered, but the principal changes, which either the legiNature or the decisions of the courts have introduced into the law since the last corrections of



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