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THE HE following Sheets contain the fubftance 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 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 bad the fatisfaction to find (and he 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, whofe good opinion and esteem he was principally defirous 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 conftitution was adopted as a liberal fcience by general academical autho
rity; competent endowments were decreed for the Support of a lecturer, and the perpetual encouragement of fludents; and the compiler of the enfuing commentaries had the honour to be elected the firft Vinerian profeffor.
In this fituation he was led, both by duty and 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 juflice, must be fenfible that a masterly acquaintance with the general fpirit of laws and the principles of univerfal jurifprudence, combined with an accurate knowlege of our own municipal confiitutions, their original, reafon, and hiftory, hath given a beauty and energy to many modern judicial decifions, with which our anceflors were wholly unacquainted. If, in the purfuit of thefe inquiries, the author bath been able to rectify any errors which either himself. or others may have heretofore imbibed, his pains will be fufficiently answered: and, if in fome points he is fill mistaken, the candid and judicious reader will make due allowances for the difficulties of a fearch fo new, fo extenfive, and fo laborious
2 Nov. 1765.
POST SCRIP T.
NOTWITHSTANDING the diffidence expreffed 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 fome 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 efcaped it) he owes at leaft this obligation; that they have occafioned him from time to time to revife his work, in respect to the particulars objected to; to retract or expunge from it what appeared to be really erroneous; tó 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 fhall leave the book to defend itself: being fully of opinion, that if his principles be falfe and his doctrines unwarrantable, no apology from himfelf can make them right; if founded in truth and rectitude, no cenfure from others can make them
HE 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 courfe of his refearches he might be able to collect fome obfervations not unufeful to the Public, and at the fame time it fuggefted the propriety of his endeavouring to contribute to the further improvement of that valuable production.
Impreffed with these ideas, he had formed the refolution to fubjoin a variety of notes to the text, and a fupplement to each chapter, where the subject feemed 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 fo extensive a defign, he was induced to fupply the prefent Proprietors of the work, who were preparing a new edition, with the notes, and to referve the confideration of such subjects as have not an immediate reference to any paffage in the Commentaries for a separate fupplemental volume.
In this edition the author's text is in no instance altered, but the principal changes, which either the legiflature or the decifions of the courts have introduced into the law fince the laft corrections of