William Blackstone and His Contributions to American Law
by: Rick Brainard
William Blackstone is the 18th century jurist who wrote a four-volume work on English Law. These volumes known as Blackstone's Commentaries had a substantial influence in American law. In fact, in American and British colleges used his commentaries for years after his death in 1780.
Blackstone's main contribution to law was in his theory of common law. In the article James Wilson, William Blackstone, and the Common Law by Susan Richmond, managing editor of the Neoplolitique publication for the Robertson School of Government, you will learn about Blackstone's Common Law theory and how he influenced James Wilson and other founders in their creation of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
In Greg Bailey's article, Blackstone In America you will learn how Blackstone's lectures on the law became the blueprints for American laws and it's leaders who drafted them. Bailey goes on to say that Blackstone believed that human laws were like scientific laws and that God created these laws. It was up to man to discovery and adopt these laws.
Blackstone on the Law of Nature is a summarization and definition of the major points in Blackstone's theory of law. These definitions are the basis of Blackstone's resilience and contributions to American jurisprudence.
Blackstone's commentaries influenced American law in other ways. For example, the Supreme Court cited Blackstone in Marbury V. Madison in its opinion of this case.
Blackstone's theories influenced the writers of the United States Constitution. Especially in the first ten amendments to this historic document. Two examples of this are in the impeachment clause and in the second amendment.
The impeachment of a public official argument uses his commentaries to explain and define what high crimes and misdemeanors means in American Constitutional law. In his essay, What Rises to the Level of an Impeachable offense, David Barton argues that the Founders understood the fundamental understanding of impeachment. He goes on to say that the impeachment process and language in the United States Constitution is based upon the long traditions of British legal history as found in the commentaries.
The second amendment right to keep and bear arms is a tradition based upon Blackstone's Commentaries. In his sources for his article on the second amendment and the right to keep and bear arms in state constitutions, Professor Eugene Volokh, cites Blackstone's commentaries as a source. This source reads in part "... to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and, lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense."
For more information on how Blackstone and his commentaries relate to American law and order, check out St. George Tucker's Blackstone, found at the Constitution organization web site. You can view this work in html or text format. You will also want to read the introduction by John Roland to understand the reason why Tucker wrote this work.