Commentaries have long been considered the main work on the development of English law and have played a role in the development of the American legal system. They were, in fact, the first methodical treatise on customary law that suited a secular readership, at least since the Middle Ages. The customary law of England was based more on precedents than on laws and codifications and was much less accessible than civil law developed from Roman law for the purposes of a treaty. The comments had an influence mainly because they were really readable and because they met a need. He wrote in Volume 4 of the commentaries: «Freedom of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but it consists in not imposing prior restrictions on publications and not in freeing oneself from censorship in criminal cases of publication. Every free person has the undisputed right to express to the public the feelings he likes: to prohibit this is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is inappropriate, malicious or illegal, he must draw the consequences of his own audacity. Of Private Wrongs dealt with crimes as they existed in Blackstone`s time. The different procedural methods that existed in civil law were dealt with in this volume as well as the jurisprudence of the different courts, from the lowest to the highest. Almost after the fact, Blackstone also adds a short chapter on justice, the parallel legal system that existed in English law at the time to remedy the injustice that the common law did not address. Blackstone`s Commentaries on the Laws of England was an extremely influential treatise on English law that methodically transformed this massive series of laws and legal decisions called «common law» into a coherent system of legal principles understandable to the layman.
Commentaries were the most important authority in common law in the eyes of American founders. His articulation of the logic of the common law was one of the reasons why they chose to establish the American legal system on its basis. Blackstone is still cited today by lawyers and judges in their efforts to articulate the importance of U.S. laws and the Constitution. Of a very similar nature to the challenges are slander, libelli famosi, which, taken in their greatest and most extensive sense, denote all writings, images or the like of an immoral or illegal tendency; But in the sense that we must look at them now, are malicious slanders of a person, and especially of a judge, published either by prints, letters, signs or images to provoke him to anger or expose him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. The direct tendency of these slanders is the breaking of the public peace by inciting their objects to take revenge and perhaps shed blood. The communication of a slander to a single person is a publication in the eyes of the law: and therefore sending an abusive private letter to a man is just as much a slander as if it were printed openly, because it is also subject to a breach of the peace. For the same reason, whether the case is true or false is not relevant to the nature of the defamation; Since provocation, and not lying, is the thing that must be punished criminally: although undoubtedly lying can aggravate their guilt and increase their punishment. In a civil suit, let us remember, defamation must appear both false and scandalous; Because if the accusation is true, the plaintiff has not suffered any private harm and has no reason to demand compensation for himself, regardless of the crime it may be against the public peace: and therefore, in a civil action, the truth of the accusation can be affirmed in the bar of prosecution. But in an application of the law, the tendency for all to have slanders to generate hostility and disturb the public peace is the only consideration of the law. And therefore, in such prosecutions, the only facts to be taken into account are, first, the production or publication of the book or writing; And secondly, if the case is criminal: and if these two points are directed against the accused, the crime against the public is complete.
Punishing such defamers, whether for making, repeating, printing or publishing the defamation, is a fine, and such corporal punishment that the court will impose at its discretion; with respect to the quantity of the crime and the quality of the offender. The law of the twelve tables of Rome made the slander that tarnished someone else`s reputation a capital crime: but before augustus` reign, punishment became only physical. Under Emperor Valentinian, it became crucial again, not only for writing, but also for publishing it or even refraining from destroying it. In this and many other respects, our law corresponds more to the Middle Ages of Roman jurisprudence, when freedom, scholarship and humanity were in full force than to the cruel edicts established in the dark and tyrannical era of the anti-gent decemorns or later emperors. Wallingford, Oxfordshire), English jurist, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vols. (1765-69) is the best-known description of the teachings of English law. The work became the basis for university law education in England and North America. In 1770, he was knighted. Blackstone attended Oxford University and practiced law briefly before being elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. His bachelor`s lectures on English law have been extremely popular and have formed the basis for his future published work. Blackstone was a member of parliament from 1761 to 1770 and a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1770.
His legal career, like his legal career, has been largely undifferentiated. Among other things, this article provides a useful overview of Blackstone`s vision of the common law and its importance to the American legal system. Although the leaders of the American Revolution necessarily rejected Blackstone`s views on popular sovereignty and the right to revolution, the framers of the Constitution returned to Blackstone`s analysis of the principles of law in developing a system for the government of the former colonies. The fourth volume of the commentaries contains a section dealing with slander and incendiary slander that has largely informed the founders` understanding of the First Amendment`s freedom of the press clause. There, Blackstone insists that «freedom of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state,» but concludes that this freedom consists primarily of «not imposing pre-publication restrictions.» This legal principle, commonly referred to as «prior restriction,» simply means that the government cannot pass regulations, such as applying for a publishing license, that would penalize or inhibit publishers before they have actually printed anything. Blackstone, however, saw few restrictions on the government`s power to regulate pressure retrospectively. In this and other cases we have examined recently, where blasphemous, immoral, treacherous, schismatic, incendiary or scandalous slander is punishable by English law, some with greater severity, others with a lower degree of severity; Freedom of the press, well understood, is in no way violated or violated. While freedom of the press is essential to the essence of a free state, it consists in not imposing prior restrictions on publications and not in freeing oneself from censorship in criminal cases relating to publication. Every free man undoubtedly has the right to express to the public the feelings he loves: to prohibit this is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is inappropriate, malicious or illegal, he must draw the consequences of his own audacity. Subjecting the press to the restrictive power of a licensor, as has been done before and since the revolution, means subjecting all freedom of expression to the prejudices of a man and making him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controversial issues of education, religion and government. But (as the law currently does) punishing all dangerous or offensive writings that, when published, must be judged in a fair and impartial process of a harmful tendency, is necessary for the preservation of peace and good order, government and religion, the only solid foundations of civil liberty. Thus, the will of the individual is still free; Abuse of this free will alone is punishable by legal sanctions.
Nor does it impose any restriction on freedom of thought or research: the freedom of private feelings remains; Spreading or publishing bad feelings that destroy society`s goals is the crime that society corrects. A man (says a good writer on the subject) may be allowed to keep poisons in his closet, but not publicly, to sell them as cordialities. And to this, we can add that the only plausible argument that has been used so far to restrict the just freedom of the press, «that it was necessary to prevent daily abuses», will completely lose its power if it is demonstrated (through a seasonal effort of laws) that the press cannot be abused for any bad cause. without suffering appropriate punishment: while it can never be used to a voucher if it is under the control of an inspector. It is so true that censorship of dismissal means preserving the freedom of the press. Archive.org houses a digital copy of the fourth edition of Blackstone`s commentaries owned by John Adams.