‘This Temper of the Times’ <sup>1</sup> (1768–70)

Wilfrid Prest

in William Blackstone

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199550296
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720925 | DOI:
 ‘This Temper of the Times’  1   (1768–70)

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This chapter surveys Blackstone's involvement in public controversy immediately before becoming a judge. Now a more active parliamentary debater, especially in relation to issues raised by John Wilkes and the disputed Middlesex election, he showed himself firmly anti-Wilkes, although not a consistent administration supporter. His stance was criticized as incompatible with his own writings in the Commentaries, especially by the anonymous ‘Junius’, although Blackstone did not lack for supporters, both within and outside Parliament. The final published volume of the Commentaries (1769) was fiercely attacked by Protestant Dissenters, including Joseph Priestley, to whom Blackstone responded in broadly conciliatory fashion. His apparent changes of position on the complex issue of slavery were also criticized, both by Granville Sharp, and later writers. When actually named a judge in February 1770, his appointment was immediately denounced as corrupt and venal by opposition partisans.

Keywords: Parliament; Middlesex Election; Wilkes; Priestley; dissent; Sharp; slavery; judge; judiciary

Chapter.  10315 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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