: Blackstone's Liberal Education for Law and Politics

in The Cloaking of Power

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2003 | ISBN: 9780226094823
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226094830 | DOI:
: Blackstone's Liberal Education for Law and Politics

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This chapter focuses on the influence of Sir William Blackstone's training of lawyers and judges in liberal constitutions and states that he also had an important influence on liberal politics. Contrary to the portrait of him painted by Jeremy Bentham and others impatient for progress toward more radical reforms of liberal constitutionalism, he understood the Commentaries as embodying a reform project in English law. The contempt of Blackstone's critics is proportional, ironically, to this striking achievement in the history of Anglo-American and modern law. Blackstone like Montesquieu would get the benefits of modern philosophy as evident in the Commentaries' subsequent discussion of the state of nature, or of Beccaria on a precise scale of punishments. Analysis of Blackstone's debt to Montesquieu confirms that such “public spirit” represents the jurisprudence of The Spirit of the Laws—not least with regard to the role of the judicial power in a complex constitution of liberty.

Keywords: Sir William Blackstone; lawyers; judges; liberal constitutions; Commentaries; public spirit

Chapter.  7075 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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