Sir William Blackstone, an English lawyer, born in London, July 10, 1723, died there, Feb. 14, 1780. He was the posthumous son of a silk mercer, and lost his mother before he was 12 years old. His maternal uncle provided for his early education, and in his 7th year placed him at the Charterhouse school, where after the death of his mother he was admitted upon the foundation. Before he was 16 he entered Pembroke college, Oxford, and in 1741 he was entered at the Middle Temple, bidding adieu to poetry in "The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse." In 1743 he was elected a fellow of All Souls' college. Having been admitted to the bar in 1745, he spent the succeeding seven years in attendance upon the courts at Westminster, but failed to obtain a remunerative practice, and resolved to abandon the profession. In 1749 he had been appointed recorder of Wallingford, in Berkshire, and he continued to discharge the duties of that office for 20 years. He was also steward of All Souls' college, and for six years assessor of the vice chancellor's court.
In 1753 he opened a course of lectures at Oxford upon the English constitution and laws, which were the germ of his "Commentaries." For the purpose of establishing a permanent course of a similar character, Mr. Viner, author of the "Abridgment of the Common Law," founded at Oxford a professorship of the common law, and Blackstone was elected the first incumbent of the chair in 1758. He held the professorship for seven years, winning a wide reputation, which enabled him to return to the bar, where he immediately obtained a lucrative practice. In 1761 he was elected to parliament from Hin-don in Wiltshire, and the following year he was made king's counsel. He had previously declined the office of chief justice of the Irish common pleas, and in 1770 he also declined the office of solicitor general. Subsequently he was successively justice of the king's bench and the common pleas until his death. His "Commentaries on the Laws of England" were published in 4 vols., at Oxford, 17G5-'9. Before the publication of this work there was no modern treatise presenting as a whole the system of English jurisprudence. Blackstone was compelled to collect his materials from an immense mass of statutes, reports, digests, abridgments, old charters, and ancient treatises.
He succeeded in weaving out of this incongruous mass so methodical a whole, set forth in so easy and perspicuous a style, that his work continues, both in England and America, to be the first text book placed in the hands of the student of law. In parliament Blackstone was a uniform supporter of the government. Several American editions of the "Commentaries " have been published, the most noted being those by Prof. Tucker of Virginia, Judge Shars-wood of Pennsylvania, and Judge Cooley of Michigan. Prof. Tucker's was accompanied with an elaborate exposition of his views of the constitution of the United States.