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Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769)

Commentaries was the first attempt to condense common law tradition into a clear system. Sir William Blackstone, an English jurist, wrote it as a treatise on English common law tradition from the Magna Carta on. The four volumes of the treatise concern the Rights of Persons (structure of the legal system), The Rights of Things (property rights), Private Wrongs (torts or civil actions), and Public Wrongs (criminal law).

Blackstone believed that law existed to protect peoples’ lives, liberty, and property. This belief clearly influenced the Founders. All lawyers in the American colonies read the Commentaries and many of those who framed the Founding documents, including John AdamsAlexander HamiltonThomas Jefferson, and James Wilson, practiced law. Blackstone’s influence is evident in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.