Review: Sir William Blackstone and the Common Law: Blackstone's Legacy to America
Sir William Blackstone and the Common Law: Blackstone's Legacy to America by Robert D. Stacey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A useful and frustrating book.
It was useful in that I knew almost nothing of Blackstone and his commentaries on the common law before this. (Still haven’t read Blackstone himself!) It seems his contribution was to summarize into one place clearly the common law history and precedents of English history, from Alfred the Great to the present.
It was frustrating in that the author often made a thinly veiled argument for natural law, by mere assertion. Blackstone believed in and relied on natural law, so it must be right. The author was trying to appreciate Blackstone and argue for natural law at the same time, but only really accomplished the first. The second goal needed another book.
Analysis of judicial review was clear without being simplistic. Judges need to apply the principles of law in new situations, so in this sense they review and extend the law. But they cannot create new principles out of thin air. That they do shows the influence a judge can have in society: “we believe this now, not that, so I rule thusly…”
Dr. Stacey gives a helpful outline of how modern legal theory is far different from Blackstone’s understanding. He helps the normal reader understand legal positivism, and connects the dots with the broader culture war nicely.
View all my reviews