Monday, April 28, 2008
Here's a 3 1/2 minute video about one of my heroes, William Blackstone. Blackstone was the English lawyer who in the 1760s wrote the influential four volume "Commentaries on the Laws of England," an attempt to explain the principles and origins of English law. This is the law as it stood in the 18th century, where the king could do no wrong and, together with parliament, was considered the guarantor of English freedom.
You don't have to agree with what Blackstone said in order to see that the argument was masterful and infinitely romantic and enriching. Blackstone chronicles the attempt of fragile, fallible humanity to understand the principles of governance implicit in nature and the mind of what he considered the Supreme Being. Watch out, if you read this you might drop everything and become a lawyer!
That's Blackstone on the very top of the post, replete with powdered wig and robes, and below that is Jeremy Bentham, his nemesis. Blackstone not only believed in monarchy but in individual liberty and what we call today "checks and balances." This seemed stupid to Bentham who couldn't see the point of deliberately having a government that was forever at war with itself. Bentham was wrong in my opinion but the debate is an interesting one. All of us should have studied this stuff in high school.
BTW, if you decide to buy a volume I recommend looking for one that's set in a modern typeface. One of the old-style facsimile editions that's on Amazon is hard to read. Google's book archive has a free edition but that might be hard to read as well (I haven't seen it). Look on the net. I'll bet somebody put up a copy that easier on the eye. The problem there is that backlit computer books are hard to read for very long, even if the type is OK.
Blogger decided to put my video on the very bottom, so here it is. It's only 3 1/2 minutes, which will either go by quickly or feel like an eternity, depending on whether you like stuff like this.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 9:03 PM