Sir Willliam Blackstone
The Founding Fathers’ Preëminent Legal Mentor

“[a]t the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution [Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England] had been published about twenty years, and * * * more copies of the work had been sold in this country than in England; so that undoubtedly, the framers of the Constitution were familiar with it”, (footnote 1) and considered it “the preeminent authority on English law”, (footnote 2) every legally literate American was also aware of the general rule for statutory construction which Blackstone taught.”

The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 44-45.

Also see “Original Intent”Constitution: Rule of Legal Construction • “Living” Constitution“Judicial Supremacy” through “Judicial Review”


Sir William Blackstone The Founding Fathers Preëminent Legal Mentor

Sir William Blackstone was an English jurist, judge and politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England, which was essentially a  textbook that was just that—commentaries and analysis on the Laws of England. And inasmuch as “[a]t the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution [Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England] had been published about twenty years, and * * * more copies of the work had been sold in this country than in England; so that undoubtedly, the framers of the Constitution were familiar with it”, (footnote 6) and considered it “the preëminent authority on English law”, (footnote 7) every legally literate American was also aware of the general rule for statutory construction which Blackstone taught: namely, that

“[T ]H E fairest and most rational method to interpret the will of the legislator, is by exploring his intentions at the time when the law was made, by signs the most natural and probable. And these signs are either the words, the context, the subject matter, the effects and consequence, or the spirit and reason of the law.” (footnote 8)

So every such American know that the proper constructions of the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights were to be found in WE THE PEOPLE’S “intentions at the time when the law was made”, to be deduced from what those documents themselves contained, explicitly and implicitly. (footnote 9)

  • WE THE PEOPLE have delegated, and could delegate, to Congress only ‘just powers’, which comport with ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’. Blackstone explained the ‘Laws of Nature’.

    WE THE PEOPLE have delegated, and could delegate, to Congress only “just powers” which comport with “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. (footnote 1) And therefore Congress cannot exercise any of its powers so as in any manner to treat as valid the spurious “laws” of uncivilized nations that, by definition, must undermine the very foundations of civilization. Congress may “define and punish * * * Offences against the Law of Nations” (footnote 2) when “the Law of Nations” embodies agreement among civilized peoples which reflects “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”, but not otherwise. As Blackstone explained, “the Laws of Nature” are

    such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things, antecedent to any positive precept. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions.

                                                                            *  *  *  *  *

    THIS law of nature * * * is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original.

                                                                            *  *  *  *  *

    IF man were to live in a state of nature, unconnected with other individuals, there would be no occasion for any other laws, than the law of nature, and the law of God. * * * But man was formed for society * * * . However, as it is impossible for the whole race of mankind to be united in one great society, they must necessarily be divided into many; and form separate states, commonwealths, and nations, entirely independent of each other, and yet liable to a mutual intercourse. Hence arises a third kind of law to regulate this mutual intercourse, called “the law of nations:” which, as none of these states will acknowledge a superiority in the other, cannot be dictated by either; but depends entirely upon the rules of natural law, or upon mutual compacts, treaties, leagues, and agreements between these several communities: in the construction of also of which compacts, we have no other rule to resort to, but the law of nature; being the only one to which both communities are equally subject: and therefore the civil law very justly observes, that quod naturalis ratio interomnes homines constituit, vocatur jus gentium. (footnote 3)

    Footnotes:

    1.) Compare Declaration of Independence with U.S. Const. preamble (“to * * * establish Justice”). 3647 U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 10.

    2.) U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 10.

    3.) Commentaries on the Laws of England, ante note 142, Volume 1, at 40, 41, 43 (footnote omitted). The Latin epigram translates to: “What natural reason establishes [to be true] among all men is called the law of nations.”

    See: The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Multimedia CD, (2012), page 1623-1624.

  • Blackstone’s Commentaries provided Americans of the Founding Era with a clear explanation of the law as it related to self-defense.

    Blackstone’s Commentaries provided Americans of the Founding Era with a clear explanation of the law as it related to:

    “[T]HE defence of one’s self, or the mutual and reciprocal defence of such as stand in the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant. In these cases, if the party himself, or any of these his relations, be forcibly attacked in his person or property, it is lawful for him to repel force by force; and the breach of the peace, which happens, is chargeable upon him only who began the affray. For the law, in this case, respects the passions of the human mind; and (when external violence is offered to a man himself, or those to whom he bears a near connection) makes it lawful in him to do himself that immediate justice to which he is prompted by nature, and which no prudential motives are strong enough to restrain. It considers that the future process of law is by no means an adequate remedy for injuries accompanied with force; since it is impossible to say, to what wanton lengths of rapine or cruelty outrages of this sort might be carried, unless it were permitted a man immediately to oppose one violence with another. Self-defence therefore, as it is justly called the primary law of nature, so it is not, neither can it be in fact, taken away by the law of society.” (footnote 1)

    Blackstone, of course, was for Americans but the last in a long line of legal commentators who held that self-defense arises out of Natural Law or natural reason. (footnote 2)

    Footnotes:

    1.) Commentaries on the Laws of England,(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume 3, at 3-4 (footnote omitted) (bold-face emphasis supplied).

    2.) See, e.g., David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant, & Joanne D. Eisen, “The Human Right of Self-Defense”, 22 Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law 43 (2008), at 60-96, describing and quoting from the teachings of Giovanni de Legnano, Francisco de Vitoria, Pierino Belli, Francisco Suarez, Alberico Gentili, Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf, Emer de Vattel, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui. As this article explains, however, the United Nations Organization and influential political forces and special-interest groups aligned with it are now concerting their efforts drastically to limit, if not to eliminate, the right of self-defense with firearms for private individuals everywhere throughout the world. The evident goal of this cabal is to supplant “the primary law of nature”—and, by extension, the entire corpus of the “law of nature”—with “the law of [their] society”.

    See: The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Multimedia CD, (2012), page 761.

  • Blackstone was highly critical and deeply suspicious of ‘martial law’.

    Blackstone was highly critical and deeply suspicious of ‘martial law’:

    WHEN the nation [that is, England] was engaged in war, more veteran troops and more regular discipline were esteemed to be necessary, than could be expected from a mere militia. And therefore at such times more rigorous methods were put in use for the raising of armies and the due regulation and discipline of the soldiery: which are to be looked upon only as temporary excrescences bred out of the distemper of the state, and not as any part of the permanent and perpetual laws of the kingdom. For martial law, which is based upon no settled principles, but is entirely arbitrary in it’s decisions, is * * * in truth and reality no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law: the necessity of order and discipline in an army is the only thing which can give it countenance; and therefore it ought not to be permitted in time of peace, when the king’s courts are open for all persons to receive justice according to the laws of the land. * * * And it is laid down, that if a lieutenant * * * doth in time of peace hang or otherwise execute any man by colour of martial law, this is murder; for it is against magna carta. And the petition of right enacts * * * that no commission shall issue to proceed within this land, according to martial law. (footnote 1)

    Footnotes:

    2.) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume 1, at 412. Blackstone was the preeminent mentor of America’s Founding Fathers on the pre-constitutional laws of England. See e.g., Schick v. United States, 195 U.S. 65, 69 (1904), and Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 715 (1999).

  • The term ‘War’ in the pre-constitutional was explained by Blackstone in his Commentaries.

    Whether attended with the trappings of legal formality or not, all of the manifestations of “War” involve at least one other nation as an antagonist. “War” cannot be waged, or even “declare[d]”, against private parties (a “war on crime”), against things (a “war on drugs”), against tactics (a “war on terrorism”), against personal habits (a “war on smoking”), against personal characteristics (a “war on obesity”), or even against private parties committing serial crimes by means of “terrorism”. Such was the understanding of the term “War” during the pre- constitutional era—and “[w]e are bound to interpret the Constitution in the light of the law as it existed at the time it was adopted”. (footnote 1) As Blackstone explained,

    “It is held by all the writers of the laws of nature and nations, that the right of making war, which by nature subsisted in every individual is given up by all private persons who enter into society, and is vested in the sovereign power: and this right is given up, not only by individuals, but even by the intire body of people, that are under the dominion of the sovereign. It would indeed be extremely improper, that any number of subjects should have the power of binding the supreme magistrate, and putting him against his will in a state of war. Whenever hostilities therefore may be commenced by private citizens, the state not ought to be affected thereby: unless that should justify their proceedings, and thereby become partner in the guilt. Such unauthorized volunteers in violence are not ranked among the enemies, but are treated like pirates and robbers[.]” (footnote 2)

    [And] the crime of piracy, or robbery and depredation upon the high seas, is an offence against the universal law of society * * * [being] among the principal cases, in which the statute law of England interposes, to aid and enforce the law of nations, as a part of the common law; by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law, committed by private persons. (footnote 3)

    Footnotes:

    1.) Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 237, 243 (1895).

    2.) Commentaries in the Laws of England (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume I, at 257 (footnote omitted) (emphasis supplied).

    3.) Id., Volume 4, at 71, 73 (emphasis supplied in part).

    See Constitutional “Homeland Security”, Volume Two, The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 1574.

  • The ‘National Debt’ is an old criminal scheme of government. Well before America’s War of Independence, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Sir William Blackstone trenchantly explained how it worked in the Mother Country.

    At base, the problem reduces to an alliance between two voracious crime families: avaricious bankers and financial speculators, on one side, in league with ambitious careerist politicians, on the other. Their strategy has always been to link the moneyed class with the General Government’s Treasury, so as to advance the special interests of both families. The bankers and speculators incorporate the Treasury as an integral part of their business plans. Rogue politicians and public officials agree to coördinate the Treasury with, if not subordinate it to, the bankers and speculators in order to ensure their own accession to and continuance in office. And the common people pay the costs. (footnote 1)

    This is an old scheme. Well before America’s War of Independence, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Sir William Blackstone trenchantly explained how it worked in the Mother Country. After discussing the “several branches of the revenue”, Blackstone turned to how these sums were appropriated,

    “first and principally, to the payment of the interest of the national debt. IN order to take a clear and comprehensive view of the nature of this national debt, it must first be premised, that after the [English] revolution [of 1688], when our new connexions with Europe introduced a new system of foreign politics, the expenses of the nation, not only in settling the new establishment, but in maintaining long wars, * * * increased to an unusual degree: insomuch that it was not thought advisable to raise all the expenses of any one year by taxes to be levied within that year, lest the unaccustomed weight of them should create murmurs among the people. It was therefore the policy of the times to anticipate the revenues of their posterity, by borrowing immense sums for the current service of the state, and to lay no more taxes upon the subject than would suffice to pay the annual interest of the sums to be borrowed: by this means converting the principal debt into a new species of property, transferrable from one man to another at any time and in any quantity. * * * This laid the foundation of what is called the national debt * * * .

    BY this means the quantity of property in the kingdom is greatly encreased in idea, compared with former times; yet if we coolly consider it, not at all encreased in reality. We may boast of large fortunes, and quantities of money in the funds. But where does this money exist? It exists only in name, in paper, in public faith, in parliamentary security: and that is undoubtedly sufficient for the creditors of the public to rely on. But then what is the pledge, which the public faith has pawned for the security of these debts? The land, the trade, and the personal industry of the subject; from which the money must arise that supplies the several taxes. In these therefore, and these only, the property of the public creditors does really and intrinsically exist: and of course the land, the trade, and the personal industry of individuals, are diminished in their true value just so much as they are pledged to answer. * * * In short, the property of a creditor of the public consists in a certain portion of the national taxes: by how much therefore he is the richer, by so much the nation, which pays these taxes, is the poorer.

    TH E only advantage, that can result to a nation from public debts, is the encrease of circulation by multiplying the cash of the kingdom, and creating a new species of money, always ready to be employed in any beneficial undertaking, by means of it’s transferrable quality; and yet producing some profit, even when it lies idle and unemployed. A certain proportion of debt seems therefore to be highly useful to a trading people; but * * * [t]h[i]s much is indisputably certain, that the present magnitude of our national incumbrances very far exceeds all calculations of commercial benefit, and is productive of the greatest inconveniences. For, first, the enormous taxes, that are raised upon the necessaries of life for the payment of the interest of this debt, are a hurt both to trade and manufactures, by raising the price as well of the artificer’s subsistence, as of the raw material, and of course, in a much greater proportion, the price of the commodity itself. Secondly if part of this debt be owing to foreigners, either they draw out of the kingdom annually a considerable quantity of specie for the interest; or else it is made an argument to grant them unreasonable privileges in order to induce them to reside here. Thirdly if the whole be owing to subjects only, it is then charging the active and industrious subject, who pays his share of the taxes, to maintain the indolent and idle creditor who receives them. Lastly, and principally, it weakens the internal strength of a state, by anticipating those resources which should be reserved to defend it in case of necessity. The interest we now pay for our debts would be nearly sufficient to maintain any war, that any national motives could require.” (footnote 2)

    Footnotes:

    1.) The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 1930-1931.

    2.) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume 1, at 325-328.

The Constitution of course, contains no provision explicitly setting out a rule of construction and interpretation. But the doctrine of “original intent” was, from the very necessity of things, the interpretive tool of the Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution, WE THE PEOPLE who ratified it, and the first national governments that applied it. At that time the doctrine of original intent was already hundreds of years old. (footnote 10)

As a rule of construction of the Constitution as Blackstone pointed out, “the law, and the opinion of the judge are not always convertible terms, or one and the same thing; since it sometimes may happen that the judge may mistake the law.” (footnote 11)

  • Footnotes

    1.) Schick v. United States, 195 U.S. 65, 69 (1904). See, e.g., The Federalist No. 84 notes [1 and 2].

    2.) Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 715 (1999).

    3.) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume 1, at 59.

    4.) See e.g., Berger, “Original Intention in Historical Perspective”, 54 George Washington L. Rev. 101 (1986).

    5.) U.S. Constitution, preamble.

    6.) Id. at 1

    7.) Id. at 2

    8.) Id. at 3

    9.) The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 45.

    10.) Id. at 4. Also see Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition, 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 29.

    11.) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Robert Bell, American Edition, 4 Volumes & Appendix, 1771-1773), Volume 1, at 71 (emphasis in the original).