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Common Law

Many years ago, I came across a print by R. C. Bierce entitled “The Common Law – In the Similitude of a Tree”, and was intrigued. A high resolution digital image of this print is available from the Library of Congress.

In a blog post, “Art in the law library: law, legal education and research in the similitude of a tree” , Janet Lindenmuth of the Widener University School of Law Library, Delaware, reveals the source of a quotation on the tree trunk in the print. The lettering on the base of the tree, “The Objects of the Law are Rights and Wrongs,” is from Chapter 1 in Book 1 of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England.

She quotes Blackstone’s text, “The primary and principal objects of the law are rights, and wrongs. In the prosecution therefore of these commentaries, I shall follow this very simple and obvious division; and shall in the first place consider the rights that are commanded, and secondly the wrongs that are forbidden by the laws of England. – William Blackstone, Commentaries.”

Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England was written in the eighteenth century for lay-people as an explication of the English legal system. Celebrated and influential on both sides of the Atlantic, the treatise was published in editions meant for Americans in the early years of our nation, and used by aspiring students who wanted to learn the law.

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