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The Cloaking of PowerMontesquieu, Blackstone, and the Rise of Judicial Activism$
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Paul O. Carrese

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226094823

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226094830.001.0001

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: Blackstone's Liberal Education for Law and Politics

: Blackstone's Liberal Education for Law and Politics

(p.109) Five: Blackstone's Liberal Education for Law and Politics
The Cloaking of Power
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the influence of Sir William Blackstone's training of lawyers and judges in liberal constitutions and states that he also had an important influence on liberal politics. Contrary to the portrait of him painted by Jeremy Bentham and others impatient for progress toward more radical reforms of liberal constitutionalism, he understood the Commentaries as embodying a reform project in English law. The contempt of Blackstone's critics is proportional, ironically, to this striking achievement in the history of Anglo-American and modern law. Blackstone like Montesquieu would get the benefits of modern philosophy as evident in the Commentaries' subsequent discussion of the state of nature, or of Beccaria on a precise scale of punishments. Analysis of Blackstone's debt to Montesquieu confirms that such “public spirit” represents the jurisprudence of The Spirit of the Laws—not least with regard to the role of the judicial power in a complex constitution of liberty.

Keywords:   Sir William Blackstone, lawyers, judges, liberal constitutions, Commentaries, public spirit

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