William Blackstone’s Influence on the American Founders: Back-to-Basics Part 10

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Episode Description:
William Blackstone’s explanations of English law, published between 1765 and 1769, were incredibly influential on the formation of basic rights in America. Listen to this episode to learn more!

William Blackstone’s Influence on the American Founders: Back-to-School Basics Part 10

Welcome to 60-Second Civics, the daily podcast of the Center for Civic Education. I'm Mark Gage.


The American Founders studied philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome to learn about government but were also familiar with newer theories of government by more recent philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.


They were also familiar with William Blackstone’s explanations of English law, published between 1765 and 1769.


Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England organized the history of English common law into four categories: rights of persons, rights of things, private wrongs (torts), and public wrongs (crimes). 


The Commentaries were written to be understood by non-lawyers and became an important source of legal information for the American colonists. 


Blackstone, among others, famously articulated "the Rights of Englishmen" held dear by American colonists. 


Statutory as well as common law, he argued, guarantees the sanctity of an Englishman's life, liberty, and property. 


These rights include due process of law, the attorney-client confidentiality, equality before the law, habeas corpus, the right to confront accusers, and forbidding bills of attainder and forced self-incrimination. 


That’s all for today’s podcast.


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