Although William Blackstone had a varied career—attorney, college administrator, Oxford University chaired professor, member of Parliament, solicitor general to the queen, judge on the Court of King’s Bench and the Court of Common Pleas—his most lasting contribution and source of enduring renown is his Commentaries on the Laws of England.
From 1765 to 1769, the Clarendon Press in Oxford released the four volumes of his opus.
It divided English common law into four categories:
Americans were protesting to the British government’s seemingly unlimited ability to inspect private property via writs of assistance more than thirty years before the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution barred arbitrary searches and seizures. The Revolutionary War was sparked by opposition to such writs.
Following the French and Indian War—the Seven Years’ War’s North American theater—Britain became worried about the colonies’ commercial trade with foreign countries. The British used writs of assistance, which are similar to general warrants, to combat smuggling.
Gin is the anglicized, abbreviated version of Genever, the Dutch name for the juniper berry, which is the main flavoring ingredient in the spirit. In the late 1600s, English troops returning from battle on the continent brought this clear wine to London in their bags. It was an instant hit, and by the 1680s, Holland’s exports had surpassed 10 million gallons.
Then, in 1689, England outlawed the importing of all spirits in order to promote domestic manufacture. Domestic distiller incentives made gin cheap and plentiful, changing the kingdom’s drinking habits. Gin supplanted beer and ale as the most readily available of the few viable social pleasures, and the working people embraced it wholeheartedly.
John Peter Zenger (1697–1746), William Cosby (1690–1736), Andrew Hamilton (c. 1676–1741)
New York Governor William Cosby, a dishonest and greedy robber, had control of the city’s sole established newspaper, which, of course, backed him against his critics. A leader of the opposition commissioned John Peter Zenger, a printer, to create a new publication in which they could air their grievances.
The Weekly Journal was founded, with its first editorials aimed at exposing the governor’s political ineptitude. Cosby, desperate to put a stop to the fledgling publication, had all copies destroyed. For his attacks on the government, he had Zenger arrested and accused with seditious libels.
Financial crises are not unique to any one economic or financial system, but they all arise from human greed.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), a struggle primarily between England, the Dutch Republic, and France for succession to the Spanish monarchy and access to lucrative trading possibilities in the Spanish colonies, had proven costly, and Parliament needed to raise cash.
It did so in a variety of ways, including selling its debt to merchants. The South Sea Company was founded in 1711 by a group of investors as a joint-stock company with transferable shares, and Parliament granted it a charter. The firm was offered a trading monopoly on Spanish territories in the Caribbean and South America in exchange for taking on war debt.
The right of ownership in a creative work, often known as the right to duplicate it or copyright, generally belongs to the author or creator, but he or she can assign, license, or sell it.
Authors and other creators, on the other hand, haven’t always had statutory protection for their work. Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the printing press, documents were generally copied by hand by monks serving as scribes for the Church.
“The age of ‘authorship,’ as former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin characterized it, had not yet come.” Following the introduction of commercial printing in England, Mary I granted the Stationers’ Company, a long-standing trade guild, a royal charter in 1557, granting them a publishing monopoly. Individual printers of the Stationers’ Company, not the authors of the books it produced, were recognized as the rights-holders in the works under the law.
Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468), John Locke (1632–1704)
With the development of moveable type by Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century, Europe was faced with a new problem: regulating the written word. When William Caxton established a press at Westminster in 1476, the new technology arrived in England, but progress was slow. The Stationers’ Company was awarded a royal charter — and hence a monopoly on printing — by Mary I in 1557.
Elizabeth I, her sister, imposed the Star Chamber Decree on printing in 1586, which severely limited printing. Charles I issued a second Star Chamber Decree against printing in 1637, and further acts and ordinances restricted the practice over the years.