Blackstone’s and Hale’s Doctrines of Land and Water Use
In the early 17th century, Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) in his Institutes and Reports gives some treatment of incorporeal rights and prescriptions, especially in relation to commons and fisheries; but Coke’s main concern is with tenures and estates: with title to land, not use of land. By contrast, Sir Matthew Hale (1609-76) and Sir William Blackstone (1723-80) provided detailed and systematic treatments of the rights of enjoyment incidental to land ownership. A justifiable claim can be made that these writers, Blackstone in particular, laid the foundations for the 19th-century law of land and water use. Here Blackstone, like Coke, was cited by the judges in leading cases as a direct authority in the search for right answers. This chapter reconstructs these modern institutionalists’ schemes of property and water law, which in turn reveals much of their legal technique and ideology.
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