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Kent: Commentaries On American Law, Vol. 3 (1829)


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Kent’s Commentaries was the first general legal treatise which was based exclusively on the common law of the United States, although at that time much of American common law derived directly from English cases. Kent followed the same general framework laid out in the first three volumes of Blackstone’s Commentaries, omitting all discussion of royalty and the crown, while adding considerations from the U.S and various state constitutions. For some reason, Kent never got around to commenting on crimes and criminal laws, but he makes up for it in extended discussions concerning commercial law, maritime law, and general equity.

Based on the 1st edition. Footnotes have been converted to chapter end notes. Spelling has been modernized. Available in .pdf, .epub and .prc file formats for reading on your PC, e-reader, tablet or smart phone. This is a fully digital edition of this work – it is not a hard copy publication or facsimile edition.

“There has been a difference of opinion among writers, concerning the foundations of the law of nations. It has been considered by some as a mere system of positive institutions, founded upon consent and usage; while others have insisted that it was essentially the same as the law of nature, applied to the conduct of nations, in the character of moral persons, susceptible of obligation and laws. We are not to adopt either of these theories as exclusively true. The most useful and practical part of the law of nations is, no doubt, instituted or positive law, founded on usage, consent, and agreement. But it would be improper to separate this law entirely from natural jurisprudence, and not to consider it as deriving much of its force, and dignity, and sanction, from the same principles of right reason, and the same view of the nature and constitution of man, from which the science of morality is deduced.”    James Kent, from Commentaries On American Law, Vol. 1, Lecture 1.

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