The program is named for Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), a contemporary of the framers of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. An English judge who went on to become the first Vinerian professor of law at Oxford University, Blackstone is best known for his Commentaries on the Laws of England.
The Commentaries were the original foundation for legal education in America and a work that would dominate the common law legal system for centuries. Indeed, they had a pervasive and profound impact on the United States Constitution and whose concept of absolute rights formed the basic premise of our Declaration of Independence.
In the Commentaries, Blackstone explained that the basis upon which English Common Law resides is a higher law, the law written by God and found in His scriptures and the created order. Blackstone says, “when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be.” Because of this, William Blackstone argues, “the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain . . . these absolute [i.e. God-given] rights of individuals.” Accordingly, man lacks authority to write a law that contradicts God’s law. Blackstone called this concept “ultra vires,” which means it is beyond the authority of man to write a law that violates God’s law. Blackstone also said that law is fixed, it is uniform, and it is universal. It does not change based on who the President is, or who holds judicial positions. It is the same law for everyone at all times and in all places.
Blackstone’s influence on American law can hardly be overstated. His writings trained nearly every American lawyer until the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, his influence and the Christian worldview have since been virtually eradicated from American law schools. For this reason, Alliance Defending Freedom named its prestigious law student program the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, representing a new generation of lawyers, men and women of Christian conviction, passion, and intelligence, being equipped to serve as leaders within the legal culture, proposed by Blackstone’s vision of the law to foster legal systems that fully protect our God-given rights.