Rare Acquisition: The Palladium of Conscience

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The University of Iowa Law Library is delighted to announce an addition to our extensive Rare Book collection pertaining to Sir William Blackstone: The Palladium of Conscience (1773).

Originally titled An Interesting Appendix to Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries, it was initially published as a fifth volume to the first American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, published 1771-1772. The volume was assembled by the Philadelphia publisher Robert Bell. In 1773, the Appendix was published as an independent work, titled the Palladium.

Title Page.

The content of the Palladium stems from a dialogue surrounding Blackstone’s assertion in the Commentaries (vol. 4, published in England in 1769) that “non-conformity” to the Church of England was a crime. Joseph Priestly, a theologian and one of the most prominent English Dissenters, took issue with Blackstone’s position and argued for religious freedom and tolerance.

In 1768, John Wilkes, a newspaper publisher, was elected to Parliament. He was subsequently imprisoned for seditious libel and removed from Parliament. While his sentence was being debated, in May of 1769, Blackstone supported Parliament’s decision to expel Wilkes. His position was challenged by George Grenville, a former prime minister, who pointed out a discrepancy between Blackstone’s position on the floor and in the Commentaries. Blackstone had listed the reasons why Wilkes was properly expelled, in spite of Wilkes winning the Middlesex election. While members of the Parliament had been expelled previously, but the issue was whether the House had the power to nullify the results of an election. Grenville asked if the House of Commons had the power to cut off the franchises of eight million people? He then referred to the Commentaries, which listed nine cases of disqualification from Parliament, but expulsion was not mentioned as an option. Blackstone made no immediate reply, instead issuing an anonymous pamphlet titled The Case of the Late Election. This, in turn, spurred an exchange of pamphlets that included comments from Samuel Johnson, Sir William Meredith, and others.

Bell took all the pamphlets containing the discussions and assembled them into the Palladium.

Table of Contents.

The volume the Law Library purchased is also remarkable because it has a tipped-in leaf advertising the book under its original title--An Interesting Appendix.

The Tipped-In Advertisement.

The Law Library is grateful to the Lloyd Courter Law Library Fund for making the purchase of The Palladium possible.  The Lloyd Courter Fund was established to honor the memory of Lloyd W. Courter. Mr. Courter earned both his business degree (Class of 1957) and law degree (Class of 1959) from the University of Iowa. The fund was established by Mr. Courter’s wife, Sally Hahn Courter of Boone, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1959, and their sons, Jeff of West Des Moines, Bill of Cedar Rapids, and John of Des Moines. Jeff and Bill graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1987 and 1991, respectively. John received his law degree from Drake University in 1991. The fund benefits the entire University of Iowa, as the Law Library serves all University students and faculty.