Blackstone Seeks Assistance from His Patron [Manuscript]. Blackstone, Sir William [1723-1780]. [Petty, Lord William, Earl of Shelburne (1737-1805)]. [Autograph Letter, Addressed to "My Lord," Signed "W. Blackstone," London, Inner Temple, March 21, 1761]. Two-page letter on single 8-3/4" x 7-1/4" sheet and 5" x 4" copperplate portrait of Blackstone (after Gainsborough) in attractively matted and glazed 19-1/2" x 15-3/4" frame, the backing has a window for viewing the second side of the letter. Light toning to letter and portrait, otherwise fine. $6,500. * Better known as the Earl of Shelburne, William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, was an Irish-born British Whig statesman. Among other offices, he was the first Home Secretary in 1782, Leader of the House of Lords in 1782-1783 and, briefly during those two years, Prime Minister. As a young man Petty attended Blackstone's Vinerian lectures in 1755-1756. In 1761 Petty, then a member of King George III's inner circle, decided to become Blackstone's patron. He applied his influence to get Blackstone elected to Parliament, representing the "rotten" Wiltshire borough of Hindon, and elevated to the prestigious and lucrative rank of king's counsel. He pursued these goals simultaneously, which put Blackstone in an awkward position; if he became a king's counsel and was then elected, he would be required to resign his seat and stand for election again. That is the issue discussed in this letter. Blackstone knew the re-election requirement could be avoided if he was granted a royal patent of precedence instead, which would give him the privileges of a king's counsel. Reading between the lines, it is apparent that Blackstone was hoping that Petty would come to this conclusion and speak to the king on his behalf. Blackstone knew he was asking a favor that would deepen his obligation to Petty. Trying to discern the extent of that obligation is the final point of the letter. He asks "what may be incumbent upon me to do, or whether Your Lordship has any Commands for me: For it would be unpardonable Negligence on my Side, when my great & noble Friends have done so much for me, to let anything miscarry through a Want of Attention to the necessary Forms of Business." Discussed at length in Prest's definitive Blackstone biography, this letter offers fascinating insights into Blackstone's strateg.
Book number 68830