The Compleat Arbitrator or, the Law of Awards and Arbitraments

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by Matthew Bacon

The Compleat Arbitrator
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author Matthew Bacon
Published :
Date Precise edition unknown.
Language English
Volumes volume set
Desc. 8vo

Matthew Bacon (b. c.1700, d. in or before 1757) gained admission to the Inner Temple in 1726 and to the Middle Temple in 1731; he joined the bar in 1732.[1] Bacon is best known for his work on A New Abridgment of the Law, which was exceptional for its divergence from previous abridgements. Instead of listing statutes and cases under alphabetical headings, Bacon compiled treatises on all branches of law, much more similar to modern encyclopedias than the abridgements of his time. Bacon died in or before 1757 after fully completing three volumes of his abridgement, the final two being completed by Joseph Sayer.[2]

Criticizing the obscurity of legal literature,[3] Bacon wrote:

It is one of the greatest Objections to our Laws, that the Way to the Knowledge of them is so dark and rugged, so full of Windings and Turnings, that the most Knowing very often find it difficult to be able to pronounce with Certainty, concerning some Points they are solicitous about.[4]

To try to rectify this problem, in 1731 he published The Compleat Arbitrator: or, the Law of Awards and Arbitraments under the guise of "a gentlemen of the Middle Temple."[5] This work, a compilation of the practice of arbitration in England, was meant to act as a guide to lawyers through the "windings and turnings" of the system. It covered topics such as matters that could be brought to arbitration; the manner in which they should be brought; the nature of submission and which parties could submit; the duties of the arbitrators and umpires in the system; and the manner of making, delivering, and enforcing awards.[6] It provided lawyers with the overall process of what was required to bring action in arbitration after the 1698 act that encouraged arbitration in business disputes.[7]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "[Law of] Awards 8vo" and given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. Both the Brown Bibliography[8] and George Wythe's Library[9] on LibraryThing suggest Jefferson's notation refers to Matthew Bacon's The Compleat Arbitrator or, the Law of Awards and Arbitraments. Brown lists the first edition (1731) while LibraryThing indicates "Precise edition unknown. Octavo editions were published at London in 1731, 1744 and 1770."

The Wolf Law Library has been unable so far to add a copy of The Compleat Arbitrator to the George Wythe Collection.

See also


  1. N. G. Jones, "Bacon, Matthew (b. c.1700, d. in or before 1757)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed June 27, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Julia Rudolph, Common Law and Enlightenment in England, 1689-1750 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2013), 68.
  4. Matthew Bacon, The Compleat Arbitrator (London: E. and R. Nutt, 1770), iii.
  5. Jones, "Bacon, Matthew."
  6. Bacon, The Compleat Arbitrator, ii.
  7. Brief for Appellant at 60, Hub Industries v. George Manufacturing and American Rediscount Co., No. 7799 (N.Y. April 23, 1945); Henry Horwitz and James Oldham, "John Locke, Lord Mansfield, and Arbitration during the Eighteenth Century," The Historical Journal 36, no. 1 (March 1993): 144.
  8. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. May, 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  9. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on May 14, 2015.

External Links

Read this book in Google Books.