The Office and Duty of Executors: or, A Treatise of Wills and Executors, directed to Testators

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by Thomas Wentworth

The Office and Duty of Executors
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author Thomas Wentworth
Published : Unknown.
Date Precise edition unknown.
Volumes volume set

Elizabethan parliamentarian Thomas Wentworth (1567/8-1628), was a lawyer and politician, and the son of Peter Wentworth.[1] Wentworth attended University College, Oxford in 1584, and in 1585 he entered Lincoln’s Inn, where he was appointed Lent reader in 1612 and treasurer in 1621.[2] Wentworth married into a Puritan family, and puritanism remained a central theme throughout his life and parliamentary career.[3] Wentworth was outspoken against crown policy, including being opposed to the proposed act of union with Scotland. Wentworth also believed the law was superior to the king, saying, "If the King have a power over the laws, we cannot have security, therefore we must see if the law can bind the King."[4] King James wished to punish Wentworth for his speeches, but was dissuaded for a time by the Privy Council.[5] Wentworth was finally imprisoned in the Tower in 1614 after the King claimed Wentworth offended the French ambassador in a speech arguing against impositions.[6] Wentworth died in March or April 1628 in Henley.[7]

The Office and Duty of Executors, ascribed to Wentworth, is directed at both testators and executors in the course of their duties. In the preface Wentworth explained that there was little that was more important and useful than to understand the laws and duties of the office of executors.[8] According to the author, three parts are necessary to understand this law: (1) their being—the creation or constitution of the executor, (2) their having—the executor's "interest, fruition, or possession," and (3) their doing—the managing and execution of the executor’s office. The latter is the focus of the work. Wentworth emphasized the need to go through all three parts to understand the law, using an analogy to a trip where one must pass through all other towns and villages.[9]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

The Brown Bibliography[10] suggests Wythe owned the 1763 edition of The Office and Duty of Executors based on entries in the manuscript copy of John Marshall's commonplace book. Brown also notes that Wythe referenced Wentworth's treatise in his arguments for Bolling v. Bolling. Wythe's reference occurs in the section of the first argument for the plaintiff in which he anticipates Jefferson's use of various legal sources. Wythe writes:

Obj. Wentworth's office of executor pa. 59. 'put the case that a man dies in July &c. — all these shall pass to one to whom the land is sold or conveied, if not excepted, though never so near reaping, felling or gathering.'

Ans. Wentworth was a compiler only, and what he sais of the sale or conveiance, since he quotes no authority is but his opinion, which was probably founded upon that leading case in Cro. El. 61.[11]

Neither Wythe's reference in Bolling v. Bolling nor Marshall's commonplace book indicate a particular edition.

The Wolf Law Library has not yet added a copy of Wentworth's The Office and Duty of Executors.

See also


  1. Maija Jansson, "Wentworth, Thomas (1567/8-1628)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004-), accessed on February 20, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Thomas Wentworth, The Office and Duty of Executors (London: Printed by John Streater, James Flesher, and Henry Twyford, assigns of Richard Atkyns and Edward Atkyns, Esquires, 1668), Preface, paragraph 11.
  9. Ibid., 1.
  10. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  11. Bernard Schwartz, Barbara Wilcie Kern, R. B. Bernstein, eds., Thomas Jefferson and Bolling v. Bolling: Law and the Legal Profession in Pres-Revolutionary America (San Marino, CA: The Huntington Library; New York: New York University School of Law, 1997), 155.