For the first time, the complete, exciting story of the landmark trial that led to the abolition of slavery in the Western world. The 1772 London trial of James Somerset, rescued from a ship bound for the West Indies slave markets, was a decisive turning point in history. As in the Scopes trial, two encompassing world views clashed in an event of passionate drama.
Steven M. Wise, trial lawyer and legal historian, has uncovered layer upon layer of fascinating revelations in a case which threatened, according to slave owners, to bring the economy of the British Empire to a crashing halt. In a gripping narrative of Somerset's trial-and of the slave trials that led up to it-he sets the stage for the unexpected decision by the famously conservative judge, Lord Mansfield, which would lead to the abolition of slavery, both in England and the United States, and the end of the African slave trade.
The characters in this great historical moment go beyond a screenwriter's dream: Somerset's novice attorneys arguing their first case; the fervent British abolitionist Granville Sharp, a cross between Ralph Nader and William Lloyd Garrison, who had brought case after case to court in an attempt to abolish slavery; the master's two-faced and skillful lawyer, who had recently argued before Mansfield that slavery could not exist in England; and finally, the greatest judge of his time, Lord Mansfield, whose own mulatto grand-niece, Dido Belle, was his slave.
As the case drew to a close Lord Mansfield spoke these stirring words that continue to resound more than two centuries later: "Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall."
Although it is not necessary to be a lawyer to follow this story, it sure helps. This hyper technical overly detailed story requires a good working acquaintance with the common law of England. It was in my opinion far more detailed than reasonably necessary to follow the story which seemed to get lost several times. There is no question the author researched the story and is accurate on his recount of the story. An abridged version would be more enjoyable in my opinion.
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