“When, therefore, the assiduous zeal of Granville Sharp brought before Chief Justice Mansfield in 1772 the case of the Negro James Somersett who was about to be returned to his owner in Jamaica, there were abundant precedents to prove the impurity of the English air. Mansfield tried hard to evade the issue by suggesting manumission of the slave, and contented himself with the modest statement that the case was not ‘allowed or approved by the law of England’ and the Negro must be discharged. Much has bee made of this case, by people constantly seeking for triumphs of humanitarianism. Professor Coupland contends that behind the legal judgment lay the moral judgment and that the Somersett case marked the beginning of the end of slavery throughout the British Empire. This is merely poetic sentimentality translated into modern history. Benjamin Franklin pointed scornfully to ‘the hypocrisy of this country, which encourages such a detestable commerce, while is piqued itself on its virtue, love of liberty, and the equity of its courts in setting free a single negro.'”

Source: Eric Williams. Capitalism & Slavery. pg. 45. 1944.


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