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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, PC, SL (2 March 170520 March 1793) was a British
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practisin ...

barrister
, politician and judge noted for his reform of
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
. Born to Scottish nobility, he was educated in
Perth, Scotland Perth (; sco, Perth; gd, Peairt ) is a city in central Scotland, on the banks of the . It is the of and the historic of . It had a population of about 47,430 in 2018. There has been a settlement at Perth since times. It is a natural moun ...

Perth, Scotland
, before moving to London at the age of 13 to take up a place at
Westminster School (God Gives the Increase) , established = Earliest records date from the 14th century, refounded in 1560 , type = Public school (United Kingdom), Public school Independent school (United Kingdom), Independent day school, day and b ...
. He was accepted into
Christ Church, Oxford Christ Church ( la, Ædes Christi, the temple or house, ''wikt:aedes, ædēs'', of Christ, and thus sometimes known as "The House") is a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ C ...

Christ Church, Oxford
, in May 1723, and graduated four years later. Returning to London from Oxford, he was
called to the Bar The call to the bar (rarely, call to bar) is a legal term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative cont ...
by
Lincoln's Inn The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are Call to the Bar, called to the Bar. (The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray' ...

Lincoln's Inn
on 23 November 1730, and quickly gained a reputation as an excellent barrister. He became involved in politics in 1742, beginning with his election as a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) p ...
for
Boroughbridge Boroughbridge () is a small town and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government. It is a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and c ...
, now in
North Yorkshire North Yorkshire is the largest non-metropolitan county and ceremonial counties of England, lieutenancy area in England, covering an area of . Around 40% of the county is covered by National parks of the United Kingdom, national parks, including ...

North Yorkshire
, and appointment as
Solicitor General A solicitor general or solicitor-general, in common law countries, is usually a legal officer who is the chief representative of a regional or national government in courtroom proceedings. In systems that have an Attorney general, attorney-general ...
. In the absence of a strong
Attorney General In most common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionar ...
, he became the main spokesman for the government in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...

House of Commons
, and was noted for his "great powers of eloquence" and described as "beyond comparison the best speaker" in the House of Commons. With the promotion of Sir Dudley Ryder to
Lord Chief Justice The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales — different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict ...
in 1754, he became Attorney General, and when Ryder unexpectedly died several months later, he took his place as Chief Justice. As the most powerful British jurist of the century, Mansfield's decisions reflected the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link=n ...
and moved the country onto the path to abolishing slavery. He advanced commercial law in ways that helped establish the nation as world leader in industry, finance and trade. He modernised both
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
and the English courts system; he rationalized the system for submitting
motions 300px, Motion involves a change in position In physics, motion is the phenomenon in which an object changes its position over time. Motion is mathematically described in terms of displacement, distance Distance is a numerical measurement of ...
and reformed the way judgments were delivered to reduce expense for the parties. For his work in '' Carter v Boehm'' and ''
Pillans v Van Mierop ''Pillans & Rose v Van Mierop & Hopkins'' (1765) 3 Burr 1663 is a case concerning letters of credit . to bank in exchange for payment. Seller's bank then provides the bill to buyer's bank, who provides the bill to buyer. Image:Letter of credit 4 ...
'', he has been called the founder of English commercial law. He is perhaps now best known for his judgment in Somersett's Case (1772), where he held that
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their . Slavery typically involves the enslaved person bein ...
had no basis in
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dictionary used among legal profe ...
and had never been established by
positive law Positive laws ( la, links=no, ius positum) are human-made laws that oblige or specify an action. Positive law also describes the establishment of specific rights for an individual or group. Etymologically, the name derives from the verb ''to posit'' ...
(legislation) in England, and therefore was not binding in law; this judgement did not, however, outlaw the slave trade. However, historians note that Mansfield's ruling in the Somersett case only made it illegal to transport a slave out of England against his will, and did not comment on the institution of slavery itself.


Early life and education

Murray was born on 2 March 1705, at
Scone Palace Scone Palace is a Category A-Listed building, listed Historic houses in Scotland, historic house near the village of Scone, Perth and Kinross, Scone and the city of Perth, Scotland. Built of red sandstone with a castellated roof, it is one of t ...

Scone Palace
in
Perthshire Perthshire (; gd, Siorrachd Pheairt), officially the County of Perth, is a historic county and registration county A registration county was, in Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest ...
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Tele ...
, the fourth son of the 5th Viscount of Stormont and his wife, Margaret,
née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or ...
Scott, and one of eleven children.Shaw (1926) p. 2 Both his parents were strong supporters of the Jacobite cause,Heward (1979) p. 2Plunkett (1956) p. 248 and his older brother
James James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name James James or James City may also refer to: People * King James (disambiguati ...
followed "
The Old Pretender James Francis Edward Stuart (10 June 16881 January 1766), nicknamed The Old Pretender by Whigs (British political party), Whigs, was the son of King James II of England, James II and VII of Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Sco ...
" into exile.Fifoot (1936) p. 27 The Jacobite sympathies of Murray's family were glossed over by contemporaries, who claimed that he had been educated at Lichfield Grammar School with many other members of the English judiciary. This was incorrect, as Murray was educated at , where he was taught
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...
, English grammar, and essay writing skills. He later said that this gave him a great advantage at university, as those students educated in England had been taught Greek and Latin, but not how to write properly in English.Heward (1979) p. 3 While at Perth Grammar School, it became apparent that Murray was particularly intelligent, and in 1718, his father and older brother
James James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name James James or James City may also refer to: People * King James (disambiguati ...
decided to send him to
Westminster School (God Gives the Increase) , established = Earliest records date from the 14th century, refounded in 1560 , type = Public school (United Kingdom), Public school Independent school (United Kingdom), Independent day school, day and b ...
, as James knew the Dean,
Francis Atterbury Francis Atterbury (6 March 1663 – 22 February 1732) was an England, English man of letters, politician and bishop. A High Church Tories (British political party), Tory and Jacobitism, Jacobite, he gained patronage under Anne, Queen of Great Bri ...

Francis Atterbury
. The distance from Perth to London was around , and the journey took Murray 54 days.Heward (1979) p. 4 Murray flourished at Westminster and was made a
King's Scholar A King's Scholar is a foundation scholar (elected on the basis of good academic performance and usually qualifying for reduced fees) of one of certain public schools. These include Eton College Eton College () is a 13–18 age range Indepe ...
on 21 May 1719. After an examination in May 1723, Murray was accepted into
Christ Church, Oxford Christ Church ( la, Ædes Christi, the temple or house, ''wikt:aedes, ædēs'', of Christ, and thus sometimes known as "The House") is a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ C ...

Christ Church, Oxford
, having scored higher in the examination than any other King's Scholar that year.Heward (1979) p. 7 He was admitted as a
commoner '' A commoner, also known as the ''common man'', ''commoners'', the ''common people'' or the ''masses'', was in earlier use an ordinary person in a community or nation who did not have any significant social status, especially one who was a memb ...
on 15 June 1723, and
matriculated Matriculation is the formal process of entering a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which award ...

matriculated
on 18 June; the records say that he came from
Bath Bath may refer to: * Bathing, immersion in a fluid ** Bathtub, a large open container for water, in which a person may wash their body ** Public bathing, a public place where people bathe * Thermae, ancient Roman public bathing facilities Place ...
rather than Perth, because the person recording the names of the new students was unable to understand his Scottish accent. His older brother James was a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practisin ...

barrister
in Scotland, and his family decided that a career as a barrister was best for Murray. The Scottish
Bar Bar or BAR may refer to: Food *Bar (establishment) A bar is a long raised narrow table or bench designed for dispensing beer or other alcoholic beverage, alcoholic drinks. They were originally chest high, and a bar, often brass, ran the lengt ...
at the time was overcrowded, which made it difficult for a young barrister to build a reputation, yet qualifying for the English Bar was extremely expensive.Heward (1979) p. 8 Thanks to the patronage of Thomas Foley, 1st Baron Foley, who gave Murray £200 a year to live on, Murray could afford to study at the bar, and became a member of
Lincoln's Inn The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are Call to the Bar, called to the Bar. (The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray' ...

Lincoln's Inn
on 23 April 1724. After
George IGeorge I or 1 may refer to: People * Patriarch George I of Alexandria (floruit, fl. 621–631) * George I of Constantinople (d. 686) * George I of Antioch (d. 790) * George I of Abkhazia (ruled 872/3–878/9) * George I of Georgia (d. 1027) * Yuri D ...
died on 11 June 1727, Murray entered and won a competition to write a Latin poem titled "The Death of the King".Heward (1979) p. 9 His actions were seen as a show of support for the
House of Hanover The House of Hanover (german: Haus von Hannover), whose members are known as Hanoverians, is a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ...
and the political ''
status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs (sociology), state of affairs, particularly with regard to social, political, religious or military issues. In the Sociology, sociological sense, the ''status quo'' refers to the current st ...
'', something odd considering the strong Jacobite sympathies of his family. He probably did this because, having no private income, he wished to secure patronage to help him advance politically. Another entrant was William Pitt, who was a constant rival to Murray until Pitt's death in 1778.Fifoot (1936) p. 28 There is very little information about Murray's time at Oxford; it is known that he studied ancient and modern history, became fluent in French and gained a good understanding of
Roman Law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
.Heward (1979) p. 10 He also became fluent in Latin, translating
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people ...

Cicero
's works into English and then back into Latin. He gained his
Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Arts (BA or AB; from the Latin ' or ') is the holder of a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate education, undergraduate program in the arts and sciences. A Bachelor of Arts degree course is generally completed in three or f ...
degree in 1727, and travelled to London to train as a barrister.


Family life

Murray married Elizabeth Finch. They did not have children and took care of their niece,
Lady Elizabeth Murray Lady Elizabeth Mary Finch-Hatton (née Lady Elizabeth Murray; 18 May 1760 – 1 June 1825) was a British aristocrat and the subject of a notable painting, once thought to be by Johann Zoffany, now attributed to David Martin (artist), David Mar ...
(born 1760), after her mother died. When Mansfield's nephew Captain Sir John Lindsay returned to Britain in 1765 following the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest c ...
and his assignment in the West Indies, he brought his natural daughter whom he called Elizabeth. Of half African descent, she had been born into slavery in 1761, the daughter of Maria Bell, an enslaved woman. Lindsay asked Murray to take on her care and education, and Elizabeth was baptized
Dido Elizabeth Belle Dido ( ; , ), also known as Elissa ( , ), was the legendary founder and first queen of the Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past events
Dido Elizabeth Belle
in 1766 in London.


At the English bar

Murray's first contact when he moved to London was William Hamilton, a Scottish-born barrister who was said to be the first Scot to practise at the English Bar, and one of the few people who was qualified to act as a barrister in both England and Scotland.Heward (1979) p. 12 Hamilton had been one of Murray's sponsors when he joined Lincoln's Inn in 1724, and when Murray came to London, Hamilton helped find him a set of barristers' chambers at No. 1 Old Square. At this time, there was no formal legal education, and the only requirement for a person to be
called to the Bar The call to the bar (rarely, call to bar) is a legal term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative cont ...
was for him to have eaten five dinners a term at Lincoln's Inn, and to have read the first sentence of a paper prepared for him by the steward.Heward (1979) p. 13 Thus, most of Murray's practical training came from reading the papers in Hamilton's chambers and listening to Lord Raymond speak in court, along with tutoring by Thomas Denison on how to write special pleadings. Murray also studied various texts, including the French ''Ordinance de la Marine'' (a predecessor to the Napoleonic Commercial Code), the works of
Bracton . The photo shows Windsor Castle Windsor Castle is a List of British royal residences, royal residence at Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is strongly associated with the Kingdom of England, English and succ ...
and
LittletonLittleton may refer to: Places In Ireland: *Littleton, County Tipperary *Littleton (electoral division) in County Tipperary In the United Kingdom: *Littleton, Cheshire *Littleton, Hampshire *Littleton, Somerset *High Littleton, Somerset *Littleton- ...
and "crabbed and uncouth compositions" on
municipal law Municipal law is the national, domestic, or internal law of a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from t ...
.Fifoot (1936) p. 29. Murray was called to the Bar on 23 November 1730, taking a set of chambers at 5 King's Bench Walk. He was introduced to
Alexander Pope Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) is seen as one of the greatest English poets and the foremost poet of the early 18th century. He is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including ''The Rape of the Lock ''The Rape of ...

Alexander Pope
around this time, and through his friendship met members of the aristocracy, some of whom later became his clients, including
Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, Princess of Mindelheim, Countess of Nellenburg (née Jenyns, spelled Jennings in most modern references; 5 June 1660 (Old Style) – 18 October 1744), was an English courtier who rose to be one of th ...

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
. Pope also taught him
orator An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled. Etymology Recorded in English c. 1374, with a meaning of "one who pleads or argues for a cause", from Anglo-French ''oratour'', Old French ''orateur'' (14th c ...
y, which helped him enormously in court. His first two cases were in the English Court of Sessions in 1733, where he was led by Charles Talbot and opposed by . The support of Talbot and Yorke allowed him to gain a respectable practice in the
Court of Chancery The Court of Chancery was a in that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness (or "inequity") of the . The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including , , the estates of lunatic ...

Court of Chancery
.Fifoot (1936) p. 34 The 1707
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
had merged the
Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or ...

Kingdom of England
and
Kingdom of Scotland The Kingdom of Scotland ( gd, Rìoghachd na h-Alba; sco, Kinrick o Scotland) was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern thi ...
into one national entity, but they retained separate legal systems. However, the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...
became the highest court of appeal in both English and Scottish law, and as a result, from 1707 Scottish cases on appeal from the
Court of Session The Court of Session is the Supreme court, supreme Civil law (common law), civil Courts of Scotland, court of Scotland and constitutes part of the College of Justice; the supreme Criminal justice, criminal court of Scotland is the High Court of ...
were sent there. To deal with these cases, a barrister had to be familiar with both
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...
and
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
, and Murray found his niche, acting in Scottish cases in the House of Lords as early as 1733.Plunkett (1956) p. 249Heward (1979) p. 14 His work in ''Moncrieff v Moncrieff'' in 1734 established Murray as a brilliant young barrister praised for his performance by Lords Cowper and Parker. After ''Moncrieff'', Murray was involved in almost every case in the House of Lords, whether it had been appealed from a Scottish court or not.Foss (1870) p. 470 In 1737, Murray acted as Counsel for the City of
Edinburgh Edinburgh (; sco, Edinburgh; gd, Dùn Èideann ) is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 Council areas of Scotland, council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian (interchangeably Edinburghshire before 1921), it is ...

Edinburgh
in the aftermath of the death of
Captain John Porteous Captain (land), Captain John Porteous, was a Scottish soldier and Captain of the Edinburgh City or Town Guard, (c. 1695 – 1736). Early life John Porteous was born at The Glen, Scottish Borders, The Glen, Quair Water, near Traquair, in the S ...
. In Edinburgh, it was traditional for criminals sentenced to death to be allowed to visit a church near the city jail the Sunday before the execution. Two criminals named Wilson and Robertson took this as an opportunity to escape, and although Wilson did not make it out of the church, Robertson escaped completely.Heward (1979) p. 15 Wilson had been a smuggler who supplied his fellow citizens with goods, and because of this and the unpopularity of the city guard, public opinion was firmly on his side. Porteous was the captain of the Edinburgh city guard, and angry with Wilson's attempt to escape and aware of the possibility of an attempt to free him. Porteous ordered a guard of 80 men to be placed around the gallows for Wilson's execution. When a man attempted to cut Wilson's body down after the execution, Porteous ordered his troops to fire on the crowd, and seven people were killed. Porteous was initially sentenced to death for murder, and when the execution was delayed, a mob of citizens rushed the city jail and
lynched Lynching is an extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, punish a convicted transgressor, or intimidate. It can also be an extreme f ...
him. As a result, a bill was proposed in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...

House of Commons
that sought to punish the City of Edinburgh for the behaviour of its citizens by disenfranchising the city.Heward (1979) p. 20 Murray represented the City in both the House of Commons and the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, and eventually whittled down the bill so much that by the time it was voted on, it simply proposed to fine the city and disqualify the
Provost Provost may refer to: People * Provost (name)Provost is a surname of French origin, deriving from a civil or military official responsible for maintaining order. It moved to England with its conquering by William of Normandy in 1066. It is stil ...
. In exchange for his work, the citizens of Edinburgh gave him the
Freedom of the City for the Joyous Entry by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand into Ghent in 1635 The Freedom of the City (or borough in some parts of the UK) is an honour bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community, or upon a visiting celebri ...
and a diamond, which is still in the possession of his family. Murray's reputation continued to grow; in 1738, he was involved in 11 of the 16 cases heard in the House of Lords, and in 1739 and 1740 he acted as legal counsel in 30 cases there. On 20 September 1738, he married Lady Elizabeth Finch, the daughter of
Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham, 7th Earl of Winchilsea (2 July 16471 January 1730), PC, was an English Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of Traditionalist conservat ...

Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham
, at
Raby Castle Raby Castle () is a medieval castle located near Staindrop in County Durham, England, among of deer park. It was built by John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, between approximately 1367 and 1390. Cecily Neville, the mother of the Kings Edw ...

Raby Castle
in .Heward (1979) p. 24 Her sister Mary was married to
Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, Order of the Bath, KB, Privy Council of Ireland, PC (I) (13 November 1693 – 14 December 1750) of Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire was a British British Whig Party, Whig politician who sat in the ...
. Murray's connection with the Marquess had a significant positive influence on his future career. After a short holiday, Murray returned to his work as a barrister.


Member of Parliament

Murray had repeatedly refused to become a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) p ...
, saying he had no interest in politics.Heward (1979) p. 30 In 1742, however, the government of
Sir Robert Walpole Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745; known between 1725 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole) was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or B ...

Sir Robert Walpole
fell, and Murray's brother-in-law, the
Earl of Nottingham :''See also Earl of Winchilsea Daniel Finch, 7th Earl of Winchilsea and 2nd Earl of Nottingham Earl of Winchilsea is a title in the Peerage of England The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before ...
, became
First Lord of the Admiralty The First Lord of the Admiralty, or formally the Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the political head of the English and later British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is ...
in the new
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
. With this added political influence, Murray hoped to be appointed to a government office, and when Sir John Strange resigned as
Solicitor General A solicitor general or solicitor-general, in common law countries, is usually a legal officer who is the chief representative of a regional or national government in courtroom proceedings. In systems that have an Attorney general, attorney-general ...
, Murray was made a Member of Parliament for
Boroughbridge Boroughbridge () is a small town and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government. It is a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and c ...
on 15 December 1742 and immediately succeeded Strange as Solicitor General. Although the Solicitor General was the lowest legal appointment, a successful one could be appointed
Attorney General In most common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionar ...
, and by custom, the Attorney General was allowed to become
Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and the President of the Courts of England and Wales. The officeholder until 2005 could be viewed as the second-highest judge of the Courts of Engla ...
if a vacancy arose. Although many barristers were not good politicians, Murray became a successful Member of Parliament, and one noted for his oratorical skills and logical arguments. In 1745, Murray defended the actions of the government in hiring 16,000 Hanoverian troops to help fight in the
War of the Austrian Succession The War of the Austrian Succession () was the last Great Power conflict with the House of Bourbon, Bourbon-Habsburg Monarchy, Habsburg dynastic conflict at its heart. It occurred from 1740 to 1748 and marked the rise of Kingdom of Prussia, Prus ...
.Heward (1979) p. 31 His argument (that it was the prerogative of the King to decide how a war should be fought, and he should not be second-guessed by politicians with no experience of warfare) defeated the motion to cease employing the Hanoverian troops by 231 votes to 181. Murray became popular with both the government and
George IIGeorge II or 2 may refer to: People * George II of Antioch (seventh century AD) * George II of Armenia (late ninth century) * George II of Abkhazia (916–960) * Patriarch George II of Alexandria (1021–1051) * George II of Georgia (1072–1089) * ...
as a result, and in the absence of a strong Attorney General, Murray spoke for the government in most matters. In 1747, he helped write and pass an act to abolish the old hereditary positions in Scotland. In 1751 he drafted the government response to an attempt by the King of
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
to frustrate neutral shipping, which
Lord Stowell William Scott, 1st Baron Stowell (17 October 174528 January 1836) was an England, English judge and jurist. He served as Judge of the High Court of Admiralty from 1798 to 1828. Background and education Scott was born at Heworth, Tyne and Wear, H ...
called "the foundation of the modern law of neutrality", and
Montesquieu Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne, Montesquieu (; ; 18 January 168910 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, intellectual, man of letters, historian, and po ...
described it as a "résponse sans réplique" (response without a reply).Fifoot (1936) p. 37 The death of
FrederickFrederick may refer to: People * Frederick (given name), the name Nobility Anhalt-Harzgerode *Frederick, Prince of Anhalt-Harzgerode (1613–1670) Austria * Frederick I, Duke of Austria (Babenberg), Duke of Austria from 1195 to 1198 * Frederick ...

Frederick
, the heir to the British throne on 20 March 1751, caused constitutional chaos; George II wished to appoint his favourite son
Prince William, Duke of Cumberland Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, (15 April 1721 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">N.S..html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="/nowiki>Old Style and New Style dates">N.S.">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title= ...
, as Regent (since the heir apparent,
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George III
, was only a child), while the public favoured the child's mother Princess Augusta.Heward (1979) p. 33 In an attempt to reach a compromise the government introduced a bill to Parliament declaring that Augusta was to be a regent along with a council of others, and that George would become the heir when he reached maturity. Murray made a speech supporting the government's proposal, but despite this, Parliament was not convinced that a council was necessary. On 6 March 1754, the Prime Minister
Henry Pelham Henry Pelham (25 September 1694 – 6 March 1754) was a British Whig statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1743 until his death in 1754. He was the younger brother of Thomas Pelham-H ...

Henry Pelham
died, and this necessitated a
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
reshuffle. The
Attorney General In most common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionar ...
, Sir Dudley Ryder, became
Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and the President of the Courts of England and Wales. The officeholder until 2005 could be viewed as the second-highest judge of the Courts of Engla ...
, and Murray became Attorney General in his place.Heward (1979) p. 40 A few months later the
Master of the Rolls The Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England, known as the Master of the Rolls, is the President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales The Court of Appeal (formally "Her Majesty's Cou ...
died, and Murray was asked to replace him; he declined, however, as he "did not want to leave His Majesty's service". After Ryder died unexpectedly on 25 May 1756, however, Murray could not turn down the opportunity, and immediately applied to replace him as Lord Chief Justice. He was accepted, and although his appointment delighted Murray, the government was very concerned at the loss of a good Attorney General.Heward (1979) p. 42 In an attempt to persuade him to stay, the new Prime Minister, the
Duke of Newcastle Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne was a title that was created three times, once in the Peerage of England and twice in the Peerage of Great Britain. The first grant of the title was made in 1665 to William Cavendish, 1st Marquess of Newcastle upon ...
offered him the post of
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a ministerial office in the Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United ...
, in addition to the position of Attorney General, an extra £6,000 a year, and a pension, and finally attempted to blackmail him by saying that if he accepted the office of Lord Chief Justice, the government would refuse to grant him a
peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary title Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societi ...
. It was customary for all Lord Chief Justices to be given a peerage, and Murray responded by saying that in that situation he would refuse to become either Lord Chief Justice or Attorney General. Newcastle gave in, and promised to allow him to become Lord Chief Justice and to recommend him for a peerage. This was seen as an excellent result by Murray, who had no interest in politics except as a stepping stone to become a member of the judiciary. Murray was not suited to politics, as he was far too calculating and independent of thought to accept any one party's doctrine.Fifoot (1936) p. 38 His Scottish and Jacobite roots also allowed for endless insinuation and controversy—in 1753 he was accused by the Bishop of Gloucester of "having drunk the health of the
Old Pretender James Francis Edward Stuart (10 June 16881 January 1766), nicknamed The Old Pretender by Whigs (British political party), Whigs, was the son of King James II of England, James II and VII of Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Sco ...
on his knees". Although the story was proven to be false, it embarrassed Murray, and was used to taunt him as late as 1770. His rivalry with William Pitt highlighted his unsuitability for politics—unlike such other politicians as and Edward Thurlow, he did not have the temperament to resist "the vehemence of Pitt's invective". It was widely felt that he could have become
Prime Minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
after the death of
Henry Pelham Henry Pelham (25 September 1694 – 6 March 1754) was a British Whig statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1743 until his death in 1754. He was the younger brother of Thomas Pelham-H ...

Henry Pelham
, but it would have "set is geniusin a false environment", and he declined all opportunities to return to politics except as Lord Chief Justice.


Lord Chief Justice

Anyone wishing to become a judge was required to be a Serjeant-at-law, which Murray was not; as such, he left
Lincoln's Inn The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are Call to the Bar, called to the Bar. (The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray' ...

Lincoln's Inn
to join Serjeant's Inn.Heward (1979) p. 45 He qualified as a Serjeant-at-law on 8 November 1756, and was sworn in as Lord Chief Justice at the house of the Lord Chancellor that evening. Immediately afterwards he was created Baron Mansfield. On 19 November, he was sworn in as a Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Counsellor. He suspended his duties temporarily on 5 April 1757, when appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, due to an old custom that the Lord Chief Justice took the position when it was empty. He only served until 8 April, and there is no evidence of his performing anything more than the standard day-to-day duties. He became a cabinet minister in 1757, still serving as Lord Chief Justice, and stayed until 1765.


Reform

Mansfield first sat in court on 11 November 1756, and at the time had "a very low estimate of the Common Law of England which he was to administer". The legal system had been put together in the period immediately after the Norman conquest of England, and was completely unsuited to the 18th century, when Britain was "the greatest manufacturing and commercial country in the world". Mansfield immediately began to reform the way the law and courts worked. One of his first acts as Lord Chief Justice was to change the system for submitting
motions 300px, Motion involves a change in position In physics, motion is the phenomenon in which an object changes its position over time. Motion is mathematically described in terms of displacement, distance Distance is a numerical measurement of ...
.Heward (1979) p. 46 Every day the court was in session, all barristers were invited to submit motions, in order of their seniority as barristers. Because they were allowed to submit as many motions as they wanted, by the time junior
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practisin ...

barrister
s were allowed to submit their motions, it was normally the end of the day. This meant that almost all the work went to the senior barristers, who were so overworked that they often did not have time to prepare properly before going to court. In addition it meant that work for junior barristers was scarce, hindering their careers. Mansfield changed the system so that barristers were allowed to submit only one motion a day, and if not all barristers had been heard by the end of the day, they could continue where they left off the next morning. At the time it was also traditional for all judgments to be Reserved decision, reserved. Although in a small number of cases this was useful, in the majority of cases it simply made coming to court more expensive and wasted time. As soon as Mansfield became Lord Chief Justice, he changed the rules so that, unless the court had doubts over the evidence presented to them, a judgment was to be made immediately. This had a far-reaching effect on the English courts. Judges from the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Court of Appeal and High Court of Justice now give reserved judgments in only a minority of cases. His reforms led to the Court of King's Bench becoming one of the most active courts, at the expense of the Court of Common Pleas (England), Court of Common Pleas, which was described as the "sleepy hollow".


Mercantile law changes

In the eighteenth century, English commercial law, merchant law was still based on the ''Lex mercatoria'', a medieval series of customs and principles used to regulate trading.Heward (1979) p. 99 Other countries in Europe had reformed and modernised their law, resulting in English merchant law being about a century behind mercantile law of other European countries. A merchant was, by his very nature, international, and the inconsistencies between English law and the law of other nations made business difficult. Mansfield made a great effort to bring English merchant law up to the same standards as that of other European nations, defining his position by saying that "the daily negotiations and property of merchants ought not to depend on subtleties and niceties, but upon rules easily learned and easily retained because they are dictates of common sense drawn from the truth of the case".Heward (1979) p. 101 In most European countries, the principle was that a merchant was bound by his promises, not just his signed legal documents, while English lawyers maintained that a merchant could only be legally bound by documents that he signed. The European principle was based on the assumption of good faith on the part of the merchants, or ''uberrima fides'', something completely lacking in English law. In , Mansfield got a chance to reform the law relating to the assumption of good faith. Carter was the Governor of Fort Marlborough (now Bengkulu), which was built by the British East India Company in Sumatra, Indonesia.Heward (1979) p. 102 He took out an insurance policy with Boehm against the fort's being taken by a foreign enemy. A witness called Captain Tryon testified that Carter knew the fort was built to resist attacks from natives but not European enemies, and the French were likely to attack. The French did attack, and Boehm refused to fulfil the insurance claim. Mansfield decided in favour of Boehm, saying that Carter had failed his duty of ''uberrima fides''. In his judgment Mansfield said that:
Insurance is a contract based upon speculation. The special facts, upon which the contingent chance is to be computed, lie most commonly in the knowledge of the insured only; the underwriter trusts to his representation and proceeds upon the confidence that he does not keep back any circumstance in his knowledge, to mislead the underwriter into a belief that the circumstance does not exist, and to induce him to estimate the risque as if it did not exist. Good faith forbids either party by concealing what he privately knows, to draw the other into a bargain from his ignorance of that fact, and his believing the contrary.Heward (1979) p. 103
This was an attempt by Mansfield to introduce the assumption of good faith into English law, and although it failed for the most part (as most areas of English commercial law no longer use ''uberrima fides''), it is still used in insurance contracts. In insurance agreements, the insuree inevitably knows more about the risk involved than the insurer; without the requirement for pre-contractual "good faith," the insuree would have no reason to tell the truth, and insurance companies would be loath to make contracts. In the earlier case of , Mansfield had tried to challenge the doctrine of Consideration in English law, Consideration.Heward (1979) p. 104 In English law, "Consideration" is a vital part of the contract; without valid consideration, almost any contract is void. But, Mansfield argued in his judgment that it should only be treated as evidence of a contract, not as a vital element. Mansfield failed to make clear that he was referring only to consideration in commercial contracts, not general contracts, and as a result his judgment read that consideration was not required for ''any'' contract. His judgment has been much criticised by legal academics, and was effectively overruled by the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...
in ''Rann v Hughes'' [1778] 7 T. R. 350. Mansfield also enforced a previous judgement of the Court of King's Bench made in 1645, in which they allowed a special jury of merchants to sit in cases involving commercial law.Lowry (1973) p. 609 He built up a special corps of these jurymen, some of whom, such as Edward Vaux, became noted experts on commercial law. "Lord Mansfield's jurymen" acted as an effective liaison between the merchants and the courts. Mansfield was personally a supporter of free trade who was heavily influenced by Roman law and ancient Roman and Greek writers such as
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people ...

Cicero
and Xenophon. In 1783, Mansfield heard the case of , regarding the payment of an insurance claim for slaves killed when thrown overboard by the captain of a slave-ship – an event now known as the Zong Massacre, ''Zong'' massacre. Mansfield, in summing up the jury's verdict, said "The Case of Slaves was the same as if Horses had been thrown over board", and endeavoured to uphold the notion that slaves were property which could be destroyed in situations of "absolute necessity". But, new information was introduced in the case, and he ruled against the owners of the ship. In doing this, he achieved his aim of preventing maritime insurance law from becoming more complicated.


Copyright law

Mansfield made another notable judgment in , in relation to copyright law. Andrew Millar was a bookseller who in 1729 had purchased the publishing rights to James Thomson (poet), James Thomson's poem "The Seasons (Thomson poem), The Seasons". After the term of the exclusive rights granted under the Statute of Anne expired, Robert Taylor began publishing his own competing publication, which contained Thomson's poem. Mansfield, sitting with three other judges, concluded that despite the Statute of Anne there was a perpetual common law copyright, and therefore that no works can ever be considered public domain.Heward (1979) p. 105 This was a massive victory for booksellers and publishers, as it meant that they could effectively make it impossible for new companies to compete, as in the absence of new texts, there was nothing they could print. Mansfield's judgment was finally overruled by the House of Lords in ''Donaldson v Beckett'' in 1774. Mansfield's judgment has been criticised as being unusually short-sighted because he failed to see that while his decision was correct for that particular case, the precedent it would set would create an unfair monopoly for the booksellers and publishers. This was one of only a small number of cases in which Mansfield was overruled; in his entire career only six of his judgments were overturned by a higher court. Mansfield's judgement here has been seen as part of a wider agenda; along with other legal figures such as William Blackstone, Sir William Blackstone, he was personally in favour of a perpetual copyright.


Junius

In 1695 Parliament failed to renew the Licensing Order of 1643, Licensing Acts, and as a result, the press were free to print material attacking the government.Heward (1979) p. 125 Although there were eight attempts to force a new Licensing Act through Parliament between 1697 and 1713, none of them succeeded. Despite the freedom of the press from pre-censorship by the government, the judiciary regularly tried people for seditious libel if they printed material attacking the government. From 21 November 1768, letters written by a man under the pseudonym of Junius (writer), Junius were published in the ''Public Advertiser'', a London newspaper run by Henry Sampson Woodfall.Heward (1979) p. 127 In them, Junius attacked many political leaders, including John Manners, Marquess of Granby, Lord Granby and Mansfield. As his letters were wildly popular, the circulation of the ''Public Advertiser'' doubled in just five months. On 19 December 1769, Junius wrote a letter attacking the King, and incensed at this, the government ordered several people to be arrested and tried for seditious libel, including Woodfall for publishing the letters, John Almon for selling them, and John Miller for republishing them. Almon's case was heard at Westminster Hall by Mansfield and a jury on 2 June 1770. He was found guilty, although it is unclear in what fashion he was punished, if at all. Woodfall was tried on 13 June 1770, by Mansfield and a jury. While Mansfield believed that the language used was libellous, the jury disagreed, and held that he was "guilty of printing and publishing only", and innocent of seditious libel.Heward (1979) p. 128 Miller was tried on 13 July 1770, and after six hours of discussion, the jury found him innocent. As a result of these two trials, it became clear that no jury would convict a printer for printing these letters, leaving Junius free to continue publishing them. On 14 November 1770, a letter by Junius directed at Mansfield was published by the ''Public Advertiser'' and the ''London Evening Post'', a newspaper run by John Miller.Heward (1979) p. 129 In it, Junius attacked Mansfield, first for being Scottish, then for being a lapsed Jacobite, and finally for attempting to suppress the freedom of the press. In a response to Junius' letter dated 16 November 1770, Mansfield made the following threat: :"Sir, if in future you indulge the ill-founded asperity of your Pen, [you] may be called to answer for your Conduct, in a way that may cause you to regret that ever you was born, or, at least, that Nature has given you Abilities, which, if guided by Discretion, would have made you as much a Blessing, as you are now a Curse to Mankind." Although the
Attorney General In most common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionar ...
, William de Grey, 1st Baron Walsingham, William de Grey, advised that the publishers should again be prosecuted, Mansfield disagreed, saying that if they failed to respond to Junius, he would become bored and stop writing. Mansfield was evidently correct, because other than a letter printed on 5 October 1771, Junius ceased to write at the beginning of 1772.


Somersett's Case

Mansfield is best known for his judgment in Somersett's Case on the legality of keeping Slavery, slaves in England.Heward (1979) p. 139 The English had been involved in the Atlantic slave trade, slave trade since 1553, and by 1768, ships registered in Liverpool, Bristol and London carried more than half the slaves shipped in the world. James Somersett was a slave owned by Charles Stewart (customs official), Charles Stewart, an American customs officer who sailed to Britain for business, landing on 10 November 1769. A few days later Somersett attempted to escape. He was recaptured in November and imprisoned on the ship ''Ann and Mary'', owned by Captain John Knowles and bound for the British colony of Jamaica. Stewart intended to sell him there. However, three people claiming to be Somersett's godparents, John Marlow, Thomas Walkin and Elizabeth Cade, made an application before the Court of King's Bench for a writ of ''habeas corpus'', and Captain Knowles was ordered to produce Somersett before the Court of King's Bench, which would determine whether his imprisonment was legal. Mansfield ordered a hearing for 22 January 1772. Following an adjournment, the case was not heard until 7 February 1772. In the meantime, the case had attracted a great deal of attention in the press, and members of the public were forthcoming with donations to fund lawyers for both sides of the argument.Heward (1979) p. 140 An activist layman, Granville Sharp, who continually sought test cases against the legal justifications for slavery, was Somersett's real backer. When the case was heard, no fewer than five advocates appeared for the slave, speaking at three separate hearings between February and May. These lawyers included William Davy (lawyer), William Davy SL, John Glynn SL,Van Cleve (2006) p. 2 James Mansfield and Francis Hargrave, who was later to become a noted barrister based on his work in this case. Charles Stewart was represented by John Dunning, 1st Baron Ashburton, John Dunning and James Wallace (British politician), James Wallace. On behalf of Somersett, it was argued that while colonial laws might permit slavery, neither the common law of England, nor any law made by Parliament of Great Britain, Parliament recognised the existence of slavery, and slavery was therefore illegal. Moreover, English contract law did not allow for any person to enslave himself, nor could any contract be binding without the person's consent. The arguments thus focused on legal details rather than humanitarian principles. A law passed in 1765 said that all lands, forts and slaves owned by the Africa Company were a property of the Crown, which could be interpreted to mean that the Crown accepted slavery. When the two lawyers for Charles Stewart put their case, they argued that a contract for the sale of a slave was recognised in England, and therefore the existence of slaves must be legally valid. After the attorneys for both sides had given their arguments, Mansfield called a recess, saying that "[the case] required ... [a] consultation ... among the twelve Judges". Finally, on 22 June 1772 Mansfield gave his judgment, which ruled that a master could not carry his slave out of England by force, and concluded:
The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political; but only
positive law Positive laws ( la, links=no, ius positum) are human-made laws that oblige or specify an action. Positive law also describes the establishment of specific rights for an individual or group. Etymologically, the name derives from the verb ''to posit'' ...
, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory: it's so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.Heward (1979) p. 141
This was not an end to slavery, as this only confirmed it was illegal to transport a slave out of England and Wales against his will.Simon Schama, ''Rough Crossings'' (London: BBC Books, 2005), pp. 51–61. Slavery also persisted in the rest of the British Empire. As a result of the reporting of Mansfield's decision, public opinion and some newspapers gave the impression that slavery had been abolished by the ruling. Some historians believe that between 14,000 and 15,000 slaves were immediately freed in England, some of whom remained with their masters as paid or unpaid employees. However, it is questionable whether that many black people lived in England at the time, and most of them were already free men and women, or were runaway slaves who had evaded the authorities. The decision was vague enough to allow Africans to still be hunted and kidnapped in London, Liverpool and Bristol to be sold elsewhere. (Such an incident was recounted by Olaudah Equiano in 1774 in his autobiography, ''An Interesting Narrative'' (1789).) Mansfield believed that his decision meant that slavery continued, because his "mulatta" great-niece
Dido Elizabeth Belle Dido ( ; , ), also known as Elissa ( , ), was the legendary founder and first queen of the Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past events
Dido Elizabeth Belle
remained a slave in his household, until his 1793 will allowed her to be considered a free woman. (She had been born into slavery as the illegitimate daughter of his nephew in the West Indies but lived with him and his wife for 30 years.) In addition, advertisements from the 1770s show that slaves continued to be bought and sold in England. Mansfield referred to slaves in his judgment in a later case. Although slavery was not completely abolished in the British Empire until 1834, Mansfield's decision is considered to have been a significant step in recognising the illegality of slavery.


Lord Mansfield's Rule

Lord Mansfield is frequently mentioned in modern legal settings as the originator of "Lord Mansfield's Rule", in his own words: "...the law of England is clear, that the declarations of a father or mother, cannot be admitted to bastardize the issue born after marriage." This quote comes from Mansfield's appellate decision in . The primary legal question in the case was not this preexisting principle, which applies only to children "born after marriage", but rather whether the child had been born before the marriage. The question was whether statements the child's parents allegedly made before their deaths could be introduced as evidence that the child had been born before their marriage and was thus illegitimate. Mansfield ruled to admit the testimony against the child's legitimacy and grant a new trial. The term "Lord Mansfield's Rule" is often used in a slightly different sense to denote the principle still applied in several jurisdictions that marriage creates a conclusive presumption of a husband's paternity of his wife's child.


House of Lords

After the formation of the Fox-North Coalition, Mansfield agreed to act as Speaker of the House of Lords, taking up his post in February 1783.Heward (1979) p. 162 The main item of debate during the Coalition Ministry was the East India Bill, which provoked bitter arguments in both the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
and
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...

House of Commons
. In an attempt to speed up the process of passing the bill, Mansfield left his position as speaker to debate directly on 15 December; when this failed to help he returned to the Woolsack the next day. The failure of the bill caused the government to be immediately dismissed, and Mansfield left his position on 23 December 1783. Mansfield had been made earl of Mansfield, in the County of Nottingham, on 31 October 1776. He attended the Lords as Lord Speaker, and the last record of him attending (other than his presence at the state opening of Parliament on 23 March 1784)Heward (1979) p. 163 was in December 1783.


Retirement

Despite failing health, Mansfield refused to officially leave his post as Lord Chief Justice because
George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on th ...

George III
was opposed to the appointment of Mansfield's protégé Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet, Francis Buller to the position after Mansfield resigned.Foss (1870) p. 472 The government of the time instead suggested Lloyd Kenyon, 1st Baron Kenyon, Lloyd Kenyon as a possible successor. Mansfield clung to office until 1788 (despite not sitting in court for two years), in the hope that the government would fall before he was forced to retire.Heward (1979) p. 166 This was not to be, and on 3 June, he wrote a letter of resignation effective the next day. Mansfield spent the remainder of his life at Kenwood House.Heward (1979) p. 168 Most of his time was spent maintaining the grounds. In the summer, he was visited by groups of
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practisin ...

barrister
s who informed him of the goings-on at court. On 1 August 1792 he was made earl of Mansfield, in the County of Middlesex. On 10 March 1793, he complained of feeling sleepy, and although he recovered the next day, by 12 March, he was again complaining of a need for sleep. He went to bed early and remained asleep until 18 March, when he finally died. His body was buried in the north transept of Westminster Abbey. Mansfield left a large amount of money after his death, including land worth £26,000. He gave £2,000 to Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet, Francis Buller.


Legacy

English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
saw significant changes during Mansfield's career.Heward (1979) p. 170 As lord chief justice, Mansfield had done much to reform the way the courts worked, making it easier for people to gain access to legal aid, and also making the process much less expensive. He was also noted for his insistence that equity (law), equity should be applied by all courts, not just the
Court of Chancery The Court of Chancery was a in that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness (or "inequity") of the . The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including , , the estates of lunatic ...

Court of Chancery
, a view that provoked much disagreement during his lifetime, but was eventually confirmed by Parliament in the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873, which allowed all courts to take cases of equity. He also established the principle that rather than blindly following precedent, judges should seek to find loopholes in rules that were no longer applicable, something that later received the support of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who said, "It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is more revolting still if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past."Heward (1979) p. 171 He made his judgements on the principle that "as the usages of society alter, the law must adapt itself to the various situations of mankind", leading John Baker (legal historian), John Baker to describe him as "one of the boldest of judicial spirits". His most important contributions were to commercial, merchant and common law. Mansfield spent much time bringing the law of England on par with that of other countries, particularly in cases such as ''Pillans v Van Mierop, Pillans & Rose v Van Mierop & Hopkins'' [1765] 3 Burr 1663, and '' Carter v Boehm'' [1766] 3 Burr 1905. As a result of his work, he was described by a later judge as "the founder of the commercial law of this country".Foss (1870) p. 471 He was, however, criticised for his resistance to the freedom of the press and his refusal to go against the King, as well as for blatant nepotism—highlighted by his attempts to have Sir Francis Buller, 1st Baronet, Francis Buller made
Lord Chief Justice The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales — different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict ...
after his retirement. He was also criticised as a politician for his support of a government antagonistic to the colonies; in 1829 John Quincy Adams described him as "more responsible for the American Revolution, Revolution than any other man". Scholars such as John Chipman Gray have questioned his reputation as a universally successful judge, saying that "the reputation of Lord Mansfield as a commercial lawyer should not blind us to the fact that he was not equally great in the law of real property". Opinion over Mansfield's intention in his ruling in Somerset's Case is mixed, with the current prevailing view being that he did not intend to free the slaves. The judgment was particularly narrow, as it ruled only that a master could not carry his slave out of England by force, not that slaves who came to England were emancipated. This is seen as particularly telling because this was the primary argument of Davy and Hargrave.Van Cleve (2006) p. 4 If Murray had wanted to emancipate the slaves completely, there were various bits of judicial precedent he could have based his decision on, such as ''Smith v Gould'' or ''Shanley v Harvey'', but he did not. Various comments he made before and during the case also suggest that complete emancipation was not his intent; in a preliminary judgment he said that "the setting 14,000 or 15,000 men at once free loose by a solemn opinion, is much disagreeable in the effect it threatens", which one modern legal scholar interprets as indicative of his reluctance to make a decision for fear of economic consequences. Various comments he made to Thomas Hutchinson in private letters, along with his comments about the ''Somersett'' decision in R v Inhabitants of Thames Ditton also suggest that emancipation was not his goal. In 1785, Lord Mansfield expressed the view in R v Inhabitants of Thames Ditton that his ruling in the Somerset case decided only that a slave could not be forcibly removed from England against his will. Mansfield's marriage to Lady Finch was barren. His title, which succeeds to this day, passed to his nephew, David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield.


Honours

Mansfield is immortalised in St Stephen's Hall, where he and other notable Parliamentarians look on at visitors to Parliament.parliament.uk: "Architecture of the Palace – St Stephen's Hall"
/ref>''The Illustrated London News,'' illustration accompanying "The New Houses of Parliament", 2 February 1856, p. 121 *In 1801 a marble monument to him by John Flaxman was installed in Westminster Abbey; it shows Murray flanked by the personifications of Wisdom and Lady Justice, Justice, with an inscription that reads: *The town of Mansfield, Massachusetts was named after him. *Because of his reputation as a barrister,
Lincoln's Inn The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are Call to the Bar, called to the Bar. (The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray' ...

Lincoln's Inn
offer a series of scholarship for the Bar Vocational Course named the Lord Mansfield Scholarship. *Mansfield has been portrayed as a character several times in television and film – in ''The Fight Against Slavery'' (1975) by John Richmond (actor), John Richmond, ''The British'' (2012) by Timothy West, ''Belle (2013 film), Belle'' (2013) by Tom Wilkinson and ''The Scandalous Lady W'' (2015) by David Calder (actor), David Calder.


Character

Mansfield was noted at the Barristers in England and Wales, Bar, in Parliament, and while sitting as a judge, for his eloquence and skill as a speaker; in particular Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Chesterfield described him as "beyond comparison the best speaker" in the House of Commons. He was also a hard worker; he would sometimes do court paperwork himself, as well as do his judicial duties, in an attempt to speed up the legal process.Heward (1979) p. 178 He was summarised by Gareth Jones (lawyer), Gareth Jones as "Conservative, urbane, silver-tongued, energetic, cultivated and well read; a highly imaginative lawyer who looked to reason and was not overawed by the legacy of the past". Edmund Burke, a contemporary, said that "he had some superiors in force, some equals in persuasion; but in ''insinuation'' he was without a rival. He excelled in the statement of a case. This, of itself, was worth the argument of any other man". The comment by Samuel Johnson that "Much may be made of a [Scotsman], if he be caught young" was directed at Mansfield, and Johnson also described him as "more than a mere lawyer", while Edward Coke, who is considered one of the most important lawyers in the history of English law, was "only a lawyer". Unlike other barristers, Mansfield was noted for always keeping a cool head and being "prudent to the point of timidity". He was criticised for being "moderate and dispassionate", unlike more aggressive barristers such as Edward Coke; when asked about this he replied that "I would not have made Sir Edward Coke's speech to gain all Sir Edward Coke's estates and all his reputation". There are conflicting reports about his temperament and attitude as a judge; William Pitt described him as "a very bad judge, proud, haughty to the Bar and hasty in his determinations", and Charles Yorke said he was "offensive and unpopular".Fifoot (1936) p. 48 Both opinions are suspect, however; Pitt's because he was a constant rival to Mansfield and Yorke's because he was attempting to beat Mansfield to the position of Lord Chancellor at the time. Edward Foss said that "there has never been a judge more venerated by his contemporaries, nor whose memory is regarded with greater respect and affection", and described him as "the great oracle of law".Foss (1870) p. 469 Mansfield has been called "the legal genius of his generation", and compared favourably with Joseph Story, a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States noted for his brilliance.Leslie (1957) p. 279 Other Americans such as Julian S. Waterman, the founder of the University of Arkansas School of Law, described him as "not only the greatest common law judge but the greatest judge in Anglo-American legal history", while Joseph Story himself said that Mansfield "broke down the narrow barrier of the common law, redeemed it from feudal selfishness and barbarity" and that "he was one of those great men raised up by Providence, at a fortunate moment, to effect a salutary revolution in the world".Waterman (1934) p. 549


In popular culture

In the 2013 film Belle (2013 film), ''Belle'', Murray is portrayed by Tom Wilkinson. In the 2015 film The Scandalous Lady W (2015), ''The Scandalous Lady W'', Murray is portrayed by David Calder (actor).


See also

*List of cases involving Lord Mansfield


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Mansfield, William Murray, 1st Earl Of 1705 births 1793 deaths Scottish judges People from Perth, Scotland People educated at Westminster School, London Alumni of Christ Church, Oxford Members of Lincoln's Inn Black British history Chancellors of the Exchequer of Great Britain Clan Murray Earls of Mansfield Peers of Great Britain created by George II Lord Chief Justices of England and Wales Members of the Parliament of Great Britain for English constituencies, Murray, William British MPs 1741–1747 British MPs 1747–1754 British MPs 1754–1761 Members of the Privy Council of Great Britain English legal writers Scottish legal writers British legal writers Burials at Westminster Abbey Younger sons of viscounts