Somerset Case - slaves cannot be compelled to leave England against their will

(642 words)

Historical Context Essay

  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : .

The case of James Somerset (also spelled Somersett and Sommerset) is considered a turning point in the history of British anti-slavery. Somerset was a Virginia slave, owned by Charles Stewart, who had brought him to England. When Somerset ran off, Stewart had had him captured to be returned to Jamaica against his will. Granville Sharp (1735-1813) brought a case for his liberation on the grounds that no man could be a chattel in England. The case was heard in the court of the King's Bench under the distinguished Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. At this time, English law was not clear on this point, certain cases in the earlier part of the century having been found in favour of the rights of the master over his slave (Oldham, p. 310). …

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Clark, Robert. "Somerset Case - slaves cannot be compelled to leave England against their will". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 March 2008
[, accessed 01 July 2015.]