The opinion of a Great English Lawyer upon the local character of slavery.
The decision of Lord Mansfield, in the case of a slave who claimed his freedom upon being brought to England
, has been very much relied on by certain classes of politicians.--The title of the case we do not remember.--But Lord Mansfield decided that slavery was a local institution, and that a man who was a slave in Jamaica
became a free man when he was brought to England
Lord Mansfield said that this was the common law of England
, and as the common law of England
is supposed to prevail here as well as in England
, unless altered by statute, free soilers have depended very much upon this dictum
in their endeavors to prove that slavery cannot exist in Territories unless by special law.
Lord Brougham is one of the ablest lawyers that England
He has all the learning that Coke
had, and all the learning that has been generated since Coke
's day. He is fully as acute, and greatly more honest than Mansfield
. He is, moreover, the very head and front of the anti-slavery party in Great Britain
--an oracle in Exeter Hall, and a high authority both in Parliament and the Courts
In his letter to the Boston John Brown
meeting he alludes to the decision under consideration, and says: ‘"I am bound to express my doubts if such a decision would have been given had Jamaica touched upon the coasts of this country.
It is certain that the judges did not intend to declare that all property in slaves should instantly cease, and yet such would have been the inevitable effect of their judgment in the case supposed, which some-what resembles that of America."’
Lord Brougham, then, believes the decision of Lord Mansfield, so much relied on, and so often and so confidently quoted, to have been erroneous!
It would never have been made, had Jamaica
lay in the Irish Soap
or St. George's Channel, instead of the Gulf of Mexico
!--Surely, this ought to settle the question.
The anti-slavery proclivities of. Lord Brougham place his opinions, when they happen to be pro-slavery, above all suspicion.
There can be no doubt that he would gladly have pronounced in favor of Lord Mansfield's decision had he found it possible to do so. His opinion seems to be that slavery is recognized by the common law, and that it can only be destroyed by statute — never by a change of locality within the political limits of the country.
It strikes us, indeed, that, if Lord Mansfield's opinion had been correct, slavery in Jamaica
would have ceased the moment it fell under the dominion of Great Britain
From that moment it became as much a part of Great Britain
, so far as the common law is concerned, as Kent
If in Kent
the common law set a negro free, why should it not have set him free in Jamaica
? --Yet, we find that it did not, but that on the contrary slavery continued in Jamaica
until it was abolished by act of Parliament.