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Essay on slavery in England


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Although the author of this essay is unknown, he was likely an American. When describing a statute created under King Edward VI in 1547, he argued that it surpassed “in barbarity anything we have ever read of as happening in our Southern United States.” On several occasions, the author suggested that racialized slavery in the American South had been abolished, indicating that this essay was written after the American Civil War. The author also described Henry Sumner Maine as a “recent able English writer,” and cited his book

Ancient Law, which was first published in 1861. A watermark on one leaf of this manuscript dated “1852” also suggests it was composed in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Kauffman, Miranda. “English Common Law and Slavery.” In Encyclopedia of Blacks in European History and Culture, Volume 1, edited by Eric Martone. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.Maine, Henry Sumner. Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society, and Its Relation to Modern Ideas. London: John Murray, 1861.Wheaton, Henry. Elements of International Law. Edited by William Beach Lawrence. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1855.Cowper, William. The Task, Book 2, 1785. (accessed March 22, 2017) derived from the collection.

This manuscript essay describes the legal history of slavery in England, focusing especially on the precedents for and limitations of the 1772

Somerset vs. Stewart decision.

The essay focuses primarily on situating Lord Mansfield’s judgment in the 1772

Somerset vs. Stewart case in the larger legal history of slavery in England. The author described many relevant cases preceding the Somerset decision, including Butts vs. Penny (1677), Smith vs. Brown and Cooper (1705), and Shanley vs. Harvey (1763). The author also argued that Lord Mansfield’s 1772 decision did not prohibit slavery in England entirely, pointing to a 1785 case in which Mansfield clarified that it was only illegal for a master to take his slave from England to the colonies by force. The essay’s author also highlighted the continued use of unfree labor in Scottish and Welsh mines after 1772 as evidence for the persistence of slavery in England.

This manuscript consists of 48 leaves of blue and white laid paper, some of which have been cut into smaller pieces. The essay is handwritten in black ink on the rectos of the leaves. There are several notes in pencil on the versos on the leaves. The inscription “Essay on Slavery in England Read Before Antiquarian Society” is written in black ink on the verso of the final leaf. The watermark “KENT MILLS/ 1852” is found on one leaf of blue laid paper.

Item 0127: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of the Moyerman family

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 July 10
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Essay on slavery in England, approximately 1860-1890.
Item 0127
Physical Description

1 item

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