Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery

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9780738206950: Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery

The 1772 London trial of James Somerset, rescued from a ship bound for the West Indies slave markets, was a decisive turning point in history. As in the Scopes trial, two encompassing world views clashed in an event of passionate drama. Steven M. Wise, trial lawyer and legal historian, has uncovered layer upon layer of fascinating revelations in a case which threatened, according to slave owners, to bring the economy of the British Empire to a crashing halt. In a gripping narrative of Somerset's trial-and of the slave trials that led up to it-he sets the stage for the unexpected decision by the famously conservative judge, Lord Mansfield, which would lead to the abolition of slavery, both in England and the United States, and the end of the African slave trade.The characters in this great historical moment go beyond a screenwriter's dream: Somerset's novice attorneys arguing their first case; the fervent British abolitionist Granville Sharp, a cross between Ralph Nader and William Lloyd Garrison, who had brought case after case to court in an attempt to abolish slavery; the master's two-faced and skillful lawyer, who had recently argued before Mansfield that slavery could not exist in England; and finally, the greatest judge of his time, Lord Mansfield, whose own mulatto grand-niece, Dido Belle, was his slave.As the case drew to a close Lord Mansfield spoke these stirring words that continue to resound more than two centuries later: "Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall."A Merloyd Lawrence Book

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About the Author:

Steven M. Wise, J.D., has practiced animal law for over twenty years and has taught at the Harvard, Vermont, and John Marshall law schools. He is President of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, which he founded in 1995. The author of Rattling the Cage , praised by Cass Sunstein as "an impassioned, fascinating, and in many ways startling book" ( New York Times Book Review ), and Drawing the Line , which Nature called "provocative and disturbing," he has been profiled nationally by such publications as the New York Times , the Washington Post , and Time magazine.

Review:

"A captivating account...Wise brings alive the story...for an entertaining read, pick up Wise's book." -- Law and Politics Book Review5/05

"A detailed account." -- The Economist 2/3/05

"A thorough and convincing account of the case that led to the official banning of slavery in England." -- New York Review of Books7/14/05

"An important book." -- Deseret Morning News 2/18/05

"Fascinating reading." -- Curled Up With a Good Book 1/15/05

"Somerset's trial is full of high drama." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer 2/6/05

"Well-crafted...set[s] forth the legal battles with admirable clarity [and] portray[s] a fascinating gallery of advocates and jurists." -- Boston Globe 1/30/05

"Wise does a good job of guiding the reader through the thicket of eighteenth-century common law...Engaging." -- The Nation 2/14/05

"[Wise's] thoughtful analysis provides an underpinning for the social and legal context of slavery, making this a recommended book." -- Library Journal2/15/05

"[Wise] has an eye for evocative detail and an interest in the trappings and procedures of an 18th-century courtroom ." -- New York Times Book Review 1/9/05

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Book Description Da Capo Pr, New York, New York, U. S. A., 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. Perhaps no trial changed the course of history so much as one that took place in London in 1772; the case of James Somerset, a black man rescued from a ship bound for the West Indies slave markets. At this landmark trial, two encompassing worldviews clashed in an event of passionate drama and far-reaching significance. Now noted legal historian Steven M. Wise recreates each exciting moment of the case that slave owners contended would do nothing less than bring the economy of the British Empire to a crashing halt. As the case finally drew to a close and defenders of slavery pleaded with Lord Mansfield to maintain the system, the judge spoke the words that continue to resound more than two centuries later: "Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall. "With notes, bibliography and index. Includes photos of relevant paintings.; 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 003130

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