Britain's Courts: Friends or Foes

Shivam Patel

Granville Sharp; a fight for freedom

The American values and beliefs greatly contradict the cruel act of slavery, and because of this, there were many people who wanted to abolish slavery. Before the American Revolution, slaves ran to Britain to fight for the their freedom. From a plethora of people, Granville Sharp battled racism of African Americans in the legal courts of Britain. Though he took dozens of cases to court there were two that questioned the voice of the leaders of the American Civilization.

The courts were used as means to protect slaves from being forced back into slavery and to challenge the legality of slavery in Britain.

1772: James Somerset's Life was Saved

  • This case was one of the most famous one in the history of abolitionists.

  • This was when Granville Sharp a committed abolitionist , defended James Somerset, an enslaved African who had escaped and had been recaptured.

  • This was a crucial test case where Sharp argued that slavery was unlawful in Britain.

  • At the end judge, Lord Chief Justice William Mansfield ruled that no slave could forcibly be removed from Britain.

  • This rule was celebrated by over 200 Africans at a public house at Westminster.

  • Although this ruling did not outlaw slavery in Britain it was legal for many slaves to obtain their freedom.

1783: Limitations Shown

  • In another case by Granville Sharp 1783 the limitations of this law were shown. Sharp was prevented from bringing up the prosecution for murder against the captain of a slave ship (Zong). Although there was clear evidence that 132 slaves were thrown off board, the judge ruled that this was an insurance claim but not murder.

  • This case told many people with slaves that there was injustice and inhumanity of the slave trade and that the law itself had to be changed.

  • Since African Americans were goods and property and it is madness to call a well honourable men of murder, this case was unlawfully dismissed.

  • This showed the power over slaves that even a white man couldn’t fight for; it left an indelible mark on everyone, and especially the 200 slaves who heard their fellow shipmates screaming while they were drowning.

Letter from Granville Sharp to William Baker about the "Zong" incident, 23 May 1783

America's Values and Beliefs

Big image

Some of the American values and beliefs include...

  • Freedom

The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint

  • Individualism

A social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control

  • Pragmatism

An approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of their success or practical application

  • Volunteerism

The use or involvement of volunteer labor, especially in community services

  • Mobility; Progress

The ability to move between different levels in society and employment

  • Patriotism

A cultural attachment to one’s homeland or devotion to one’s country; a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism

  • Equality

The state of being equal especially in status ,rights ,and opportunities

  • Materialism

A “right” to be well off and and physically comfortable

  • Work and Leisure

Leisure is a reward for self-told hard work

Democracy: A government run by the people; a government that promotes social equality and respect for an individual of that governed state

How do American values and beliefs contribute to the continuation of American democracy?

Slavery was a way of life that was the complete opposite of the American “values and beliefs”. It also opposes the form of government called democracy which the Americans were fighting for so dearly in the American Revolution. Democracy is where the people get to choose their leaders and not who they want to be ruled by but the people that they believe will make good decisions for them. This also included some rights that all people are born with, for example all people are created equally and have the choice to pick who they want their leader to be, and have the choice of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Slaves weren’t given this prerogative though when the American democracy was created, and the beliefs that the American citizens believed so greatly in, didn’t seem to apply to slaves. Actually they weren’t granted this entitlement until much, much later until there was so much loss and no culture to fall back on. Even after the Americans became independent, slaves had no freedom, no rights; unless they wanted to pay crucial consequences. Slaves weren’t allowed to be who they wanted to be, obtain their unique characteristics, and be individuals. There was no pragmatism in these piece of properties' lives, they were treated as non living things, and therefore exempted from the great American civilization. America was all about the future, about progress and mobility in science and technology, as well as humanity. Those people could build themselves up from wherever they were and learn from their mistakes. But when slaves had done nothing wrong, they were still not allowed to improve their status. Now, treated in such a way, how can someone be expected to follow and devote to the nation that they were forced into, and act like it was something it wasn’t? African Americans had no privileges period, they weren’t treated like the people that who had the same blood in them, no equality and no justice was found for the people who had a darker skin color than most. No respect was found and given so nothing could be expected of African Americans and nothing could be taken for themselves.