Murray, William (Lord Mansfield) (1705–1793)

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MURRAY, WILLIAM (Lord Mansfield) (1705–1793)

The leading Tory constitutionalist of the eighteenth century, William Murray was appointed a judge after a career as a barrister and parliamentarian and service as attorney general. As Baron (later Earl) Mansfield, he was Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench from 1756 until 1788. He was active in the debates of the House of Lords and served for fifteen years in the cabinet. He opposed repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, arguing that since the colonists were virtually represented in Parliament their complaints of taxation without representation were without merit. Mansfield was a firm advocate of coercion in dealing with America, and he was the author of the Quebec Act of 1775.

In the wilkes cases of 1763–1770 he held general warrants illegal. He was tolerant of religious deviance and disapproved of prosecution of either Roman Catholic recusants or Protestant dissenters. In somerset ' scase (1772) he freed an escaped slave who had been recaptured in England, ruling that slavery was too odious to be supported by common law. In seditious libel cases he allowed the jury to decide only the fact of publication, reserving the question of law—whether the published words were libelous—to be decided by the judge.

Dennis J. Mahoney

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Murray, William (Lord Mansfield) (1705–1793)

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