Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason

Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason

by Norman Poser
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Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Gratian More than 1 year ago
I am finding this book a good read. The author truly has done his homework. He opens for his readers the world of Lord Mansfield and knowledge about his major contribution to the development of the law.
Richmond-Chambers More than 1 year ago
LORD MANSFIELD WAS ‘HIS COUNTRY’S PRIDE’ An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers If you are an English lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, you will have heard of the name and fame of Lord Mansfield without necessarily knowing much about him. If you are an American or Canadian lawyer, interestingly, you’ll probably know a little bit more about him but not a lot. But more of that later! It is a pleasure therefore, to review Norman S. Poser’s new biography of this renowned personality rightly described as eighteenth century Britain’s most powerful judge. It is perhaps startling to be reminded that until the publication of this book from McGill-Queens University Press, there apparently has been no full-length life story about Mansfield written in modern times. Such was Mansfield’s influence on the development of English common law that, as the publishers point out, ‘his decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain and the United States of America to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.’ Or, in Poser’s words, ‘his influence on the law of the English speaking world, evidenced by the fact that the United States Supreme Court has cited his decisions over 330 times, has continued into the twenty-first century.’ It may come as a surprise to some, but not others, that Lord Mansfield has been referred to by at least one historian as ‘arguably the most famous and influential Anglo-American judge of the modern era.’ ‘Anglo-American’ might not have been a term Mansfield would have applied to himself. With a reputation as a defender of the existing order, Mansfield was a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the American War of Independence, calling the Boston Tea Party ‘an act of high treason.’ His militant opposition to the colonists dictated British policy during the 1770s, says Poser, and ‘led to armed conflict and the loss of the colonies.’ Putting all this in perspective however, Mansfield in most respects was a modernizer. His judicial decisions led to the modernization of British commercial law and the eventual abolition of the slave trade in England -- a stance which would certainly have put him at loggerheads with many of the founding fathers of America, many of whom may have disapproved of the unpleasant aspects of slavery, but who nonetheless owned slaves. An intensely private person, Mansfield nevertheless loved his busy social life and cultivated innumerable contacts in the political sphere as well as religion, business, literature and the arts. Described as ‘his country’s pride’ by Alexander Pope, his circle included William Pitt the Elder, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Hume, and the biographer of Dr. Johnson, James Boswell. In writing this carefully researched and entertaining biography, Poser has also painted a vivid and detailed picture of the turbulence and intellectual ferment which characterized the world of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. This is an important new book, which will doubtless interest historians and the general public, as well as legal practitioners.