Magazine July 27, 2020, Issue

Slavery and the Constitution

(Dieter Spears/Getty Images)
From the beginning, it pointed toward racial equality

A  stunning legal drama unfolded before the King’s Bench in London in early 1772. James Somerset, a slave brought to England from the American colonies, petitioned the court for a writ of habeas corpus, which would free him from confinement on his enslaver’s ship. Lord Mansfield, the judge reviewing the case, granted the writ in a stinging rebuke of Somerset’s captors: “The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political; but only positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from

This article appears as “Interpreted as It Ought to Be” in the July 27, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Phillip W. Magness is a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.

In This Issue

A Defense of America

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U.S.

Systemic Racism? Make Them Prove It.

I  worked in the criminal-justice system for a quarter century. It is run, day-to-day, by the crème de la crème of graduates from America’s top law schools. Those institutions wear their progressive bona fides on their sleeves and proclaim it for all the world to hear. In their offhand rhetoric — ... Read More
U.S.

Systemic Racism? Make Them Prove It.

I  worked in the criminal-justice system for a quarter century. It is run, day-to-day, by the crème de la crème of graduates from America’s top law schools. Those institutions wear their progressive bona fides on their sleeves and proclaim it for all the world to hear. In their offhand rhetoric — ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Replacing Ginsburg

While we did not agree with many of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views about the Constitution or the judicial function, we never doubted her industry, dedication, gumption, civility, or patriotism. We send our condolences to all who mourn her passing. Justice Ginsburg almost certainly had more fans than any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Replacing Ginsburg

While we did not agree with many of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views about the Constitution or the judicial function, we never doubted her industry, dedication, gumption, civility, or patriotism. We send our condolences to all who mourn her passing. Justice Ginsburg almost certainly had more fans than any ... Read More