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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Wax Relief Portrait
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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Wax Relief Portrait

Circa 1820

Measurements: Overall: 18.5cm 7.25in) x 17.5cm (6.75in)

£325

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Wax relief profile portrait facing right after James Tassie. Inscribed under the truncated shoulder  ‘UNI AEQUUS VIRTUTI’ (Friendly to virtue alone). Framed and glazed in period maple frame with hanging loop.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, (1705-1793) is best known for his judgment as Chief Justice of the King's Bench in 1772 that slavery had no basis in common law and had never been established by legislation in England, and therefore was not binding in law. His finding resulted in the release of  African slave James Somerset who was being held aboard ship pending shipment to Jamiaca. His supporters, who included both black and white Londoners, celebrated a great victory. Mansfield appeared to believe that a great moral question had been posed but he deliberately avoided answering that question in full, because of its profound political and economic consequences. Nonetheless as the most powerful British jurist of the century, Mansfield's decisions reflected the Age of Enlightenment and moved the country onto the path to abolishing slavery. He advanced commercial law in ways that helped establish the nation as world leader in industry, finance and trade.
 

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