Page:The slave trade of east Africa.djvu/7

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Exactly one hundred years have passed since Granville Sharpe gave to the world the result of his enquiries into the law of England on the toleration of slavery in this kingdom. The basis of this investigation was, it may be remembered, the opinion given in 1729, by the then Attorney and Solicitor-Generals, Yorke and Talbot, that a slave, by coming to England, did not become free, and might be legally compelled, to return with his master to the plantations. Granville Sharpe, after a careful examination of the subject, concluded "that the sentiment of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that as soon as a negro comes into England he becomes free, might safely be preferred to all contrary opinions."

Soon afterwards, the action brought on behalf of the negro Somerset, afforded an opportunity of testing the correctness of this opinion, and for the establishment as a rule of law, of Lord Chief Justice Holt's now well-known sentiment.

Least prominent in the contest which led to this result, though its real mainspring, stands the figure of Granville Sharpe, the prosecutor, who, though poor and immersed in the duties of a toilsome daily occupation, supplied the money, the leisure, the perseverance, and the learning required for this great controversy, and yet had carefully concealed his own connection with it, fearful lest so humble a name should weaken a cause so momentous.

With no special education, and but little leisure, the Ordnance