Portal:Law of England and Wales/Selected biography/2

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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705–1793) was a British barrister, politician and judge noted for his reform of English law. Born to Scottish nobility, he was educated in Perth, Scotland and at Westminster School, London. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in May 1723, and graduated four years later. Returning to London from Oxford, he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1730, and quickly gained a reputation as an excellent barrister. He became involved in politics in 1742, beginning with his election as MP for Boroughbridge, and appointment as Solicitor General. In the absence of a strong Attorney General, he became the main spokesman for the government in the House of Commons, and was described as "beyond comparison the best speaker" in the House of Commons. With the promotion of Sir Dudley Ryder to Lord Chief Justice in 1754, he became Attorney General, and when Ryder unexpectedly died several months later, he took his place as Chief Justice. He modernised both English law and the English courts system, and has been called the founder of English commercial law. He is perhaps best known for his judgment in Somersett's Case, where he held that slavery was unlawful in England. (more...)