Somerset’s Case: The Unsung Verdict and Its Legacy


  • Sehoon Baek Naperville North High School
  • Mr. Jeffry Bedore Naperville North High School



Race, Verdict, History, American History, British History, Segregation, slavery, Abolition, Chattel Slavery, somerset's case, american revolution


The paper is a comparison between the English court case Somerset v. Stewart(1772) and the infamous American suit Scott v. Sandford(1857), both of which deal with the issue of a slave’s freedom and seeks to analyze the reason why the judges overseeing these cases rendered different verdicts. The paper specifically explains the verdict of Somerset, which freed the slave in question, and Scott, which did not, in a socio-economic lens, pointing to the American dependency on slavery as a factor in the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, which was less of a factor in England that contributed to an early end to slavery in that country, including through the inclusion of black men in the Royal Army and Navy during Britain’s conflicts with the United States of America. Although a misinterpretation of Somerset’s Judge Lord Mansfield’s verdict, a wide-spread, broad understanding of his decision led to the acceptance of legal freedom for slaves throughout Britain, reinforcing American attempts to resist runaway attempts of slaves for British-controlled territory during the Revolutionary War and later the War of 1812. The paper finally renders the American Revolution as a hypocritical one that did not immediately contribute to equality, and notes Mansfield’s overlooked role in the abolition of chattel slavery.


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References or Bibliography

Primary Sources

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Equiano, Olaudah. “Chapter II.” In The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, London: W.Cock, 1815

Somerset v Stewart (1772) 98 ER 499

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How to Cite

Baek, S., & Bedore, J. (2021). Somerset’s Case: The Unsung Verdict and Its Legacy. Journal of Student Research, 10(2).



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