Texas Wesleyan Law Review


Stephen Waddams

Document Type



In 1827, Lord Stowell, the judge of the High Court of Admiralty, was called upon to decide a controversial appeal from the Vice-Admiralty Court of Antigua. The issue was whether a person who had been a slave in Antigua, having resided in England for a period of time, reverted to a condition of slavery on returning to Antigua. Lord Stowell's decision, putting a restrictive interpretation on Lord Mansfield's celebrated decision in Sommersett's Case, was that the condition of slavery, though not recognized in England, revived on the former slave's return to Antigua. Lord Stowell's decision, usually referred to as the Slave, Grace, the name given to it in Haggard's Reports, soon became obsolete in British jurisdictions, but was influential for a longer period in the United States. The background documents reveal a number of important circumstances not apparent from a reading of the law report. The documents show that there was considerable anti-slavery sentiment among some of the officers of the Crown in Antigua and also in London. The law report states that Grace was "seized" by the customs officials, but the documents show that it was she who initiated the process, claiming protection from the customs officials in order to have her "right of freedom judicially declared and solemnly determined." The procedure had been used for this purpose in previous instances, and the dispute was perceived, both in Antigua and in London, as an important test case. The interests of the Crown, the anti-slavery movement, and Grace James herself were thus aligned in this case, which was strenuously argued for the Crown by Dr. Stephen Lushington, a leading member of the Anti-Slavery Society, well-known for his forceful anti-slavery sentiments.



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