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Though the Heavens May Fall


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About the Author

Steven M. Wise, J.D., has practiced animal law for over twenty years and has taught at the Harvard, Vermont, and John Marshall law schools. He is President of the centre for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, which he founded in 1995. The author of Rattling the Cage, praised by Cass Sunstein as "an impassioned, fascinating, and in many ways startling book" (New York Times Book Review), and Drawing the Line, which Nature called "provocative and disturbing," he has been profiled nationally by such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time magazine.


Legal historian Wise examines how 18th-century English abolitionists created legal arguments to challenge slavery. Granville Sharp was a leading abolitionist whose legal failures and eventual success are analyzed here in the context of 18th-century English law and common-law precedents. Wise emphasizes two cases, Lewis v. Stapylton (1771) and the trial of James Somerset (1772). In the latter case, Wise examines Lord Chief Justice Mansfield's legal course to declaring slavery in England as immoral and illegal since it was wrong to treat human beings as property. Wise shows how Mansfield could interpret common law to meet the changing needs of society. Wise uses historical analysis to draw connections between these cases and later U.S. activities concerning freedom in the American Revolution and Civil War. This thoughtful analysis provides an underpinning for the social and legal context of slavery, making this a recommended book for academic and larger public libraries.-Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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