Steven M. Wise

Though The Heavens May Fall
  • Though The Heavens May Fall

  • Perhaps no trial changed the course of history as much as one that took place in London in 1772: the case of James Somerset, a black man rescued from a ship bound for the West Indies slave markets. Two encompassing worldviews clashed in an event of passionate drama and far-reaching significance. Now the legal historian Steven M. Wise recreates each exciting moment of the case that slave owners contended would do nothing less than bring the economy of the British Empire to a crashing halt.

    In the gripping story of Somerset's trial - and the slave trials that led up to it - Wise sets the stage for the extraordinary decision by the notoriously conservative judge, Lord Mansfield, which set in motion the abolition of slavery in both England and the United States. As the case drew to a close and defenders of slavery pleaded with Lord Mansfield to maintain the system, the judge spoke the words that continue to resound more than two centuries later: 'Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall.'

Steven M. Wise, J.D., has taught at the Harvard, Vermont, and John Marshall law schools. He is president of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, which he founded in 1995. Wise's articles and books probe the roots of Western law. His books, which include Rattling the Cage and Drawing the Line, have been critically acclaimed worldwide.

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