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Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason [Format Kindle]

Norman S. Poser
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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In the first modern biography of Lord Mansfield (1705-1793), Norman Poser details the turbulent political life of eighteenth-century Britain's most powerful judge, serving as chief justice for an unprecedented thirty-two years. His legal decisions launched England on the path to abolishing slavery and the slave trade, modernized commercial law in ways that helped establish Britain as the world's leading industrial and trading nation, and his vigorous opposition to the American colonists stoked Revolutionary fires.

Although his father and brother were Jacobite rebels loyal to the deposed King James II, Mansfield was able to rise through English society to become a member of its ruling aristocracy and a confidential advisor to two kings. Poser sets Mansfield's rulings in historical context while delving into Mansfield's circle, which included poets (Alexander Pope described him as "his country's pride"), artists, actors, clergymen, noblemen and women, and politicians. Still celebrated for his application of common sense and moral values to the formal and complicated English common law system, Mansfield brought a practical and humanistic approach to the law. His decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain, and the United States to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.

An illuminating account of one of the greatest legal minds, Lord Mansfield presents a vibrant look at Britain's Age of Reason through one of its central figures.

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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 At the birth of the modern common law.... 29 avril 2014
Format:Relié
Longueur : 0:28 Min
LORD MANSFIELD WAS `HIS COUNTRY'S PRIDE'

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

If you are an English lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, you will have heard of the name and fame of Lord Mansfield without necessarily knowing much about him. If you are an American or Canadian lawyer, interestingly, you'll probably know a little bit more about him but not a lot. But more of that later! It is a pleasure therefore, to review Norman S. Poser's new biography of this renowned personality rightly described as eighteenth century Britain's most powerful judge. It is perhaps startling to be reminded that until the publication of this book from McGill-Queens University Press, there apparently has been no full-length life story about Mansfield written in modern times.

Such was Mansfield's influence on the development of English common law that, as the publishers point out, `his decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain and the United States of America to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.'

Or, in Poser's words, `his influence on the law of the English speaking world, evidenced by the fact that the United States Supreme Court has cited his decisions over 330 times, has continued into the twenty-first century.'

It may come as a surprise to some, but not others, that Lord Mansfield has been referred to by at least one historian as `arguably the most famous and influential Anglo-American judge of the modern era.'

`Anglo-American' might not have been a term Mansfield would have applied to himself.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  12 commentaires
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 At the birth of the modern common law.... 29 avril 2014
Par Phillip Taylor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
LORD MANSFIELD WAS `HIS COUNTRY'S PRIDE'

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

If you are an English lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, you will have heard of the name and fame of Lord Mansfield without necessarily knowing much about him. If you are an American or Canadian lawyer, interestingly, you'll probably know a little bit more about him but not a lot. But more of that later! It is a pleasure therefore, to review Norman S. Poser's new biography of this renowned personality rightly described as eighteenth century Britain's most powerful judge. It is perhaps startling to be reminded that until the publication of this book from McGill-Queens University Press, there apparently has been no full-length life story about Mansfield written in modern times.

Such was Mansfield's influence on the development of English common law that, as the publishers point out, `his decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain and the United States of America to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.'

Or, in Poser's words, `his influence on the law of the English speaking world, evidenced by the fact that the United States Supreme Court has cited his decisions over 330 times, has continued into the twenty-first century.'

It may come as a surprise to some, but not others, that Lord Mansfield has been referred to by at least one historian as `arguably the most famous and influential Anglo-American judge of the modern era.'

`Anglo-American' might not have been a term Mansfield would have applied to himself. With a reputation as a defender of the existing order, Mansfield was a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the American War of Independence, calling the Boston Tea Party `an act of high treason.' His militant opposition to the colonists dictated British policy during the 1770s, says Poser, and `led to armed conflict and the loss of the colonies.'

Putting all this in perspective however, Mansfield in most respects was a modernizer. His judicial decisions led to the modernization of British commercial law and the eventual abolition of the slave trade in England -- a stance which would certainly have put him at loggerheads with many of the founding fathers of America, many of whom may have disapproved of the unpleasant aspects of slavery, but who nonetheless owned slaves.

An intensely private person, Mansfield nevertheless loved his busy social life and cultivated innumerable contacts in the political sphere as well as religion, business, literature and the arts. Described as `his country's pride' by Alexander Pope, his circle included William Pitt the Elder, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Hume, and the biographer of Dr. Johnson, James Boswell.

In writing this carefully researched and entertaining biography, Poser has also painted a vivid and detailed picture of the turbulence and intellectual ferment which characterized the world of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. This is an important new book, which will doubtless interest historians and the general public, as well as legal practitioners.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent legal and personal biography 30 octobre 2013
Par Alex F Stop - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Lord Mansfield was a towering figure in English law and this book does him and his life's work justice. Mansfield as a man was, like all of us, less than perfect, and Poser does not whitewash him. Neither does he anachronistically attempt to judge him by modern ethical or political standards. My only criticism is that Poser sometimes makes too earnest an effort to fill in the gaps, saying things like "we don't know exactly what was said but it might have been...". Definitely highly recommended.
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Other Bill Murray 10 décembre 2014
Par not me - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Let me register a modest dissent to the five-star reviews of "Lord Mansfield." The book definitely merits four stars: it's readable and filled with colorful details about society and politics in 18th century Britain. History buffs will like it.

However, most readers will be interested in legal history, and the book doesn't deserve five stars on that front. The book states repeatedly that Mansfield was the greatest legal mind of the century, but his judicial opinions aren't unpacked in enough detail to let readers appreciate his achievement. Even worse, Mansfield's jurisprudence isn't systematically related to broader legal and social trends in England. Instead, we get capsule summaries of many cases tried by Mansfield. These are interesting, but I, for one, wanted more "big picture" insights into the development of legal doctrine.

I was also surprised at the author's over-the-top admiration for Mansfield. To me, the judge seemed like a social climbing sycophant and opportunist, who rarely failed to uphold the privileges of government and the wealthy. Eighteenth century England was a glorified plantation run by landed oligarchs and an emerging business class. Mansfield was perched at the top of this power structure. More reflection on the social order he defended would have improved the book. Nevertheless, anyone interested in 18th century Britain should read it.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The brilliant toady 29 novembre 2014
Par Don Mathias - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
If you are not yet in love with eighteenth century London, Lord Mansfield – Justice in the Age of Reason by Norman S Poser will get you started. If, as mine did, your infatuation began with Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., you will be well prepared. But Poser’s account is so straightforward and clearly written that there is really no threshold of preparation to be overcome.

Both Boswell and Mansfield (born William Murray) were social climbers. Both were lawyers. Both were Scottish. They knew each other. In April of 1772 they appeared on opposite sides in an appeal in the House of Lords, and Murray won. Murray was educated in England, after at age 13, and unaccompanied, he rode a horse to London from Edinburgh, never seeing his parents again, to attend Westminster School. Johnson observed to Boswell: “Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young.” Boswell was educated in Scotland and Holland.

As a lawyer Murray had an appreciation of Roman law and as a judge he was inclined to be guided by principles rather than rules, introducing what some thought was an alarming unpredictability into the common law. Poser summarises this (p 402):

“His study of the great philosophers of law instilled in him a belief that all law was based on morality, reason, and human nature, which were the same everywhere, even though customs, mores, and traditions differ from country to country.”

Poser’s review of the courts in Westminster Hall is extraordinarily clear, and it is only regrettable that those who taught me legal history, and who wrote the textbooks, were not so interesting. The times were ones of, by our standards, corruption. Judicious payments could lead to judicial office. Judges kept for themselves a proportion of the court fees in cases they heard. Lord Mansfield – he insisted on being ennobled as a condition for his acceptance of the position of Chief Justice of the court of King’s Bench – on occasion was in the House of Lords when appeals from his own decisions were heard. His fear of exposure for a youthful indiscretion, which could have led to accusations of treason, led him to be unduly concerned with placating those in political power. But this was widely known anyway, and he was occasionally subjected to harsh criticism in print.

Murray was so able a lawyer, particularly because of his learning and his eloquence, that he quickly became a leader of the profession. He amassed a fortune, even before going to the bench – indeed it was probably his potential financial sacrifice that gave him the leverage to demand the peerage. He invested in mortgages on properties owned by aristocrats. He was incurably ambitious. As Horace Walpole wrote, “he knew it was safer to expound laws than to be exposed to them.”

He was an autocratic judge, although unafraid of admitting that he had been wrong. Poser gives us this:

“when asked why he had changed his mind on a particular point of law, he answered that it only showed that he was wiser today than he had been the day before.”

I can’t help but wonder whether Bramwell B was thinking of this when he said, in Andrews v Styrap (1872) 26 LT 704, at p 706: “the matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then”.

Mansfield worked extremely hard as a judge. He sat long hours and kept cases going even after he had gone home: juries would sometimes have to visit him in Bloomsbury Square to return their verdicts. His instructions to juries were alien to our standards, and he had a rather flexible attitude to penal laws he didn’t like. On one occasion he told a jury that (pp 352-353)

“... These penal laws were not meant to be enforced except at proper seasons, when there is a necessity for it; or, more properly speaking, they were not meant to be enforced at all, but were merely made in terrorem ...
“ Take notice, if you bring him in guilty the punishment is very severe; a dreadful punishment indeed! Nothing less than perpetual imprisonment!”

Americans make a hero of Mansfield, and of his contemporary Blackstone, because they inherited the common law as it then was. More realistically, he had characteristics that are all too familiar: he was erudite, opinionated, a bully, a climber, avaricious and ambitious, acquisitive and greedy. He ended his years at his (then) country house, Kenwood in Hampstead, obese and arthritic, having clung to office until his inability to write forced him into retirement. In some ways, too, he was very kind, but he had a lot to be kind with.

Although he had, and apparently enjoyed, a long marriage, there were no children. As a ladies' man he seems to have fitted Clive James's description of Isaiah Berlin:

"Sexually inoperative but incorrigibly flirtatious, he loved the high-born ladies, who loved him right back, although his paucity of physical response - a desert under the ocean of talk - led several of them to despair ..."

Boswell, in his journal entry for 11 April 1773, describes a conversation with Mansfield (who would live another 20 years, dying at age 88):

“He is all artificial. He affected to know little of Scotch appeals when over. I catched him ... [showing that] he well remembered what he affected not to remember. It is unpleasant to see so high an administrator of justice such a man.”
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 What to give your lawyer friends for Christmas! 16 novembre 2013
Par Anonymous - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
In this brilliantly written biography, the only modern one of Lord Mansfield, Poser deftly details the life and times of the most important English judge of all times. Judge Mansfield's continuing influence on American law (he is still cited often today), is something about which all American lawyers and judges should be aware. Yet the book is written in a readable and fluid style that also captures the complexity of the man along with his times. I am giving this to all of my lawyer friends for Christmas!
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