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Constitutional amateurs refute the experts

We have been following the quarrel about constitutional experts. This one began because very few trained lawyers have appeared willing to discuss or defend the British Constitution from attacks by Parliament and the European Union. As a result, amateurs have rushed in where solicitors fear to tread.

The experts sniff that amateurs cannot possibly know enough about the law, but historically this is not true as John Lilburne, William Penn, jury foreman Edward Bushell, John Locke and Granville Sharp, among many others, made brilliantly clear.

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Modern amateurs will like Sharp. He taught himself law, discovered that constitutional principles had been forgotten by the authorities and scoured the legal precedents to make his landmark case.

In 1765, Granville Sharp was just 30 when a young African slave, Jonathan Strong, was pistol-whipped almost to death by his owner, David Lisle. Jonathan was brought to Sharp's brother, a surgeon, who saved him.

Granville "took up Strong's case, secured his release from prison when Lisle obtained his arrest as an escaped slave, and fought off a legal challenge which accused him of violating the owner's property rights. Thereafter Sharp, with characteristic devotion to research, applied himself to a detailed study of the legal status of slaves in Britain, as distinct from the colonies, and of the laws of civil liberty in Britain itself" (Oxford DNB).

Slavery had been outlawed in England in 1102, but slave owners claimed that this covered only Brits, not slaves brought to England. After assiduous research, Granville discovered the common law precedents that contradicted this view: Cartwright (1569) which explicitly stated that slavery was outlawed in England; Shanley v Hervey (1762) when the court ruled, "As soon as a man puts foot on English ground, he is free: a Negro may maintain an action against his master for ill usage, and may have a Habeas Corpus, if restrained of his liberty"; and Smith v Brown and Cooper (1765), when Chief Justice Holt ruled, "As soon as a negro comes into England, he becomes free: one may be a villein in England, but not a slave."

Since these rulings were being ignored, Sharp published an analysis in 1769, and in 1772 brought a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of James Somerset, an escaped slave who had been recaptured and was lying in chains on a ship bound for Jamaica. The suit to free him was heard before William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Lord Mansfield was the judge who established the fundamental principles of British mercantile law. He considered slavery a legal fact and did not welcome the suit.

Though not a member of the bar, Granville developed the legal strategy to free Somerset. The representing barristers made Granville's precedent-based common law arguments, and Judge Mansfield made a U-turn.

He ruled that slavery was not supported by law and that any slave setting foot in England immediately became free.

On our part, we salute the amateurs, including Elisabeth Beckett (recently deceased), John Bingley, Albert Burgess, John Gouriet, John Harris, Roger Hayes, John Wrake. . .

Their cause is the cause of freedom.

Comments (1)

Wallace Klinck:

Dear "Brits":

I was absolutely delighted to come upon your website which was accessed through an e-mail received from John Wilson of Australia. As you probably know, Mr. Wilson is fighting desperately at considerable personal inconvenience and cost to retain the right to trial by jury in Australia, a right which appears ominously to be increasingly restricted in that country.

My understanding is that the Monarch is the Protector of the Peoples' Rights as embodied in the Constitution of the Land. My further understanding is that should the elected Parliament attempt to pass any legislation which is in violation of the Constitution the Monarch is duty-bound under the Coronation Oath to advise the Government to desist.

Failure to do so would result in the Monarch dissolving Parliament and advising the Prime Minister to announce a general election so that the people have an opportunity to choose another Government.

Should the Parliament attempt to obstruct the Monarch's instructions in this matter, she then reserves the Constitutional right to appeal to the Armed Forces for protection inasmuch as they have sworn an allegiance to the Monarch. In the most extreme case the Armed Forces would be empowered to depose the existing recalcitrant Government preparatory to the calling of new General Elections. Some years ago, the Queen's Representative, the Governor General, in Australia exercised the right to dissolve Parliament in that country when the sitting Government attempted to pass legislation which was in violation of the Australian Constitution.

The Treaty of Lisbon is clearly a surrender of the national sovereignty of Britain to external, extra-national, authority and by affixing her signature to this infamous document the Queen has fundamentally contravened, neglected or erred in the proper execution of her duties under the terms for which her office exists as Protector of the Constitution. The Queen's Office and all elected representatives should be deluged with requests for an explanation for this outrageous situation which by all appearances is intolerable and illegal. This progressive usurpation by politicians of power from the Monarch by relentless attempts to erode and eliminate the Monarch's legitimate and constitutionally binding role in the affairs of state can only be regarded as a continuing act of treason. The proper functioning of the nation under the historic separation of powers and responsibilities is of pre-eminent and crucial importance inasmuch as that Constitutional separation is the primary bulwark against tyrannical Government threatening the sacred rights and freedoms of the people. Parliament is NOT supreme and the sooner the politicians are abused of any such notion the better for all. Only God is Supreme and failure to recognize and honor this fact can only lead to the utter corruption of Government and degeneration of the Nation. Those who are duly elected to political office are servants of the people--not their masters. Surely we do not need another Runnymede!

Please do keep up your good work.

Sincerely
Wallace Klinck

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