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Sharp, Granville (1735–1813)

Srividhya Swaminathan


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When Granville Sharp stumbled over the injured body of Jonathan Strong in 1765, he discovered a newfound respect for liberty and an utter abhorrence of slavery. Strong had been severely beaten and then turned out into the streets of London by his slavemaster. He had come to Sharp's brother, William, who was a doctor, in hopes of treatment for his wounds. Not only did Sharp see the cruelties of enslavement on Strong's body, he witnessed extreme injustice when, after two years, Strong's master tried to reclaim him as a runaway slave. Though he had no formal legal training, Sharp represented Strong's case and discovered that English law supported the claim of property rights by a master in the body of his slave. Offended by this gross violation of natural rights, Sharp began an exhaustive two-year study of English law that culminated in the Somerset decision of 1772. His experience with Strong initiated his involvement with the anti-slavery cause that would span his lifetime. Sharp was the ninth son of the archdeacon of Northumberland. As Sharp's family did not have enough money for his formal education, he was apprenticed to a linen-draper in 1750 and pursued his own course of study in theology and linguistics, although he was not interested in joining the clergy. His fierce intelligence turned him in 1767 toward the study of English civil law, and in 1769 he published A Representation ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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