William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield

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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield

Birthplace: Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland
Death: Died in Kenwood House, Hampstead, London, England
Place of Burial: London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of David Murray, 5th Viscount Stormont and Marjory Murray
Husband of Elizabeth Murray
Brother of David Murray, 6th Viscount Stormont and Hon. Amelia Murray

Occupation: Lord Chief Justice
Managed by: Charles W Lewis, II
Last Updated:

About William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield


William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, SL, PC (2 March 1705 – 20 March 1793) was a British barrister, politician and judge noted for his reform of English law. Born to Scottish nobility, he was educated in Perth, Scotland before moving to London at the age of 13 to take up a place at Westminster School. He was accepted into Christ Church, Oxford, in May 1723, and graduated four years later. Returning to London from Oxford, he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn on 23 November 1730, and quickly gained a reputation as an excellent barrister.

He became involved in politics in 1742, beginning with his election as a Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge, and appointment as Solicitor General. In the absence of a strong Attorney General, he became the main spokesman for the government in the House of Commons, and was noted for his "great powers of eloquence" and described as "beyond comparison the best speaker" in the House of Commons. With the promotion of Sir Dudley Ryder to Lord Chief Justice in 1754, he became Attorney General, and when Ryder unexpectedly died several months later, he took his place as Chief Justice.

As Lord Chief Justice, Mansfield modernised both English law and the English courts system; he sped up the system for submitting motions and reformed the way judgments were given to reduce time and expense for the parties. For his work in Carter v Boehm and Pillans v Van Mierop, he has been called the founder of English commercial law. He is perhaps best known for his judgment in Somersett's Case, where he held that slavery was unlawful in England (although this did not end slave trafficking altogether).

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William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield's Timeline

March 2, 1705
Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland
March 20, 1793
Age 88
Kenwood House, Hampstead, London, England
London, England