Who was the first American slave declared free by a court order?

No, it was not  Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, whose memoirs were published and ultimately became a hit movie, Twelve Years a Slave.  Northrup was a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery.

But James Somersett, freed by court order of William Murray, the Lord Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court became the first legally freed slave.  A slave purchased in Norfolk, VA, in 1748, he grew up in Norfolk as the property of Charles Steuart, a British revenue agent.  He was brought to London with Mr. Steuart in 1769, and escaped in 1771.  He was declared free in June, 1772. That court order set into motion events that would lead directly to the American Revolution. Read the story of his life in Somersett, or Why and How Benjamin Franklin Orchestrated the American Revolution by Phillip Goodrich which may forever change our view of the American Revolution.

Toss all common beliefs aside that unfair taxation was the sole impetus for the American Revolution. A new work of meticulous historical research advances the theory that Benjamin Franklin, using the freeing of a British slave as the catalyst, orchestrated a little-known yet elaborate scheme to impassion revolt throughout the colonies against England and in effect spark America’s fight for independence.

Working behind the scenes with his “inner circle” of confidantes, Ben Franklin used his contacts, political acumen, and his renown as a publisher and man of science to manipulate the American colonies into a fight for independence from Great Britain. The legal case of Somersett v. Steuart resulted in the first court-ordered freeing of a British slave, James Somersett, in 1772.

Using Britain’s stance on the abolition of slavery, Franklin wrote letters to prominent colonists and leaders to spur the American colonies — both the northern colonies who supported abolition and the southern colonies who didn’t — to fight for freedom in protection of their own self -interest.

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