Francis Hargrave (c.1741-1821)
BiographyFrancis Hargrave was the most prominent of the five advocates who appeared on behalf of James Somerset in the case which determined, in 1772, the legal status of slaves in England. Although the case was Hargrave's first, his efforts on the occasion secured his reputation. For a full description of the case, see the page on Granville Sharp
Hargrave was born in London, and educated at Lincoln's Inn. He came to prominence because of his brilliant performance in the Somerset case. Thereafter, he specialised in legal history and commentary and did not take part in the abolition campaign. He published many works of legal history and amassed a substantial collection of legal books and manuscripts. He fell ill, probably with Alzheimer's Disease, in 1813 and his collection was purchased by the government for £8000 and deposited in the British Library. He died in 1821, and was buried in the chapel of Lincoln's Inn.
© Brycchan Carey 2002
The portrait of Hargrave, by an unknown artist, is courtesy of the Elton M. Hyder, Jr. Collection, Accession O0025, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Law, Jamail Center for Legal Research.
Secondary Works: The Case of James SomersetA considerable historiography has grown up around this case. Together, these titles also form the most important discussions of Hargrave's anti-slavery work. The most significant contributions to the debate are:
Selected Works in Facsimile