Racism in the common law courts

Just some historical dicta by elite white men

268 years ago: “I have no doubt that trover will lie for a Negro slave; it is as much property as any other thing”.

Pearne v Lisle (1749) Amb 75 per Lord Chancellor Hardwicke

161 years ago: “The ownership of the mother carries with it the property in the children born of her during the period of such ownership. The mother and her issue are treated, in respect of the title and rights of the owner, as an aggregate property”.

Seay v Bacon (1856) 4 Sneed (TN) 99, 36 Tenn. 99 (Tenn.), 1856 WL 2500 (Tenn.)

140 years ago: “There was no distinction at that time, as objects of property, between negroes and domestic animals”.

Buckley v Buckley (1877) WL 4371 (Nev.) at [6]

59 years ago: “[T]he crew quarters were not regarded as suitable for a European crew, and the defendants provided her with a Chinese crew whom they obtained from Hong Kong at a cost of £11,724”.

Port Line v Ben Line Steamers [1958] 2 QB 146 per Diplock J

35 years ago: “She was born suffering from Down’s syndrome, which means that she will be a mongol”.

In re B (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1981] 1 WLR 1421 per Templeman LJ (though in his defence this phrase was in common professional usage at the time)