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In law, only a person can enforce rights or be liable. A person has legal personality which is the capacity for obligations and rights of individuals, allowing them to act in law, determining a persons legal relationship and interaction with others. For example employers, landlords, parents or motorists would all have different legal personality to employees, tenants, children or pedestrians. Even the sex of a person will determine an aspect of their legal personality, such as men and women have the right to get married. The Magna Carta of 1215 recognised that all persons had a right to liberty and due process, however the concept of personhood has developed over time. As a key aspect of personhood is the rights of the person, throughout history there has been conflict in order to get the status of a person. In the past not everyone was, which means as opposed to a person who can exercise rights over an object, a non person was that which rights could be exercised over allowing slavery and the ownership of a human being. The feudalist model established the concept of serfingdom, where pesants where owned by the owner of the land. In general the serfs would each have the responsibility of a plot of land to farm, or some other form of labour in payment for his tender, allowing to keep some of his produce for substinense and in some cases a small excess which he could then sell at market. Additionally serfs had limited rights and obligations, such as the landowner was to provide protection or food in times of famine. The capacity for rights is a key element of the status of a person.
The practice of fudalist serfingdom ended around 1500s. However, slavery still existed in England in various forms. The Somersett’s Case  where Mr Somersett, a slave that was held captive aboard a ship who escaped whilst docked in England, was given his freedom in a case which finally abolished slavery in England. The ruling was that the ownership of another human being was unlawful under English common law. With Lord Mansfield declaring that ‘Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free. They touch our country, and their shackles fall.’ This case granted full person status to all people. Although this was true in England the ruling did not apply to British colonies where the slave trade was still active. It would not be until 1808 when Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act the trade of humans was made unlawful.