The question of the legal existence of slavery in Great Britain and Ireland was raised in consequence of an opinion given in 1729 by Yorke and Talbot, attorney-general and solicitor-general at the time, to the effect that a slave by coming into those countries from the West Indies did not become free, and might be compelled by his master to return to the plantations.
Yorke refused to describe the libel as treasonable, while pronouncing it a high misdemeanour.
Resisting Pitt's attempt to draw him into alliance against the ministry he had quitted, Yorke maintained, in a speech that extorted the highest eulogy from Walpole, that parliamentary privilege did not extend to cases of libel; though he agreed with Pitt in condemning the principle of general warrants.
Yorke, henceforward a member of the Rockingham party, was elected recorder of Dover in 1764, and in 1765 he again became attorney-general in the Rockingham administration, whose policy he did much to shape.
On the accession to power of Chatham and Grafton in 1767, Yorke resigned office, and took little part in the debates in parliament during the next four years.