Slavery, Freedom, and the Law in the Atlantic World: A Brief History with Documents / Edition 1

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During the era of revolution, independence, and emancipation in the north Atlantic, "slavery" and "freedom" were fluid and contested concepts. Individuals and groups turned to courts of law to define and enforce the status of indigenous Americans, forcibly imported Africans, and colonizing Europeans — and their progeny. Legal institutions of the state manufactured and mediated a new, dynamic concept of freedom, inventing categories of race and codifying white privilege. In this collection of documents from the French, British, Spanish, and Portuguese empires, Peabody and Grinberg introduce the voices of slaves, slave-holders, jurists, legislators, and others who struggled to critique, overturn, justify, or simply describe the social order in which they found themselves. Discussion questions, illustrations, a glossary, and a bibliography allow students to analyze these rich documents and discern their lasting influences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Among the volume's strengths, apart from its sweeping geographical, cultural, and chronological scope, is its emphasis on slavery as a system of negotiation involving a complex process of bargaining and accommodation. In line with the most recent scholarship, the authors do a very effective job of portraying the enslaved as actors, rather than simply as passive victims, without minimizing the importance of their allies in the struggle against slavery. The authors also do a very effective job of discussing the intricate connections between slavery and the evolution of racial attitudes. ... This is a serious work of scholarship that is clearly written."—Steven Mintz, University of Houston

"The authors do a first-rate job in carrying out [their] ambitious agenda. In almost every case, they have selected the essential legal documents regarding the establishment of, challenges to, and eventual destruction of Atlantic slavery. Their editing and interpretation of the documents is exemplary, reflecting a firm grasp of the complexities of the subject, and a thorough knowledge of an extensive historical literature. What ismore, their authorial style and pace should be inviting to student readers. ... In short, this is a well-crafted book that will engage readers in learning more about the people and forces that shaped Atlantic slave societies."—T. Stephen Whitman, Mount St. Mary's University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312411763
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 3/22/2007
  • Series: Bedford Cultural Editions Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 452,089
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

SUE PEABODY (Ph.D., University of Iowa), is associate professor of history at Washington State University Vancouver. Her influential book There Are No Slaves in France (1996) examines the legal history of French slavery and race in the eighteenth century. Peabody's current research focuses on the legal concept of "Free Soil" in the wider Atlantic world.

KEILA GRINBERG (Ph.D., Universidade Federal Fluminense), is an associate professor of history at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. She is an expert on slavery, civil law, and citizenship in Brazil, subjects on which she has published in the United States, Brazil, and elsewhere.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

A Note about Editing, Translation, and Racial Terminology

List of Illustrations


Introduction: Slavery, Freedom, and the Law
Slavery and Freedom in the French Atlantic and the Haitian Revolution
Slavery and Freedom in the British Atlantic and the United States
Slavery and Freedom in the Spanish Atlantic
Slavery and Freedom in the Portuguese Atlantic and Brazil
The Meaning of Freedom


The Documents
1. The French Atlantic and the Haitian Revolution
1. French Crown, The Code Noir, 1685
2. A Tavern Keeper Sues for Her Freedom in Martinique (Binture v. La Pallu) (1705–1714)
Governor Machault, Letter to the Secretary of State

for the Marine, August 30, 1704

Acting Intendant Mithon, Judgment on Babet Binture’s

Petition for Freedom, April 8, 1705

Intendant Vaucresson, Pronouncement,

August 25, 1708

Governor Phélypeaux, Letter to the Secretary of State

for the Marine, April 6, 1713

Intendant Vaucresson, Letter to the Secretary of State

for the Marine, September 10, 1714

3. French Royal Decree on Manumitting Slaves, October 24, 1713
4. Saint-Domingue Council Manumits a Slave over the Objections of His Owner August 6, 1708
5. France's Freedom Principle and Race, 1759

6. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, The Code

Noir in the French Empire, 1768
7. A Woman of African and European Ancestry Seeks Her Freedom in Saint Domingue, 1771–1775

8. The Haitian Revolution, 1791-1806
French Commissioner Sonthonax, Emancipation Decree, 1793
French National Convention Abolishes Slavery, 1794
Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, December 27, 1806

2. England, the British Colonies and the United States
9. John Guthrie, Francis Sadler, and Captain Cudjoe, Leeward Treaty, Jamaica, March 1, 1739
10. The Somerset Case: England's Freedom Principle, 1772
Francis Hargrave, Arguments for Somerset's Freedom, 1772
James Wallace and John Dunning, On Behalf of the Slaveholder, 1772
Chief Justice William Murray, Earl of Mansfield, Decision, June 22, 1772
11. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, 1780
12. Constitution of the United States of America, 1787
13. U.S. Congress, An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves, 1807-1808
14. The Anti-Slavery Record, The Humanity of the Africo-Americans, 1836
15. A Free Man of Color Sues for the Right to Vote in

Pennsylvania, 1837

Judge Scott, Instructions to the Jury

Judge C.J. Gibson, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinion in Hobbs et al. v. Fogg, 1837

16. Kidnapping, 1838
17. A Master Tries to Free His Slaves in Georgia, ca. 1850-1855
Thomas J. Waters, Testament , ca. 1850
Judge Joseph H. Lumpkin, Opinion, October 1854
Judge Joseph H. Lumpkin, Opinion, September 1855
18. Summary Trial and Execution of a Carolina Slave, 1854

19. Amendments 13-15 to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1865–1870

20. Frederick Dielman, Celebrating Abolition, Washington, D.C., 1866
21. State of Mississippi, Enticement Law, November 25, 1865

3. Spain and Its American Colonies
22. Spanish Crown, Las Siete Partidas, 1265
23. Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, African Slaves and Incas in Seventeenth-Century Peru, ca. 1615

24. Spanish Slave Codes in the Americas, 1784-1789

Colonial Government of Santo Domingo, The Carolina Black Code, December 14, 1784
Spanish Crown, Royal Instructions for the Education, Treatment, and Work of the Slaves, Aranjuez, May 31, 1789
25. Proclamation of the People against the Purchase of Freedom for Slaves, Ecuador, 1792
26. Freedom from Abuse, Ecuador, 1794

Manumission of María Chiquinquirá Díaz in Ecuador, 1794

27. National Independence and Abolition, Ecuador, 1822
Francisco Rosi and Others, Petition for the Establishment of a Voluntary System of Mutual Aid among the Slaves for Their Freedom, Guayaquil, August 23, 1822
José Leocadio Llona, Provisional Regulations for the Fortunate Issue of the Freeing of the Slaves, Guayaquil, September 19, 1822

José Leocadio Llona and Dr. Joaquín Salazar, Responses

28. Slavery after Independence, Peru, 1821

General José de San Martín, Decree Declaring Freedom for Children Born of Slaves after July 28, 1821

"Just Evaluation" Case of Joana Monica, Lima, Peru, 1826
29. Don Gerónimo Valdés, Regulations concerning Slaves Destined for Cuba, November 14, 1842
30. Tomasa Jiménez, et al., Spanish Slaves' Petition for Freedom, Madrid, March 29, 1836

31. A Bread Seller and Seller of Fodder, Havana, Cuba, ca. 1851
32. Royal Order, Madrid, August 2, 1861
33. Spanish Crown, Law for the Suppression of Slavery and Patronage [in Cuba], Madrid, February 13, 1880

4. Portugal and Brazil
34. Portuguese Crown, Ordinances and Laws of the Kingdom of Portugal Compiled by Mandate of the Very High Catholic and Powerful King Philip, 1603
35. Portuguese Crown, Law of December 24th, 1734

36. The Coartação of Slave Rosa Gonçalves da Fonseca, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1769-1770

Francisco Fonseca, Response by Widower of Former Owner Úrsula Gonçalves to Suit by Rosa Gonçalves da Fonseca, 1769

Francisco Ferreira dos Santos, Judge’s Opinion Submitted to the Governor, 1770

37. Portuguese Crown, Law of Liberty, June 6, 1755
38. The Freedom Suit of the Slave Liberata, Desterro, Santa Catarina, 1813
Francisco José, Petition to the Municipal Judge of Desterro, July 1813

39. Jacques Arago, Iron Mask and Collar for Punishing Slaves, Brazil, ca. 1817-1820

40. Political Constitution of the Empire of Brazil, 1824
41. Legislative Measures against the Slave Trade, Brazil, 1831-1850
Law of November 7th, 1831
Law No. 581, September 4, 1850
42. Battle in the Courts

Various Slaves, Freedom Lawsuit, Barra Mansa

(Paraíba River Valley), Rio de Janeiro, 1866

Slaves Lino and Lourenço, Freedom Lawsuit, Rio

Pardo, Rio Grande do Sul, 1866–1875

43. O Mosquito, Propaganda against Brazil’s Free Womb Law, August 19, 1871

44. Brazilian Crown, The Free Womb Law (Law 2040),

September 28, 1871

45. Just Evaluation of a Slave: The Case of Eubrásia,

Campinas, São Paulo, 1881–1883

46. Brazilian Crown, The Áurea Law: Abolition of Slavery,

May 13, 1888

5. Epilogue: The Case of Andrea Quesada, Cienfuegos, Cuba, 1906–1907


A Chronology of the History of Slavery, Antislavery, and Emancipation (1265–1888)
Questions for Consideration
Selected Bibliography


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