Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana / Edition 1

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Overview

Constituting what may be the most impressive research to date of state supreme court records, Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana analyzes the evolution of Louisiana's slave laws from the territorial period to the Civil War. Over the course of four years, Judith Kelleher Schafer examined the original handwritten decisions (only recently made available) of the Louisiana Supreme Court, scrutinizing 1,200 appeals involving slaves as plaintiffs, defendants, or objects in lawsuits or criminal actions. The result is the first book-length study of those manuscripts and the first study of any state's slave law and its courts to use original case records from the entire antebellum era. Louisiana's legal system was unique among those of southern slave states in that it embodied a legacy of French, Spanish, and thus, indirectly, Roman law. However, through repeated exposure to common-law tenets over time - a development Schafer tracesLouisiana law became more "Americanized," so that by the dawn of the Civil War it was in many respects very similar to that of other states seceding from the Union. Louisiana was unusual also in that its highest court was required to hear virtually every case brought to it on appeal. Decisions of that body, therefore, represent not merely a few landmark cases but a spectrum of typical parish- and district-court cases, many of which include vivid details about the day-to-day realities of slavery and the world that formed, and was formed by, that institution. Schafer presents numerous concise case histories, stories that are fascinating and at times heartbreaking in the particulars they reveal about slaves' existence. We see how the court continually wrestled with the paradox that slaves were considered by the law to be at once persons and property. Property considerations usually won out: even cases involving the abuse or killing of slaves often came before the court as civil matters rather than criminal. Slavery, the Ci
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Analyzes the evolution of Louisiana's slave laws from the territorial period to the Civil War, drawing in part on material recently made available by the Louisiana Supreme Court, and appeals involving slaves as plaintiffs, defendants, and objects in lawsuits and criminal actions. Topics include sources of slave law, the treatment of slaves accused of crimes, foreign and domestic slave trade, the emancipation of slave mistresses, and suits for freedom. Includes b&w illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807121658
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Kelleher Schafer is associate director of the Murphy Institute of Political Economy at Tulane University, visiting professor of law at Tulane Law School, and book review editor of the American Journal of Legal History.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 "Slaves Are Regarded as Persons and Property": Sources of Slave Law in American Louisiana 1
2 "Details Are of a Most Revolting Character": Cruelty to Slaves and Legal Intervention 28
3 "No Proceedings . . . Shall Be Annulled or Impeded by Any Error of Form": The Treatment of Slaves Accused of Crimes 58
4 "The Slave Who Absconds Steals Himself": Slave Stealers and Fugitive Slaves 90
5 "Guaranteed Against the Vices and Maladies Prescribed by Law": Warranties in Slave Sales 127
6 "Marked in a Manner Unusual Amongst Civilised People": The Foreign and Domestic Slave Trade in Louisiana 149
7 "Open and Notorious Concubinage": The Emancipation of Slave Mistresses by Will 180
8 "Letting Loose in Our Midst . . . Persons of Color": Further Difficulties in Freeing Slaves by Will 201
9 "An Emancipation, Once Perfected, Is Irrevocable": Suits for Freedom 220
10 "As She Was a Free Woman There, She Must Be Held So Every Where": Comity, Conflict of Laws, and Suits for Freedom 250
11 "To Cling to the Desperate Fortunes of the Confederacy": Appeals Concerning Slavery Heard After the Civil War 289
Bibliography 305
Index 373
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