Antislavery and Antidespotism: 1760-1771
The years that elapsed between the Admiralty's ordinance of 1762 and the 1777 Police des Noirs were an absolutely crucial period for slavery in France. First, as the number of blacks registered in Paris returned to its pre-1762 levels of fewer than thirty per year, the number of those suing for their freedom in the Paris Admiralty Court increased dramatically. 1 Second, outside of the Parisian judicial world, some of the best- known authors of the eighteenth century adopted the metaphor of slavery to challenge the excesses of monarchic government in France. The political context in which the lawsuits and discourse proliferated was sharply radicalized from 1770 to 1774 when Louis XV's chancellor Maupeou instituted a series of dramatic judicial reforms. A judicial mémoire by Henrion de Pansey on behalf of the slave Roc circulated widely in Paris, linking the injustice of Roc's slavery to the influence of Maupeou on the king.
The number of lawsuits for freedom brought before the Admiralty Court of France in Paris during the 1760s increased sixfold over those of the previous decades. Gradually, as these petitions became more common, the judicial procedure became standardized and, by the end of the decade, routine.
Each case began with a petition, or requête, on the part of the slave. 2