"There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime

By Sue Peabody | Go to book overview

6
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.


Lawsuits before the Admiralty Court of France

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

-88-

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"There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Slavery in France 11
  • Conclusion 22
  • 2 - The Case of Jean Boucaux V. Verdelin 23
  • Conclusion 39
  • 3 - The Impact of the Declaration of 1738: Nantes, La Rochelle, and Paris 41
  • Conclusion 54
  • 4 - Notions of Race in the Eighteenth Century 57
  • Conclusion 70
  • 5 - Crisis: Blacks in the Capital, 1762 72
  • Conclusion 87
  • 6 - Antislavery and Antidespotism: 1760-1771 88
  • Conclusion 105
  • 7 - The Police Des Noirs, 1776-1777 106
  • Conclusion 119
  • 8 - Erosion of the Police Des Noirs 121
  • Conclusion 134
  • Epilogue 137
  • Notes 141
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 201
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