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

By Sue Peabody | Go to book overview

Maupeou was entirely self-interested: he opposed Maupeou's abolition of venal offices in the courts (most especially the one he had inherited from his father).

Regnaud's expertise in the field of slave law appears instead to be more mundane. Apparently, as he took on more slave cases, he became known as a specialist in the field and consequently received referrals from officials in the Paris admiralty court and perhaps his former clients. Despite all his efforts on behalf of slaves, Regnaud, unlike Henrion de Pansey, cannot be called an abolitionist. Instead, Regnaud appears to have taken advantage of France's peculiar legal anomaly to develop a profitable business in freedom.


Conclusion

Henrion de Pansey's mémoire on behalf of Roc the slave stands out as unique in several ways. First, it cast Christianity as a force that extended and justified colonial slavery in contrast to earlier accounts that had stressed Christianity's role in leading the French out of Roman slavery. Second, it went beyond the Freedom Principle, which stressed only that slavery could not be permitted in France, to a more extreme position that advocated the abolition of colonial slavery in its entirety. Third, it represents a conjuncture between the Parisian jurists' resistance to Maupeou, a growing secular critique of despotism, and the rhetoric of antislavery.

It has been argued that the Maupeou reforms broke the back of traditional discipline and authority in the Parlement of Paris and that the subsequent generation of Parisian lawyers practiced a new style of argumentation based on sentimental flourish rather than judicial erudition. 91 In the following chapter we will see how this new discourse shaped the pleas of French slaves. In the meantime, however, Maupeou's ascendancy had a more concrete effect: the Admiralty Court of France was disbanded in June 1771 and did not resume business until July 1775. 92 During this four-year hiatus slaves in Paris had no recourse to the French courts.

-105-

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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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