Prosecuting Torture: The Strategic Ethics of Slavery in Pre-Revolutionary Saint-Domingue (Haiti) Print

In the spring and summer of 1788, a master was prosecuted for the torture of two female slaves in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). The exceptional nature of the case was immediately obvious to the participants who lived through it. The governor and inten- dant of Saint-Domingue—in essence, the colony’s chief military and administrative officers, respectively—described it as a “unique opportunity.

Malick W. Ghachem is associate professor of law at University of Maine School of Law <  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >. Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the law schools of the University of Michigan, UCLA, Northwestern University, SUNY Buffalo, and the University of Maine; the 2009 meeting of the American Society for Legal History (Dallas, TX); and the “Haiti in History” workshop held at Harvard University in May 2010. He thanks all of those (too numerous to mention here by name) who attended these presentations and commented on this essay, as well as the two anonymous Law and History Review reviewers for their feedback. He gives special thanks to Tom Green and Bill Novak (and the stu- dents in their legal history colloquium at Michigan), Walter Johnson, Laurent Dubois, David Geggus, Jean Hébrard, David Todd, Emma Rothschild, Alan Dershowitz, Mort Horwitz, and Harvey Silverglate. He is greatly indebted to Chris Desan for her keen and attentive readings. Rebecca Scott’s generosity, com- mitment, and learning were invaluable to him at virtually every stage in the prep- aration of this work, which would be much poorer (and might not have seen daylight) without her enthusiasm. Last but not least, thanks to Erica James for the spark. This essay is adapted from Chapter 4 of The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution, by Malick Ghachem. Copyright © 2012 Malick Ghachem. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press.

  • Tuesday, 03 June 2014

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