Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 October 2011
In the summer of 1809 a flotilla of boats arrived in New Orleans carrying more than 9,000 Saint-Domingue refugees recently expelled from the Spanish colony of Cuba. These migrants nearly doubled the population of New Orleans, renewing its Francophone character and populating the neighborhoods of the Vieux Carré and Faubourg Marigny. At the heart of the story of their disembarkation, however, is a legal puzzle. Historians generally tell us that the arriving refugees numbered 2,731 whites, 3,102 free people of color, and 3,226 slaves. But slavery had been abolished in Saint-Domingue by decree in 1793, and abolition had been ratified by the French National Convention in 1794. In what sense and by what right, then, were thousands of men, women, and children once again to be held to be “slaves”?
- Law and History Review , Volume 29 , Special Issue 4: Law, Slavery, and Justice , November 2011 , pp. 1061 - 1087
- Copyright © the American Society for Legal History, Inc. 2011
1. Grotius, Hugo, The Freedom of the Seas (1609) trans. Van Deman Magoffin, Ralph, ed. Scott, James Brown, published for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (New York: Oxford University Press, 1916), 38–40Google Scholar. Grotius was discussing what he took to be the right of free access to the seas, but his observation also evokes the sea as a place outside conventional national jurisdiction.
2. Some additional migrants arrived later, via Jamaica, bringing the total to 10,000. See Lachance, Paul, “The 1809 Immigration of Saint-Domingue Refugees to New Orleans: Reception, Integration, and Impact,” Louisiana History 29 (1988): 109–41Google Scholar, as reprinted in The Road to Louisiana: The Saint-Domingue Refugees 1792–1809, ed. Brasseaux, Carl A. and Conrad, Glenn R. (Lafayette: The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1992)Google Scholar; Lachance, , “Repercussions of the Haitian Revolution in Louisiana,” in The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, ed. Geggus, David P. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001), 209–30Google Scholar; and Dessens, Nathalie, From Saint-Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007)Google Scholar. The official figures on the numbers and (apparent) status of the refugees are provided in the Moniteur de la Louisiane, March 24, 1810.
3. For the texts of the decrees of abolition, and the many clauses that constrained the mobility and labor of those freed, see Debien, Gabriel, “Documents. Aux origines de l'abolition de l'esclavage. Proclamations de Polverel et de Sonthonax 1793–1794,” Revue d'histoire des colonies 37 (1949): 24–55Google Scholar, 348–423. The initial decree, applicable in the north, declared all those in slavery to be free and entitled to all the rights of French citizenship, although subject to a special work regime (351–52).
4. For the interim counts and the categories used by the mayor, see Rowland, Dunbar, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, vols. 4 and 5 (Jackson, MS: State Department of Archives and History, 1917)Google Scholar, especially 4: 381–82 and 387–423. For the final count, which simplifies the middle category to “free people of color” (de Cou. Lib.) see the Moniteur de la Louisiane, March 24, 1810.
5. This moment bears some resemblance to the later process by which the Dawes Commission in the United States separated out “Indians” from “Freedmen” in the course of compiling rolls meant to determine status. See Gross, Ariela J., What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), especially 153–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
6. Although the figure of 3,226 slaves persists in the historiography, several historians have examined subsequent suits for freedom by persons from Saint-Domingue held as slaves in the United States, but claiming freedom by virtue of abolition by France. See Jones, Martha S., “Time, Space, and Jurisdiction in Atlantic World Slavery: The Volunbrun Household in Gradual Emancipation New York,” Law and History Review 29 (2011): 1031–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Peabody, Sue, “‘Free upon higher ground’: Saint-Domingue Slaves' Suits for Freedom in U.S. Courts, 1792–1830,” in The World of the Haitian Revolution, ed. Geggus, David Patrick and Fiering, Norman, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 261–83Google Scholar; and Scott, Rebecca J., “‘She . . . refuses to deliver up herself as the slave of your Petitioner’: Émigrés, Enslavement, and the 1808 Louisiana Digest of the Civil Laws,” Tulane European and Civil Law Forum 24 (2009): 115–36Google Scholar.
7. See Revel, Jacques, ed., Jeux d'échelles: la micro-analise à l'expérience (Paris: Seuil/Gallimard, 1996)Google Scholar.
8. A recent comprehensive analysis is Dubois, Laurent, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004)Google Scholar.
9. On the revolution in the south see Fick, Carolyn, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1990)Google Scholar, and Geggus, David, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793–1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)Google Scholar. On the implications of the British occupation for those held as slaves, see Scott, Rebecca J. and Hébrard, Jean M., “Rosalie of the Poulard Nation: Freedom, Law and Dignity in the Era of the Haitian Revolution,” in Assumed Identities: The Meanings of Race in the Atlantic World, ed. Garrigus, John D. and Morris, Christopher (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010), 116–43Google Scholar.
10. On the Leclerc expedition, see Benot, Yves, La Démence coloniale sous Napoléon (Paris: La Découverte, 2006), 57–64Google Scholar.
11. Loi relative à la traite des nègres et au régime des colonies, 30 Floréal an X, in Bulletin des lois de la République Française 3rd series, vol. 6, Bull. no. 192 (8 Messidor An X), text 1609 (Paris: Imprimerie de la République, Brumaire an X), 329–30. Slavery was subsequently reimposed on Guadeloupe by a (somewhat legally irregular) arrêté consulaire dated July 16, 1802. See Niort, Jean-François and Richard, Jérémy, “À propos de la découverte de l'arrêté consulaire du 16 juillet 1802 et du rétablissement de l'ancien ordre colonial (spécialement de l'esclavage) à la Guadeloupe,” Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire de la Guadeloupe 152 (2009): 31–59CrossRefGoogle Scholarhttp://calamar.univ-ag.fr/cagi/NiortArrete1802.pdf See also Graham Nessler, “‘They Always Knew Her to be Free’: Emancipation and Re-Enslavement in French Santo Domingo, 1804–1809,” forthcoming, Slavery and Abolition.
12. For a first-person, and highly dramatized, account of the evacuation of the seaside town of Les Abricots, see Chazotte, Peter S., Historical Sketches of the Revolutions, and the Foreign and Civil Wars in the Island of St. Domingo (New York: Wm. Applegate, 1840), 32–35Google Scholar.
13. On Bonaparte's intentions, see Benot, La Démence colonial, 57–98. For a discussion of the intricacies of civil status in these years, see Scott, Rebecca J. and Hébrard, Jean M., Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chap. 2.
14. Recent research by Ada Ferrer has added complexity to the picture of Cuban responses to the news from Saint-Domingue. See, most recently, Ada Ferrer, “Speaking of Haiti: Slavery, Revolution, and Freedom in Cuban Slave Testimony,” in The World of the Haitian Revolution, ed., Geggus and Fiering, 223–47; and Ferrer, , “Talk about Haiti: The Archive and the Atlantic's Haitian Revolution,” in Tree of Liberty: Cultural Legacies of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, ed., Garraway, Doris L. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 21–40Google Scholar. On the 1796 Treaty of San Ildefonso that obliged Spain, as a “neutral ally,” to provide a silver subsidy to France once France and England went to war in May of 1803, see Stein, Barbara H. and Stein, Stanley J., Edge of Crisis: War and Trade in the Spanish Atlantic, 1789–1808 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 48Google Scholar, 416–21.
15. For the initial panic of Governor Kindelán of Santiago, see the correspondence from early June, 1803, in legajo (bundle) 1537A, Cuba, Archivo General de Indias (AGI). By mid-June Governor Someruelos was advising the admission of “las morenas y pardas libres” (free black and brown women). Additional evidence on the landing of refugees appears in legajos 63, 445, and 471, Fondo Correspondencia de los Capitanes Generales (CCG), Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Havana (ANC). See also Debien, Gabriel, “Les colons de Saint-Domingue réfugiés à Cuba (1793–1815),” Revista de Indias 13 (1953): 559–605Google Scholar, especially 568–574; Yacou, Alain, “Esclaves et libres français à Cuba au lendemain de la Révolution de Saint-Domingue,” Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas 28 (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 1991), 163–97Google Scholar; and Scott, Rebecca J., “Reinventar la esclavitud, garantizar la libertad: De Saint-Domingue a Santiago a Nueva Orleáns, 1803–1809,” Revista Caminos (Havana) 53 (2009): 2–13Google Scholar.
16. For a detailed investigation of several such landings, see Kindelán to Someruelos, plus enclosures, June 30, 1803, expediente (file) 889, legajo 1537A, Papeles de Cuba, AGI.
17. For an example of a list of arriving ships and their passengers, see Kindelán to Someruelos, July 15, 1803, file 913, legajo 1537A, Papeles de Cuba, AGI.
18. See, for example, the list of passengers arriving on the Goleta Francesa la Fiel, folios 14r, 14v, 15r, 15v, in expediente 889, legajo 1537A, Papeles de Cuba, AGI.
19. Jose Ls Tine, when testifying about the circumstances of the emigration, was particularly concerned to impute such loyalty to the black refugees: “a la salida de sus amos se arrojaron a los Barcos en seguimiento de sus amos de quienes no querrian separarse. . .” (“as their masters departed they flung themselves in the Boats in order to follow their masters from whom they did not wish to be separated. . .”). In expediente 889, legajo 1537A, Papeles de Cuba, AGI.
20. See lists of renters and their households in “Documentos ‘sobre que se den razon del aloxamiento de los Extranjeros y partes de los vecinos en su cumplimiento,’” July 12,1803, in expediente 57, legajo 8, Fondo Asuntos Políticos, ANC. A recent doctoral dissertation provides a description of the settlement of Saint-Domingue refugees in Santiago: Agnès Renault, “La communauté française de Santiago de Cuba entre 1791 et 1825” (Doctoral thesis, l'Université du Havre, 2007).
21. Michel Vincent had deposited a copy of his last will and testament with those French officials. See the records in Agence des Prises de la Guadeloupe, Actes, Déclarations, et Dépôts Divers, 6SUPSDOM/2, Dépôt des Papiers Publics des Colonies, Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence. On the complexities of the lives of Michel and Rosalie, see Scott and Hébrard, “Rosalie of the Poulard Nation;” and Hébrard, Jean, “Les deux vies de Michel Vincent, colon à Saint-Domingue (c. 1730-1804),” Revue d'Histoire Moderne & Contemporaine 57 (2010): 50–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
22. The politics surrounding this expulsion were complex. See Zúñiga, Olga Portuondo, Entre esclavos y libres de Cuba colonial (Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2003), 58–97Google Scholar.
23. The list is “Estado que por orden del Sor. Gobernador. . . 15 de julio de 1809,” compiled in July of 1809, and located in expediente 9, legajo 210, Fondo Asuntos Políticos, ANC, Havana. The United States Consul in Santiago reported that he had “apprized the French Inhabitants, who held Slaves, of the Law which prohibited their introduction into the Territories of the U. States,” but that he hoped that the United States government “may have the power and the inclination to grant them some relief from the precise rigor of established Statutes.” Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books, 4: 364.
24. See An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into Any Port or Place within the Jurisdiction of the United States, 2 Stat. 426 (1807); and Rowland, , ed., Official Letter Books, 4: 351Google Scholar.
25. Claiborne's decision making can be followed week by week in vol. 4 of Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books.
26. On May 15, Governor Claiborne had forwarded to the Secretary of State a petition from “a number of a very respectable and humaine citizens” concerning the ban on the landing of slaves. On May 20, he spoke with “white Passengers” from one of the ships from Santiago. Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books, 4: 354, 363, 372. See also White, Ashli, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010)Google Scholar, chap. 5.
27. On the authorization to allow exceptions to the ban on the introduction of slaves, see An Act for the Remission of Certain Penalties and Forfeitures, and for Other Purposes, 2 Stat. 549 (1809). In August, Governor Claiborne circulated a copy of this act to United States consuls in the Caribbean, emphasizing the limited scope of the exemption in hopes of discouraging the embarkation of additional ships for Louisiana. Rowland, Official Letter Books, 5:6.
28. The establishment of this procedure preceded by two years the large-scale arrival of the refugees in 1809, and made no reference to those Claiborne now referred to as “Negros.” “Every man and woman of color from Hispaniola . . . pretending to be free, shall prove his or her said freedom, before the mayor of the city, or any justice of the peace, by credible testimonies, and shall take a certificate of such justification, attested by the said mayor or justice of the peace, and if such justification cannot be made, the said man or woman of color shall be considered as a fugitive slave, and employed at the public works, until they shall prove their freedom, or be claimed by their owner by virtue of good titles.” Acts Passed at the First Session of the First Legislature of the Territory of Orleans (New Orleans: Bradford & Anderson, 1807), chap. 30, 128–30Google Scholar.
29. Moniteur de la Louisiane, March 21, 1810. Claiborne did report, however, that he had expelled “all males above the age of 15” among the persons of color from Cuba, “in pursuance of a Territorial Law.” Rowland, Official Letter Books, 5:4.
30. The phrase “the powers attaching to the right of ownership” appears in the Slavery Convention of the League of Nations of 1926, and in a Supplementary Convention of the United Nations in 1956. See Allain, Jean, “The Definition of Slavery in International Law,” Howard Law Journal 52 (2008–2009): 239–75Google Scholar. Although the types of enslavement envisioned in modern international law necessarily differ from those that applied in nineteenth-century jurisdictions that legally recognized slavery, the formulation is nonetheless a succinct and useful one. Moreover, it can be helpful even in the nineteenth century to distinguish the exercise of powers that attached to the right of ownership from the “genuineness” of a given claim of ownership.
31. Some of those claimed as slaves had been purchased in Cuba—or at least so their putative owners alleged. But even in those cases, the person so acquired had often come from Saint-Domingue with another refugee. See, for example, the retrospective reference to an 1807 slave purchase in Santiago in which the original seller and buyer were both apparently from Saint-Domingue: Sale of slaves from Louis Duhart to Suzette Bayot, January 6, 1820, Acts No. 17, Notary Marc Lafitte, New Orleans Notarial Archives Research Center (NONARC).
32. Examples of the deposit of freedom papers from Saint-Domingue with notaries in New Orleans include “Enregistrement de l'acte de liberté de la nommée Florence,” October 24, 1810, Acts No. 3, Notary Miguel de Armas; and “Enregistrement à requête de Suzanne Morin,” September 9, 1809, Notary Narcisse Broutin; both in NONARC.
33. For details on Adélaïde's life before her arrival in New Orleans, see Scott, “‘She . . . refuses to deliver up herself.’”
34. Scott, “‘She . . . refuses to deliver up herself.’”
35. See the brief manuscript court record in A. Metayer adv. Noret, #2093, City Court, City Archive, Louisiana Division, New Orleans Public Library (hereafter CA, LD, NOPL).
36. The announcement of the seizure and offer at auction first appeared in the Moniteur de la Louisiane on April 28 and ran through May 23, 1810.
37. See “An Act to enable persons held in slavery, to sue for their freedom.” Laws of the Territory of Louisiana 1807, chap. 35, 96–97Google Scholar. In theory, this law would only apply in the Territory of Louisiana (the portions of the Purchase located above the thirty-third parallel), rather than in the Territory of Orleans. In practice, however, its procedures appear to have been followed in the city of New Orleans as well. See also the general discussion of freedom suits in Kenneth Aslakson, “Making Race: The Role of Free Blacks in the Development of New Orleans' Three Caste Society, 1791–1812” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 2007).
38. Her suit against Noret (City Court #2093, CA, LD, NOPL) was discontinued, and her suit against the sheriff (A. Metayer v. B. Cenas, City Court #2241, CA, LD, NOPL) was left without resolution. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in another case in 1810 that whereas “negros” were to be presumed to be slaves, absent evidence to the contrary, “persons of color” would be assumed to be free. The reasoning there was that a “person of color” might well be either Indian or a “mulatto” born of free parents (Adelle v. Beauregard, 1 Mart. [o.s.] 183 ). In the case of Adélaïde Métayer, however, the courts seem to have been willing to accept the most fragile oral evidence as sufficient to rebut the presumption of freedom for her son, despite the fact that he was almost certainly seen as being, like his mother, a person “of color” in the sense of having apparent mixed ancestry.
39. The story had become more complicated when Louis Noret met Adélaïde Métayer again in New Orleans, and persuaded her to give the receipt to him for safekeeping. After he later seized her, she seems to have brought into being a copy of the document—only to have Noret accuse her of forgery. She did not deny that hers was a copy, but she claimed that it was a precise replica of an original that he was himself refusing to relinquish. See receipt in Meteyé, Adelaide v. Noret, #1035, Parish Court, CA, LD, NOPL; and the testimony in Transcript of Record, Metayer v. Noret, #288, Mss. 106, Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Archive, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans (hereafter SCA, UNO).
40. See Levasseur, Alain A., Louis Casimir Elisabeth Moreau Lislet: Foster Father of Louisiana Civil Law (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Law Center Publications Institute, 1996), 79–113Google Scholar.
41. The 1808 Digest was explicit on this point. See A Digest of the Civil Laws Now in Force in the Territory of Orleans (1808) rep. ed. from the de la Vergne volume (Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing Division, 2008)Google Scholar, preliminary title, chap. 4, art. 10: “The form and force of acts and written instruments, depend upon the laws and usages of the places where they are passed or executed.” http://www.law.lsu.edu/index.cfm?geaux=digestof1808.home&v=en&t=005&u=005#005
42. On the relationship of possession to ownership under Louisiana law more generally, see 1808 Digest, book 3, title 20, chap. 2, art. 16 “Possession taken in a proper sense, is the detention of a thing which he who is master of it, or who has reason to believe that he is so, has in his own keeping or in that of another person by whom he possesses;” and art. 23, “The natural connection which is between the possession and the property, makes the law to presume that they are joined in the person of the possessor and until it be proved that the possessor is not the right owner, the law will have him, by the bare effect of his possession, to be considered as such.” http://www.law.lsu.edu/index.cfm?geaux=digestof1808.home&v=en&t=039&u=105#105
43. I thank James Krier, Peter Railton, and Hendrik Hartog for multiple conversations on this point. For the definitional text in the 1808 Digest see book 1, title 1, chap. 2, art. 13. http://www.law.lsu.edu/index.cfm?geaux=digestof1808.home&v=en&t=006&u=006#006
44. For the text of the convention see the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/slavetrade.htm
45. “Although the applicant was, in the instant case, clearly deprived of her personal autonomy, the evidence does not suggest that she was held in slavery in the proper sense, in other words that Mr and Mrs B. exercised a genuine right of legal ownership over her, thus reducing her to the status of an ‘object’.” See paragraph 122 of Siliadin v. France, Application number 73316/01, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights, Second Section, Judgment, Strasbourg, July 26, 2005. See also Allain, Jean, The Slavery Conventions: The Travaux Préparatoires of the 1926 League of Nations Convention and the 1956 United Nations Convention (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008), especially 4–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and 751–58.
46. One might contrast this judicial indifference to the circumstances of enslavement in New Orleans with the formal concern with the justice of the capture of persons observed in the medieval Mediterranean port of Valencia. There, as Debra Blumenthal has demonstrated, a showing of capture in a “just war” was required for a captor to offer a captive for sale as a slave. However formalistic the proceeding, it did at least acknowledge that for ownership to be rightful it had to rest on a legally recognizable claim of right. See Blumenthal, Debra, Enemies and Familiars: Slavery and Mastery in Fifteenth-Century Valencia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), 9–45Google Scholar.
47. As noted above, this was not merely a problem of the kind that would later be categorized as “choice of law,” in which a court would have to decide between applying the law of Saint-Domingue or that of Louisiana. Both the alleged property right and the claim of freedom were based in documents and relationships obtaining in Saint-Domingue. Without some recognition in Louisiana of law in Saint-Domingue, there would be no slaveholders and slaves among the refugees in the first place. The question was which laws from there would be recognized, the ancien régime laws recognizing ownership of persons, or the revolutionary ones prohibiting it.
48. The power of attorney is included in the papers of Metayé v. Noret, #1035, Parish Court, CA, LD, NOPL.
49. See the baptismal record of Luis Durand, April 21, 1816, in St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, Baptisms of Slaves and Free Persons of Color, 1816–17, vol. 1. Many thanks to archivist Emilie Gagnet Leumas for having provided a photograph of this record. For details on the subsequent case, see Scott, “‘She. . . refuses to deliver up herself,’” 129.
50. See Metayé v. Noret, #1035, Parish Court, CA, LD, NOPL.
51. See Metayé v. Noret, #1035, Parish Court, CA, LD, NOPL. Again, there are parallels with the dynamics discussed in Gross, What Blood Won't Tell.
52. Other forms of prescription persisted in property law, but not the form that could confer freedom on the slave. For a discussion of the silencing of certain protective measures in Spanish law as Louisiana's legislators evolved new territorial and state law, see Palmer, Vernon V., “The Strange Science of Codifying Slavery—Moreau Lislet and the Louisiana Digest of 1808,” Tulane European and Civil Law Forum 24 (2009): 83–113Google Scholar.
53. Las Siete Partidas, trans. Scott, Samuel Parsons, ed. Burns, Robert I. S.J. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 4:983Google Scholar. “Where the slave of any person goes about unmolested for the space of ten years, in good faith and thinking that he is free, in the country where the master resides, or for twenty years in some other country; although his master may not see him, he becomes free for this reason.”
54. See Metayer v. Noret 5 Martin (o.s.) 566 (1818).
55. Pierre Meteyé v. Adelaide (June 26, 1818) #1589, Parish Court, CA, LD, NOPL.
56. Testimony on p. 9, Transcript of Record, #318, Mss. 106, SCA, UNO
57. For a discussion of Cap Français in this period, see Popkin, Jeremy D., You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)Google Scholar.
58. See the decision on pages 14–17 of the Transcript of Record, #318, Mss. 106, SCA, UNO. I thank Lawrence Powell and Lo Faber for their assistance in locating information on James Pitot, who had served as mayor of New Orleans in the early territorial period. See Claiborne, W. C. C., Interim Appointment: W. C. C. Claiborne Letter Book, 1804–1805, ed. Bradley, Jared William (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 255–57Google Scholar.
59. Peter Métayer v. Adelaide f.w.c. (December 8, 1818), #318, SCA, UNO; decision reported as Metayer v. Metayer 6 Mart. (o.s.) 16 (1819). Derbigny's interpretation of Spanish law on prescription and slavery was later codified, but with a crucial modification, in Louisiana, General Assembly, Civil Code of the State of Louisiana (1825). Art. 3510 of that Code read: “If a master suffer a slave to enjoy his liberty for ten years, during his residence in the State, or for twenty years while out of it, he shall lose all right of action to recover possession of the slave, unless the slave be a runaway or fugitive.” In keeping with the usual procedure in prescription, the rule was formulated as a punishment imposed on the rights-holder who did not act to enforce those rights—in this case the putative master. It is worth noting that the term for the person over whom the rights were being asserted remained “slave”—albeit a slave whose master no longer had a legal right of action to recover possession. The phrase found in the Siete Partidas—“he becomes free for this reason”—was not used.
60. I am grateful to James Krier for a discussion concerning the parallel between Adélaïde's situation and the common-law occupancy/possession distinction. The parallel is, however, largely metaphorical, as the very existence of property in her person (whether occupied, possessed, or relinquished) is what was in fact at stake.
61. For a discussion of Cuban authorities' anxiety when faced with men and women of color “no reconociendo la esclavitud” (not recognizing slavery), see chapter three of Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers.
62. The seven lawsuits are indexed in Scott, “‘She . . . refuses,’” 136. See the Transcript of Record, #318, Mss. 106, SCA, UNO, for the reference to these “misères.” The final announcement of the sheriff's sale of her son is in the Moniteur de la Louisiane, May 23, 1810.