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Judges, Masters, Diviners: Slaves’ Experience of Criminal Justice in Colonial Suriname


“Two negroes hanged,” John Gabriel Stedman wrote in his Suriname journal for March 9, 1776, and then two days later, among his purchases of “soap, wine, tobacco, [and] rum” and his dinners with an elderly widow, he records, “A negro's foot cut off.” Stedman expanded on these events in the later Narrative of his years as a Dutch–Scottish soldier fighting against the Suriname Maroons:

And now, this being the period of the [court] sessions, another Negro's leg was cut off for sculking from a task to which he was unable, while two more were condemned to be hang'd for running away altogether. The heroic behavior of one of these men deserves particularly to be quotted, he beg'd only to be heard for a few moments, which, being granted, he proceeded thus––

“I was born in Africa, where defending my prince during an engagement, I was made a captive, and sold for a slave by my own countrimen. One of your countrimen, who is now to be my judge, became then my purchaser, in whose service I was treated so cruelly by his overseer that I deserted and joined the rebels in the woods . . .”

To which his former master, who as he observed was now one of his judges, made the following laconick reply, “Rascal, that is not what we want to know. But the torture this moment shall make you confess crimes as black as yourself, as well as those of your hateful accomplices.” To which the Negroe, who now swel'd in every vain with rage [replied, holding up his hands], “Massera, the verry tigers have trembled for these hands . . . and dare you think to threaten me with your wretched instrument? No, I despise the greatest tortures you can now invent, as much as I do the pitiful wrech who is going to inflict them.” Saying which, he threw himself down on the rack, where amidst the most excruciating tortures he remained with a smile and without they were able to make him utter a syllable. Nor did he ever speak again till he ended his unhappy days at the gallows.

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1. Stedman John Gabriel, The Journal of John Gabriel Stedman 1744–1797, ed. Thompson Stanbury (London: Mitre Press, 1962), 164.

2. I am quoting here from the excellent published edition of Stedman's Narrative, drawn from the 1790 manuscript of this text: Stedman John Gabriel, Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, ed. Richard and Price Sally (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 480–82 (hereafter Narr90). I have reproduced here the eighteenth-century spelling found in the manuscript, but not its capitalization and punctuation. The published version of 1796, sometimes considerably edited by the publisher, is in this instance quite faithful to the original manuscript: Stedman John Gabriel, Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America; from the year 1772 to 1777, 2 vols. (London: J. Johnson, 1796), 2: 208–10 (hereafter Narr96).

3. For an introduction to and further bibliography on the Creole languages of Suriname, see Carlin Eithne B. and Arends Jacques, eds., Atlas of the Languages of Suriname (Leiden: KITLV, 2002) and Davis Natalie Zemon, “Creole languages and their uses: the example of colonial Suriname,” Historical Research 82 (2009): 268–84.

4. Stedman, Journal, 164 (March 22, 1776).

5. Evidence and discussion of slave crime and punishment are found in several sections of Morgan's Philip splendid Slave Counterpoint, Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 261–67, 385–98, 468–73. An example of material on crime and law in regard to slaves in nineteenth-century east Africa is Cooper Frederick, Plantation Slavery on the East Coast of Africa (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977), 164–67.

6. Goveia Elsa V., The West Indian Slave Laws of the 18th Century, Chapters in Caribbean History 2 (Barbados: Caribbean Universities Press, first edition 1970, reprinted 1973). Watson Alan, Slave Law in the Americas (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1989) is a useful examination of diverse legal codes and ordinances by a specialist in Roman law, although the author's lack of familiarity with the actual social and legal practice in the various American colonies leads him to make deductions from the codes about, for example, the presence or non-presence of racism, which are not supported by historical evidence.

7. Schwarz Philip J., Twice Condemned: Slaves and the Criminal Laws of Virginia, 1705–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988) and Slave Laws in Virginia (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1996); Lazarus-Black Mindie, “Slaves, Masters, and Magistrates: Law and the Politics of Resistance in the British Caribbean, 1736–1834,” in Contested States. Law, Hegemony and Resistance, ed. Lazarus-Black Mindie and Hirsch Susan F. (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), 252–81; Lazarus-Black Mindie, Legitimate Acts and Illegal Encounters. Law and Society in Antigua and Barbuda (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994); and Paton Diana, “Punishment, Crime, and the Bodies of Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica,” Journal of Social History 34 (2001): 923–54. Also see Landers Jane, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), chap. 8, 183–201, “Crime and Punishment.”

8. For example, Fett Sharla M., Working Cures. Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Sweet James H., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Curto José C. and Lovejoy Paul E., eds., Enslaving Connections. Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil during the Era of Slavery (Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2004; and Heywood Linda M. and Thornton John K., Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), chap. 4, 169–226.

9. Faber Sjoerd, Strafrechtspleging en Criminaliteit te Amsterdam, 1680–1811. De nieuwe Menslievendheid (Arnhem: Gouda Quint, 1983); Egmond Florike, Underworlds: Organized Crime in the Netherlands 1650–1800 (Oxford: Polity Press, 1993); and Spierenburg Pieter, The Spectacle of Suffering. Executions and the Evolution of Repression: From a Preindustrial Metropolis to the European Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

10. Merry Sally Engle, “Colonial and Postcolonial Law,” in Blackwell Companion to Law and Society, ed. Sarat Austin (Malden, MA and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 569–88, quotations 572, 574; and Benton Lauren, Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History 1400–1900 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

11. A still useful general introduction to Suriname is van Lier R. A. J., Frontier Society. A Social Analysis of the History of Surinam (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971); and on its governing structure, van der Meiden G.W., Betwist Bestuur. Een eeuw strijd om de macht in Suriname, 1651–1753 (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1987). Valuable eighteenth-century sources are Jan Hartsinck Jacob, Beschryving van Guiana, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1770; facsimile edition, Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1974), 521–962; Nassy David, Essai historique sur la colonie de Suriname, 2 vols. (Paramaribo: n. p. [sic for Amsterdam: Hendrik Gartman], 1788).

12. On the population of Suriname, see Nationaal Archief, The Netherlands (hereafter NA), Sociëteit van Suriname (hereafter SocSur), 228, f. 391v (census of 1701); Nassy, Essai historique, 2: 39, note a; National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom (hereafter NAUK). WO/146, 1v–3v, census figures 1794–1798.

13. Postma Johannes, “Suriname and its Atlantic Connections,” in Riches from Atlantic Commerce. Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585–1817, ed. Postma Johannes and Enthoven Victor (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003), 306, table 11.5.

14. Postma Johannes, The Dutch in the Atlantic Slave Trade 1600–1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 228–32, 257, table 10.13; 395–401, appendix 19. Bosman Willem, A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea, Divided into the Gold, the Slave, and the Ivory Coast. . . Written Originally in Dutch. . . and now faithfully done into English (London: James Knapton and Daniel Midwinter, 1705), 364.

15. Cavazzi Giovanni Antonio, Descrição Histórica dos Três Reinos do Congo, Matamba e Angola, trans. de Leguzzano Graciano Maria, 2 vols. (Lisbon: Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, 1965). The Capuchin Cavazzi was a missionary priest in the Kongo and Angola from1654 to 1667; his Istorica descrizione was first published in Italian in Bologna in 1687. Bosman, Description, A2v; Postma, Dutch, 64, 136, 363–65. Rømer Ludewig Ferdinand, A Reliable Account of the Coast of Guinea (1760), trans. Winsnes Selena Axelrod (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Rømer served as agent at Fort Christiansborg in present-day Accra from 1739 to 1749. Snelgrave William, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea, and the Slave Trade (London: James, John, and Paul Knapton, 1734), A3r, 165. Atkins John, A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil, and the West-Indies; In His Majesty's Ships, The Swallow and Weymouth (London: Caesar Ward and Richard Chandler, 1735); Atkins’ voyage took place in 1721–1723 (255–65). The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself was first published in London in 1789; I am using here the ninth edition, published in 1794: Equiano Olaudah, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Carretta Vincent (London and New York: Penguin Books, 2003). Equiano's self-description as having been born in Africa was put into question by Vincent Carretta in 1999, after his discovery of two documents giving Gustavus Vassa's birthplace as South Carolina. Critical discussion by Paul Lovejoy and others on the provenance and functions of these two documents and on the character of Equiano's description of Igbo life confirm his birth in what is now southeastern Nigeria. For a review of the evidence and the bibliography, see James Sweet, “Mistaken Identities? Equiano Olaudah, Domingos Álvares, and the Methodological Challenges of Studying the African Diaspora,” American Historical Review, 134 (2009): 279–81, 301–4. Oldendorp Christian, History of the Mission of the Evangelical Brethren on the Caribbean Islands of St,. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, ed. Bossard J. J., trans. Highfield Arnold R. and Barac Vladimir (Ann Arbor: Karoma Publishers, 1987). Oldendorp's charge was to write a history of the missions and their current state; he spent seventeen months collecting materials and interviewing slaves on Ste Croix, and the other Danish islands during 1767–1768.

16. Lovejoy Paul, Transformations in Slavery. A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 4, 86. Bosman, Description, Letter 10, 155; Letter 11, 167–77; Letter 18, 341; Letter 19, 357. Equiano, Narrative 35, 37. Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, 59. Johnson Samuel, The History of the Yorubas from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate, ed. Johnson O. (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1921), 101. Samuel Johnson was a Yoruba and Christian minister in Oyo in Nigeria. His book, completed in 1897, was based on Yoruba oral traditions and extensive interviews. European observers do not comment on the general meaning of “crime” in African societies they visited, that is, on whether “crime” was thought to pollute a community or put it at odds with the gods and on whether African general understandings of “crime” resembled those with which they were familiar in Europe.

17. Bosman, Description, Letter 10, 148; Equiano, Narrative, 42–43; Oldendorp, History, 176–77; and Matthews John, A Voyage to the River Sierra-Leone, on the Coast of Africa . . . By John Matthews, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy; during his residence in that country in the years 1786, 1786, and 1787 (London: B. White and Son and J. Sewell, 1788), 123–24.

18. Barbot Jean, A Description of the Coasts of North and South-Guinea, and of Ethiopia Inferior, vulgarly Angola in A Collection of Voyages and Travels, 3rd. ed. (London: printed by Awnsham and John Churchill for Henry Lintot and John Osborn, 1746), 5: 301. The French Huguenot Barbot was an agent for the Compagnie du Sénégal and made voyages to the Guinea Coast in 1678–79 and 1681–82. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he moved to England, where he finished this book shortly before his death in 1713. It was first published by the Churchills in 1732. For an evaluation of the reliability of Barbot's work, see Law Robin, “Jean Barbot as a Source for the Slave Coast of West Africa,” History in Africa 9 (1982): 155–73.

19. Bosman, Description, Letter 10, 149–50. A similar procedure in Sierra Leone: a person accused of causing another's death by poison was allowed to escape to the headman of a nearby village, where he or she proclaimed innocence and asked for a draught test as proof. The person, wearing only plantain leaves, was placed on a high chair in public, given a little rice or cola nuts, and then required to drink several quarts of “red water.” If the accused survived, vomiting up the rice or cola nuts unchanged, and survived other ordeals as well, he or she was proved innocent. Cavazzi, Descrição, 1: 102–6; Atkins, Voyage, 52–53 on the “red water” test; and Matthews, Voyage, 125–26. A full description of the “red water” test is given by the physician Winterbottom Thomas, An Account of the Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, 2 vols. (London: John Hatchard and J. Mawman, 1803), 1: 129–32. Oldendorp, History, 172–73. Rømer described an ordeal in Accra where the god was present in a specially stuffed snake skin; the accused took some dough placed on the skin and swallowed it saying, “If I have stolen this or that, then let [the god] kill me” (Rømer, Account, 100–101). In Loango, a “poison ordeal” was administered by the mwene nkisi, the religious figure who presided over shrines in different parts of the kingdom (Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, 106. The “poison ordeal,” known as benge, was still being administered to attest to innocence or guilt among the Nzakara people in the Central African Republic in the 1960s (Retel-Laurentin Anne, Oracles et ordalies chez les Nzakara [Paris and The Hague: Mouton, 1969], 2531, 72–84).

20. Sweet, Recreating Africa, 122–24; Cavazzi, Descrição, 1:109; Matthews, Voyage, 134–35; Rømer, Reliable Account, 101; and Oldendorp, History, 101 (“the suspect must attempt to lift a red hot iron ring out of a pot three times with his bare hands”). Cavazzi reported an additional version of the heat test in the Kongo, the mbau, where a hot iron was placed on different parts of the body; if the accused was innocent, the heat would not hurt the skin; a person whom the diviner wanted to help would be given a special ointment to protect him or her (Descrição, 1:104).. Rømer observed the bodily heat ordeal among the Akan—drawing a glowing knife over the arm (p. 101)—while a slave from the Loango region reported to Oldendorp that a diviner there used “a red hot knife,” rubbed along the suspect's leg (p. 173).

21. Bosman, Description, Letter 21, 450–52; and Rømer, Reliable Account, 101. Bosman also witnessed an eye test while he was visiting the kingdom of Benin: a diviner put “green juice” into the eyes of the accused; if the eyes became red and inflamed, he or she was guilty (451). Matthews reported an eye test from Sierra Leone: the diviner splashed water from a pot over which pepper had been suspended into the eyes of the accused. If the accused was guilty, the eyes would be covered with white film and sight would be lost (Matthews, Voyage, 134–35.

22. Cavazzi, Descrição, 1: 104. Atkins, Voyage, 52–53; and Rømer, Account, 101.

23. Bosman, Description, Letter 19, 359; and Barbot, Description, 5:337–38. Bosman also describes a river test in more dangerous waters in the Kingdom of Benin (Letter 21, 452).

24. Description of such assemblies for judgment can be found in Cavazzi, Descrição, 1: 155–58; Bosman, Description, Letter 11, 165–67; Letter 19, 357, 359; and Equiano, Narrative, 33; his father was one of the local elders or “Embrenché,” “who decided disputes and punished crimes . . . The proceedings were generally short.”

25. Bosman, Description, Letter 10, 155; Letter 11, 167–77; Letter 12, 201; Letter 19, 352; Letter 21, 442, 449–50, 452; Jean-Baptiste Labat, Voyage du Chevalier Des Marchais en Guineée, isles voisines, et à Cayenne, Fait en 1725, 1726, 1727, 4 vols. (Paris: Saugrain, 1730), 2: 81; Snelgrave, New Account, 158; Atkins, Voyage, 204–205, 216–17; 231–32; Equiano, Narrative, 33; Oldendorp, History, 172, 177; Ryder A.F.C., “Dutch Trade on the Nigerian Coast during the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 3 (1965): 201; and Lovejoy, Transformations, 89.

26. Vansina Jan, “Confinement in Angola's Past,” in A History of Prison and Confinement in Africa, ed. Bernault Florence (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003), 62; Moore Francis, Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa (London: Edward Cave, 1738), 42; and Ryder, “Dutch Trade,” 196.

27. Equiano, Narrative, 37.

28. Snelgrave, New Account, 158; Atkins, Voyage, 176–77; Oldendorp, History, 177; Lovejoy, Transformations, 88–89; and Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, 223.

29. Vansina, “Confinement,” 57–59, 61–62; Bah Thierno, “Captivity and Incarceration in Nineteenth-Century West Africa,” in History of Prison, ed. Bernault, 7071, 76; and Lawrence Arnold W., Trade Castles and Forts in West Africa (London: Cape, 1963), 190; in the mid-eighteenth century, the Cape Coast Castle, belonging to the English Company of Merchants, included a room to be used as a “prison for criminals,” adjacent to rooms for artisans and for soldiers. On the hut for menstruating women: Bosman, Description, Letter 12, 210; and Equiano, Narrative, 42.

30. Examples of extreme cruelty in execution in the kingdom of Axim in Bosman, Description, Letter 11, 169; in the kingdom of Hueda, Letter 19, 357–58; Smith William, A New Voyage to Guinea (London: John Nourse, 1744), 204; and among the Amina people of the Gold Coast region, punishing an adulterous woman of high status, Oldendorp, History, 172. Vansina, “Confinement,” 61; in the 1640s, the Queen Njinga of Kongo instituted mutilation of the genitals as punishment for infidelity among her male consorts, “but this is a unique case, and the queen subsequently abandoned this practice.” On emasculation as punishment of the royal eunuchs of Oyo, see Johnson, History, 60 and Law Robin, The Oyo Empire c. 1600-c.1836. A West African Imperialism in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 70. Barbot claims that male adulterers near the Gold Coast European settlement of Little Comendo had one of their ears cut off (Description, 5:300). On marks of scarification and their meaning, see Oldendorp, History, 169–70; Johnson, History, 104–9; and Lovejoy Paul, “Scarification and the Loss of History in the African Diaspora,” in Activating the Past: History and Memory in the Black Atlantic World, ed. Apter Andrew H and Derby Lauren H. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), 99138. Visiting Yorubaland in 1828, Richard Lander reported that men found guilty of very serious robbery had their scarification cut off and replaced by the scarification of another people, after which they were driven to the coast and sold to slave traders (Lander Richard, Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa, 2 vols. [London: Frank Cass, 1967], 1: 283–84). This is a single and late mention, however; there is no indication of such facial disfigurement in the descriptions that come from Caribbean observers in the eighteenth century.

31. Bosman, Description, Letter 19, 364; Postma, Dutch, 237–38; Lawrence, Trade Castles, 158; and Law Robin, Ouidah. The Social History of a West African Slaving ‘Port’1727–1892 (Athens: Ohio State University Press and Oxford: James Curry, 2004), 139–40.

32. “Portable prison” in Geddes Alexander, An Apology for Slavery: or Six Cogent Arguments against the Immediate Abolition of the Slave Trade (London: J. Johnson and R. Faulder, 1792); “floating dungeon” in Stanfield James, The Guinea Voyage, A Poem in Three Books (London: James Phillips, 1789). Stanfield was a critic of the slave trade, who had made such a voyage. Both men are quoted by Rediker Marcus, The Slave Ship. A Human History (New York: Viking, 2007), 45 and 370, n. 12. Bosman, Description, Letter 19, 364. Harms Robert, The Diligent. A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 250–53. and Law, Ouidah, 141–44. On the prison features of the Danish slave ship Fredensborg, departing from Fort Christiansborg in Accra in 1768 with 260 slaves, see Svalesen Leif, The Slave Ship Fredensborg, trans. Shaw Pat and Winsnes Selena (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000), 92, 105.

33. Postma, Dutch, Appendix 8, 366–67. Similarly, the instructions of the Danish Guinea Company to the captain of slave boats read: “It is recommended to the Captain that the greatest importance is attached to the conservation of the slaves. He shall personally and frequently see to it that the officers ensure their proper treatment on board the ship, and that no member of the crew strikes or kicks them” (Svalesen, Fredensborg, 102).

34. Snelgrave, New Account, 163, 168–73. Harms, Diligent, 314–15 on different practices in regard to shackling male slaves once the boat was on the high seas: “perhaps the most common practice . . . was to watch the captives closely and reward the ones who seemed most cooperative by removing their shackles.” The captain of the Fredensborg punished the slaves involved in a planned rebellion by beatings and by placing them in both ankle and wrist irons connected to long chains (Svalesen, Fredensborg, 114).

35. Snelgrave, New Account, 187, warning another ship captain “that he had on board so many Negroes of one town and language.” Equiano, Narrative, 56–57; Rediker, Slave Ship, 276–79, 303–6; and Bosman, Description, Letter 9, 130–31. According to the linguist Norval Smith, “it is well known that West African Pidgin Portuguese was spoken on the Gold Coast until the 18th century . . . and on the Slave Coast even longer” (“Pernambuco to Surinam 1654–1665,” in Spreading the Word. The issue of diffusion among the Atlantic Creoles, ed. Huber Magnus and Parkvall Mikael (Westminster: University of Westminster Press, 1999), 293. Rømer speaks of “Negro-Portuguese terms” during his years at Fort Christiansborg (Reliable Account, 164–65). Winterbottom, Account, 1: 211–12; and Christian Ludwig Schumann, Saramaccanisch Deutsches Wörter-Buch (1778; hereafter SD Wörter-Buch), in Die Sprache der Sarmakkaneger in Surinam, ed. Schuchardt Hugo (Amsterdam: Johannes Müller, 1914), 102: “sippi, skippi Schiff, Schiffskamerad.”

36. Harms, Diligent, 315–16; Svalesen, Fredensborg, 86; Rømer, Reliable Account, 199; and Rediker, Slave Ship, 270–73, 307.

37. Snelgrave, New Account, 97–106.

38. The classic introductory text is Goveia, West Indian Slave Laws. Further description of laws regarding masters’ treatment of slaves in Jamaica in Diana Paton, “Punishment,” 926–27; in Antigua and the Leeward Islands in Lazarus-Black, Legitimate Acts, 33–34; and in the British Caribbean more generally in Lazarus-Black, “Slaves,” 258–59. On the importance of masters being specifically forbidden to “torture” their slaves in the French Code Noir of 1695, see the major study of Malick W. Ghachem, “Prosecuting Torture: The Strategic Ethics of Slavery in Pre-Revolutionary Saint-Domingue (Haiti),” 985–1029, in this same issue of Law and History Review. Article 42 of the Code Noir reads: “Pourront pareillement les Maîtres, lorsqu'ils croiront que leurs Esclaves l'auront mérité, les faire enchaîner et les faire battre de verges, ou de cordes, leur deffendant de leur donner la torture, ni de faire aucune mutilation de membres . . .”

39. Van Lier, Frontier Society, 128; and Schiltkamp J. A. and de Smidt J. Th., eds., West Indisch Plakaatboek. Plakaten, Ordonnantiën en andere Wetten, uitgevaardigd in Suriname 1667–1816 (hereafter Plakaten), 2 vols. (Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1973), no. 556, articles 15–17 (December 27, 1759); no. 876, articles 13–14 (August 31, 1784).

40. Van Lier, Frontier Society, 134, quoting from the minutes of the High Court of Policy and Criminal Justice, September 29, 1762.

41. Dittelbach Petrus, Verval en Val der Labadisten (Amsterdam: Daniel van den Dalen, 1692), 55; Herlein J.D., Beschryvinge van de Volk-Plantinge Zuriname (Leeuwarden: Meindert Injema, 1718), 112; Hartsinck, Beschryving, 916; Van Lier, Frontier Society, 127; Goveia, West Indian Slave Laws, 51; and van Stipriaan Alex, Surinaams Contrast. Roofbouw en overleven in een Caraïbische plantagekolonie 1750–1863 (Leiden: KITLV, 1993), 371–73.

42. van Dyk Pieter, “Het Leeven en Bedryf van een Surinaamsze Directeur, met de Slaaven, op een Koffi-Plantagie,” in Nieuwe en Nooit Bevoorens Geziene onderwyzinge in het Bastert Engels, of Neeger Engels (Amsterdam: Widow of Jacobus van Egmont, n.d. [ca. 1765]) reprinted with English translation in Arends Jacques and Perl Matthias, Early Suriname Creole Texts (Frankfurt: Vervuert and Madrid: Iberoamericana, 1995), 93, 165–239.

43. Stedman's defense of slavery as an institution, as long as it is humanely conducted, in Stedman, Narr90, 168–74, 533–36; and Narr96, 1: 201–7, 2: 279–81. For an insightful discussion of the character and impact of Stedman's pictures of punishment in the setting of late eighteenth-century sensibility and theories of the sublime, see Klarer Mario, “Humanitarian Pornography: John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796),” New Literary History 36 (2005): 559–87.

44. John Gabriel Stedman, “The Progress of Modern Ambition, or the Outlines of a Military Life, being a genuine Narrative founded on facts by John Gabriel Stedman Esq,” James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota, MS 1772oSt, 2r-v. Stedman was glad that he was “unmercifully whipped” by his father for his petty thefts as a boy as it “cured [him].” Sent from the Netherlands to Scotland at age eleven to live with his uncle, Stedman was neglected by his uncle and got into mischief with “bad companions,” breaking into the church to steal the parson's pigeons and getting into street fights. Here he was beaten once again, “sometimes for things actually done, sometimes for not”(3r-v).

45. Stedman, Journal, 132 (August 27, 1773), 143 (January 29, 1774), 145 (March 7, 1774), and 150 (April 17, 1774).

46. Stedman, “Progress,” 28r-v.

47. Stedman, Narr90, 39, 94–96, 264–68; Narr96, 1:15, 94, 325–29 (the editor changed Stedman's “despisable executioner” to “detestable executioner”; Journal, 150 (April 17 and 23, 1774), 152 (June 29, 1774), and 185 (September 7, 1776).

48. Stedman, Narr90, 94, 366; Narr96, 1:93, 2:59. NA, Suriname Oud Notarieel Archief (hereafter SONA), Burgerlijke Stand, Reformed marriages, vol. 1, p. 262. Debien G. and F.Kraal J., “Esclaves et plantations de Surinam vus par Malouet, 1777,” West-Indische Gids 36 (1955): 5758. Pierre-Victor Malouet (1740–1814) served as an administrator in the colony of Saint Domingue for several years and then for a time in Guyane. He wrote of Mrs. Godefroy's plantation also in his Collection de Mémoires et Correspondances officielles sur l'Administration des Colonies, Et notamment sur la Guiane française et hollandaise, 5 vols. (Paris: Baudouin, l'an X [1802]), 3:43: “J'avois vu chez madame Geoffroy cing cens esclaves ne connoître d'autre bonheur que celui de la servir, et son atelier gémissant sur le sort d'un domestique qu'elle avoit par punition chassé de sa presence.”

49. I am making a major study of this plantation over several decades in my current book Braided Histories: Four Generations of a Slave Family in Colonial Suriname. The documents being analysed here are NA, SONA 194, pp. 950–990; SONA 202, pp. 605–43, and SONA 695, pp. 497–516. Fauquemberg was sold to a new owner in 1768, who was unable to finance his purchase properly; Kruythoff was replaced by a succession of managers, and in early 1772 the most important male slaves fled the plantation for the Maroons (SONA, 240, pp. 587–612).

50. Hoogbergen Wim, The Boni Maroon Wars in Suriname (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990), 3435; and van den Bouwhuijsen Harry, de Bruin Ron, and Horeweg Georg, Opstand in Tempati, 1757–1760 (Utrecht: Instituut voor Culturele Antropologie te Utrecht, 1988), 1316, 64.

51. For the existence of “courts that slaves convened among themselves” in Jamaica, Antigua, and other places in the British West Indies, see Lazarus-Black, “Slaves,” 260–61. Philip Schwarz makes interesting speculation about the slaves of Virginia “develop[ing] their own customary law . . . rules to which slaves commonly attempted to bind themselves, as opposed to those regulations to which masters tried to force slaves’ conformity.” But he considers that the slaves “obviously could not transfer the laws and judicial institutions of their homelands to the New World “(Slave Laws, 52–53). I will be here considering “judicial” practices and processes among the slaves, some of them carried over in adapted form from Africa.

52. Bosman, Description, Letter 13, 231 (burial of slaves with kings in Gold Coast polities); and Letter 21, 450. On the burial of slaves with the king of Dahomey and other royal sacrifice of slaves, see Herskovits Melville J., Dahomey. An Ancient West African Kingdom, 2 vols. (New York: J. J. Augustin, 1938), 2:5355. Burial of the “life-slaves” with the king of the Akim along the Gold Coast in Rømer, Account, 184.

53. Klein Martin A., Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chap. 2, especially 1–15, quotations drawn from 2, 5, 13. Klein's evidence moderates the harsher and more schematic view of Claude Meillassoux in his pioneering Anthropologie de l'esclavage. Le ventre de fer et d'argent (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1986), 117–18, 270–72. Klein's view is consistent with the overall picture of slave regimes in Africa given by Lovejoy Paul, “Relationships of Dependency, 1600–1800,” in Transformations in Slavery. A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 112–39.

54. Oldendorp, History, 220; and Stedman, Narr90, 175; and Narr96, 1:207.

55. Van Dyk gives the Neger Engelsche bassia for the Dutch word officier (“Leeven,” 168, 174); a 1798 language book gives basja and basian for the Sranan and bastiaan for the Dutch translation (Weygandt G. C., Gemeenzaame Leerwyze om het Basterd of Neger-Engelsche [Paramaribo: W. W. Beeldsnyder, 1798], 137–38). The word is connected with the Dutch baas. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 916 (“bomba”).

56. On the black drivers, see Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 276–83; Oostindie Gert, Roosenburg en Mon Bijou. Twee Surinaamse plantages, 1720–1870 (Dordrecht and Providence: Foris Publications, 1989), 67, 105–106, 165–66; Beeldsnijder Rudi Otto, “Om werk van jullie te hebben”: Plantageslaven in Suriname 1730–1750 (Utrecht: Instituut voor Culturele Antropologie te Utrecht, 1994), chap. 7; NA, SONA 194, pp. 982, 984; SONA 202, pp. 632–33; and SONA 695, p. 509. Of the many plantation inventories I have examined, I have found only one, La Confiance on the Suriname River, where in 1752 one of the two bassias was described as “mulat” (NA, SONA 193, pp. 855–70).

57. Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 278; and Van Dyk, “Leeven,” 166, 184–85, 18–88. Pistorius Thomas, Korte en Zakelyke Beschryvinge van de Colonie van Zuriname (Amsterdam: Theodorus Crajenschot, 1763), 90: the black officer must not be malicious or arrogant. Weygandt, Gemeenzaame Leerwyze, 138.

58. Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 277–78; Hoogbergen, Boni Maroon Wars, 26, 33, 69, 89–90, 132–33. The slave revolt on the Danish island of St. John had black drivers or bombas in its leadership.

59. Dirk Valkenburg, Slave Play in Suriname (ca. 1797), Den kongelige Maleri-og Skulptursamling, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, KMS inv. 376. On Valkenburg's stay in Suriname and on the Winti dance being portrayed in the painting, see Davis Natalie Zemon, Women on the Margins. Three Seventeenth-Century Lives (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 190–91.

60. For example, during the period from 1730 to 1750, five slaves on the plantation Vlammenburg on the Commewijne River claimed their bassia was a poisoner. In 1735, on the sugar plantation Crawassibo on the Commewijne with 133 slaves, the bassia Mingo was accused of poisoning a female field slave. He claimed that earlier she had dissimulated serious illness, and therefore when she had become actually ill, she was not taken seriously, and she died. Although Mingo's story was believed by the court, it is clear that he was not on good terms with his co-slaves. Beeldsnijder, Plantageslaven, chap. 7; (accessed July 7, 2010). The Nationaal Archief Suriname had this website in July 2010. Since that date, the website has been suspended for reconstruction. The date at which the website will be reopened and its new address are still unknown (email letters from Audrey Koenders and Tanya Sitaram of the Nationaal Archief Suriname, December 8–10, 2010). Readers seeking further information about material derived from this website can contact me.

61. Oostindie, Roosenburg, 100–107, 164–66; Oldendorp, History, 225–26; NA, SONA, 202, pp. 632, 634–35; and SONA, 228, pp. 9–37 (“Amiba officieresse”). On the “slave mistress”… “who acquiesced to her master's demands but also used the privileges she wrested from her master to benefit her enslaved compatriots,” see Burnard Trevor, Master, Tyranny, and Desire. Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 228–29.

62. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 904; Stedman, Narr90, 521; Narr96, 2: 262–63; and Nassy, Essai historique, 2:64–69. Using an example from the 1820s, Humphrey Lamur has suggested that the role of driver and priest were combined (Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 282). This may well be the case some of the time in the nineteenth century, when diviners were reacting to the increase in Christian missionary actitivity on the plantations, but in the eighteenth century, what evidence we have suggests these are ordinarily separate roles.

63. Dragtenstein Frank, “Trouw aan de Blanken.” Quassie van Nieuw Timotibo, twist en strijd en de 18de eeuw in Suriname (Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2004); Stedman, Narr90, 581–82; Narr96, 2: 346–48; Davis Natalie Zemon, “Stedman's Suriname Book in Sweden,” in Vänskap over Gränser. En Festkrift till Eva Österberg, eds. Johansson Kenneth and Cronberg Marie Lindstedt (Lund: Historiska institutionen, Lunds Universitet 2007), 8586; and Nassy, Essai, 2: 69–70.

64. Van Dyk, “Leeven,” 205–6.

65. Margot van den Berg, “‘Mi no sal tron tongo’: Early Sranan in court records, 1667–1767,” Master's thesis, University of Nijmegen, 2000, 43–45; available on her website (accessed December 5, 2010). Nationaal Archief Suriname web site, Plantations, “Palmeniribo aan de Surinamerivier,” (accessed July 7, 2010; see note 60 above); and Van der Linde J. M., Surinaamse Suikerheren en hun Kerk (Wageninen: H. Veenman and Sons, 1966), 126–27. The previous owner of Palmeniribo, the former governor Jan van Scharphuisen, was Reformed, but the plantation was adjacent to those with Jewish proprietors; communication among adjacent slave populations may have led to Saturday being viewed as a day free from work. In any case, Scharphuisen acknowledged Saturdays off in his testament of 1699. Palmeniribo then passed to Scharphuisen's niece, the daughter of a Reformed pastor, and to her husband, Jonas Witsen of Amsterdam. In 1706 Witsen sent Dirk Valkenburg to the plantation as “book-keeper, scribe, and painter,” and the painter must have been an important figure during the uprising.

66. Christian Ludwig Schumann, Neger-Englisches Wörterbuch (1783), as quoted in Arends and Perl, Creole Texts, 16; and van den Berg Margot and Arends Jacques, “Court Records as a Source of Authentic Early Sranan,” in Creoles, Contact and Language Change: Linguistics and Social Implications, eds. Escure G. and Schwegler A. (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publications, 2004), 22.

67. Van Dyk, Bastert Engels, 119; Jean Nepveu, “Annotations op de Surinaaamsche Beschrijvinge van Anno 1718” (1770), in Arends and Perl, Creole Texts, 79; Schumann, SD Wörter-buch, 24, 78, 79, 83; and Johannes Andreas Riemer, “Wörterbuch zur Erlernung der Saramakka-Neger-Sprache (1779),” in Arends and Perl, Creole Texts, 287, 306, 314.

68. Stedman, Narr90, 524; Narr96, 2:265; Schumann, SD Wörter-buch, 65–66, 75–76, 89; and Riemer, “Wörterbuch,” 284, 301, 325. On theft among slaves in other plantation societies, see Burnard, Master, 164–66, 200; and Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, 113.

69. Van Dyk, “Leeven,” 184–85, 189, 196–98: Filida is forced to have sex with the manager, and her husband is flogged at his orders. The husband weeps while being whipped “saying [the manager] had raped his wife” and then swallows his tongue to commit suicide. Filida accuses the master “you killed my husband so I could be your whore” and escapes from the plantation. Stedman, Narr90, 271; Narr96, 1:335; Narr90, 529: “If a Negro and his wife have never so great an attachment to each other, the woman, if handsome, must yield to the loathsome embraces of a rascally manager, or see her husband cut to pieces by the whip for daring to think of preventing it”; and Narr96, 2: 273. Bouwhuijsen et al., Opstand, 115: a Maroon, explaining why slaves run away, includes among the reasons that the drunken manager “kisses our wives,” “soent [sic for zoent] onse wijven.” And see below, Coridon's murder of the owner Thoma in conflict over his wife.

70. Stedman, Narr90, 526; and Narr96, 2:268: the editor has cut Stedman's whole phrase from the manuscript, which in the published version reads “they are also susceptible of the tender passion, and jealousy in their breasts has produced the most dreadful effects.”

71. Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 314–15, 315, table 46; Oostindie, Roosenburg, 133, table 2; Stedman, Narr90, 536 (Stedman adds that such separation happened less often among the slaves than among married couples in Europe); and Narr96, 2:281. On polygyny among the Saramacca Maroons, see Schumann, SD Wörter-buch, 66; Price Sally, Cowives and Calabashes, 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), chap. 3, 7778; and Price Richard, Alabi's World (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 382–83 (Price's research on the Saramacca Maroons leads him to conclude that “the proportion of adult men who, at any given time had two or more wives [was] closer to 20 percent”). The word for “co-wife” does not appear in the Neger Engelsche vocabularies for kinship drawn by Van Dyk from the plantations or by Weygandt from slaves and free blacks also associated with Paramaribo. On the general picture: Bush Barbara, Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650–1838 (Kingston: Heinemann Publishers; Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press; London: James Curry, 1990), 84102. On the picture in different regions: Moitt Bernard, Women and Slavery in the French Antilles 1635–1848 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2001), 2533 on gender imbalance in the slave trade (gender ratio is roughly equal or a slight predominance of men until the late eighteenth century); mention of some polygamy in Saint-Domingue in the late eighteenth century, when women were beginning to outnumber men on some plantations (32, 84). In Jamaica: Burnard, Master, 162–64 (slave Maria has serial lovers or marriages). In Antigua, Lazarus-Black, Legitimate Acts, 87–88. In Barbados: Beckles Hilary McD, Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 118–21; and Beckles Hilary McD, Centering Woman. Gender Discourse in Caribbean Slave Society (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers; Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers; Oxford: James Currey Publishers, 1999), 38: in Barbados, exceptionally among Caribbean slave societies, female slaves were more numerous than male already in the seventeenth century, and Beckles finds a mixture of polygynous and monogamous unions there.

72. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 778; Opstand, 9; Hoogbergen Wim, “The History of the Suriname Maroons,” in Resistance and Rebellion in Suriname: Old and New (Studies in Third World Societies Publication 43 (Williamsburg VA: Department of Anthropology, college of William and Mary, 1990), 77; Stedman, Narr90, 525; Narr96, 2:266–67; and Price, Alabi's World, 159.

73. Riemer Johannes Andreas, “Riemers Mitteilungen über die Freineger und ihre Sitten und Gewohnheiten,” in Die Mission der Brüdergemeine in Suriname und Berbice im achtzehnten Jahrhundert, 3 vols., ed. Staehelin Fritz (Paramaribo: C. Kersten for the Missionsbuchhandlung in Herrnhut, 1913), vol. 3, part 2, 267–68; and Price, Alabi's World, 375. Equiano noted in his description of the corpse impelling the coffin-bearers toward the guilty party, which he had seen in his Igbo village, that “[it] is still used by the negroes in the West Indies” (Interesting Narrative, 42, 245 n. 69). It was also practiced among slaves in Antigua, [ Mrs. Flannagan], Antigua and the Antiguans. A Full Account of the Colony and its Inhabitants from the Time of the Caribs to the Present Day. 2 vols. (London: Saunders and Otley, 1844; reprint London Spottiswoode: Ballantyne, 1967) 2: 6667

74. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 906; Nassy, Essai historique, 2:74; Stedman, Narr90, 582; Narr96, 2: 346; and Dragtenstein, Quassie, 33.

75. Schumann, SD Wörter-buch, 76; Riemer, “Wörterbuch,” 301–2; Riemer, “Mitteilungen,” in Staehelin, Mission, vol. 3, part 2, 265–66; and Price, Alibi's World, 373–74.

76. Riemer, “Mitteilungen,” in Staehelin, Mission, vol. 3, part 2, 266: “Schwurtrank” (oath-drink).

77. Sweet, Recovering Africa, 120–23; and Nassy, Essai historique, 2: 69–70.

78. Quoted by Forsythe Dennis, “Race, Colour and Class in the British West Indies,” in The Commonwealth Caribbean into the Seventies, ed. Singham A. W. (Montreal: McGill University Centre for Developing-Area Studies and Washington D. C.: Howard University Committee on Caribbean Studies, 1975), 21.

79. See also the role assigned the cook Lukresia in Van Dyk, “Leeven,” 205 (Lukresia at the slave meeting); 216–17 (Lukresia's important role when the owners finally arrive). An example of women having a formal voice in local governance in African polities is found in provincial towns in Yorubaland. As described by Samuel Johnson (History, 77), “The Iyalode, i.e. queen of the ladies, is a title bestowed upon the most distinguished lady in the town . . . Some of these Iyalodes command a force of powerful warriors, and have a voice in the council of the chiefs.” Possibly the Iyalode participated in the decisions regarding punishment. Robin Law does not mention the Iyalodes in his study of the Kingdom of Oyo, although he does talk of the Iya Oba, or King's Mother, at court, who sometimes served as a regent during the king's minority (Oyo Empire, 70–71). Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch discusses African queens and gives several examples of women who served as chiefs in different parts of black Africa. She also calls attention to the power women could acquire in those societies that were matrilineal (Les Africaines. Histoire des femmes d'Afrique noire du XIXe au XXe siècle [Paris: Editions Desjonquères, 1994], chap. 4, 64–81). Women diviners, when called upon for an ordeal, also played an important part in criminal justice in African polities. Most often, however, the councils deciding on punishment seem to have been composed of men.

80. Staehelin, Mission, vol. 3, part 1, 337–38; Riemer, “Mitteilungen,” in ibid., vol. 3, part 2, 270–72; Hoogbergen, Boni Maroon Wars, 45, 66, 188; and Price, Alabi's World, 159–62, 373 n. 38 Example of slaves on plantation Jaglust denouncing one of their numbers to the owner as a poisoner; the owner decided to sell him for the good price of 1000 guilders rather than turning him over to the government for prosecution (Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast, 281). The yielding up of poisoners by their co-slaves to plantation authorities is suggested by an article in the plantation ordinance of 1759: it prohibited managers from initiating an inquiry on their own of “witchcraft or poisoning (wissi off vergift), of which one black accuses another out of revenge and without proof”; the manager must instead report such rumors to the owner (Plakaten, no. 556, art. 17 [December 27, 1759]).

81. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 824–26, 875, 882–84; Nassy, Essai historique, 2: 31; Van Lier, Frontier Society, 47; and Van der Meiden, Betwist Bestuur, 91–92. Searching the register of the University of Leiden, I found twenty-five men from Suriname signing up for studies in law during the entire eighteenth century. Some of them, such as Samuel Paul Pichot (inscribed 1733), were from major plantation families and played an important role in the government, others not (Rieu Guillaume Du, ed. Album Studiosorum Academiae Lugduno Batavae MDLXXV-MCCCCLXXV [The Hague: Martin Nijhoff, 1875]). Ten students from Suriname registered for studies in law at the University of Utrecht during the eighteenth century (Oostindie Gert and Maduro Emy, Antillianen en Surinamers in Nederland, 1634/1667–1954 [Dordrecht: Foris Publications, 1986], 30). In 1821, the English barrister Jabez Henry commented on the judicial expertise of those administering the criminal law in neighboring Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, which had passed to the British in 1814 and which he had observed as commissioner there: “The persons called upon by the constitution of the Dutch colonies . . . to be familiar with the corpus juris [and] to lead the prisoner through the labyrinth of a criminal process . . . are seldom versed either in the law or the language in which it was written,” Report on the Criminal Law at Demerara and in the Ceded Dutch Colonies (London: Henry Butterworth, 1821), 70.

82. van Leeuwen Simon, Commentaries on the Roman-Dutch Law (first published in 1664 as Het Rooms-Hollands-Regt) (London: Joseph Butterworth and J. Cooke, 1820), book 5, chaps. 27–29, 660–89. The criminal ordinance of Philip II, as used in the Netherlands, is published in French and Dutch in Voorda Bavius, De Crimineele Ordonnantien van Koning Philips van Spanje . . . Verzeld van eene Verhandling over het Verstand van de Ordonnantie (Leiden: Honkoop and van Tiffelen, 1792), 5574. The criminal ordinance of Philip II, as used in the Netherlands and the Dutch colonies, is published in English translation by Jabez Henry, Report on the Criminal Law at Demerara and includes “General Observations” by Henry in which the status of slaves is discussed; quotation from p. 66. Matthaeus Antonius, On Crimes. A Commentary on Books XLVII and XLVIII of the Digest (1644), trans. Hewett M. L. and Stoop B. C. (Capetown and Johannesburg: Juta & Co., 1987), 1:34: “to abuse someone is not very serious, but the person involved makes it a serious offense, e.g., if a slave abused his master.” An overview of Netherlands’ criminal law with special reference to the town of Mechelen/Malines: Th. Maes Louis, Vijf Eeuwen Stedelijk Strafrecht. Bijdrage tot de Rechts- en Cultuurgeschiedenis der Nederlanden (Antwerp: De Sikkel and The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1947). Two excellent studies of the criminal law in action and crimes in the Netherlands are Faber, Strafrechtspleging and Egmond, Underworlds.

83. Plakaten, no. 400 (May 9, 1741), no. 485 (February 6, 1750); no. 701 (May 17, 1769), no. 489 (February 26, 1750), and no. 778 (August 15, 1777). Van Lier, Frontier Society, 139–40, 145–46 (quoting Governor Jean Nepveu from his “Annotaties op het werk van J. D. Herlein”).

84. Beeldsnijder, Plantageslaven, chap. 12. Of the slaves who could not be recaptured for trial, most of them were accused of being part of an uprising and then escaping; of the rest, 7% of this group were accused of poisoning, 3% of theft. On the cruelty of the punishments, see also Van Lier, Frontier Society, 136.

85. Voorda, Crimineele Ordonnantien, 354–61, commenting on Article 32 on the conducting of criminal trials by “extraordinary process.” Henry, Report, 29 note, commenting on Article 32 on “Extraordinary Process.” Also see, Boomgaard J.E.A., Misdaad en Straf in Amsterdam . . . 1490–1552 (Zwolle: Uitgeverij Waanders, 1992), 5051; and Faber, Strafrechtspleging, 30–33.

86. On the essential role of torture in judicial procedures in late medieval and early modern Europe, see Peters Edward, Torture, expanded edition (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), chap. 2, 40–73. On the use of judicial torture in the Netherlands, see Egmond, Underworlds, 28 and, especially Faber, Strafrechtspleging, chap 8, “Tortuur.” Egmond mentions a range in torture methods from thumbscrews to the rack. Faber distinguishes between what was called “small torture” (“flogging a person until he speaks the truth”) and the less frequently used “great torture” of the rack (112–13; 117, Table 8). Although still a part of judicial procedure in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century in Amsterdam, torture was used in a minority of cases (132–35, 134, Table 9). In Suriname, the torture described by Stedman seems to be the practice in the majority of cases against slaves, and the choice of the rack more appropriate, as flogging was a routine part of much plantation life.

87. Hartsinck, Beschryving, 912; Van Dyk, “Leeven,” 237; Schumann, SD Wörter-buch, 73; Stedman, Narr90, 516; Narr96, 2: 258; Wooding Charles J., Evolving Culture: A Cross-Cultural Study of Suriname, West Africa and the Caribbean (Washington, D. C.: University Press of America, 1981), chap. 4, 85–112 on the concept of the soul; Price, Alabi's World, 309–10; and Davis, Women, 185–86, 324 n. 182.

88. Plakaten, 449 (December 22, 1745).

89. Already in 1743, Governor Mauricius had written the Society of Suriname about impracticality of the death sentence: the slaves were not afraid of death, and their owners were unwilling to turn them over in death sentence cases when their capital investment in the slave was more important to them than the slave's offense. Mauritius was already thinking of new forms of confinement and public work for the slaves (NA, SocSur, Brieven und Papieren 271, 217v, as quoted in Beeldsnijder, Plantagesleven, chap. 12). On correctional institutions as criminal prisons in eighteenth-century Amsterdam, see Spierenburg Pieter, “From Amsterdam to Auburn: An Explanation for the Rise of the Prison in Seventeenth-Century Holland and Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of Social History 20 (1987): 442–48.

90. Riemer, “Mitteilungen,” in Staehelin, Mission, vol. 3, part 2, 267–68 and Price, Alibi's World, 374–75. In addition, Schumann includes the word “asempreh” in his Saramaccan–German dictionary and defines it as “a kind of torture: a cord with a knot is bound around the head and tightened very firmly in order to compel a malefactor to confession” (SD Wörter-buch, 49).

91. Torture to extract a confession is mentioned in none of the descriptions of criminal proceedings in Africa used for this article. I have consulted the specialists Paul Lovejoy, Linda M. Heywood, and John K. Thornton on this matter, and they do not know of any mention of it in the many sources they have used. Paul Lovejoy points to examples of torture for punishing slaves and in the killing of slaves in ceremonies, but finds “nothing relating to confession.” He notes that this “absence of evidence” does not prove “that it was not important some place” or did not occur “on occasion,” but it “suggests it didn't happen” (email of June 28, 2010). Linda Heywood and John Thornton comment, “our impression is that while Central Africans might use torture as a punishment (or certainly they had cruel and painful punishments), we don't find evidence of it as a device for inquiry, or to obtain confessions. We have to add a proviso, though, these there was a very deep interpenetration of European ideas into Central Africa, especially in Angola. We suspect without proof that the Portuguese may well have used torture as a technique of inquiry, and that this may have also been the case among the African traditional authorities closest to them. But having said that, we can think of no specific examples of it” (email of July 11, 2010). I am grateful to Professors Lovejoy, Heywood, and Thornton for their kind assistance.

92. The missionary efforts of the Moravian Brethren among the Sarmaccan Maroons is fully described in the Richard Price's excellent Alabi's World. On Alabi's description of his past wrong beliefs and efforts to pacify the gods, see 120, 135, 266–67. In 1777, a young Saramaccan, believing it necessary to pacify his snake god, poisoned three children. He aroused suspicion by his agitated conduct in the presence of the slow death of the third child, and was seized by the child's relatives. He refused to undergo the kangra ordeal, promised to confess, and then, urged by the Christian captain Alabi, finally did so. If he made this decision to escape torture, it did not help, for the tribal council turned him over to the relatives for execution, which they did in slow steps over a period of three days (160–62).

93. Stedman, Narr90, 266–67, Narr96, 1: 327–28; and Journal, 153 (April 17, 1775). According to Stedman, the manager of L'Espérance was George Frederik Ebbers, brutally punitive toward his own slaves for trying to run away. One of them had succeeded in escaping, was captured on a neighboring plantation, and was brought back by two armed slaves belonging to that plantation. When the runaway slave slipped out of their grasp and escaped again into the woods, Ebbers took out his anger on one of the two slaves who had brought him back. Shortly afterward, Ebbers became the manager of the Roosenberg sugar plantation, where there was again controversy about his conduct in regard to the slaves (Oostindie, Roosenburg, 83–84, 184). He died in good repute in the Reformed Church in 1788 (NA, SONA, Burgerlijke Stand 28, Churchbook, [accessed December 6, 2010]). For other reports of the murder of slaves by owners at which Stedman expressed indignation at either the mildness of the penalty or the impossibility of proof in the case because the testimony of slaves against whites was not accepted: Stedman, Narr90, 115, 340–41, and Narr96, 1:126, 2:25–27

94. The details on the conduct of Benjamin Pousset and his murder of the slave Serie come from the interrogations about the events for the Court of Policy and Criminal Justice: NA, SocSur, Brieven und Papieren 272, 825r–866r. The case is also discussed by Beeldsnijder, Plantagesleven, chap. 12. On the burial of Pousset's wife at Sinabo in 1738, NA, SONA, Burgerlijke Stand 23, deacon's accounts (accessed December 6, 2010). More detail on the plantation Sinabo and summary of an inventory in November 1743 at (accessed July 15, 2010; see note 60 above).

95. Hendrik Talbot was born in The Hague and had moved as a young man to Suriname by 1708, when he married Maria Brugman, born in Amsterdam, but living in Suriname. By 1737, Talbot was the owner of Slootwijk sugar plantation on Commetuane Creek off the Commewijne. He died in 1766. (accessed July 15, 2010; see note 60 above). NA, SONA, Burgerlijke Stand 9, Churchbook; 26, Greatbook . (accessed December 6, 2010)

96. NA, SocSur, Brieven und Papieren 273, 94 r-v (Jacob Halewijn van Werden to the Society of Suriname Directors, January 1, 1744), as cited in Beeldsnijder, Plantagesleven, chap. 12.

97. This account of Amand Thoma, the uprising on the Bethlehem plantation, and Thoma's murder and its aftermath has been compiled from NA, SocSur, Journal 201, 10–19, 396–98, 408, 412–16, 429, 435, 473; and Van der Meiden, Betwist Bestuur, 103, 110–12; (accessed July 16, 2010; see note 60 above): Thoma purchased Bethelem in 1737. NA, SONA, Burgerlijke Stand 9, Churchbook, 258, 1719: Amand Thoma and his wife Marie Croes received as members of the Reformed Church; baptisms of their children, 1720, 1722, 1725 (godparents Hendrik Talbot and his wife, 1727); 23, deacon's register, death of Marie Croes, 1738 (accessed December 6, 2010). “The term Bokken is a name given in the Dutch colonies to Indian peoples” (Hartsinck, Beschryving, 8, Index).

98. NA, SocSur, Journal 201, 435.

99. Ibid, 416, 473; and Van der Meiden, Betwist Bestuur, 111.

100. Stedman, Narr90, 102–3; Narr96, 1: 108. Spierenberg, Spectacle, chap. 2, especially 29–41. Ogle Gene, “Slaves of Justice: Saint Domingue's Executioners and the Production of Shame,” Historical Reflections/Reflexions historiques 29 (2003): 275–93.

101. NA, SocSur, Journal 201, 406; Van der Meiden, Betwist Bestuur, 111. The Maroon attack led by Samsam on September 17, 1751 was on Zorghoven plantation on the Commewijne River.

102. Legal–anthropological studies of African judicial process in the 1950s and 1960s give an interesting picture of the workability of oaths and ordeals as one procedure within the larger frame of customary law (Elias T. Olawale, The Nature of African Customary Law (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956), 222–36; Gluckman Max, ed., Ideas and Procedures in African Customary Law (London: Published for the International African Institute by the Oxford University Press, 1969), especially chap. 5, 153–66, William A. Shack, “Guilt and Innocence: Problem and Method in the Gurage Judicial System.”

103. Equiano, Interesting Narrative, 33.

104. Long before 1776, there had been the principle that a slave was free once in the Netherlands: in the words of the jurist Simon van Leeuwen in 1664, “With respect to persons, every one is free among us by their birth; and slavery, unknown among us and not in use: so that in order to protect natural liberty, slaves who are brought here from other countries are declared to be free as soon as they reach the limits of our countries, notwithstanding their masters” (Commentaries, Book 1, art. 4, 28). In fact, to be realized,the slave had to petition the government for that freedom with the aid of the master; and that rarely happened (Alison Blakeley, Blacks in the Dutch World [Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993], 226). The Suriname boat lists found in the Governor's notebooks give the names of persons returning with their slaves from the Netherlands (e.g., NA, SocSur, Journal 201, p. 450 [1750]; 205, pp. 908–909 [1765]; 206, p. 603 [1769]. Therefore, the Edict of 1776 at least placed a time limit on how long an owner could hold a person enslaved in the Netherlands. For the Edict, see Oostindie and Maduro, Antillianen en Surinamers, 15–16. On Quassy's role, Dragtenstein, Quassie, 75, 100–101. On the status of slaves in France, see the important book by Peabody Sue, There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Regime (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

105. Stedman lived in Amsterdam until 1784, when he moved to England with his Dutch wife. He freed his personal slave Quaco, whom he had brought from Suriname after a year and six weeks. He did not complete the manuscript of the Narrative until 1790, and, after its publication in London in 1796, the translation in Dutch did not appear until 1799, but he was discussing it and showing his Suriname drawings, which included drawings of torture, to local people in 1778. His journal for the years 1777–1778 does not show him frequenting circles of men of the law, but he did dine with the Governor. .Journal, 203, 214, 216, 219, 237.

106. Van den Bergh G.C. J. J., The Life and Work of Gerard Noodt (1647–1725). Dutch Legal Scholarship Between Humanism and Enlightenment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 173–74, 217–21; and Noodt Gerard, Opera Omnia, 2 vols. (Leiden: Elias Luzac, 1760), 1: 144; 2: 530–31.

107. Van den Bergh, Noodt, 280–81. Noodt was still giving lectures in 1724, a year before his death (95). Du Rieu, Album Studiosorum, 861: “Jacobus Groenewout, Surinamensis,” aged 20, registers for studies in Law, Dec, 1718. This is Jacob Greenwood, from one of the English settler families that stayed on after the colony passed to the Dutch. On torture in Roman law, see Peters, Torture, chap. 1, 11–39.

108. Van der Bergh, Noodt, 281, n. 56; Matthaeus Antonius, De Criminibus ad Lib. XLVII et XLVIII Dig. Commentarius, 5th ed. (Antwerp: Franciscus Grasset, 1761), book 48, title16, “De Questionibus,” 696–728, especially chap. 5, 724–28: “whether torture is a legitimate mode of searching the truth.” There were critics of judicial torture in the Netherlands before Matthaeus, such as the exiled Remonstrant preacher Johannes Grevius, whose Tribunal reformatum was published in Frankfurt in 1624 (Peters, Torture, 82; Spierenburg, Spectacle, 189). But Matthaeus was a pioneer in a major legal text on criminal law. Postma, Dutch, 18–22.

109. Fijnaut Cyrille, “Cesare Beccaria in de Noordelijke Nederlanden,” Delikten en Delinkwent 20 (1990): 214–26.

110. Beccaria Cesare, Dei Delitti e delle Pene con una raccolta di lettere e documenti relativi alla nascita dell'opera e alla sua fortuna nell'Europa del Settecento, ed. Venturi Franco (Turin: Giulio Einaudi, 1965), chap. 16, Della tortura, 42; chap. 28, Della Pena di Morte, 64–67. Beccaria Cesare, On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings, ed. Thomas Aaron and Parzen Jeremy (Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 35, 53–55. Thomas and Parzen sometimes translate “schiavitù” as “penal servitude,” but Beccaria uses the same word throughout. The Dutch translation uses the word “slavernij” (Verhandeling over de misdaden en straffen [Amsterdam: Gerrit Bom, 1768]; I am grateful to Ton Bruins of the Bijzondere Collecties of the University of Amsterdam Library for checking this edition for me.)

111. Epstein Steven, Speaking of Slavery. Color, Ethnicity, and Human Bondage in Italy (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001), xii–xiii, 49–50.

112. Fijnaut, “Beccaria,” 219–20; and Voorda, Crimineele Ordonnantien . . .Verhandling [new pagination begins with the Verhandling], chap. 1, 37–40, 59, 83–84, 103, 154, 195. Among the French criminalists cited by Voorda throughout his Appendix, 479–504, is Daniel Jousse. Jousse (1704–1781) had stronger reservations about Beccaria's proposals than Voorda, especially in regard to Beccaria's views on the role of judges, but Jousse argued that the use of torture in the first stage of questioning, that is, to get a confession, was not a necessary instrument of justice (Astaing Antoine, “Le refus du dogmatisme et du pyrrhonisme: la preuve pénale dans la Traité de la justice criminelle de France, (1771),” in Daniel Jousse: un juriste au temps des lumières 1704–1781, ed. Leveleux-Teixeira Corinne [Limoges: Presses universitaires de Limoges, 2007], 7183).

113. Faber, Straftsrechtspleging, 146–47; Egmond, Underworlds, 28; Rayar Louise and Wadsworth Stafford, trans. The Dutch Penal Code (Littleton, CO: Fred B. Rothman, 1997), 24; Schama Simon, Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813 (London: Collins, 1977), 260–61; Schimmelpenninck G. Graaf, Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck en eenige gebeurtenissen van zijnen tijd, 2 vols. (The Hague and Amsterdam: De Gebroeders Van Cleef, 1845), 1:136–38.

114. David Nassy, Memoire sur les moyens d'ameliorer la Colonie de Suriname (ms.,1795), 232–5, 30–31; and NA, Eerste Afdeling, Inv. 8 (microfilm HM 2/7760, Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Nassy had sent this memoir to the Directors of the Society of Suriname just as it was being replaced by a single governmental Committee for the Affairs of the Colonies, which would supervise all the Dutch colonies in the West Indies and on the African Coast. Nassy David, Lettre-Politico-Theologico-Morale sur les Juifs. Dans laquelle on dévéloppe le Principe de l'Egalité parmi les Hommes (Paramaribo: A. Soulage Jr., n.d. [1799]), x, xxxiv, xlii;.and Nassy, Essai historique 1:59.

115. Goslinga Cornelis Ch., The Dutch in the Caribbean and in Surinam 1791/5–1942 (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum 1990), chap 5, 163202.

116. F. van Heshuysen, “Memoire sur la Forme du Gouvernement de Surinam et de la Nature de chaque Employ,” March 21, 1805, in NAUK, WO1/148, 557 (“au deffaut de confession”). As for the Jews, full civil rights, allowing them to hold an office on the Court and other important functions, were not extended to them along with all citizens “no matter what their creed or colour” in Suriname until 1825 (Van Lier, Frontier Society, 94).

117. Henry, Criminal Law, i, 13, 66–68, 74, 94. Jabez Henry, The Judgment of the Court of Demerara in the Case of Odwin v. Forbes (London: S. Sweet, 1823), 10 note: “when the Law of Holland is referred to … [it is] . . . the ancient law . . . which still prevails in the Dutch colonies, which never admitted the Code Napoléon or that of the Batavian Republic.” Johannes van der Linden, Institutes of the Laws of Holland, trans. Jabez Henry (London: J. and W. T. Clarke, J. M. Richards, J. Ridgeway, 1828), 523 on abolition of torture, and alternate means at the judge's proposal; 523 note: Henry's comment on the practice of French judges of confining a reluctant prisoner in secret on bread and water. Jabez Henry (1775–1835) was a barrister of the Middle Temple.

118. Van Lier, Frontier Society, 137.

119. NA, SONA, Burgerlijke Stand, Churchbook 10, pp. 35, 86, 139, 170; Testaments, 37,193 r-v (will of Hendrik Schouten, ill, son of Gerrit Schouten of Amsterdam, August 30, 1768); NA, SocSur, Journal 207, p. 523. Album Studiosorum, 1121. and McLeod Cynthia, Elisabeth Samson. Een Vrije Zwarte Vrouw in het Achttiende-Eeuwse Suriname (The Hague: Uitgeverij Conserve, 1996), 4049, 92–101.

120. Letterkundige Uitspanningen van het Genootschap de Surinaamsche Lettervrienden. Four volumes of the periodical of the Friends of Letters were published in Paramaribo by W. H. Poppelmann from 1785 through 1787. Hendrik Schouten and the planter-poet Paul François Roos were the founding spirits; the names of Philip Hanssen and David Nassy first appear on the list of members in volume 2.

121. On Gerrit Schouten's life and especially his work, see the splendid book by Medendorp Clazien, Gerrit Schouten (1779–1839). Botanische tekeningen en diorama's uit Suriname (Amsterdam: Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen and Paramaribo: Stichting Surinaams Museum, 1999). Schouten also created dioramas of the lives of the Caribs and Arawaks and, from the 1820s on, watercolors of the plants of Suriname.

122. Medendorp, Schouten, 26, fig. 4; 67–70, 146–57. African dance scenes are reproduced and described in detail on p. 64, fig. 28; and pp. 146–50. The uniformed figures appear in fig. 28 and plate XV on p. 147. An independent colored lithograph by Benjamin Farre, A Scene in Dutch Guiana in 1826, also has a barefoot figure in uniform watching the scene (66, fig. 30).

123. Staehelin, Mission, 3, part 2, 217; and Price, Alabi's World, 228, 410–11.

124. Medendorp, Schouten, 17, 31.

125. The details on the arson case of 1832 are all derived from the documents and texts printed by Teenstra Marten Douwes, De Negerslaven in de Kolonie Suriname en de Uitbreiding van het Christendom onder de Heidensche Bevolking (Dordrecht: H. Lagerweij, 1842), chapter 4, 177–304. Cojo's “Mistress Peggie” was the free black M. M. Smith, who leased Cojo from his actual owner, D. M. Sanchez (271).

126. Teenstra, Negerslaven, 239, 240–41, 245, 255–57.

127. Ibid., 251–53.

128. Spierenburg, Spectacle, 190.

129. Teenstra, Negerslaven, 287–93, 301 (on the large number of spectators). Two other slaves, who had served as fences for the stolen goods, were given sentences similar to that of the teen-agers. A Swiss plantation manager, who had been living in Suriname since 1823, wrote home to his parents about the executions: “This sentence, which will appear frightful to all civilized people, is necessary here, when one considers how few in number we white people are, and that we are dealing with beings without instruction, almost brutes, for whom any sentiment in the soul is unknown and who respond only to physical pain. The goal was to make an impression on the multitude [of slaves].” Warnery Marc, “Seul au milieu de 128 nègres.” Un planteur vaudois en Guyane hollandaise au temps de l'esclavage. Lettres à ses parents, 1823–1835, ed. David Thomas, Pavillon Olivier, and Schaufelbuehl Janick Marina (Lausanne: Éditions d'en bas, 2008), 209.

130. Medendorp, Schouten, 53–54, fig. 22. Teenstra, Negerslaven, 296.

131. Medendorp, Schouten, 53–54. The manuscript of Lammens’ memoirs, with the original of Schouten's signed portraits, is in the Surinaams Museum. The lithographed pictures appear, without credit to Schouten, together with Teenstra's picture of the big fire, as the frontispiece of the 1842 Negerslaven. Teenstra's initial booklet was entitled Bijzonderheden betrekkelijk den Brand te Paramaribo, in den nacht van den 3den op den 4den September 1832 (Paramaribo: J. J. Engelbrecht, April 1833). Among the many subscribers to the booklet were Judge Lammens and Gerrit Schouten's brother Hendrik Schouten (Negerslaven, 181, 185–86). On Teenstra's comments on and quotations from the slaves and on Teenstra's Christian and abolitionist sentiments, see Negerslaven, 287, note, 297, 301–4.

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