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Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850$
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Richard J. Ross and Lauren Benton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814771167

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814771167.001.0001

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“Seeking the Water of Baptism”

“Seeking the Water of Baptism”

Fugitive Slaves and Imperial Jurisdiction in the Early Modern Caribbean

Chapter:
(p.199) 8 “Seeking the Water of Baptism”
Source:
Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850
Author(s):

Linda M. Rupert

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814771167.003.0008

This chapter examines the question of imperial jurisdiction over fugitive slaves in the Caribbean during the eighteenth century. In particular, it considers how slavery intersected with the Spanish Crown's efforts to consolidate its jurisdiction and how the creation of legal spheres of enslavement and freedom helped to legitimate imperial sovereignty. After discussing the Spanish Crown's royal decrees related to intercolonial marronage, the chapter cites the importance of enslaved Africans as a commodity in intercolonial commerce and the Crown's attempts to stem the contraband slave trade as well as the perennial labor shortage. It then explores how authorities wrestled with the problems of compensation and restitution wherever fugitives crossed political boundaries. It also highlights several dimensions of legal pluralism that played out in the slave societies in the Caribbean with respect to inter-imperial marronage. Finally, it explains how the interests of fugitive slaves combined with those of the Spanish Crown to influence the empire's legal order.

Keywords:   imperial jurisdiction, fugitive slaves, Caribbean, slavery, imperial sovereignty, royal decrees, marronage, fugitives, legal pluralism, Spanish Crown

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