Complexion of Empire in Natchez: Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands 0820358509, 9780820358505

In Complexion of Empire in Natchez, Christian Pinnen examines slavery in the colonial South, using a variety of legal re

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Table of contents :
Half Title
1 The Purity of Blood and Dark Complexions: French Empire Building in the Lower Mississippi Valley
2 English Bloodlines and the Expansion of Empire: Natchez 1763 to 1779
3 Masters of Complexion? Loyalists, Patriots, and Opportunists in the Colonial Backcountry
4 Spanish Complexions in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Making Race in Natchez
5 Gendered Complexions: Freedom and Interracial Relationships in Spanish Natchez
6 New Crop, New Rules of Complexion: From Prince Tobacco to King Cotton
7 Mississippi Fever: Fortifying the "Malignant Empire" of Complexion
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Complexion of Empire in Natchez

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Early American Places is a collaborative project of the University of Georgia Press, New York University Press, Northern Illinois University Press, and the University of Nebraska Press. The series is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information, please visit Advisory Board Vincent Brown, Duke University Cornelia Hughes Dayton, University of Connecticut Nicole Eustace, New York University Amy S. Greenberg, Pennsylvania State University Ramón A. Gutiérrez, University of Chicago Peter Charles Hoffer, University of Georgia Karen Ordahl Kupperman, New York University Mark M. Smith, University of South Carolina Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University

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Complexion of Empire in Natchez Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands

Christian Pinnen

The University of Georgia Press Athens

© 2021 by the University of Georgia Press Athens, Georgia 30602 All rights reserved Most University of Georgia Press titles are available from popular e-book vendors. Printed digitally Library of Congress Control Number: 2020945150 ISBN: 9780820358505 (hardback : alk. paper) ISBN: 9780820358512 (ebook)

To Dieter Pinnen

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Acknowledgments xi Introduction


1 The Purity of Blood and Dark Complexions: French Empire Building in the Lower Mississippi Valley


2 English Bloodlines and the Expansion of Empire: Natchez 1763 to 1779


3 Masters of Complexion? Loyalists, Patriots, and Opportunists in the Colonial Backcountry


4 Spanish Complexions in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Making Race in Natchez


5 Gendered Complexions: Freedom and Interracial Relationships in Spanish Natchez


6 New Crop, New Rules of Complexion: From Prince Tobacco to King Cotton


7 Mississippi Fever: Fortifying the “Malignant Empire” of Complexion










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Approximately a lifetime ago, this book began as my dissertation. The thesis changed, the arguments grew, and I became indebted to communities of scholars, colleagues, and friends across the world. I have been privileged to meet many people that encouraged me along the way. Throughout, friends, professors, and colleagues have supported me unfailingly. The University of Southern Mississippi afforded me many mentors. Curtis Austin, Sarah Franklin, Louis Kyriakoudes, William Scarborough, and Kyle Zelner challenged me to become a better scholar and teacher throughout my time in Hattiesburg. Max Grivno took an early interest in this project, and his encouragement and unwillingness to let me settle for less than excellence shepherded me through graduate school and into my tenure at Mississippi College. He sharpened my often-inchoate thoughts, and reemphasized the importance of precise, thorough scholarship. He insisted that I ask large questions of a small corner of slavery’s empire. Reading draft after draft of applications, conference papers, and chapters, he continually encouraged me to move beyond what I judged satisfactory. His mentorship as a friend remains an important resource for me and my scholarship. I owe him a great debt. The research and writing of this book would have been impossible without the generous financial support of several institutions. The McCain dissertation fellowship at the University of Southern Mississippi afforded me the opportunity to spend the 2011–12 academic year writing

xii / acknowledgments

and researching. I received research fellowships from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, the Louisiana History Research Fellowship of the Special Collections at the Louisiana State University Libraries, and the German Historical Institute’s doctoral fellowship allowed me to visit the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. At Mississippi College, several faculty development grants provided funding for the last research trips to complete the manuscript. I could only complete the project because of the generous support from all of these institutions. I am indebted to commentators and audiences at conferences large and small who suggested different approaches and pointed me to analytical paths not yet taken. Matt Childs, Kevin Dawson, Paul Finkelman, Jeanne-Pierre Le Glaunec, Rebecca Goetz, Paul Hoffman, Christopher Morris, Greg O’Brien, Adam Rothman, and Kim Todt all aided the eventual manuscript with their expertise. The two anonymous readers from University of Georgia Press suggested many improvements that made this book much better. Earlier versions of sections of chapter 4 and 5 appeared in a different form in the Latin Americanist Volume 61, Issue 4, December 2017. Some of the cases discussed in this book also appear in a chapter in Contact, Conquest, and Colonization: How Practices of Comparing Shaped Empires and Colonialism Around the World and in Cultural Mobility and Knowledge Formation in the Americas, which grew out of a conference of the Bavaria America Academy in 2016. Many people over the last decade have offered their time, camaraderie, encouragement, comments, and advice. As part of my cohort at Southern Mississippi, Tim Hemmis, Wesley Joyner, Matt McGrew, and Dennis Conklin all enriched this native German’s American experience as colleagues, roommates, on the basketball court, and during research trips. At the Latin American Section of the Southern Historical Association, many new friends assisted with an inquisitive push here and help with historiography there. Colleagues and friends Monica Hardin, Bill van Norman, Tyler Parry, Diana Reigelsperger, Tamara Spike, William Sturkey, Rob Taber, and Eleonora Rohland helped in various ways to improve the book. Charles Weeks and Aaron and Susan Anderson all graciously opened their homes to me during research trips to Jackson and Natchez. Mimi Miller and the volunteers at the Historic Natchez Foundation guided my research in the court records there. I am thankful for Benjamin Lange, a friend since our studies at the University of Bonn in 2002. He was my “research assistant” on a key research trip to Seville,

acknowledgments / xiii

and spent two weeks immersed in the archives, sacrificing his vacation for this project. I owe him for this, and much more. Since arriving at Mississippi College in 2012, I have found new champions. Kristi Melancon’s and Daniel White’s friendship, as well as constant encouragement, have improved my writing, my teaching, and made me a better academic. Larry Logue has read and commented on every chapter in this book and modeled how scholarship and teaching at a small liberal arts college ought to be done. He eloquently demonstrates how to be a productive teacher and an engaged scholar. My dean Jonathan Randle graciously and generously supported my work. He has allowed me to spend a few more hours on the manuscript here and there, and I will be forever grateful for his support. Claudia Conklin, now head of Mississippi College’s Speed Library, tirelessly filled my ILL requests and was able to deliver the books and microfilms I continually needed. Several people volunteered their own valuable time to read parts of the book. Kelly Kennington, Tamara Spike, Allison Madar, Kristi Richard Melancon, David Miller, and Michael Woods read drafts at various stages. At the University of Georgia Press, Walter Biggins took on the manuscript in its earliest form and championed it through the submission stages. Nathaniel Holly saw it cross the finish line, and I am thankful for both. My parents, Verena and Dieter Pinnen deserve my everlasting gratitude. They continually supported me, allowing me to be the first in my family to attend college. Neither they nor I could ever have foreseen that I would ultimately earn a Ph.D. from an American University. It fills me with great sadness that my father, Dieter Pinnen, passed away suddenly before this book saw the light of day. He always encouraged me to shoot for the moon and to follow my path. I dedicate this book to him. My in-laws Bob and Lou offered support and always lent a helping hand. I am very thankful for that. My wife Sydney moved to Mississippi for me, and our children Annabel and John Christian, who saw a little less of me while I finished the book, always supported me. Thank you for everything.

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Complexion of Empire in Natchez

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In the fall of 1722, “about four savages fired on six negroes who had been cutting wood,” killing one, Bougou. Immediately before the incident, the “savages were talking to the negroes[,] who had stopped to eat,” possibly trying to entice them to leave their enslavers.1 The Natchez, who executed this maneuver, were concerned with the new French outpost on the banks of the Mississippi River and the concomitant expansion of French settlers and their plantations. The warriors attacked one of the outlying plantations on St. Catherine’s Creek but targeted enslaved Africans—killing one and wounding another—rather than white colonists. Enslaved Africans became pawns in the conflict because the Natives had evidently observed the treatment of Atlantic Africans by the French and were well aware of African people’s denigrated social standing in French society. Now they contested the Europeans’ right to the space for settlement along the Mississippi River and thus thrust the meaning of race, and definitions of slavery and freedom, to the center of imperial issues in the region. The Natchez treated the enslaved Africans akin to livestock in this early episode, as they had previously killed French property to express their dissatisfaction with the Europeans.2 The Natives understood that enslaved Africans were essential for the French to sustain a successful colony this far north from New Orleans. They had also become aware of the Africans’ status as unfree based on their complexion rather than on their captivity alone. The French, of course, recognized the danger and began to move their enslaved people

2 / introduction

closer to the plantation and eventually into the safety of the buildings. They sheltered their investment and shielded the enslaved from further attacks, probably hoping this would remain an isolated incident.3 Yet this was only the beginning of a struggle that involved people of all complexions in Natchez. The 1720s—the first decade of sustained colonization in the area—required the French to create racial hierarchies through a system of complexions that they were fatally unable to manage. Seventy years later, a free woman of color took a more active role to maneuver the fault lines of imperial conflict. As the Natchez District transitioned from Spanish to American rule in 1797, Amy Lewis had bound her future closely to the Spanish governor, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, and to Spanish law. Her owner had died and, in his will, freed her and their son.4 The owner’s sister, however—an Anglo-American settler—contested the will and attempted to reenslave the two. Defending her freedom, Lewis begged Gayoso to take her with him to his new post in New Orleans. Lewis declared that she saw “no prospect of a speedy determination and the pangs of suspense being more terrible to her tha[n] the most dreadful certainty, she begs your Excellency to grant her permission, to remove her suit to the tribunal at Orleans where a more speedy decision may in all probability take place.”5 She lost the case, and when Gayoso left without her, she was promptly reenslaved. Lewis tried to negotiate an advantageous outcome in a region in which the meaning of complexion, slavery, and freedom had been constantly shifting for decades. The last shift of the imperial landscape cast Lewis into the chasm of American slavery, from which she never escaped. The Natchez District changed hands four times in the span of roughly a century. The French attempted to settle it in the early eighteenth century, but Natchez warriors and enslaved rebels forced the French to withdraw in 1729. However, the Natives were decimated in the ensuing French retribution campaign, which left the area open to travelers, sojourners, hunters, and traders, but without sustained settlement. After the French and Indian War, Great Britain claimed the region as part of West Florida in 1763, and then lost it to Spain in 1779 during the American Revolution. Spain itself did not hold on to it for very long, as border negotiations with the United States eventually made Natchez a part of the American republic in 1795. Throughout these ups and downs of settler colonialism, Europeans worked out the theoretical nature of complexion while seeking new ways to exploit the labor of enslaved Africans. The Natchez District’s development as a slave society seemed to continue unabated but, investigated

introduction / 3

closely, reveals fault lines enhanced by Atlantic Africans’ attempts to challenge their enslavers. I argue that people of African descent helped to create and shape legal cultures by manipulating European legal systems to expand their rights through constant efforts to litigate their freedom.6 This approach allows a comparison of French, Spanish, and Anglo-American conceptions of race, freedom, and slavery in a single place, involving the same population under the same economic circumstances.7 The enslaved may have wielded no legal or administrative power in Natchez, but as “environmental agents who stood between enslavers and land,” they did maintain an influence over the crops and the economic success of the colony in the Atlantic market.8 While the agency of enslaved people has to be carefully evaluated, in certain moments Atlantic Africans could become actors and litigants, even if they were most frequently seen and treated as subjects.9 The telos of previous histories of Natchez is far too frequently designed to explain the rise of the antebellum cotton empire. My investigation of the dynamics of race and enslavement in the context of four different legal systems on their own terms—and before the first cotton boom— reveals a much less defined outcome of racial definitions and attitudes than might be suspected from the standard treatment of Natchez. Indeed, even the basic histories of westward expansion in the Southeast, including the newest ones by Edward Baptist or Walter Johnson, for example, fall into this category. Natchez, and by extension the lower Mississippi Valley (or the cotton frontier) is often viewed as what Adam Rothman justifiably called “Slave Country.”10 Yet the lower Mississippi Valley was not already a slave country, nor was it necessarily destined to become one, when the French began to settle it in earnest in the early eighteenth century. For the next century, the area was inhabited by a fluctuating group of people—Native Americans, Atlantic Africans, and various Europeans—who in turn shaped social manifestations of race, slavery, and imperial expansion. Captivity, bound labor, and other modes of production consistently drove the region toward the nascent market economies of Europe, but there were multiple moments in which the eventual outcome was very much in doubt. It would be a mistake, then, to ascribe a manifest destiny to the borderland’s past. Complexions of Empire in Natchez examines slavery in a colonial Sunbelt using legal records to investigate how bound labor contributed to the establishment and subsequent control of imperial outposts in colonial North America. It examines the dynamic and multifaceted development of slavery in the colonial South and reconstructs the relationships

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among aspiring enslavers, Natives, struggling colonial administrators, and African laborers, as well as the links between slavery and the westward expansion of the American republic. Placing Natchez at the center point reveals unexplored tensions among the enslaved, enslavers, and empires.11 Historians have generally debated the legal justifications and ramifications of race and slavery by separating the British colonies in North America from the British Caribbean and their French and Spanish neighbors. Only in the last decade have borderlands historians included all European colonies in North America in the conversation about slavery, thereby widening the lens from Jamestown to Santa Fe.12 By illuminating the complex interactions of slavery and law in the microcosm of the Natchez District, this study contributes to rich conversations in the context of slavery and law. This book engages three historiographies that, taken together, create a mosaic of Natchez in the eighteenth century. It sits at the intersection of literatures that address geographic, legal, and racial developments in the borderlands, broadly conceived. In geographic terms, Natchez was a liminal space. I situate Natchez as a geographic outlier at the outskirts of what Ernesto Bassi defines as the “transimperial Greater Caribbean.” This allows me to treat Natchez and its various people as a group in flux, and as a region whose future was not predetermined by the looming takeover of King Cotton. Rather, I can focus on the “multiple projects its inhabitants developed to envision their future.”13 As colonizers from France, Spain, and Anglo-America imagined their future in the region, they had to contend with the enslaved laborers they held captive and the Native Americans who possessed the land. Therefore, settlers developed legal mechanisms that allowed them to control their enslaved workers— both African and Native American—and constructed legal and cultural definitions of complexions to justify the enslavement. Enslaved people contributed to this process with their own visions of the future devoted to freedom, and hence heavily influenced the course of Natchez’s early history. Natchez shared many characteristics with other European outposts of the eighteenth century in the lower Mississippi Valley, and it may be most similar to St. Louis farther upriver.14 However, few European outposts shared the district’s multinational occupants and the resulting variety of legal systems that governed race and defined freedom. Natchez allows me to track the varying and frequently changing legal interpretations of race in a liminal space that generated more flexibility for Africans, Indians, and Europeans to negotiate their standing in society.

introduction / 5

The resulting complex histories reveal anecdotes of people of all races who sought to tie the meaning of complexion in each empire to their definition of freedom. Those definitions frequently conflicted, and these conflicts played out in courts, which allows historians a glimpse at the world these people sought to create. In the context of legal realities and theoretical approaches to define race in conjunction with law, I argue that the European actors in the lower Mississippi Valley used complexion in combination with socioracial categories to define a person’s status on a nonwhite spectrum.15 Complexions of Empire in Natchez marks an important departure in the histories of borderland slavery. It includes the lower Mississippi Valley in the debate by refocusing the analysis on Natchez. The town’s location allows for a comprehensive comparison of French, British, Spanish, and American legal systems. In a sense, this book follows Juliana Barr’s call to “unite the narratives of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Southeast and Southwest into a new colonial South—a colonial Sun Belt—sweeping from the Atlantic to Pacific.”16 I do so by focusing on the cultural and legal consequences of imperial shifts in a small place over the course of the long eighteenth century. The French introduced a legal code to their Louisiana colony in 1724 based on a previous iteration from the Caribbean. The Louisiana Code Noir developed as part of a negotiation between local interests, the examples of the other Caribbean slave societies, and legal traditions out of mainland France. Yet the implementation of the laws and the various reactions they triggered among the European, African, and Indian people in Louisiana all point to ongoing negotiations about the actual meaning of complexion. As Native, European, and African cultures met in the lower Mississippi Valley, the Code Noir remained inadequate to ensure French control over the Natchez District because enslaved Africans and Native Americans denied the French legal superiority.17 For example, French law relied on testimony as the most central part of its judicial process. Strict guidelines existed regarding the recording of testimony, irrespective of complexion, and these allowed the voices of Africans to be recorded. Subsequently, Atlantic Africans gained influence over the court’s ultimate rulings, even if those were not necessarily in their favor. Their complexion was not an obstacle to their testifying.18 The British empire of the eighteenth century that followed French control after 1763 differed in several aspects: The British predominantly focused their empire building on an early form of market-driven expansion, slowly moving from mercantilism to precapitalism governed by

6 / introduction

an expanding constitutional monarchy. The majority of the enslavers examined in this book were Anglo-American immigrants who came to Natchez to establish a plantation enterprise from 1763 onward. Their background in Anglo-American slavery and the British Atlantic market predisposed them to understand human bondage as a system that rested on patriarchy and had to rely heavily on free trade within the empire. Within the Anglo-American system—stretching from Canada south to the Caribbean islands—the patriarch ruled supreme over his white or African-descended “family.” A legal system established a century prior in Virginia and the Caribbean supported this patriarchy and granted the enslaver tremendous power over the bodies and goods produced by people under his yoke. Based on that understanding, Anglo settlers conceived the British model as vastly superior to its predecessors. To them, liberty and success were tightly connected to slavery. Spain, in contrast, governed its empire under the rule of an absolute monarch, slowly modernizing through the Bourbon Reforms. Spanish colonial policies had long been grounded in a system of slavery that presumed that slavery and liberty were not diametrically opposed. Spanish America had a system of patriarchy based on the Catholic Church and the absolute power of the royal regent. This system sought to control and regulate the behavior of families, including their human captives. Additionally, there was a difference in the legal structure that merits deeper investigation. The Spanish legal tradition in its American colonies developed in a peculiar setting. Church law competed with civil (Roman) law. It pitted enslavers against ecclesiastical authorities, royal officials, and enslaved persons. This, and premodern ideas about the “individual” and “liberty,” made for a specific place for Atlantic Africans in Spanish society. People of color “in the absolutist legal matrix simultaneously constituted chattel, vassals of the Spanish king, and persons with souls.” Therefore, they could achieve freedom as a result “of the complex legal regime imported by Spaniards in which power was largely—if not exclusively—vested in the sovereign rather than the feudal nobility.”19 The Spanish imported their system of laws and semi-legal practices to Natchez in 1781, thus setting up Anglo-American enslavers for an odd battle. Their human property was still theirs, but now the focus of patriarchy had shifted. No longer were the patriarchs the ultimate focus of power, but the church and the royal administrator could also technically intervene in the enslavers’ affairs with their human chattel. This caused several cultural crises, often expressed in economic issues that pitted a demand for a free market on the side of the enslaver against

introduction / 7

Spanish colonial interests. Enslavers’ frustration soon became palpable, peace between settlers and imperial administrators brittle, and threats only thinly veiled. Not only did the Spanish (sometimes to the benefit of enslavers) intervene in economic matters, but they also repeatedly interfered with the paternalistic slave power in Natchez. In the end, the majority of Natchez’s Anglophone population was relieved to see the Iberians abandon the district. As enslavers did across the Caribbean when given the chance, Natchez’s slave owners were determined to retake the full power of paternalism in 1798, when the United States extended its reach to the banks of the Mississippi.20 Transitions from empire to empire remained incomplete because some elements of the settlers or the enslaved populations refused to let the periods of liminality pass by without taking action. White and African residents realized that there was a chance at these junctures to enhance one’s economic viability or standing in the community. Yet because these transitions remained incomplete, the actual power changes were jarring to Natchez’s people, especially so to the enslaved African population. The clearest example of this was the last transition from the Spanish Empire to the American republic. With the stroke of a pen, the Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney’s Treaty) made Natchez, and much of Mississippi, an American place in 1795. Even though a similar transition occurred in New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory, the transition there was less jolting. The Code Napoléon continued to have an important place in the legal world of Louisiana and in the management of slavery across the territory and state.21 Residents experienced the change as less drastic, and all complexions in Louisiana’s population could continue to use a legal code that presented few new challenges in its definition of race or citizenship. This did not happen in Natchez. Enslavers welcomed American law with open arms and were easily enticed to purge the district of any vestige of the Spanish legal system that had left the control of their human property in the balance. For the enslavers of the district, the appearances of clear racial demarcations into African and white were much more alluring than anything else the Spanish may have been able to offer. The ways through which the people of Natchez incubated ideas of race and empire make it worthy of detailed study. As settlers and enslavers encountered the different empires that ruled Natchez in succession, they ultimately forced those empires to negotiate the transitions. These negotiations were sometimes subtle but always became obvious in regard to slavery, race, property, courts, and laws. In many ways, administrators

8 / introduction

had to base their decisions on either the “spirit of the law” or “letter of the law” to justify their decisions. Court cases and rulings, therefore, were a focal point in these negotiations and provide the best sources to develop a clear picture of the intricate paths settlers and colonial administrators walked as they attempted to reconcile their positions. Free and enslaved Atlantic Africans complicated these negotiations by engaging the courts on their own whenever possible, creating a tangle of human relations among settlers, colonial administrators, and Atlantic Africans. Essentially, each case and new legal situation created novel precedents that administrators weighed carefully. Officials struggled in their ability to succinctly manage the population of the district. In fact, the settlers and their fondness for litigating race played a larger role in preempting Natchez’s success than any imperial mismanagement by forcing imperial administrators to redeploy scarce resources to engage the local suits. Local settlers constantly coalesced into competing groups, slaveholder versus nonslaveholder, debtor versus creditor, and many other adversaries over day-to-day management of the area. This was overcome—or, rather, made workable—only when the American republic extended its territorial umbrella to Natchez in 1798. To understand the events unfolding in Natchez, conceptions of what a modern reader understands as race are extremely important. The term itself is loaded with preconceptions; it is hence important to lay out how this book will engage the ideas behind the term. Significantly, “race is not merely a consequence of material interests (an ‘effect’ of class) but rather linked in complex ways to economic, political, and ideological structures; social conditions; and systems of significations” one of which, I contend, is complexion.22 In other words, race never existed—and still does not exist—as a clearly defined or biologically relevant delineation of humans. Barbara Fields argues that “race is not an element of human biology (like breathing oxygen or reproducing sexually); nor is it even an idea (like the speed of light or the value of π) that can be plausibly imagined to live an external life of its own. Race is not an idea but an ideology.”23 Likewise, Alexander Weheliye construes “race, racialization, and racial identities as ongoing sets of political relations that require, through constant perpetuation, via institutions, discourses, practices, desires, infrastructure, languages, technologies, sciences, economics, dreams, and cultural artifacts, the barring of nonwhite subjects from the category of the human as it is performed in the modern west.”24 Even today, then, “race” can be flexible in its definition, and it historically has been, and continues to be, reimagined for different circumstances and social situations. Generally,

introduction / 9

Anglo-American people used the idea of race to define who was white and to then construct a social order to their benefit.25 Before the Age of Revolution separated most slaveholding European colonies from their mother countries, racial concepts were even harder to define. Although people have used the word “race” over the centuries, its meaning has fluctuated widely. The eighteenth century, in which my investigation of the Natchez District is rooted, has recently been targeted as an especially fruitful period for the study of the term. Due to the Enlightenment and the rise of what participants defined as scientific inquiry in some fields, contemporary scholars also began to investigate phenotype across the globe. Hence, “only in the eighteenth century, however, would invocations of nature as the basis of difference between men and women as well as between human groups begin to emerge as a prominent discourse.” Prior to the rise of this (wildly inaccurate) science, religion and belonging to Christian communities were more significant, yet these associations were quickly overtaken by “taxonomic enterprises” in the eighteenth century.26 People of all complexions continuously attempted to adjust to the intermingling of Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans in the lower Mississippi Valley. The violence of the Natchez warriors in 1722 specifically targeted enslaved Africans, suggesting that they understood the emerging institution of racial slavery and showing their determination to be “read” or “seen” as superior to the bound African laborers. This indicates that negotiations about status were ongoing. By the 1790s, as Amy Lewis lost her freedom under the rule of American law, interpretations of complexion had begun to change dramatically. As the Americans took over Natchez “by the beginning of the nineteenth century, skin color began to consistently be privileged as the sign of racial identity in literary, legal, and public arenas,” and “skin color became the primary tool to mark slavery, freedom, and presumed innate racial qualities.”27 Ideas of race in a premodern sense are crucial to the complex relations between people in the lower Mississippi Valley. European academics residing in universities across England, France, Italy, and elsewhere attempted to develop a pseudoscientific system to explain the blackness of Africans. Through the use and misuse of travelogues and what they reportedly observed—or subsequently read—European writers and academics built a picture of Africa that deeply influenced the discourse of “race,” in particular in France. Blackness became, as Andrew Curran asserts, a “body-based négritude” in which the blood, the semen, and the organs of African people were all described as being “black” or

10 / introduction

“black-like” by 1787. Similarly, African people were rendered accountable for their own enslavement by 1704, and by 1732 dictionaries established the tautology that “black” equaled enslaved. Accounts also gender Africans as primarily male through the use of predominantly male pronouns.28 I will privilege complexion over race where appropriate. There was not yet an inherent meaning of race because it could denote anything from skin color to “a sign of health, behavior, or emotions” and more to white Europeans.29 The Spanish likewise developed a concept of race that changed over the centuries. By the eighteenth century, they had arrived at their own version of a seemingly scientific model to sort people of varying complexions into a fixed system that represented social standing in conjunction with skin color. These classifications were given expression in highly stylized casta paintings that depicted two parents of various racial mixtures or “pure” white and African descendant and their respective offspring and hence established a sort of color chart that was designed to describe all possible racial gradients. Nevertheless, the Spanish system of racial stratification remained fluid. While caste certainly was important, cultural markers such as dress, education, and wealth could change the way the empire categorized people in census records and treated them in court.30 The English found a different way to classify nonwhite people and their association with captivity. Michael Guasco argues that “when Englishmen thought and wrote about slavery during this period [pre-1619], they were typically much more concerned about the possibility of their own enslavement than they were with the condition of African or Indian peoples.”31 Only in time, throughout the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment period, did Englishmen work out the problem and begin to identify blackness with slavery in their Atlantic colonies. Before then, they were beholden like any other Europeans to the “elastic way that skin color could operate in the eighteenth century and about the status Britons accorded to Christian profession.”32 The following pages highlight how uniformly European empires embraced African slavery, but found various paths to defining race in their societies. Complexions of Empire in Natchez focuses on changing laws in the Natchez District, but it speaks to issues of pressing concern across the plantation complex. Most importantly, this work seeks to highlight the effect that different conceptions of complexions had on the establishment of plantations and how competing ideas about race strongly influenced the governance of plantation colonies. Along the Atlantic

introduction / 11

Seaboard, “racism made it possible for white Virginians to develop a devotion to the equality that English republicans had declared to be the soul of liberty. There were too few free poor on hand to matter. And by lumping Indians, mulattoes, and Negroes in a single pariah class, Virginians had paved the way for a similar lumping of small and large enslavers in a single master class” by the nineteenth century.33 Rooted in English cultural origins, Natchez’s enslaver majority followed the same ideology. Even though the Spanish dons never threatened their acquisition of wealth, Spanish laws questioned, and perhaps endangered, inherent Anglo-American ideas about race, social structures, and the role of government in the economy. Natchez’s enslaved Africans and free people of color challenged white authority under the French, English, and Spanish, succeeding more often than enslavers preferred. Throughout the first century of Natchez’s existence as a trading post and town, the enslaved navigated courts and achieved freedom. Even though the enslaved and enslavers did not make the laws, their litigation shaped the understanding of race and often determined what “free” truly meant in relationship to white liberty. The liminal century in Natchez created overwhelming ambiguity in these relationships through war, revolution, and constant negotiation between empires. This in turn afforded room for people of color and Native Americans to renegotiate relationships with white authorities and each other.34 Women of color, for example, were successful in either defending their freedom or claiming rights for people of color in Spanish colonies, but not in the English Empire. As empire after empire failed to develop a successful staple crop, the enslaved Africans exploited the transitional periods and strove to establish their freedom. By doing so, they molded the definition of race and influenced slavery and its development in Natchez.35 This study is not designed to encourage a legitimization of the Tannenbaum thesis, which famously argued that—in essence—enslaved Africans were treated better in Spanish slave societies because of Iberian legal codes based on Roman law.36 Since its publication, Tannenbaum’s Slave and Citizen has received its fair share of criticism, and many of his core ideas have been refuted. However, I contend that it is legitimate and necessary to critically engage Tannenbaum’s general thesis. Following Michelle McKinley’s line of reasoning, “it seems reasonable that we use Tannenbaum’s thesis to understand the legal framework adopted by subalterns and situate it within a broader sociolegal conversation about law, legality, and legal mobilization.” This is particularly true in Natchez,

12 / introduction

where litigants of color used various strategies to achieve freedom and consistently altered them when new legal environments forced change.37 Entangled in the imperial struggles, African-descended people were able to explore their own interest in the transitional period that characterized the first century of Natchez’s history. As the fate of these empires hung in the balance, the decisions of Atlantic Africans and African Americans offer glimpses into slavery in the American borderlands. These liminal periods generated thresholds in which ordinary acts lost customary meaning for both Africans and Europeans and created extraordinary, though short-lived, legal flexibility. The elasticity of legal codes created both by liminality and legal pluralism ended only when the expanding American republic securely fastened the Natchez District and its people to republican laws, securing enslavers’ hold on their human chattel.38 The book reveals how slavery, race, and the pursuit of wealth complicated not just the westward march of the American republic but also the success of every empire that sought a hold on the Natchez District. Natchez’s fields, meadows, and swamps offer fertile soil for such an undertaking. Building on the concept of legal plurality, my work emphasizes the choices Africans, Indians, and Europeans made in Natchez.39 The importance and long-term sustainability of the slave economy in Natchez was paramount to colonizers. The choices they and their administrators made on law and slavery far outweighed the decisions passed down from the European metropolis. It follows, then, that ideas of race, slavery, and empire were closely intertwined. However, with the arrival of United States troops in the spring of 1797, opportunities for the enslaved to gain their freedom began to wane under the merciless Mississippi sun, the rise of King Cotton, and the easy access to American and European markets that the United States government afforded Natchez’s enslavers. The highly profitable market for cotton ended hopes of freedom for people of color. It ushered in a solidification of legal codes in Natchez and terminated the liminal century that had afforded enslaved and free people of color some flexibility in a developing slave society. In examining how Natchez passed through its imperial stages under French, British, and Spanish rule into American hands, Complexion of Empire in Natchez employs a largely chronological approach. The chapters lead the reader through the changes in the Natchez District and highlight the transitions wrought by colonial overlords. I place a special emphasis on the transitional periods from empire to empire. The chapters highlight the change in slave systems instituted by each new

introduction / 13

ruler and the resulting transnational character of the Natchez District. The first chapter, “The Purity of Blood and Dark Complexions,” analyzes the Natchez District’s first decades under French control. The French tried to establish a slave society in Natchez, emulating the successful labor regimes of their Caribbean and southeastern colonies. However, the French warred with Native Americans and eventually abandoned their expansionary plans in 1729 after a revolt of Natchez Indians and enslaved Africans destroyed the fledgling settlement. For the next two decades, the Natchez District remained unsettled by Europeans. Enslaved people in Natchez were not exclusively African. During the first decades of the settlement, a small number were American Indians. By enslaving both peoples, the French had to relate to three different cultures of slavery: African, Native American, and European. French notions of racial superiority did nothing to ease the tension. The French underestimated the explosive nature of the relationships among the various groups, and this misjudgment led to the downfall of French rule. They were unable to prevent an alliance between enslaved Africans and Natchez Indians, and their attempt to envelop the Indian nations of the lower Mississippi Valley in binding treaties or intertribal warfare was ultimately unsuccessful. Their greed led to the downfall of the colony and all of French Louisiana. Although no court records survive, the origins of the Natchez settlement already reflected the issues that would plague the region in the decades to come, as Africans and Europeans sought to reshape ideas of complexion and freedom. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the struggles within the Natchez Nation itself. The Natchez people were in a state of transition, as they accepted refugees displaced by the British Indian slave trade from across the Southeast, as well as enslaved refugees from the French plantations, and incorporated these people into their own culture. The Indian nation had to come to terms with an increasingly complicated racial web that started to define its society. In analyzing the district’s transition from France to Great Britain, chapter 2, “English Bloodlines and the Expansion of Empire,” examines British efforts beginning in 1763 to turn Natchez—now part of West Florida—into a profitable part of their American empire. The British were equally eager to create a permanent settlement in this area and surmised they could avoid the problems of the French. Natchez did experience a slow rebirth, and incoming settlers continued to rely on slavery. They also had to accept the important roles the enslaved Africans played in their proposed plantation economy, and they crafted a law code designed to ensure success in that endeavor.

14 / introduction

Among the first to arrive with enslaved Africans were the so-called Jersey Settlers in 1772, a group of Loyalists from the East Coast. Although British colonizers could build upon almost a century of experience with Indians, the enslaved, and the plantation economies they had created along the Atlantic coast, they faced different challenges in the Natchez District. The Natchez Indians had been expelled from their homeland by the French in 1729, but the Choctaws and Chickasaws quickly moved in to assume the role of powerbrokers in the backcountry. Settlers in Natchez had neither easy access to the Atlantic World nor a dominant staple crop to bring to market. To keep the plantation district afloat, English settlers had to balance British policies of trade with Indians and foreign empires, the colonial struggles between Spain and the British Crown, and the constant threat of shifting Indian alliances. Although separated by great distance, the British colonies of the Atlantic Seaboard also influenced the Natchez District by providing the core of settlers and enslaved people who would eventually call Natchez home. The relationship between the people of Natchez and England grew ever more intimate during the 1770s. Against long odds, the British developed a plantation society and established a firm hold on the Mississippi frontier. Chapter 2 shows how the newly enacted 1766 slave code of British West Florida created favorable conditions for slave owners to bring their human chattel to the lower Mississippi Valley, and Loyalist settlers did come in increasing numbers. The slave code cemented current ideas of liberty in the far-flung reaches of British West Florida, and a growing number of adventurous Eastern Seaboard denizens followed the call. Even though these legal measures ostensibly supplied the settlers with the means to control their human property by reducing all people of color to enslaved status, challenges arose. Above all, Natchez could never change its status as a marginal outpost of the British Empire. People of color tried to contest or utilize this liminal stage to their own benefit. They disputed social norms that settlers sought to establish, and enslavers tried to counter this by enforcing the new slave code; but the evidence from court cases indicates they did not succeed. Free people of color were a small minority, but they interacted with white settlers on a daily basis and often outwitted their white counterparts. They maneuvered Natchez’s social fault lines as humans with a design on personhood and escaped punishment by settlers under the British. The American Revolution deprived the British of not only their thirteen seaboard colonies but also the Natchez District, which they ceded to the Spanish in 1781. The third chapter, “Masters of Complexion?

introduction / 15

Loyalists, Patriots, and Opportunists in the Colonial Backcountry,” highlights the complex transitions that occurred in the liminal period that characterized the first years of Spanish settlement. Spanish administrators were keenly aware of the role that slavery played in developing Spain’s newest possession, but they remained unaware of the role African-descended people continued to play in the process. Unwilling to just be pawns in the schemes of colonists, enslaved people continued to seek and exploit the fault lines of settler colonialism that opened up in the Natchez District. Anglo-American colonists, meanwhile, tried their best to bend Spanish laws and imperial legislation to their own will, pursuing an agenda designed to secure their wealth and human property. The fourth chapter, “Spanish Complexions in the Lower Mississippi Valley,” evaluates the Spanish assimilation of the Natchez District and the way settlers and administrators tried to develop a working slave economy under a new legal system. Spanish law based on the Siete Partidas liberalized the previous British slave codes, especially concerning manumission and court accessibility for Atlantic Africans. People of color immediately began to sue white settlers, a right they did not possess prior to the Iberian takeover. Still, the Spanish built on the previous British attempts to develop Natchez. Marshaling their vast colonial resources in South America and the experience they had gained in managing these possessions, the Spanish quickly revitalized the Natchez District by providing subsidies for tobacco exports. They also eliminated import duties on enslaved workers for all enslavers in Natchez. This swept several thousand new enslaved people from Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean to the banks of the Mississippi. The fifth chapter, “Gendered Complexions,” closely examines the Spanish legal system and explores how it enabled Africans—in particular women—in Natchez to challenge their enslavers. Several legal cases demonstrate that the power of the enslavers in Spanish Natchez was far from total. Anglo settlers had to come to terms with a legal culture that maintained control over the enslaved population yet did not relegate the enslaved entirely to the status of property. Often with the support of family members, enslaved and free women of color openly and successfully challenged white control. As far as the settlers were concerned, these challenges exemplified the uncertainty that obstructed the path toward wealth. Impatient with Spain’s inability to create and protect a stable market for either tobacco or cotton and tired of arguing with Atlantic Africans over their rights, enslavers desired a change that would finally propel them to the apex of a stable and legally secure society. Colonists

16 / introduction

hatched multiple plans to rid themselves of the Spanish interlopers but were never able to unite all interests in Natchez behind a single scheme. Therefore, they always failed, increasing the insecurity that held the district in its grasp. Enslaved Africans and European settlers alike challenged the Spanish Empire and sought to advance their fortunes. Often these challenges occurred in the busy courts of Natchez, and frequently they pitted people of color against Europeans. Anglo-American settlers demanded more enslaved Africans and better conditions to market their crop. The enslaved tried to establish their own rights by calling on the courts time and again to assert their claims. Ultimately unable to maintain control in the district, the Spanish grudgingly released it and its unruly inhabitants to the Americans in 1795 with the Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney’s Treaty). Yet Spain held on to the district until 1798. Cotton became viable in 1796 and blossomed into a stronger overlord than France, Great Britain, or Spain. It held the Natchez District in its clutches until the Civil War. The development of cotton farming initially relied on Spanish policies and incentives and—like nearly everything in Natchez—was quite tumultuous in its genesis. Chapter 6, “New Crop, New Rules of Complexion,” investigates what drove the settlers to cultivate cotton exclusively and explores the role Spain and slavery played in the ultimate switch to the royal crop. Cotton held a powerful promise of wealth and power. Yet, as in slave societies across the Americas, access to a market always determined success or failure. Integration into the United States eased the trepidations of European settlers but amplified the anxiety of the enslaved Africans because of the legal changes attached to the transition from Spain to the Americans. Consequently, the changes to the more stringent U.S. slave laws receive an in-depth examination in the light of the transfer of Natchez from Spain to the United States. This last change in legal systems doomed many enslaved to permanent servitude, as a combination of economic inclusion into the United States, American law, and the British cotton markets brought American slavery to Natchez. The legal change forced people of color to adopt new strategies. They had to argue their cases couched in terms of property. They attempted to gain personhood by describing themselves as commodities; their skin color now exclusively determined their status in society. “Mississippi Fever,” the final chapter, investigates the years under American auspices when King Cotton rose to economic supremacy. Again, slavery stood at the center of the effort to connect the district

introduction / 17

to an expanding imperial power, this time the United States. Tapping into the blossoming domestic slave trade and quickly attracting settlers from the East Coast, the Natchez District began its most crucial period of growth and development. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 brought New Orleans and its vital port to the United States, and American settlers consequently viewed the district as increasingly attractive. The Choctaws signed a treaty with the United States in 1801 at Fort Adams and subsequently relocated farther to the north. Andrew Jackson’s victory against the Creeks in 1814 further opened up the lower Mississippi Valley and the Natchez District to an increasing flow of enslavers and yeoman farmers. For African Americans in the district, American expansion heralded a seismic shift in the strategies they had to employ in front of courts to claim freedom and establish some sort of personhood. They still fought in court to receive their rights, yet they utilized legal counsel to express their desires and adopted a legal language that self-described their bodies as “owned,” as property. By 1817, the cotton boom and statehood ended all hopes of a continuance of the transitional stage. Mississippi had arrived in the United States, and American ideas of complexion, slavery, and freedom turned Natchez into the wealthiest city in the nation. Several court cases highlight how quickly and completely Natchez’s white enslavers embraced American legal codes. Whereas Louisiana developed a legal heritage that included some of the colonial traditions, Natchez’s powerful settlers abandoned every trace of Spanish laws and placed their power squarely behind the AngloAmerican legal traditions to govern their human property. Anecdotal evidence suggests that enslavers treated their enslaved with increasing severity after the American takeover. Whereas there is no indication that Spanish governors tempered enslavers in the punishment of enslaved Africans—indeed, runaways were punished by the Spanish state, not by colonists—Mississippi’s American governors had to publish missives cautioning enslavers to temper the violence. Slavery in Natchez developed at the intersection of Anglo-American and Latin American slave systems, and the ultimate success of Natchez’s settlers stemmed in part from the insights they gained at this transAtlantic crossroad. Three colonial powers held sway over Natchez, each influencing the existing slave society. Under Spanish and French control, the enslaved found greater opportunities for freedom than their counterparts would in the Anglo-American slave system. In theory, the Spanish and French were more likely to grant the enslaved extended “rights,” such as owning property or the ability to sue their enslavers for

18 / introduction

ill treatment, than did the English. It did matter which empire was in power in Natchez. Officials had to carefully impose their new regimes on colonists who were determined to become wealthy and whose wealth was dependent on enslaved labor. By examining how the various slave systems interacted, and at which junctions people of color were able to bend or break the rules in their favor, Complexion of Empire in Natchez adds an important episode to the history of Atlantic slavery.

1 /

The Purity of Blood and Dark Complexions: French Empire Building in the Lower Mississippi Valley

On July 13, 1729, Marc-Antoine Caillot finally set foot on the piers in New Orleans. Leaving Paris in February, Caillot had spent months on muddy roads and churning seas. He had arrived at the Mississippi Gulf Coast a couple of days earlier, but had to wait for disembarkation from an oceangoing vessel to the shore, and then he had to navigate the Mississippi River up the treacherous waters to the small but bustling outpost of the French Company of the Indies.1 Caillot was a clerk in the service of the Company of the Indies, brought to the struggling Louisiana colony to oversee Company business and hopefully improve the economic health of the operation. As it turned out, however, he arrived just in time to witness the demise of the French project in the lower Mississippi Valley later that year, and he left Louisiana just as unceremoniously as he had arrived. Roughly at the same time that Caillot approached the Louisiana Gulf Coast, the Company slave ship Galathée had dropped off its cargo of enslaved African workers. The ship had started its trans-Atlantic voyage at the French slave collection point at Gorée Island, with the captives on board originating from stops at Fort Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River and the eventual point of departure. Four hundred men, women, and children, cramped into a cargo hold that had been converted to keep humans, set out from Africa to the coast of Louisiana. After months at sea, 128 of the cargo and 11 crewmembers perished on this particularly deadly slaver journey.2 Both journeys, the unsuccessful one of the Frenchman and the disastrous one of the enslaved Africans, encapsulate the fate of the Louisiana

20 / chapter 1

colony—and its people—as a whole. They elucidate the tight connections of the larger colony governed from New Orleans to the economically and strategically important northern outpost of Natchez. Many of the enslaved who were on the Galathée were destined for the prospering tobacco operations in Natchez, and Caillot’s career in Louisiana—as well as the success of the colony and the Company as a whole—hinged on the success of these agricultural units in the New World. Before either the enslaved or Caillot could find their footing in Louisiana, a rebellion of the Natchez people led to an end of full Company support for Louisiana. The Natives had the support of at least some of the enslaved in the district. From 1729 onward, the French colony languished at the periphery of the French Empire and saw no further investment. What had started as a project to rival English Barbados, Jamaica, or Virginia ended in an unprofitable collection of outposts and dilapidated forts that were not attractive for French settlers or investors and produced no profits.3 At the heart of the issues that the French experienced were newly developing ideas about people with nonwhite complexions, in this case African and Native American people. The French, through trade and exploration, had interacted with African people in previous centuries. Yet at the beginning of the eighteenth century, just as they extended their imperial gaze toward the lower Mississippi Valley, scholars in France began to seek clarifications as to why African people were “black” and what exactly their blackness entailed for both Europeans and Africans. French scholars consistently carried on a discourse on Africa that easily moved across permeable boundaries in terms of subject, ranging from climate to physiology and beyond. The discourse also produced multiple methodologies and independent genres and collectively created an “imaging of black Africa and Africans.” In Natchez, that discourse and the ambiguous definitions of nonwhite people caused tensions from the very beginning.4 The French began settling Louisiana in 1699, and for the following five decades French colonists tried to establish a foothold in the lower Mississippi Valley. In their pursuit of a stable and successful North American empire, the French needed outposts to lay claim to the valley and to check British and Spanish expansion. One of those outposts was Natchez. Despite these ambitious goals, French development of Louisiana was sluggish. Settlers were difficult to recruit, as it was challenging to foster an economic climate that could lure them.5 What was needed, according to most French officials, was a commodity that could yield financial gains for prospective settlers and investors.

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  21

The French Company of the Indies quickly tried to turn Natchez into a profitable district. After the founding of New Orleans in 1718, settlers began to move to Natchez in larger numbers, and by 1722 about two hundred Europeans and enslaved Africans lived in Natchez. Slowly but surely, the French were building a slave society among the people of the Native Natchez Nation. Their goal was to harvest tobacco on the shores of the Mississippi River. Like the British in Virginia, the French needed enslaved people to harvest their crops.6 This attempt to create a slave society, and the strategy they employed, were ill advised. On November 28, 1729, Indians and enslaved Africans combined to defeat the French garrison at Natchez and oust the French colonizers from the district. However, after a brutal three-year struggle, the French in turn defeated the Natchez Indians, drove them off their ancestral lands, and enslaved most of the survivors. Yet even so, the French ultimately abandoned the Natchez District by 1732. The Louisiana economy never recovered from the blow that Indians and the enslaved dealt the Europeans that winter day, and so France neglected Louisiana until Louis XVI was able to pawn it off to his Spanish cousin Charles III in 1763.7 The settlement of Natchez—and concomitantly Louisiana—experienced ups and downs that reflect the increasingly important role enslaved Africans played as their French enslavers sought to wring revenue from the enslaved’s toil in the fertile Natchez ground. The French Company of the Indies in its various iterations and under changing ownerships employed intricate policies to create profit in Natchez. However, slavery and the formation of social and cultural boundaries based on the institution in the Natchez District deeply and ultimately fatally influenced the relationship between Natives, Europeans, and Africans. Central to the problems encountered by the French were struggles over sovereignty and how to govern the vast territory they claimed. Enslaved people quickly became central to controlling the district in the ongoing diplomatic and military machinations of the French and the Natchez people. Complexion, as the French had to discover, played a pivotal role in their quest to run the colony. As the French attempted to administer the growing number of enslaved Africans, they relied on social stratification that also subjugated the Native Natchez to French whiteness. While tensions between the Natchez and the French had always existed—frequently based on competing land claims—the open subjugation of Native peoples and the growing number of enslaved African workers on plantations in the area convinced the Natchez to take drastic actions. It even united a notoriously divided Native people against the French. In the

22 / chapter 1

end, the French left their colony to languish and focused their imperial eye elsewhere, yet they left the Natchez people as a defeated group that soon lost its independent identity as refugees among other Natives. The fate of the Natchez people demonstrates the devastating effect of settler colonialism with complexions as a demarcating line at center. Control of Natchez during these early decades hinged upon the supply of a profitable staple crop and enslaved workers. To muster the necessary African labor and subsequently control the growing enslaved population, the French relied on subjugation based on complexion and new laws that wove it into the fabric of the colonies. However, they faced an enormous struggle in developing a law code that could manage Natives and Africans in Natchez based on complexion. Indeed, European attitudes of racial superiority caused the Natchez to rise up and expel the unwanted Europeans in 1729. Natchez Indians and enslaved African defined race and freedom on their own terms, taking the pursuit of liberty into their own hands and expelling the French from Natchez. The French tried to duplicate their success with slavery elsewhere in Natchez, but the issue of complexion and fluid interpretations of race marred their efforts to create a powerful plantation economy, which never fully developed.

Establishing a Foundation for French Success in Natchez The French interest in colonies in the New World hinged upon the idea of turning these colonies into profitable enterprises, based on either the fur trade or slave labor. King Louis XIV of France and his financial advisor, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, envisioned French colonies as profitable operations that would benefit the mercantilist agenda of the French state. They sought to emulate England’s model of a growing merchant fleet that linked the wealth of its Caribbean and mainland colonies to the mother country. The growth of English commerce turned it into a powerful foe in Europe and the Atlantic. The Sun King wanted to channel the wealth of colonies like Saint-Domingue back to the motherland, and Louisiana was supposed to be another successful operation. However, French settlement efforts in the lower Mississippi Valley came at a bad time. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–13) absorbed most of France’s resources and left almost nothing to support the struggling colony. The king directed most of the funds and supplies that France could spare toward the established Caribbean sugar colonies, which had already begun to fill empty French coffers.8 Louisiana was left to its own devices, to scramble for more colonists, enlarge the insufficient fur trade, and

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  23

increase the woefully inadequate number of African bondsmen. Despite Louisiana’s struggles, the colony survived and remained part of France’s imperial strategy in the New World. Simple survival was not the only concern. French officials had always been cautious about interethnic relations in their colonies, and, therefore, Colbert ordered the conception of the Code Noir along with his mercantilist trade policies. Written in 1685, the Code not only regulated slavery but also included other social reforms to oversee the new colonies. It was designed to “regulate the relationships between slaves and their masters, the enslaved and the free, and those of African and European descent.”9 These new regulations had a significant impact on Louisiana and the Natchez District. The Code Noir defined nonwhite as inferior and merged Africans and Indians in a subordinate group in Louisiana.10 The Code Noir was an important piece of French legislation used to govern their colonies. Even though the Code was written in Paris, its origins lay in the French sugar islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Christophe. In preparation of its draft, the French Crown requested that the governor general and other royal officials craft an overview of current rules and local laws concerning the enslaved, as well as interracial relations on the islands. This overview, with some additions from Paris, was then turned into the famed Code Noir.11 The history of the Code Noir and complexion in Louisiana is more convoluted. Even though Paris distributed the Code Noir in 1685, an altered version was not adopted in Louisiana until 1724. Therefore, people in Louisiana initially were left to their own devices in creating a legal pretext to govern slavery and race relations between Europeans, Indians, and Africans. Various complexions of people frequently appear at the center of European-Native interaction. André Pénicaut, for example, describes one of the first expeditions of the French and their respective encounters with various Native people. He cannot help but mention complexion as he remarked that some Natives “were surprised at our clothes and the color of our faces. They kept gazing at us, astonished at seeing white skinned people, some heavily bearded, some bald headed.” Unlike the Europeans’ whiteness, he described the Natives’ “very tawney skin and heavy black hair which they groom very carefully.”12 The focus on complexions here is neither accidental nor just a simple observation. It formed the cornerstone of future interactions among all people in French Louisiana. In 1713, before the French founded either New Orleans or Natchez, Louisiana governor Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac,

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relayed to France “that traders and soldiers ‘who are not married ha[d] female Indian slaves’ and used them for reasons that kept them ‘from going to confessional.’”13 The commissioner Jean-Baptist Dubois Duclos, in a lengthy 1715 report, also noted improprieties between the various people of Louisiana. Particularly noteworthy is his evaluation of interracial relationships: “The fourth is the adulteration that such marriages will cause in the whiteness and purity of the blood in the children, for whatever Mr. De La Vente may say, experience shows every day that children that come from such marriages are of an extremely dark complexion, so that in the course of time, if no Frenchmen come to Louisiana, the colony would become a colony of half breeds who are naturally idlers, libertines and even more rascals as those of Peru, Mexico and other Spanish colonies give evidence.”14 Duclos is very specific when he addresses the changing complexion of settlers. He argues that nonFrench, so nonwhite members of Louisiana’s society, would not be able to demonstrate white-only traits. The description “idlers, libertines and . . . rascals” of Peru or Mexico is rather ambiguous. While this phrase later in the century may have clearly pointed a reader to a population of African descent, Duclos is not really specific here. To him, this includes all nonwhite people, including Native Americans. The French officials warned their superiors about a developing racially mixed population. Duclos sought to compare Louisiana to the older colonies in Spanish America—evoking tropes of Spanish conquistadors forcing relationships with Incan or Aztec women—but decided against mentioning France’s own slave colonies. French administrators, then, were worried about a mixture of complexions as a possible result of cross-racial unions between enslaved women—both Indian and African—and French men. Duclos specifically points to a population with an “extremely dark complexion.” Aside from the racial stereotypes he assigns to phenotype (skin color) and the fact that the French certainly exploited the labor of these “libertines and idlers,” Duclos never differentiates between people with African or Native American heritage. To him, they all weakened the “pure blood” of France. Therefore, the French tried to define race predominantly through a primitive science of blood.15 Complexion clearly played an important part in the ways the French sought to organize and structure their society, and the Code Noir was a central tool in shaping racial relations in French colonies. The first iteration of the Code governed France’s three Caribbean islands and Canada beginning in 1685. But the varying origins of that Code led to confusion in Louisiana, which had a sizeable and powerful indigenous population

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  25

and a steadily growing number of Africans. France’s Caribbean colonies had no indigenous people left, and Canada never had a significant enslaved African population. This led to confusions about descriptions of race in Louisiana as the ethnically diverse population grew in the first two decades of the eighteenth century. Most notably, Duclos called mixed-race children “mulatre” likely because he picked up the term from Spanish usage when he spent time in the Spanish Empire. Cadillac, however, who had previously been an administrator in Canada, called racially mixed offspring “metis.” The varying definitions of people with different complexions show that “race” was by no means a defined status and remained rather fluid in Louisiana when used as a descriptor, but it was nevertheless important for French administrators. Even so, those administrators were unsure how to treat mixed people of African or Indian ancestry before they had the tools inscribed into the Code Noir. Both Duclos and Cadillac had varying experiences with complexion in the Atlantic World and utilized them cautiously as they sought to manage people of various complexion in a newly developing social order in the colony.16 As administrators adjusted laws in Louisiana, they differentiated between African and Indian but placed both in inferior positions. In 1712 only 10 Africans resided in all of Louisiana, and the census of 1721 showed 670 in New Orleans and Mobile combined.17 Duclos and other officials nevertheless feared diluting the “pure” French blood. The French administrator never clarified if he targeted one particular people, but judging by the numbers, he probably initially referred to Native Americans. The French settlers—predominantly male—did not share these concerns and continued to father mixed-racial offspring with their enslaved women, Indian or African.18 A Frenchman observed in 1712 that Indian women were “easy, the climate is stimulating, and they [backwoods men and soldiers] are young men for the most part Canadians, that is to say vigorous.” In October 1713 Cadillac reported that French settlers were “addicted to vice principally [but not exclusively] with the Indian women whom they prefer to the French.”19 There had been no cohesive laws passed in the colony to administer complexion up to this point, and so the state deferred to the Catholic Church in moral issues like marriage. The Catholic Church in Louisiana preferred official marriages for Catholic members of society who otherwise “live[d] in sin.”20 Ecclesiastical matters quickly began to take a back seat, however, as French officials became increasingly concerned about the “purity of blood” in their colony. In 1716, the Council of the Navy agreed with Duclos and ordered “the Srs de l’Epinay and

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Hubert to prevent this kind of marriages insofar as it shall be in their powers.” This decree, and many others that followed, continuously tightened the racial noose around Africans and Indians, making them similarly inferior, strangling their abilities to move as equals, and reinforcing French ideas of racial superiority. In 1724, these laws became the basis of the new Code Noir.21 The biggest problem for French administrators in the years before the 1724 Code Noir (Louisiana) was their ability to judge complexion and interracial relationships appropriately. To do so, they relied once again on the concept of “pure blood,” attempting to regulate the mixture of different bloodlines called “metis,” which simply indicated the mixing of two different species.22 In Canada, the French undertook an earlier project to marry Indian women to French men. The goal was to produce offspring with “mixed blood” to eventually purge the descendants of these children of Indian blood by continuous intermarriage to partners with “pure” blood. For the French, race was transmittable through blood. This attempt failed, as many French officials in Canada believed that Indian women could not be civilized. Therefore, French administrators were unsure how to proceed in cases where bloodlines threatened to mix.23 They faced the same struggle in Louisiana. The French officials who governed Louisiana in its first decades largely came from Canada, and their ideas of complexion were defined by that experience and the ongoing debates across the French Atlantic world that sought to describe blackness as inferior to whiteness. Debates among French intellectuals as well as French colonial administrators and travelers began to depict African-descended people as inherently inferior around the time that they began to settle Louisiana in earnest in the 1710s and 1720s. Just as blackness came to be defined as a status with some inherently inferior qualifications, the French also seemed to have begun to end efforts to what one historian called the “Frenchification” of Indians. Using enslaved Africans as a foil, the French slowly but surely lowered Native Americans’ status to equate them with all other nonwhites.24 This cultural shift became inherently visible in Natchez country over the 1720s. To the French, neither Native Americans nor Africans were pure. Yet slavery (or captivity) did not necessarily lead to biological racism at this point. For example, Indian slavery in New France developed out of Native practices in creating lasting alliances through the exchange of captives. However, people like Jean-Baptist Le Moyne de Bienville understood that a similar system would not work in Louisiana. English slave raids

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  27

made it impossible for the French to profit from a comparable system. In fact, the French built an initial system of alliances on their ability to offer protection from slave raids conducted by the English.25 This diplomatic necessity precluded them from enslaving Indians in large numbers, but it did not overcome the desire of authorities to keep the bloodlines of colonists, Indians, and Africans separated. French officials grew increasingly fearful “that these [interracial] marriages mix good blood with bad and will produce a colony only of children of a hard and idle character.”26 When John Law’s Company of the Indies began to import more Africans to Louisiana in the early 1720s and it became clear that the Company wanted to establish a slave society, the metropolitan government reacted by adopting a version of the Code Noir specifically designed for Louisiana in 1724. Once established, the Code Noir revealed a clear change in the way the French ordered their society. It established a slave society that was backed for the first time by a solid legal framework that sought to control relations between people of different complexions. The Code Noir served to control relations between white and Indian, as well as white and African. However, the colonial officials in Louisiana chose to operate more in the spirit of the new Code rather than following it to the letter. Each case was handled individually, and so the enforcement of the laws varied, not an uncommon occurrence in any European colony.27 Significantly, the French did not yet judge people and their status exclusively by their phenotype. Indian dress, for example, was troublesome if worn by white men on the outskirts of empire because it suggested a blending of complexions, even though many of these French men were clearly white. But their dress, their cultural measuring stick, suggested otherwise. The French were increasingly making sure to preserve “Frenchness” for white colonists, but the enforcement was still lacking, and social status was not yet exclusively built on skin color alone in all areas.28 This becomes clear in Le Page du Pratz’s Histoire de la Louisiane. Du Pratz wrote his history in 1758, and though he engages his subject with a methodology rooted in the Enlightenment, he still struggles with the differentiation of the Natchez and enslaved Africans. He considers both very much members of humanity, but he describes Natives Americans as inherently equal, if in need of Christianization. Enslaved Africans, however, are a different story. While he does not deny their humanity, he does understand the importance of enslaved labor to make Louisiana a success. That led him to accept slavery as an institution with a moral basis.29

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Hence, the most obvious sign of changing racial politics in Louisiana, and by extension in Natchez country, was the openly displayed subjugation of Atlantic Africans and the legal investment in the Louisiana version of the Code Noir. Originally a document developed to manage all social relations in the French colonies, the Louisiana Code Noir incorporated new laws that clearly separated white from all other complexions. The original “relatively liberal provisions” of the Code were reversed based on “growing colonial intolerance for French-African sexual encounters” from the Caribbean, and “echoed contemporary concern regarding French-Indian marriages from New France.”30 Administrators outlawed African and French marriages, whereas they initially tolerated IndianFrench marriages.31 Most importantly, the Code attempted to regulate the interaction among Europeans, Atlantic Africans, and Native Americans, with a particular focus on white enslavers and enslaved Africans. For example, enslavers “were ordered to instruct their slaves in Catholicism, to have them baptized, and to bury baptized slaves in consecrated ground.” Significantly, the Code offered at least a theoretical protection of enslaved families: they were recognized by law, the enslaved could not be forced to marry against their will, and families could no longer be separated through sale.32 Relationships between whites and nonwhites remained the crux of the 1724 legislation. For the first time, the words “black” and “white” replaced “slave” and “free.” This had far-ranging consequences.33 For example, white men could no longer live in concubinage with or marry African women. The new rules were laid out in Article 9: “We forbid our white subjects, of either sex, from contracting marriage with Blacks under penalty of punishment and fine; and all cures, priests, or secular or regular missionaries, and even ship captains, from marrying them. We also forbid our said subjects, and likewise the enfranchised or freeborn Blacks, from living in concubinage from slaves.”34 Taking a cue from changes made to the original Code in the Caribbean, children born to African mothers from such unions were confiscated and were never allowed to become full citizens. The fear, as in most slave societies, was that a free African and mixed-race population threatened the racial hierarchy. That did not mean that such unions did not exist, but Guillaume Aubert found only a small number of free mulattos in French Louisiana.35 The people in Natchez experienced the effects of the Code and its implementation almost immediately. The combination of enslaved

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Africans, Native Americans, and white settlers in Natchez caused outbreaks of violence that the Code could not prevent—it actually prompted them. Hierarchical change from status to complexion in the colony haunted all people in Natchez and eventually caused the demise of the settlement. Social positions and interactions between settlers and Natchez Indians relied heavily on the status of the opposite person. When the Natchez began to realize that that French no longer recognized the Native Americans’ equal status, they could no longer find a middle ground to negotiate.36

Growth of the Colony The Natchez Indians were not a cohesive, monolithic nation by the time the French began to settle the area in earnest. They absorbed parts of other nations that had been displaced by the English Indian slave trade throughout the Southeast.37 While these dislodged Indians took root among the Natchez, factions developed in the different villages comprising the Natchez Nation. Depending on their location and cultural origin, these factions traded with the French or with the English. The spiritual Natchez leader, the Great Sun, was head of the pro-French faction of his nation, but this did not mean that all Natchez people would follow his example, as the French were to discover. In fact, the French significantly overestimated the power of the Great Sun. What was worse, they treated the surrounding villages and the suns in these villages with contempt, fueled by an uncompromising belief in their own superiority. Since 1701, the French had known that Natchez’s soil was extremely fertile, but their meager economic and military resources prevented them from exploiting the district until the late 1710s.38 Then they erected plantations within the Natchez Nation and began to trade with the surrounding villages. They thereby circumvented the power of the central village and the Great Sun, who relied on gift giving to maintain his power.39 Traditionally it was his privilege and a demonstration of his power to exclusively deal with any foreign entity and then to redistribute goods to other people in the nation. When the French circumvented that process, they also damaged the internal working of Natchez’s hierarchical society. Simple market transactions for the French carried a appreciably deeper meaning for the Natchez. Warfare and misunderstanding marred the growth of the Natchez District from the beginning. In 1716, the year after Duclos sent his warning about exogamous sexual relations to France, Antoine Crozat, whose

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company had taken control of Louisiana in 1712, ordered construction of Fort Rosalie in Natchez. The Natchez Nation had attacked the local merchants and killed four Frenchmen during the First Natchez War.40 A pro-British faction of Natchez Indians executed the Frenchmen, which provoked the short war with the French Empire. Ultimately, punishment of the culprits and diplomacy resolved the issue. However, the French never understood how the Natchez interpreted their hierarchical structure, and vice versa. Although the Natchez executed the culprits to placate the French, the French leaders kept negotiating with the headman of the main village—the Great Sun—and assumed that he had control over the others, as Louis XV (or rather his uncle Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans) had over the French colonies. The Great Sun, however, had no “absolute” power over his subjects. Both the French and Natchez fell victim to “the illusion of similarity” in their exchanges.41 The French were satisfied with the “punishment” they exacted, and they believed that they had reined in the Great Sun of the Natchez, whereas the Natchez Indians understood the exchange of prisoners and later execution of the murderers as part of a ritual common among the Natchez and part of their ancestral lore.42 What the French perceived as a resolved situation festered for several years. It was not until 1718 that settlers began to arrive in Louisiana in larger numbers, and it took until 1722 to bring roughly two hundred of these people to Natchez, this time under a (once again) reorganized Company of the Indies.43 These new settlers brought enslaved Africans with them, designated to work the tobacco fields of the St. Catherine’s Creek plantation, a short distance north of Natchez’s political center.44 The Atlantic Africans who appeared in the Company settlement added a new element to the blossoming frontier society. The Natchez had to adjust to the presence of the enslaved Africans and likely were curious about the dark skin of the new laborers. Yet effects ranged far beyond the physical differences. With the appearance of forced African labor, the French also challenged the Natchez’s understanding of captivity. Previously, Natchez Indians defined captivity as a state of inferiority, yet captives could become fully accepted members of the community and leave their stigma behind. Native captivity did not prioritize complexion or other displays of cultural difference. Rather, Native captives were taken in wars to replenish populations ravaged by death through disease, enslavement, or warfare.45 Over the next seven years, however, the French introduction of racial slavery and the stigma it attached to blackness and eventually redness altered the Native American conception of

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  31

captivity. It put pressure on the Natchez to become accustomed to the cultural meaning of chattel slavery, which at times conflicted with their traditional ideas about captivity and the role captives played in society. Following the creation of a foothold in Natchez after the First Natchez War, the French tried to employ both African and Indian slave labor and to fashion a dynamic and profitable colony alongside the Natchez Nation. The European settlement itself developed slowly for several years, and progress was interrupted by numerous conflicts with the surrounding Indian nations. Although the French and Natchez often found common cultural traits in their respective societies while they established a working relationship, their cohabitation was not without its problems.46 The French custom of establishing contact and relations with Native people across the Americas was dependent on the cooperation of the Natives in a ceremony of subordination.47 In the lower Mississippi Valley, they continued this practice but were frequently frustrated by their misjudgment of circumstances and their inability to fit Natchez and Africans into a system of subordination. Although the situation was not promising, the French remained determined to expand into the heart of the Natchez Nation. The Company of the Indies was keen on establishing plantations there, but the Natchez Indians presented a powerful obstacle. In their haste to make a profit, planters became increasingly focused on their economic goals. They paid no heed to the dangers they created by forcing the Natchez to adopt a complexion-based stratification of society over the Natives’ traditional social structure that was based on status. Although France held title to much of the lower Mississippi Valley on European maps, reality was different. Whatever France, or any other European empire for that matter, envisioned of their overseas territories, was largely fictitious. Legally, culturally, and socially, the colonies were much more than carbon copies of their respective metropoles. They existed in many ways as parts of “polycentric monarchies,” in which the individual colonies developed distinctly from each other, and from the monarchical administrative centers that ostensibly ruled them. The legal pluralism of the French that resonates with this is clearly visible in the separate Code Noir established for Louisiana. While the colony also developed under orders from the central administrative center in Paris, the actual act of possession was executed by hundreds of individuals in Louisiana. These settlers—or groups of them—carried out a process of appropriation for the French state through daily interactions with each other, Native Americans, Africans, and agents of other empires. By doing that, they create struggles, solutions, and new paths forward that in turn

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influenced the responses of the authorities in France. All of this complicated the colonial process and made management intricate and difficult. People in colonial French Louisiana influenced policies of the companies or government more effectively than the administrators liked to admit.48 Despite the complicated circumstances in Louisiana, French officials were under great pressure to turn a profit. The wealth garnered by Virginia tobacco planters drove the French to create a competing plantation economy in Louisiana, yet that goal kept eluding the colonists. By the 1720s, New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, and Natchez existed as tiny pockets of European life in the vast landscape of Indian nations, and they were struggling mightily. For example, the French official Tivas de Gourville complained in 1712 that “in the fourteen years since we began to send [people] to this country it can be said that no progress has been made except several small discoveries by which we have not put ourselves in a position of profit. . . . I have been assured that indigo grows in the woods there without being cultivated but neither Indians nor the few Frenchmen who are established in this country understand its preparation.”49 The settlers in Louisiana produced barely enough food for themselves and were unable to develop a staple crop. The excuse almost always came down to an inadequate number of enslaved workers and was accompanied by pleas for more shipments of captive Africans. In 1725, the Council of Louisiana pleaded with the Company in France: “The lack of negroes [is] disgusting the inhabitants who are all asking to return to France, it is necessary to send some if we wish to retain them. The Country will produce indigo and tobacco as soon as there are men to cultivate them, the inhabitants asking for nothing else than to be put in a condition to work. . . . The plantation of the Company would succeed well if there were good negroes. . . . Negroes are needed for the establishment of the manufacture and cultivation of tobacco at the Natchez.”50 The remedy for Louisiana’s problems had been known for over a decade: produce a profitable crop with slave labor. What no one expected was the explosiveness African slavery added to the mixture of complexions in Natchez. Labor had been scarce in French Louisiana since the initial settlement efforts in 1699. Enslaved people were therefore extremely valuable in early eighteenth-century Louisiana and consequentially in Natchez. French enslavers could not hope for any labor force other than enslaved Africans or Indians since indentured servants (engagés) from Europe were wary of Louisiana. Only emigration force (forced immigration) brought settlers to Louisiana. These involuntary immigrants were convicted criminals

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  33

from France and young women from the poorhouses, but they were better than no immigrants at all. Immigrants—even the dregs of French society—could offset the danger of British conquest. After three years of service, these immigrants became yeomen farmers, if they survived. The colony was not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, and hard physical labor significantly shortened life expectancy in the hot, humid, and disease-ridden environment. In addition, the roughly one thousand forced immigrants who came across the Atlantic were not very loyal subjects, and the colony remained underpopulated and starved for labor.51 The majority of enslaved or indentured laborers on Natchez’s plantations were African. Only a few captive Native Americans were part of the group of bound laborers that the French recorded in Natchez in 1726. The census of that year shows a total of seventy enslaved in Natchez, sixty-three of whom were African. The relatively small labor force of 1726 more than doubled over the next three years. All of the new arrivals were enslaved Africans, showing that the French had a strong preference for African workers. This also indicates that Indian slavery was tenuous in Louisiana, but not because the Europeans considered the “sauvages” as deserving of equal status.52 It was a matter of practicality and precedents established in New France. In Canada forced white labor proved worthless, enslaved Africans prohibitively expensive, and Indian captives were dangerous gambles in the frontier environment. Hence the French chose the best available labor system and almost exclusively utilized Indian labor in Canada. However, there it was as part of the Native trade and alliance system. Anywhere else they did their best to avoid Indian enslavement as much as possible. They turned to African slavery in French Louisiana and soon had to adapt their legal codes to the new local environments. Hence, “legal pluralism, rather than legal uniformity, defined slavery in the French Atlantic World.” To avoid the destabilizing of the frontier as exhibited in colonial South Carolina through the Native American slave trade, the French preferred the import of African slaves over other means of labor.53 This, as much as anything, explains the struggle of the French to bring labor to bear on their plantation projects. However, the French remained interested in establishing a productive plantation economy in Louisiana. They did not consider, or rather misjudged, how the Natchez would react to French encroachments.

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The Natchez Indians The creation of a French settlement and the already established commerce with British traders brought change to the Natchez Indians. Natchez leaders, like the Great Sun, had used the traditional “system of commodity redistribution, conspicuous display, and religious ceremony” of the old Mississippi cultures to stabilize and unify the different Natchez villages under their command.54 In this system, the chief was empowered by his ability to redistribute articles that he had procured by trade or warfare. His status and power were based on the availability of these articles and his generosity in distributing them. The French traded with the Great Sun, but not exclusively. Consequently, they began to undermine some of his power because now other leaders were in possession of the cherished trade items as well.55 At the same time, some of the outlying villages traded directly with the British, further undermining the power of the Great Sun. Thus, the Grand Village of the Natchez and its chief no longer held sway over the entire Natchez nation at the time the French began to settle the district. The Natchez experienced a cultural awakening of sorts as they adjusted to enslaved Africans in their midst. In the first years after the founding of the small outpost, the Natchez and the enslaved Africans did not seem to have developed a relationship that was built on collaborative attempts. In the late fall of 1722, Natchez warriors executed an attack on the settlement to protest the continuous encroachment of French laborers and agricultural operations. Maybe without recognizing it, they did so through actions that bespoke their growing awareness of complexion and slavery in Natchez. They targeted not the French enslavers, soldiers, or managers—all white—but instead they chose to target a group of enslaved Africans.56 Initially Native hunters had engaged these same Africans in conversation, witnessed by the French. However, something convinced the Natchez to employ deadly force when they encountered the Atlantic Africans again.57 One likely reason for the specific targeting of the enslaved is the role they played in the social order of Natchez. The Natchez protested the presence of Europeans at the St. Catherine’s Creek plantation through a tactic of escalating warnings. Maybe they had done just that in their conversation with the Africans, who had little recourse and no decision-making power in the French settlements. Just as in previous conflicts, the Natchez warriors warned the French by attacking livestock, either mutilating it or killing it outright in a brutal fashion. The indigenous people rarely targeted humans before

Figure 1. Representation of Native people on the Mississippi. Unknown artist, King and Queen of Mississippi, 1720, Rijks Museum.

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such warnings occurred. In this instance, the Natchez were likely displaying their advanced understanding of the new racial relationships in the lower Mississippi Valley. Instead of attacking beasts of burden, they aimed for enslaved Africans in their warnings, placing them in a similar station in the shifting racial zeitgeist in Natchez.58 The Natives may have tried to display that they had understood the changes. They used the enslaved Africans as they had used livestock before by making them the target of their warnings. And, maybe as important, they tried to convey to the French that they not only understood the position of the enslaved but that they also placed Natives and Europeans on the same social level. African-descended people continued to be targets for Natchez warriors as the animosities continued. The attacks were largely directed at the property of leaders of the St. Catherine’s Creek settlement, not against the people around the fort. The victims in another case were a second group of six enslaved Africans working a field near the French settlement. One of the enslaved, Bougou, was mortally wounded; another received a shot in the leg. The enslaved under attack were breaking ground in an area that might have been a holy site to the Natchez.59 Over time, however, the relationship between the Natchez and Africans morphed into an alliance that would end French plantation agriculture in Natchez.60 It is likely that the Natchez recognized what was changing around them. Whereas they initially viewed themselves as equals to the Europeans, the time between 1722 and 1729 must have opened their eyes to the new realities. Concomitant with French attempts to reduce the status of Natchez people based on complexion, the Natchez found themselves caught in a hierarchy that made enslaved Africans natural allies, no longer targets to send messages to the French. The latter were oblivious to the meaning of the attacks and paid no heed to it after the conflict had been peacefully resolved. The arrival of European and African settlers shattered the social cohesion of the Natchez nation, as French and British traders sought to increase their influence among the villages. The competing European interests split the nation. The tension among the Natchez had grown palpable throughout 1722, but the French thought the matter resolved. Yet the main economic incentive that divided the Indian factions, trade in superior British goods, was not eliminated. In addition, French settlers, backed by the Company of the Indies, began to settle in the Natchez District in earnest. They chose St. Catherine’s Creek as the location of their settlement, which quickly put them at odds with a rapidly expanding Natchez village in the vicinity. The “White Apple Village” was part of

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the pro-British faction and had no love for the new French immigrants. The Company pushed hard to establish a profitable Louisiana enterprise to compete with the British colonies on the Atlantic Seaboard and to bolster the depleted wealth of the French royal coffers.61 In essence, French and British interests competed on a global and local scale in the Natchez District, and neither the French nor the Natchez sensed the significance of their actions.62 The French made several critical mistakes in judging the group. First, the French believed that the village where they decided to settle, modern-day Natchez, was the main village and that its chief was in command of the whole nation. They were mistaken.63 The outlying towns were relatively new and consisted of recent arrivals who, through either the slave trade or warfare, had been in contact with the British. These members of the Natchez Nation were not fully assimilated into the group and therefore represented a constant threat to the political unity of the nation, a threat only increased by the haphazard actions of the French.64 By ignoring or misinterpreting the situation among the Natchez, the French unknowingly stepped into the minefield of Indian factions, tribes, and competing European empires.

Establishing a Plantation Society in French Natchez In 1723, another conflict broke out between the French and the Natchez. On November 23, 1723, the minutes of the Superior Council of Louisiana reported that “they [Natchez Indians] bring in dead or alive a negro who has taken refuge among them for a long time and makes them [sic] seditious speeches against the French nation and who has followed them on occasions against our Indian allies.”65 This mysterious African symbolizes the fateful connection between complexion and the expansion of the French Empire in Louisiana. The African consciously chose to live in the anti-French White Apple Village, farther away from the Grand Village and among Natchez who had recently sought to curtail French expansion. Here his “seditious speeches” fell on open ears. The French arrested and executed the unnamed African in 1723, but it has been impossible to trace the origins of the man who endangered the French colony as an African leader among Native Americans. He may have been a free African, possibly a former soldier for the French Empire who had risen to the rank of war chief within the Natchez Nation.66 He might just as well have been a runaway slave, but the key was that he threatened the French position in the Natchez District. The African’s

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presence countered the divide-and-conquer strategy the French often employed in Indian relations and forced them to keep the enslaved and American Indians divided as well. The Natchez turned quickly from attacking enslaved Africans in 1722 to creating alliances, at least in the White Apple Village. An alliance between Africans, enslaved or free, and Indians was rightfully perceived as a fatal combination. In 1729, this combination would spell disaster for the French colony at Natchez.67 The “negro” the French wanted dead remains in many ways a mystery. However, there are clues as to how he could have achieved the position of war leader in the Natchez Nation. Natchez society was matrilineal and hierarchical. Its customs required the Natchez to adopt refugees of other tribes, often displaced by the Indian slave trade to the east, into their nation to replenish the available partners for noblewomen. The female members of the royal families chose mates from the lower classes, and in all likelihood the Natchez leader at the time of the massacre in 1729, for example, was the descendant of a French priest and an Indian woman of elite lineage.68 The African man, then, might have been the chosen mate of another woman of royal lineage, and therefore had risen to the position of war chief. In achieving this position, he demolished French concepts of complexion and the way they sought to structure society in their outpost. It is quite possible that the African posed a military threat if he was a former soldier.69 This threat should not be underestimated. What was more menacing to the French, however, was the fact that he destroyed the racial hierarchy in Natchez. A free African man who openly contested white supremacy as part of an Indian nation was a formidable foe who threatened the French position in the lower Mississippi Valley. Free people of color existed in New Orleans, and even in Natchez, but they worked and lived within the confines of French society.70 Before the colony adopted its own version of the Code Noir, it sought to create divisions between complexions by employing an enslaved African, Louis Congo, as executioner. He received his freedom for his services in 1720, but Indians, French, and Africans hated him alike for the skill and efficiency with which he did his job.71 Congo executed a lot of white soldiers along with the enslaved, which did not have the desired effect for the French. Instead of driving a stake between possible alliances of unwanted elements in French Louisiana, he drew equal ire from all involved. In combination with the African rebel in Natchez, and other examples of insubordination, the French could hardly allow any more unrest to grip their colony. To forestall any attempts at creating a more

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fluid system of race in Louisiana, the French authorities introduced their custom Code Noir a year later, in 1724. Although the threat of the one African rebel had been eliminated, the role of the enslaved remained essential in the constant negotiations between people of all complexions in the district. French settlers were upset since, for about a decade, they had asked for more enslaved laborers but had not received them in nearly sufficient numbers. In 1725, France’s Council of the Indies received the following plea from Louisiana: The crops of Louisiana give the finest hopes in the world and only negroes are wanting to set them going. The orders given about tobacco have caused the inhabitants great pleasure, but they can do nothing without negroes, and the hopes that they have been given for three years that some would be sent to them, without their receiving any, keep them always in inactivity. They are in despair at learning that the Company is furnishing them to the islands in preference to them and there are many honest and very industrious people who will wait again this year and if they do not see any coming they will return to France.72 So far, the tobacco harvests were promising, but not enough enslaved labor was available to expand the operation in Natchez to a scale seen in Virginia. Yet this was what the company in France and the settlers in the Natchez District wanted: a large and profitable plantation economy based on forced labor. A market for the tobacco certainly existed in France, and this justified the investments in Natchez. The Crown also hoped to directly profit from a tobacco tax. Envisioning tobacco profits similar to those British Virginia was delivering, the royal advisors pushed for the expansion of tobacco cultivation to fill the empty coffers.73 Despite glowing descriptions of the area by colonists in Natchez, the colony did not experience a population explosion. In 1729, a maximum of 280 enslaved Africans were in Natchez, and 432 French settlers barely outnumbered them.74 In no way did early Natchez rival or resemble the plantation societies and districts of Virginia, South Carolina, or Martinique. It was only in 1729 that the district approached a profitable tobacco harvest. It seems apparent that the profit gained would have been reinvested in more enslaved Africans, accelerating the transition from a society with slaves to a slave society. But both the Indians and the enslaved resisted this expansion. Several factors hastened the demise of the Natchez colony. Settlers and authorities were not clear on the nature of their relationship with

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the Natchez. An increased and ongoing threat of Indian alliances with the British left the settlers in the area uneasy and further destabilized the backcountry. The authorities in Paris saw no positive development of the colony in Natchez and feared losing their investment. Thus, they began to increase the pressure on their officials in Louisiana. Settlers, who accused Council members of unequal distributions of bound laborers, duplicated this pressure.75 This also saw the dispatch of Marc-Antoine Caillot to the Louisiana colony to shore up the finances of the various operations. What no Frenchmen accounted for, however, was the instability produced by growing numbers of enslaved Africans injected into Natchez’s society. The insecurity of social positions between French and Natchez created an extremely combustible mixture, even without the addition of potentially hundreds more enslaved Africans. Leading up to the revolt of 1729, captives and Indians in the district appeared to remain passive. The French trusted that the Natchez would not betray them, and Atlantic Africans had not engaged in open resistance since the 1723 beheading of the African rebel. Nevertheless, the end of 1729 showed that the increasing frustrations of the colonists and colonial authorities had created a situation that the Natchez Indians and their enslaved allies used to their advantage. On November 28, 1729, the Natchez surprised the French garrison and killed 138 men, 35 women, and 56 children. There were only 6 African casualties that day.76 Although the recorded numbers of survivors and captives vary, the Natchez appear to have captured about 280 enslaved Africans and led them to their settlement. A decade of angst came suddenly true for the French, who had not been able to prevent a biracial alliance. Even earlier conflicts never generated as much aggression by the Natchez as did that early winter day in 1729. It is reasonable to connect this to the development of a social structure based on complexion that left many Natchez leaders wondering about their future. Who could ensure that the suns would remain in supreme control? Who could control the French newcomers if the power of the Great Sun and other leaders was withering on the vine in the face of French racism?77 Most contemporaries (and historians) believed that the new commandant of Fort Rosalie, Captain Etienne de Chepart, was to blame. Sieur de Chepart had been in Louisiana for about a decade. Like everyone else, he probably expected to reap a handsome profit, but he was disappointed. His frustration led to his mistreatment of the French settlers, and he was subsequently relieved of his post. Yet, a new governor, Étienne Perier, returned him to his position. As du Pratz succinctly noted, “[Chepart]

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obtained the command from M. Perier, who was unacquainted with his character.”78 Perier did not know Chepart, nor did he fully appreciate the gravity of his decision. Chepart immediately returned to the district and made a grave mistake. He arrived with a number of enslaved people he had purchased in New Orleans and began to scout out land that suited him for a plantation. Fatefully, he chose the location of the White Apple Village. The Natchez population in this village had been pro-British, or neutral at best, and Chepart’s intention to remove the Indians from the village so he could establish his plantation alienated them and the rest of the Natchez from the French.79 It was the final straw in an interracial relationship that had been in constant decline. The White Apple Village had been the hotbed of anti-French activities in the early 1720s, and it was in this village that the African rebel recruited a following as a war chief. It appears reasonable that his story had lived on among the tribesmen in tales that now compelled the Natchez to unite and finally fight the French invaders. Chepart’s disregard of territorial and cultural boundaries led many Indians to believe that resistance was essential, and the memory of the African man likely reassured them in their plan to take on the French Empire, as he had urged them to do years ago. To ensure their victory, the Natchez had to reduce the number of possible opponents, and they turned to the roughly 280 enslaved Africans in the district. Beginning in the contested village, they recruited captives to their cause and found success. Only 6 of the enslaved, presumably loyal to the French, escaped to New Orleans to tell the tale. At least one of them, Diocou, received his freedom for fighting against the Natchez in 1730.80 The remaining 274 supported the cause of the Natchez’s fight for freedom.81 The Natchez also had a thorough appreciation of what kind of slavery they could be subjugated to and of what was at risk. Over the last decade, the Natives had observed punishments of Atlantic Africans. For instance, Choucoura “lost two fingers on his right hand and two fingertips on his left hand” in 1727 while he endured a hanging and his owner neglected to cut him down before irreparable damage was done. The French disciplined enslaved Indians in the same way, broadcasting to observers that the French made no distinction anymore between the enslaved Africans and Native Natchez.82 Judging by du Pratz’s account, Indians and enslaved were able to connect through a theme of resistance and slavery and a common sense of tyranny espoused by the 1724 Code Noir. Since the French justified all these new regulations by purity of

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blood, they also added a new law to the Code in 1728 to prohibit marriages between whites and Natives, further reducing the status of indigenous people in Louisiana. This had a devastating effect on the Natchez’s ability to carry out diplomacy and cultural adoption rites. To facilitate diplomacy, trade, and peace, outside parties frequently married into Natchez families. Women therefore were very important players in intercultural relations.83 The Indians relied on this rite of cultural appropriation to establish stable trade relationships with Europeans and other Indians, as well as to negotiate peace agreements with aggressors. The French had now cut off this important avenue for negotiations and further confirmed that they did not regard the Natchez as equal. With multiple examples of Frenchmen mistreating slaves and new regulations that placed the Natchez on similar social levels to Atlantic Africans, the writing was on the wall. The Natchez Indians understood that their social position had been severely undermined by the French and expressed their fear through a language of enslavement.84 The Indians, according to du Pratz, realized that “we walk like slaves, which we shall soon be, since the French already treat us as if we were such. When they are sufficiently strong, they will no longer dissemble.”85 The enslaved easily related to this message, and since they made up roughly one-third of the non-Indian population in the district, the scales now tipped overwhelmingly toward the Indians and the enslaved. Although it is unclear how many enslaved actively took part in the fighting on that fateful November day in 1729, they did not come to the aid of their enslavers.86 The Natchez had slowly but surely gleaned the meaning of slavery from the French settlers. The Indian slave trade that drove members of other Indian people into the fold of the Natchez Nation was in full swing throughout the early eighteenth century. Therefore, these refugees understood the concept of European slavery well.87 Though the Natchez held captives themselves, those were war captives and could often be integrated into society via kinship ties, as demonstrated by the Africandescended war leader in 1723.88 Once the number of enslaved Africans began to grow in 1726, the French employed the full weight of the Code Noir in Natchez, and all of the Indians began to understand how and why African captives were forced to labor. Furthermore, the growing number of enslavers in the district began to treat the Natchez as inferior, by law and in custom. Up until the late 1720s, the Natchez had still believed that they would be able to assimilate the European newcomers into their culture.89 Not anymore.

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Once the Natchez found out that enslaved Africans were clearly separated from white society, their daily experiences with the French in their villages allowed them to experience the way the French sought to dominate enslaved Africans. The French behavior had changed markedly from the earlier years of the settlement, and the Natchez noticed. The Louisiana Code Noir of 1724 also treated Indians as a separate and inferior legal category. And so, “by the late 1720s, France’s racial policies had arrived in Natchez Country with a vengeance, ready to swallow the People of the Sun [Natchez].”90 Worse, the French also began to mete out corporal punishment to Natchez people in the same way that they did to enslaved Africans. The Natchez complained to du Pratz: “For the least fault they will tie them to a post, whip them as they do their black slaves. Have they not already done so to one of our young men; and is death not preferable to slavery?”91 Reports of sexual violence against Native women also began to surface, likely spawned by the French subjugation of Native women based on complexion. That placed them on a level with African women, and the French interpreted “their sexual liberty as sexual availability.”92 Once the French relegated both the Natchez and Africans to a position of social inferiority, they created a logical union between the two. French claims to Natchez lands, and their efforts to define and treat the Natchez as distinctively unequal, proved too much for the frail relationship between the two peoples. When Sieur de Chepart threatened to take away the land of the Natchez, the Natives could come to no other conclusion than that their attempt to absorb the French had failed. A search for profit on the one hand and a sense of superiority and control on the other hand drove the French. The “sauvages,” as their enslaved, should not be an obstacle to the exploitation of the riches of the Natchez District’s soil, but, rather, they were tools to be used to gain access to the wealth. Unfortunately for all people involved, their initial assessment of the situation developing in 1729 was wrong. The violence that shook Natchez in 1729 was unprecedented. Nations associated with the Natchez also went on the warpath, and the governor in New Orleans ordered the defenses of the city restored and mended by enslaved people. He also ordered a group of enslaved Africans to attack a small Indian band south of New Orleans, further highlighting the importance of complexion in the region. He hoped this divide-andconquer strategy would introduce a general animosity between Africans and American Indians outside of the Natchez District and diminish the threat to New Orleans.93 The French clearly feared that the Indian population of the whole colony was about to rise against them.

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Frustration between the Natchez and Europeans led to this outbreak of violence. Africans and American Indians, in the tradition of the first African rebel leader, made it evident that they would not suffer further mistreatment at the hand of the French. The role of the enslaved Africans, however, remained ambivalent. Since the Natchez accepted a view of society that embraced different complexions and a requisite hierarchical order based on phenotype, it is difficult to glean from the sources how exactly the relationship between Natives, Europeans, and Africans continued. No accounts of either Natchez and enslaved remain, and French chroniclers were unsure of what to make of the situation. The Natchez still treated a majority of the Africans as an inferior group within their society. A number of Africans had to perform physical labor, but so did the white prisoners who survived the initial outbreak of violence. A large number of the enslaved at least went hunting to supply the beleaguered nation, if they did not join forces with the Natchez to fight the French. Yet not all Atlantic Africans followed that model, and some even ran away to reunite with their former French enslavers.94 The Atlantic Africans were likely unsure about what strategy to pursue. Both the Natchez and French employed a form of servitude that could potentially keep African people in a form of bondage, but the Natchez mode of captivity more closely resembled traditional forms of bondage in Africa.95 As individuals, enslaved Africans, it seems, judged their chances as captives or partners of the Natchez against a life of slavery under the French and acted accordingly. They may have gambled on liberty as a reward from the French for loyal service, and some African captives indeed received their freedom once they made their way to New Orleans.96 After the December 1729 attack, the French enlisted the aid of their Choctaw allies and laid siege to the Grand Village of the Natchez. During the siege, the majority of the enslaved were adamant about whose side they were supporting. Far from remaining neutral, the enslaved took up weapons and it seems at times instructed the Natchez warriors how to defend the town and ostensibly their freedom.97 The French trained at least five of the enslaved who supported the Natchez as gunners and fired captured artillery on the French troops and their Indian allies. Unfortunately for the besieged, the Natchez were overpowered and driven them from their homeland. Just like the first African rebel, the enslaved were unsuccessful in opposing the French. The surviving gunners were taken captive by the French and burned in New Orleans, together with two other enslaved men who had killed the Jesuit priest of Natchez and were wearing his clothes when they were captured.98

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The violence with which the French executed the African rebels lets us deduce some important conclusions. How close the Natchez and the Atlantic Africans collaborated hardly mattered to the French in the end. Since whites were clearly the targets of the Natchez’s raid, the French had to make sure that their superiority would not fall victim to the news that traveled up and down the Mississippi River. Maintaining that supremacy made it a necessity to send the strongest possible signal. This would have also reinforced the belief of the people in New Orleans that order could be maintained and that their position in the lower Mississippi Valley as white Europeans was not at stake. As it turned out, however, it was.

The End of French Plantations in the Natchez District In the end, the Choctaws and Chickasaws retained control of the region at the expense of the Natchez Indians and enslaved Africans. Colonists never returned to Natchez in the French period, and one of the beachheads that the French Empire had established in the lower Mississippi Valley ceased to function. The French Empire never recovered and eventually lost its North American colonies in 1763 after the French and Indian War. Africans had helped deliver this decisive blow. Ultimately, the role of the enslaved was diminished by history, but it was the enslaved who tipped the scales and played a decisive role in the development and destruction of the Natchez District under French rule. Their introduction to Natchez by the French set into motion a change in the social structure of Natchez that undid all French efforts to draw wealth from the district’s soil. Once complexion and concomitant ideas about laws and status entered into the equation, the French faced a situation that required more tact than they possessed. The Natchez, after failing to demonstrate their own superiority to the French, then used Atlantic Africans as allies to defeat the Europeans. Slavery haunted the French in Natchez. The growing plantation society increased the pressure to define people by complexion, and the French saw no fault in doing so. With a few exceptions like Samba Bambara, many enslaved had no option but to accept their subordination and their status at the bottom of society. Bambara used his language skills to work as an interpreter for French courts and to sway the scales of justice by allegedly leading a slave conspiracy.99 Far from their homeland and brutalized by the Middle Passage and seasoning, the French forced the Africans to submit to control. Nevertheless, the enslaved people in Natchez simply dealt with the realities presented to them and made their

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own choices. They likely did not consider larger philosophical concepts of freedom or liberty in their actions, but by interacting with—and in— the French colonial system they became important actors. That importance reached beyond the immediate fate of the Louisiana colony; their actions also defined the importance of complexion within the French colonial empire. The Natchez Indians, however, did not internalize the French idea of a racially structured plantation society. The measure of control the French believed they held over the Natchez proved to be a fatal delusion. When the Natchez rose against the French Empire, the enslaved certainly did not aid their owners and thereby contributed to the demise of the French plantation operation in Natchez.100 For a short time, the Natchez even turned the French plantation society on its head when they forced captured Europeans to do physical labor and did not integrate them into their society, as they would have done with European captives before 1726. It would take another three decades for Europeans to reestablish a plantation foothold in the district. The Natchez never recovered from their attempt to repulse the French from their settlements. Some of the Africans who had remained with the Indians—and whose status was still in limbo—were once again forced to accept the unchanging reality of slavery. Yet the Natchez showed some measure of compassion toward the Africans. When the French besieged them and demanded that both African and European prisoners be released, the Natchez promised to do so if they were granted one day to prepare. During the night, the Natchez and some Africans slipped away from the fortifications and melted into the darkness. The French could not pursue them.101 Some of the formerly enslaved, then, had struck up an alliance with the Natchez. Even though on the losing side of the war, they still clung to their freedom in a strange land. Although their villages were destroyed, the Natchez and their African allies continued to fight the French where they could, only to find that they could not win. If the Natchez lost a battle, their prisoners faced enslavement at the hands of the French—some in Louisiana, but most spent the rest of their lives in the sugar fields of Saint-Domingue or Martinique.102 The largest group of survivors united with the Chickasaws in 1731, but the Choctaws by then had become allies of the French again, and the Natchez found no rest from their enemies among the Chickasaws. In 1730, several groups of Chickasaws, the Natchez survivors among them, left the lower Mississippi Valley to find a new home along the Savannah River in South Carolina (and later Georgia) and among the Creek in modern-day Alabama

the purity of blood and dark complexions  /  47

and western Georgia. By that point, the Natchez had ceased to function as a distinct group.103 Yet it seems that the surviving Natchez did foster a reputation of racial inclusion of African people, even after they were no longer on “native ground.” They continued to attract runaways.104 David George escaped from his “very severe” master in Virginia in 1742. First hiding in South Carolina, and later somewhere on the Savannah River (probably Augusta), he fled his master’s pursuit to a safe harbor with the Creek Indians. His enslaver’s son was not deterred easily. George had to make another escape, from the Creeks this time, only to flee to “the Nantchee or Natchez Indians,” where he “got to live with their king Jack.” Eventually he was discovered again and lived the rest of his life as a bound laborer in Augusta, Georgia. George became a Baptist, and his congregation recorded his remarkable story. Not only did he choose to run away from his enslaver, but he involuntarily traversed a route that would be taken by several thousand victims of the internal slave trade in decades to come. The survivors of the Natchez Indians, probably living as a distinctive group among the Chickasaws, still took in African runaway slaves.105 The last mention in the records of Louisiana of the Natchez as a people is again related to slavery. In 1794, several captives came forward to protest their status as enslaved Indians, which had been outlawed in the colony in 1763 when the Iberian Empire took control of Louisiana.106 The Spanish described the members of the Natchez Nation in detail. Apparently, the friendship between the Natchez and enslaved Africans had extended beyond the rebellion. According to a Spanish official, these captives were at least part African, and they were all descendants of the Indians who “revolted and committed cruel atrocities” under the regime of the French.107 Louisianans clearly remembered the scars that revolt had left more than six decades before. Yet the Spanish were more concerned with the present than with the past. The enslaved who claimed their freedom mostly belonged to indigo planters. Although indigo was a profitable crop, in recent years “insects, floods, war and famine” had caused these planters in Louisiana to sustain painful losses. Now their enslaved were suing for freedom based on Natchez ancestry.108 It stands to reason that the Spanish, at a time when complexion was more clearly linked to slavery than under the French, made sure that the stage was set for these descendants to stay in captivity. The administrators endeavored to describe the people suing for freedom as at least partially African, signaling a complexion that rendered them legally

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enslavable. Based on their law against Indian slavery, the Spanish should have immediately set the enslaved free. However, circumstances in the case of the Natchez were different. The 1729 rebellion had earned them a reputation that not even their descendants could escape. Spanish officials in Louisiana did their best to circumvent the law. They alleged that the enslaved were scheming with people of color in New Orleans to incite a rebellion in the city. Once again, white people merged the nonwhite complexions into an inferior position and drew on the fear of slave rebellion to quell all hopes of freedom. The officials called the owners who had already freed their enslaved Indians “idiots.” They reminded the government in Spain that the king had enforced slavery on “Chilean Indians for their perfidy and cruelty” in 1608 and 1625 to circumvent the same legal problems in that part of the Spanish Empire.109 In essence, they established the blackness of the people involved. The Louisianans tried to establish similar circumstances in order to allow for a legal exception in the case of the enslaved of Natchez ancestry. What happened in 1729 echoed through time and cost enslaved Natchez a chance for freedom. Spain was not about to set enslaved people free—Indian or not—who had a history of violent resistance against colonial enslavers. The Natchez had become a symbol, a warning of what could happened if people of various complexion were to unite. Racial supremacy had to be protected, even if the parties involved had long since departed the region. All empires feared revolts of Indians and the enslaved. Racial boundaries could be fluid at times, but in no way would any empire in the lower Mississippi Valley project weakness by allowing descendants of rebels to go free. Times had also changed. At the end of the eighteenth century, complexion had become the central characteristic that defined slavery. Dress, behavior, Christianity, even legal protections were not seen as being on the same level as one’s skin color. Blackness, perceived or real, doomed the plaintiffs to perpetual servitude as the Europeans in the Atlantic World moved to establish what the modern reader would understand as the concept of race.

2 /

English Bloodlines and the Expansion of Empire: Natchez 1763 to 1779

After the Natchez destroyed the French plantation colony in the Natchez District, French settlers never returned. Traders found little reason to ply their wares in the area since the Natchez had been forced off their land in the aftermath. Its strategic importance had declined as well with the growth of St. Louis. France relinquished its Louisiana colony west of the Mississippi to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762, and the eastern part south of the 31st parallel became the newly established British province of West Florida with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Once more, the map of the lower Mississippi Valley had been redrawn in Europe, but it remained to be seen if the tiny pockets of European settlers strewn along the Gulf Coast and the lower Mississippi River Valley could actually claim the lands their rulers called part of their empires.1 It was not until Great Britain received Natchez at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 that the lands around Natchez that the Europeans considered unsettled—but that were by no means empty— again beckoned prospective enslavers. The fertile soil and the promise of profit lured new settlers brave enough to venture to the frontier of British settlement in North America and to settle in a space that served as a way station for Native American and European travelers as they crisscrossed the region in search of profit and prey. To clear their fields, these settlers began importing enslaved Africans in an attempt to revive the plantation society that had been destroyed by the Natchez Indians more than three decades earlier. Although these British colonists endured multiple

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dangers on the frontier, they were unable to forge a plantation society that could equal the wealth of colonies like Virginia, the Carolinas, Jamaica, and Barbados or approximate the size of towns like Pensacola, Mobile, or New Orleans. The British Empire failed to establish lasting control over Natchez and its people before Spain conquered the district in 1779 during the American Revolution. Still, the British laid the groundwork for the plantation society to come. Britain faced the same problems that made the French settlement at Natchez such a daunting task. The British capital was located in Pensacola, and outposts were reestablished in Mobile, and along the Mississippi River in Manchac, Baton Rouge, Point Coupée, and Natchez. To encourage settlers to move to the newly founded province, the British king authorized Governor George Johnston to present newly arriving settlers with very generous land grants. Given the frontier character of Natchez and the other posts, Johnston evidently tried, with some success, to attract former soldiers to Natchez. The land grants for soldiers who had fought the French were especially large. Depending on rank, former imperial soldiers would be granted anywhere from one hundred to five thousand acres. West Florida was also the only territory available after the British curtailed further westward movement beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the Ohio Valley in 1763. Therefore, settlers had little choice but to come to West Florida if they intended to move west.2 In the 1760s, the first Loyalists who fled the mounting tensions between the Americans and the British Crown targeted West Florida as a new region to settle and quickly complemented the ranks of the former soldiers.3 These new arrivals also received large land grants from the British Crown. Governor Johnston’s order from Great Britain allowed “one hundred Acres of Land [to] be granted to every Person being Master or Mistress of a Family, for himself or herself, and fifty Acres for every white or black Man, Woman, or Child, of which such Person’s Family shall consist.”4 Those Loyalists coming from the Carolinas or other slaveholding societies brought not only their families but also their “households” with them. These households contained enslaved people.5 Hence, complexion once again became integral to the establishment of a colonial venture in the Natchez District. The labor of enslaved people could—or so every European involved in the settlement schemes hoped—transform the wilderness of the area into a profitable enterprise.

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British Ideas of Complexion Enslaved Africans were vital to the British schemes from the beginning. In 1763, the British dispatched Lieutenant James Campbell and a small number of soldiers to open a channel from the Mississippi River to Bayou Manchac. Although soldiers of the British Empire were certainly not incapable of doing ditch work, fifty enslaved people accompanied the soldiers to labor in the swamp. British migrants to the lower Mississippi Valley accepted slavery as the natural status of African-descended people.6 African-descended people had no innate claim to freedom and liberty; they were property and treated as such. Yet Atlantic Africans still managed to carve out a place in the British slave society of Natchez. And that is significant. Although enslaved Africans quickly became the backbone of any agricultural endeavor in Natchez, their skin color alone did not necessarily doom them to this fate. Other factors played significant roles as well. Naturalist Bernard Romans wrote a survey of the region and its inhabitants based on his time in the area after Great Britain claimed the Floridas in 1763. His 1775 Concise Natural History aims to introduce the reader to the vast stretch of land from the Atlantic Coast along the Gulf Coast west to the Mississippi River that became British East and West Florida. Romans comments extensively on the flora and fauna of the area, but importantly he also includes the notes on agriculture found in many of the contemporary works on natural history. Colored by his belief that “the primum Mobile of the welfare of their inhabitants are the African slaves,” he continues to argue: “I cannot in conscience forbear to give my advice to all adventurers in Florida, who desire to improve a plantation for their benefit, not to forget these useful though inferior members of society; not but poor families may live in plenty, and by honest labour acquire a comfortable and easy situation in life as may wished for, but until their industry helps them to the means of buying one slave so on till they get more it will be vanity for them to hope for an accumulation of wealth.”7 After establishing the absolute necessity for enslaved Africans to labor in the prospective slave labor camps, he embarks on a discussion as to why they were suited to do so. To Romans, enslaved Atlantic Africans were deserving of their fate. Race as we understand it plays a key role in the way Romans experiences his surroundings by turning his own whiteness into the measuring stick of other humans. However, for Romans race as a modern concept did not yet exist.8 Important for modern readers is the way in which Romans and his

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contemporaries used the word “race.” Romans’s attempts to classify humans into categories of whiteness and nonwhiteness were par for the course in the eighteenth century. Descriptions such as the following litter his writings and those of many other eighteenth-century Europeans: “I have in my dissertation on the origin of the savages which has swelled beyond my intention, made mention of a peculiar characteristic of the Negroe species, here let me be allowed to mention that they, like all others of the different species, and varieties of the human genus are born white, which colour soon changes, but on the moment of birth in both sexes the exterior parts of generation will shew, whether the person will be black, yellow, brown, red, or another colour known among mankind.”9 Romans, like many of his contemporaries, including Voltaire, understood “blackness as an overall physiological phenomenon,” connected to blood and bile, and deeply influenced by the Africans’ environment.10 All of these discoveries were unfavorably compared to the European counterparts; whiteness was deemed the standard, blackness the substandard.11 Hence, Europeans began to latch onto ideas that supported “the ways that power relationships could be produced through descriptions of bodily features,” not skin color alone. Because of that connection, the African “race” as “black human variety” slowly crystallized with concurrent definitions of human whiteness. This was important for the British.12 European theories about race, and how it allowed the British to deploy enslaved African labor, did have a strong link to the Natchez District. Like many other descriptions of non-European regions, Romans’s travelogue levels a host of perceived “savage” properties against Native Americans and Africans. To him, for example, “the women suffer no more by childbirth than any other savage women [referring to both African and Indian here]; they retire into a place of solitude at the time, and after delivery return to their daily labour.” Yet he readily admits that one woman died in childbirth just a few dwellings from his own. The common trope of the “savage woman” who has no trouble giving birth as a marker of an inferior—more primal—being still appears as a powerful reminder to his readers that the people he describes are neither white, civilized, nor, by extension, Christian.13 Christianity here is important, because it was specifically not enough for Romans and his contemporaries to denounce what the modern reader would recognize as a racial identification, in this case “red” for Native American, or “black” for Atlantic African. Romans had to employ other cultural signifiers like “savage” to clearly identify his

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Figure 2. Bernard Roman’s depiction of a Chickasaw through a lens of complexion. Library of Congress.

subjects as nonwhite at every level of definition. “Savage” denotes more than (nonwhite) skin color. Other civilizing factors actually enhance the Africans’ blackness, as becomes evident when Romans rhetorically asks, “Can one say the favourites of mankind (I mean liberty and property) are anywhere enjoyed in Africa?”14 To him and his AngloAmerican readers, other hallmarks of civilization and their respective absences also add to a lack of civilization among African people, and in turn contribute to their blackness. In addition, a lack of Christianity allows the enslavement of Africans by righteous Christians without sinning in the eyes of God.15 As European discourse on complexion continued throughout the eighteenth century, “savages”—as Romans and his contemporaries called them—were not just defined by their skin color but also judged inferior by their cultural markers, climate, gender roles, ability to fit into Christian society—or be Christians—and their willingness to display

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“cultural whiteness.”16 Skin color did matter, but only as part of the whole, and throughout the Enlightenment period as “more a shifting mosaic than a fixed portrait.”17 Issues of definition remained a constant topic of debate, and this shows how vague the meaning of complexion and blackness could be. Even though the laws of the British slave codes appeared solid, free people of color and their status occasionally confounded the settlers and put the social structure of Natchez on unsound footings. Consequently, as the century progressed, Anglo-Americans began to hone their cultural and legal methods to describe blackness as tantamount to enslavement. During that process, Europeans essentially defined their whiteness as sacrosanct and developed methods to define themselves apart from people with a different complexion. The English embarked on their quest to counter Spanish supremacy in the Americas in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. To outgain Spanish profits, they resorted to piracy, trade, and then turned toward plantation agriculture. During their initial sorties in the maritime world of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, English sailors encountered slavery as a threat since many sea powers frequently captured English ships and enslaved the crew. Slavery and concomitant English liberties entered the minds of Englishmen in that way and made them familiar with the concept of enslavement and convinced that as English subjects, they represented the exact opposite to slavery.18 The attempt to become a maritime trading power, in connection with problems supplying labor to the Caribbean islands won from the Spanish, led to the importation of enslaved Africans. Soon, all English colonies held varying enslaved populations of Atlantic Africans. Yet just as the French Code Noir of 1685 was originally designed to govern the Caribbean islands and was amended for Louisiana, the English also produced different legislation that covered the various aspects of slave societies across their American and Caribbean colonies. The first laws regarding slavery and the cementation of white supremacy on the North American continent appeared in Virginia but were based on a changing theology on the different complexions rather than on the “purity” of blood. English settlers labeled non-Christians as heathens and then proceeded to define the heathen status as hereditary. In a nutshell, pagan children were not capable of becoming Christians through baptism. Across the English Caribbean, this process initially centered on religion.19

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Social control was paramount for English administrators, and as in French Louisiana, that meant separating white people from Africans and Indians. In Natchez, that occurred later through the colonial process than on the Eastern Seaboard. While established English colonies largely demarcated racial lines in the seventeenth century, Natchez’s borderland character and intrinsic imperial instability forced British colonists to reestablish and at times reinitiate the process of racemaking that had been completed elsewhere a century prior. When Native women in early seventeenth-century Virginia became less obtainable and European women more available, the colonists quickly took to the idea that heathens had to remain outside of their society. As African people began to enter the colonies, they received the same treatment as heathen outsiders, with an increased emphasis on their skin color as an easy mark of heathenism and a lack of Christianity. The English soon followed this conclusion (1631) by passing laws restricting sexual relations across the color line. The combination of race and heathenism as a demarcation for intimate interaction between people developed across all English colonies in the Atlantic World.20 Even in the Puritan colonies of New England and Barbados—where matters of religion and morality tended to trump complexion—African and Indian bodies continued to present problems to the body politic of the settlers so closely tied to their religious community.21 In Virginia, the initial attempts at regulating people other than those from English stock found its penultimate expression in the 1667 law codes tightly circumscribing race, resulting in the comprehensive slave code the colony passed in 1705. Christianity was no longer a sufficient condition for a person’s freedom. Once an outsider entered the English colonies, the laws maintained his or her status as an outsider going forward. Virginians spent the next two generations refining their idea of Christianity to ensure that whiteness equaled Christian, whereas nonwhite complexions remained outside of the community.22 As the English cut down the access to baptism, they also shut off the chances for Atlantic Africans to receive freedom: “In so doing, English people in the Atlantic littoral created a creole idea of race and Christianity that strongly rejected metropolitan ideas about the potential Christianity of all people.”23 Much like the French, the English justified this with bloodlines. Whiteness here became important. As the English began to encounter not only non-English but also nonwhite people in their colonies, they became worried about the status of mixed-blooded people. In Virginia they made maternity, rather than paternity, the deciding factor. Whereas an English father could have meant English liberties for the child of an

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enslaved woman and an Englishman, now the status and bloodline of the mother took precedence.24 Colonial Americans no longer intended to baptize African people by the end of the seventeenth century and had adopted “the racialized language of hereditary heathenism.”25 As Africans (and Indians) were actively separate from the white community, Virginians also addressed the status of white indentured servants by expressly allowing them to remain members of the Christian community, therefore separating them from nonwhite people. Their white bloodlines, after successful completion of their term, also granted them English liberties.26 This “hereditary heathenism” did not initially exist in Barbados or New England, however. Here, complexion did not exclude islanders from the body of Christ, which did not stop them from enslaving Native Americans or Africans either. In fact, the ability of New Englanders to fit captive Natives into a system of servitude that eventually gave way to hereditary slavery appears to have come from that process.27 As historians have shown in Virginia, gender played a crucial role in defining Indian and African standing in society, in particular in the AngloAtlantic world. Through observing African women and their supposed painless births, as described in Romans’s text, European men tried to divest them from the common origin of mankind as they were supposedly not experiencing Eve’s curse.28 As enslaved Africans and Indians pressed for their freedom as members of the body of Christ through baptism, English societies outside New England began to pass legislation that ruled out baptism as a possibility for freedom. As slave societies grew and enslaved labor became an all-important commodity, nonwhite complexions rendered Atlantic Africans and Indians unable to participate in Christian (and therefore European) communities through a slow process. Eventually, labor needs dictated that African and Indian people could only marginally participate in the body of Christ, and not at all in the body politic, even in the Puritan colonies, by the late eighteenth century.29 By then, their skin color marked Africans as outsiders who were bound by slavery, no matter their Christianity. Significantly, all these different laws and legal conventions were drafted and negotiated in the English colonies. Virginians, New Englanders, Barbadians, and Jamaicans—all white males—developed these concepts to protect their whiteness and at the same time secure a labor force in perpetuity. Their whiteness had to be protected because it crucially linked them to English liberties: “In metropolitan Britain, confessional

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status and cultural and ethnic distinctiveness produced gradation of different subjects, whereby all those of suspect loyalty, including Catholics, Jews, Nonconformists, Dissenters, Denizens, and, after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Highland Scots, found their liberties circumscribed.” In West Florida and Natchez, the differences were measured through complexion rather than the more complex workings of differentiation in England. Yet just as British law limited liberty to “full Britons,” so did English settlers seek to limit any liberties to white settlers. An English father legally guaranteed one’s own Englishness and therefore access to liberty. That had to be protected and could not be bestowed on people with mixed bloodlines. In turn, they also influenced the metropole’s laws of complexion.30

Rebuilding an Empire: Virginia in the Lower Mississippi Valley? For all the potential that the soil in Natchez held, the initial commercial appeal was low. Natchez had only a few merchants in 1766; John Bradly operated the lone trading post with Henry Fairchild.31 Yet despite Natchez’s apparent isolation, its soil still beckoned. Beginning in 1765, the British began to import enslaved people from Jamaica to West Florida. The African captives were shipped to Pensacola and eventually to Manchac, where they were theoretically available for purchase by the enslavers of the Natchez District. Unfortunately for the colonists in Natchez and Manchac, enslavers around New Orleans purchased most of this human cargo, which caused Anglo-Spanish relations in the lower Mississippi Valley to sour quickly.32 The inability of Spain to supply enslaved workers to Louisiana in the 1760s forced planters from New Orleans to buy from British traders, and those traders were happy to sell enslaved Africans before they made the arduous journey to Manchac, leaving the supply of enslaved available to Natchez extremely low. Overall, the British transshipped roughly 2,500 enslaved via Jamaica to their new colonies.33 Although the Natchez Indians were no longer in the region, other Indian nations dominated the area around Natchez. This created numerous fault lines of complexion. The Tunica, for example, who had long been the staunchest—if not necessarily the most powerful—French allies in the area, attacked a detachment of British soldiers in 1764.34 These soldiers were on their way up the Mississippi River to take possession of the French forts in Illinois when an enslaved African hid in one of the barges to seek refuge, and the British commander, Major Loftus, refused

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to return him to his French enslaver. Although the French eventually had to respect the major’s military power and let the enslaved man go, in response the Tunica Indians ambushed the detachment and killed several soldiers.35 The Natives here tried to become arbiters of power: the Atlantic Africans represented a token in the power struggle between the French and British Empires that on paper had long been decided. The region was still a frontier. All investments, the enslaved in particular, had to be protected rather than risked on adventures into backcountry plantation districts. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, in another example, resented letting the European empires expand into their native lands. Discontented with the British and the trading relations forced upon them, thirty Choctaw warriors robbed the military storehouse in Natchez and secured horses and all other merchandise as a prize in 1770. These raids occurred despite the peace treaty negotiated between the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Upper Creeks, and Great Britain in 1765. The Choctaws also forced Great Britain to sign a treaty that same year that finalized the 31st parallel as the border of West Florida.36 Natchez was far from secure. British soldiers were scarce in the province, and the district was always undergarrisoned. In 1764, fifty soldiers were supposed to be dispatched to the area, but not until 1766 did the governor of Pensacola send forty-eight soldiers to Natchez, and they stayed for only two years.37 Due to high costs, administrators recalled the detachments to Pensacola, and in exchange the settlers received a few weapons and munitions to defend themselves.38 The situation in the 1760s was so bad that Major Robert Farmar did not have enough British flags to fly over all outposts of the mighty British Empire in the lower Mississippi Valley.39 Although Britain had gained West Florida from France, control eluded His Majesty’s governors just as much as it had the French. The British had to maintain cordial relations with the Spanish, the surviving French population in their new province, and the surrounding powerful Indian nations. The main goal for the post commanders was to establish good relations with the Indians and minimize the influence of their “late Masters.”40 Settlers had to be kept under control as well, once they could be attracted to the new outposts. Great Britain had no doubt what would guarantee the success of their operations in West Florida. Farmar, West Florida’s military commander, ordered his subordinate post commanders to keep a close eye on the agricultural development of each post. Commandants were to pay careful “attention to the nature of the Soil” and report back to headquarters. In addition, the British commander

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urged his officers to forward any observation as to “what Implements in Husbandry is necessary, and actually wanted to Cultivate the Country.” The major tried his best to discover what the soil in outposts like Natchez was “capable of producing” and what was needed to improve the settlements throughout West Florida.41 At least for Natchez, there was no doubt among British officials that it merited every effort to settle. The first British governor of West Florida, Montfort Brown, described the Natchez District as one of “the most charming prospects in the world.” The soil was “exceeding fertile; consisting of black mould, at least three feet deep in the hills and much deeper in the bottoms.”42 Other travelers corroborated the euphoric view of the governor, also highlighting the nature of the soil and the numerous possibilities for agriculture in their glowing report of the Natchez District, praising the soil and declaring that “the like of which [soil] is certainly not to be seen any where else, in all the southern parts of North America.”43 The promising soil attracted settlers to Natchez, but as soon as the first crops were sold in the empire, British traveler John H. Wynne advised planters “to purchase negroes, and to enlarge the British plantations, beyond what they are otherwise capable of. Such plantations would be more profitable than even sugar-colonies and supply the nation with more valuable and necessary articles. If we compare this with the barren deserts of Canada and Florida, what a wide difference is there!”44 Echoing Romans, the path to wealth and success in Natchez seemed easy to navigate.

British Slave Codes in West Florida Hierarchies of complexion were significant to attract settlers to Natchez and create a sustainable colonial outpost. Settling Natchez was as much about race as it was about imperial control. Settlers and the enslaved trickled in slowly, despite the alluring descriptions and the generous land grants. But they came. To preempt any questions concerning the legal standing of African captives in West Florida and Natchez, the British government published its first slave act in 1766. Like the French Code Noir for Louisiana, the British act was driven by the desire to regulate slavery and manage relations among white Europeans and the nonwhite population in the developing backcountry society. To achieve that, they could utilize a century and a half of experience in the British Atlantic on how to best control and subjugate Atlantic Africans and Natives. Yet practice—as the British learned quickly—did not make perfect.

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Settlers who arrived in Natchez from the East Coast colonies carried British notions about complexion with them into the lower Mississippi Valley. They attempted to create a slave society and requisite laws that were quite different from the Code Noir that came before, or the Spanish code based on the Siete Partidas that followed English rule. These English also had a legal notion of the enslaved themselves that was different from the Spanish. Even though slavery and slave laws did not exist in England, settlers owned human chattel and crafted laws in Virginia, New England, and the Caribbean that systematically categorized race and slavery. Moreover, English settlers carried with them a fundamental notion of property when they crossed the Atlantic. As ideas of complexion hardened into stigmas of blackness, enslaved Africans were increasingly seen as property over which enslavers legally exercised complete control. In addition, English law clearly sustained the notion that enslaved Africans were property in the sense of livestock or furniture.45 Therefore questions about treatment and condition of the enslaved had no legal standing. In many ways, the system of slavery and the resulting form of racism in the English colonies may have been unique in the New World. Slavery and freedom were connected at the hip, even though they are polar opposites. Freedom came into this world only after slavery: “Slaves were the first persons to find themselves in a situation where it was vital to refer to what they wanted [freedom] in this way. And slaveholders, quick to recognize this new value, were the first class of parasitic oppressors to exploit it.” In most slave societies, enslavers employed the concept of freedom as an important method to regulate slave behavior. Manumission served a specific purpose. It allowed enslavers to set a few select people free in order to maintain the façade that liberty remained an option if the enslaved behaved according to the enslavers’ will.46 In Virginia, that was not the case. Freedom was a concept intimately connected to whiteness at the end of the American Revolution, whereas slavery was reserved for Atlantic Africans. Free people of color endangered the clear lines of demarcation between the meaning of whiteness and blackness.47 Freedom for Atlantic Africans threatened white liberty, making it a hard thing to achieve in British colonial societies in the Atlantic World. As strong as these racial tendencies were across Britain’s Atlantic possessions, Natchez serves as a foil that helps to investigate how these ideas of racial social structures penetrated into the borderlands. English enslavers used a class concept to define all whites as free to protect their liberty by the end of the eighteenth century.48 Yet as the first British migrants settled in the Natchez District, their small numbers allowed for

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little social cohesion. The initial number of enslaved African Americans also did not rival those in Jamaica, Barbados, or Virginia. Therefore, the settlers in Natchez had no direct need to subjugate the enslaved. Nevertheless, the liminal state of Natchez’s society under the British—as, indeed, that of all of British West Florida—did not stop colonists from passing a slave code based on previous British experiences. That codified complexion as an increasingly important factor in this outpost of the British Empire. The Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves laid the basis for the prospective slave society in West Florida, and it regulated every aspect of slavery in the new province.49 Most notably, it established firm control over people of color, free or enslaved. Based on complexion, the British code clearly degraded the African-descended population of West Florida. The government needed “to employ a great many Negroes,” and “custom has prevailed to distinguish their color for the badge of slavery.”50 The British colonies equaled phenotype with social status, or rather the unattainability of true freedom for everyone not possessing white skin. Lumped in with the Africans were Native Americans, who could also be held in bondage. The code further stipulated that children would follow the status of the mother and that, once enslaved, only manumission by the enslaver could free them from the status of “personal chattel.”51 The British enacted a very stringent code based on those of the thirteen seaboard colonies. Although they included “mulattos” and “mustees” as caste categories for the enslaved and free people, the provisions in the code were aimed at discouraging miscegenation and resembled those of the French Code Noir. When the law was enacted in early 1767, a person of color had to either prove his or her freedom or face reenslavement. Manumissions were legal, but there were stipulations that tremendously complicated the process. An enslaver who wanted to manumit his human chattel needed to provide a security payment to the secretary’s office “in the sum of £100 sterling that such a slave or slaves so emancipated shall not at any time become a burden to the province.”52 This part of the slave act effectively prevented manumissions because the people of West Florida did not have the currency to provide for a slave’s freedom.53 A case in point was made in 1764, when the future governor of West Florida, George Johnston, reported that the colonists of the region were “in a deplorable Situation,” had “no Cash circulating amongst them,” and hence the “Goods of the Merchants are rotting in the Stores.”54 The second provision for successful manumission was even more prohibitive.

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Enslaved people had to be manumitted at the secretary’s office in Pensacola. People living in the city might free their enslaved if they could procure the necessary funds. An enslaver in Natchez, facing several weeks of travel across Indian country and through swampy terrain, would have certainly thought twice before he undertook the journey to free even the most faithful enslaved African. It is no surprise that enslavers manumitted only eleven captives in British West Florida.55 Taken as a whole, the code narrowly circumscribed the lives of Africans. The enslaved were limited in their movement to the outposts or their plantations. If caught abroad without a pass from their enslaver, they would be whipped. If white people confronted enslaved Africans outside of a two-mile radius of their home, the enslaved had to submit to a search and could be “moderately” corrected by the investigator if they resisted. Since every African-descended person was liable to be treated as an enslaved, this provision also limited the freedom of movement for any free person of color in West Florida. Resistance of a person of color against any white person led to severe punishment as well. The third offense against a European immediately resulted in a death penalty for a person of color.56 If, on the other hand, white people killed or injured people of color, free or enslaved, they had to pay a fine but suffered no further consequences. The enslaved were also prohibited from owning property, or any dealings or transactions in their own name, and they were especially forbidden to own any firearms (without the consent of their enslavers).57 Any felony committed by a nonwhite person immediately drew the death penalty.58 Nowhere does the act mention the right of a nonwhite person to serve as witness against a white person. Based on this fact and the custom across British North America against slave testimony, it is logical to suspect that people of color were denied this right in West Florida as well. Settlers attempted to sharpen the slave code even further but were unsuccessful.59 Complexion, then, became increasingly important since blackness allowed white settlers unquestioned authority over a person’s liberty. Yet some Atlantic Africans were still capable of presenting themselves as free, laying claim to cultural traits that were usually associated with whiteness. Even though white enslavers tried to decrease the freedom of movement of free and enslaved Atlantic Africans, the captors were still dependent on their labor and services beyond the plantation borders. The skills of Atlantic Africans to navigate the backcountry waterways and paths were quite necessary to establish a functioning plantation economy in

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the colonial Sunbelt. Enslavers had to adapt to local circumstances and what nature dictated if they wanted to reap a profit.60 In the Natchez area, free Atlantic Africans survived through unique skill sets they could offer, while being denied equal rights in their business dealings with white merchants.61 Nevertheless, the success of these measures of the Pensacola government against liberating enslaved people is readily apparent. Although no census was taken for West Florida, historians estimate that no more than fifty to sixty free people of color lived in British West Florida at any given time.62 In the absence of a census, tracing any free people of color becomes extremely difficult. According to one traveler’s account, twenty free people of color lived in Mobile in the 1770s, but the exact number in the other outposts remains a mystery. An additional problem in locating free people of color is their absence from the admittedly sketchy court proceedings. When the British established the province, they also created a superior court in Pensacola “whose jurisdiction extended over the whole province, and where it administered justice under the common law of England.”63 The people in the outlying posts had to rely on magistrates to settle their disputes; only capital cases such as those concerning murder were tried in Pensacola. These magistrates certainly provided the necessary skill in governing the Natchez District, but they were miserable record keepers where Atlantic Africans were concerned. Aside from some personal accounts of settlers in the region, no source material survives that indicates how many free people of color resided in Natchez. Spanish censuses would later list the number of enslaved people, but they neglected to categorize free people of color, perhaps indicating that there simply were not enough freed Africans to be counted or that Spanish officials did not deem them important enough to be noted. The lot of free people of color in West Florida was not an easy one. European legal codes narrowly confined their presence to either bound laborers or free people with little to no rights, and chances to advance at all in the frontier society were slim at best. John Fitzpatrick, who came to be known as the merchant of Manchac, had several encounters with one of two free people of color in Natchez. Nelly Price dealt with the frontier merchant on multiple occasions, incurred debts, and continuously squabbled with the merchant. Although their business relationship did not end on good terms, Price established some measure of independence for herself that extended well into the Spanish period. She did so even though the code of 1766 granted almost no rights to people of color that

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would protect her from a lawsuit, imprisonment, enslavement, or death. The confident African-descended woman proved her mettle frequently in her interactions with Fitzpatrick.64 No matter the odds, African people sought to retain their independence, either in court or outside of the legal system.

Enslaved Runaways on the Edge of Empires The new legal codes introduced in the 1760s essentially left flight as the only option for the enslaved to achieve liberty. Since Natchez became an increasingly appealing destination for planters and their bound laborers, the number of runaways also increased.65 Given the proximity of Spanish Louisiana and the extensive “Indian country” surrounding the pockets of European settlement, enslaved people often tried to run away from their enslavers. How many succeeded is unknown. Once captured, however, these runaways were often returned to their enslavers, and that return left behind a paper trail. Interestingly, both British and Spanish enslaved sought to escape slavery by fleeing across the Mississippi into the territory of the other empire. The enslaved African who hid on the boat of Major Loftus was not the only one who tried to escape bondage by running from one empire to the next. The clearest sign of the value the British attached to their enslaved in West Florida was reflected in the slave act that they passed so quickly after they carved the province out of the lower Mississippi Valley. Paragraph eight of the code stated: That if any person shall inveigle, steal, or carry away such Negro, other slave or slaves or shall employ any person or persons to inveigle, steal, or carry away any such Negro or other slave or slaves so as the owner or employer of such slave or slaves shall be deprived of the use and benefit of such Negro or other slave or slaves in running away or departing from his or her master or employer shall be and he and they upon due proof and conviction of any such offense hereby declared to be guilty of felony and suffer death.66 The next paragraphs stipulated fines for harboring, aiding, and concealing enslaved runaways that had to be paid to the respective enslavers for loss of work.67 However, the threat of punishment for white citizens of West Florida did not deter the enslaved Africans of the province from taking to the woods and swamps to try to escape their deplorable condition.

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Controlling the enslaved Africans had to take precedence for the British lawmakers. Marking the Africans with the badge of inferiority and servitude was the only way to attract settlers, to sustain economic growth, and to establish imperial legitimacy. The Spanish, sitting on the other side of the Mississippi River, had the nominal advantage as they had a strong, established city to oversee their activity in New Orleans. Atlantic Africans sought to utilize the imperial tensions and play the empires against each other, in many ways mimicking the Choctaws or Chickasaws—except that the Atlantic Africans were clearly the weakest party on the playing field that was the lower Mississippi Valley. The governors of Louisiana and West Florida communicated constantly and succeeded in establishing a reciprocal agreement to return enslaved runaways.68 This collaboration between authorities on both sides of the imperial boundary severely reduced the chances that Africans could claim their freedom. Some certainly considered running to Indian country and disappearing into the wilderness surrounding their plantations, but both Great Britain and Spain successfully employed the surrounding Indian nations as slave catchers. As one historian notes, “the return of runaway slaves was a customary obligation in these Indian nations’ relationship with colonies, reciprocated with bounty payments.”69 The governors did not fear that the Native American nations would absorb runaways. The Indian nations surrounding the Europeans were in a process of change, brought on by their contact with, and reinterpretation of, European slave culture. As seen with the Natchez Indians, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks began to think “of themselves as a race of people separate from whites and blacks.” Unlike the Seminoles, the three major nations in the lower Mississippi Valley did not absorb Atlantic Africans in large numbers into their societies.70 Rather, they tried to maintain their own cultural integrity. They clearly understood the European idea of varying complexions and proceeded to adjust their own identities accordingly. In a world increasingly dominated by definitions of complexion, the Natives quickly adjusted their own ideas of captivity to those of the Europeans. Running away was, however, very dangerous. The punishment for a recaptured laborer never lacked in violence. In turn, Africans met in the wilderness had no recourse other than violence if a white person wanted to detain them. While this was certainly a viable option to escape slavery, the enslaved also became the victims of violence. In 1771, for example, Peter Chester accused the Upper Creeks of attacking plantations with no other goal than to steal enslaved. He argued that “these [slaves] cannot

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be enemies of yours nor can honor redound to you as warriors, from killing poor defenseless slaves, yet your parties frequently insult plantations in search of such people.”71 The Creeks had already recognized the value attached to the African captives of the British and sought to profit from the Englishmen’s reliance on the enslaved African workers. White outlaw bands roamed the woods around the villages and plantations as well and made life on the run dangerous for the enslaved. In 1773 a band of outlaws attacked three French traders and their human chattel on the Mississippi River, killing them all. The people of West Florida reacted with outrage and requested help. Even the Spanish governor Luis de Unzaga inquired about the violence in West Florida, as he reported that several dead bodies had recently floated down the Mississippi River and washed up in New Orleans. Yet despite these obstacles, enslaved Africans were not dissuaded from escaping their bonds.72

Natchez’s Growing Pains Notwithstanding the obstacles faced by newly arriving settlers in the remoteness of colonial Mississippi, by the early 1770s the governor of West Florida could report some success in populating Natchez. In conjunction with Mobile, Natchez drew considerable numbers of settlers to West Florida since its soil and prospective wealth held great allure for planters from the East. Governor Chester reported in 1773 that “we have also a considerable number of Families lately arrived on the Mississippi, who came from the Northern colonies, by the way of the Ohio; and if we may judge from present appearances, we have exceeding flattering prospects that this valuable part of the country, will in a short time, be inhabited by a number of useful settlers.”73 Three months later, Chester had even better news for the British prospects in Natchez. In August 1773 he relayed to his superiors that “there are numbers among the new settlers, who are orderly and industrious, and well inclined to assist the civil power, many of them have considerable property[,] some have from ten to forty and fifty negroes, and one gentleman who has lately arrived at the Natchez, has brought upwards of Eighty slaves his own property.”74 The largest group that settled on the British land grants were the Jersey Settlers. They bought their land from a large tract that was originally granted to Amos Ogden in 1768. Ogden had difficulty selling his land to prospective settlers, but he did manage to sell a large tract to the Reverend Samuel Swayze and some of his flock. Governor Peter Chester describes the group that arrived under the leadership of Samuel Swayze in 1773 as

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follows: “A Clergyman from the Province of New Jersey has this Spring also brought with him a number of Parishioners, who are gone to form an Establishment near the Natchez, they intend to Build Houses, and to plant their lands, and prepare the way in order to receive a considerable number of families in the next year: This clergyman has also applied for a reserve of lands for a township, upon which he assures me he will bring one hundred families.”75 Reverend Swayze led his family, his human property, and a large part of his congregation to the Natchez District. As one early historian of Natchez put it fittingly, “the faithful sheppard, as soon as he had provided a shelter for his wife and children, and planted corn for their bread, gathered up his fold and organized his society, undoubtedly the first Protestant pastor and congregation in the Natchez District.” Out of the nucleus of this settlement established in 1772 grew one faction of the Natchez enslaver elite that would dominate the district and the state of Mississippi throughout the antebellum period.76 Other settlers followed, and thus the Natchez District grew slowly. The British hoped that their liberal land grants would yield a flourishing plantation society—and the accompanying revenues—and that the new settlers would thwart Spanish designs on the lower Mississippi Valley. However, this policy did not actually bring a large number of people to West Florida or Natchez. The British Crown dispersed the grants among its loyal supporters, as long as they could supply the necessary settlers. Few succeeded in populating even a fraction of the land granted to them. While failing to entice enough settlers, they still owned the land and accumulated a large acreage along the Mississippi River and its tributaries throughout the Natchez District. Chester bitterly complained about this situation in 1773. He informed his superiors that he aspired to lay out several towns on the Mississippi and the Natchez District. Yet his plans were unfruitful. According to him, “a measure [townships] I thought would be very advisable both for the Protection and Convenience of the Inhabitants, but that the injudicious method of granting large tracts of land in those parts to persons, many of whom, were utterly unable and others unwilling to cultivate them, who had been allowed to take up the greatest part of the Front of the River Mississippi, would prevent my laying out townships in several places upon the river.”77 Thus, an organized layout of the colony at Natchez was difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, the frontier defense was severely threatened, and not just because the British could not afford to station troops in Natchez. To protect Natchez from Spanish attacks, the British allied with the Choctaws, who still dominated the area north and east of Natchez

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along the Mississippi River. The British managed to convince at least parts of the Choctaw confederacy to patrol the Mississippi and monitor any threat, especially after the thirteen seaboard colonies had entered into a revolt in 1775.78 The royal governor grew even more alarmed when Captain George Gibson, an American officer who was on his way to procure supplies in New Orleans, stopped in Natchez and “audaciously hauled down the British colors, and raised the American flag.” 79 Given the scarcity of British flags in West Florida, this action added insult to injury. Nevertheless, the prospects of Natchez were not stalled by this episode. After Chester’s report on the land grant issues, the British government quickly curtailed its policy, but soon after the American Revolution it changed it again to accommodate Loyalist settlers who fled the war zones to the east.80 In 1775, Chester cheerily reported to his superiors that their measures of altering the land grant regulations to attract more settlers had achieved further success: “It gives me great pleasure to find that his majesty permits me to grant lands to those people who have made settlements, and improvements; and whose circumstances will not enable them to purchase, in which I shall be very careful not to exceed his majesty’s gracious intentions, but that it shall be attended with such restrictions as shall correspond with the spirit and intention of the Instruction.”81 Two years later, Chester himself asked his superiors if they would follow tradition and grant him, as they had his predecessors, land in West Florida. By all appearances, Chester saw potential in the wayward colony.82 The growth of population in the Natchez District continued. In 1774 roughly 2,500 white settlers lived in all of West Florida and approximately 600 enslaved Africans toiled under the mercilessly burning sun. The numbers of both African and white colonists in that area more than doubled by 1778, but Natchez grew relatively slowly. No census has yet been uncovered, but one historian estimates the number of families in Natchez at seventy-eight in 1776. How many enslaved Africans lived in Natchez is unknown, but the first Spanish census from 1784 puts the number of enslaved in the Natchez District at roughly 1,300.83 Therefore, the number of enslaved continued to increase, as the number of enslaved Africans in Spanish Natchez alone rivaled the number of African captives who were present in the area from the Yazoo River to Manchac in 1778. Yet the growth of Natchez and the other outposts in West Florida could only mask, but not overcome, the deficiencies of the British

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province. Militarily vulnerable, financially unstable, and geographically remote, the Natchez District never became what the British intended: a stronghold against foreign designs on British power in the lower Mississippi Valley.

Raiders, Captives, and Revolutions British fears of an American attempt on West Florida were realized in 1778, when James Willing brought the American Revolution to Natchez.84 Willing’s attack proved to everyone that the British were unable to protect the fledgling plantation society in Natchez from external threats. It shook the inhabitants’ confidence in the British Empire to the core and illustrated how fragile the planters’ security was on the Mississippi. Willing struck at an opportune moment. The Choctaws, who had agreed to patrol the river and curtail American movement on it, had left their posts to return home. The Indians had done their duty and controlled shipping on the Mississippi River. Yet after several months on duty, the warriors became “concerned about the possibility of contracting diseases along the mosquito-infested riverbanks, and they insisted on returning to their villages to see about recently deceased relatives,” argues Greg O’Brien.85 Willing had followed a long, tortuous path to the Revolution. He had arrived in Natchez in 1772 to establish a trading post with the help of his brother Thomas, a senior partner in the Philadelphia firm Morris and Willing. By 1775, his dreams were evaporating, and he was becoming increasingly unpopular with the loyal British inhabitants. He frequently made boisterous declarations for the cause of the American Revolution and accrued numerous gambling debts. He left Natchez heavily indebted and with his reputation in tatters. Willing was convinced that the inhabitants were not staunch Loyalists but rather opportunistic. Given American protection, he believed they would happily support the American Revolution.86 Outfitted by the Americans with thirty men and supplies, Willing sailed down the Mississippi, picking up more men along the way. Arriving in Natchez, Willing surprised the unsuspecting townspeople and had no problem eliciting a peace treaty. However, this did not stop him from going after old enemies.87 His personal vendetta was best described by John Hutchins, who witnessed Willing’s raid on his father’s plantation. Reporting about the raid in his diary, Hutchins described Captain Willing as the leader of “a band of robbers . . . under a forged commission from the government of the United States.”88 In addition to

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capturing Natchez, Willing was also supposed to establish contact with Spanish New Orleans and arrange for supply shipments.89 Willing himself, however, had two objectives: conquering Natchez for the Americans and settling personal scores. First on his list was Hutchins; a close second was Alexander McIntosh. Both were perceived as unwavering Loyalists, and Willing partially blamed both for his failure in Natchez.90 Willing and his men stripped both Loyalists of their human chattel, which, according to Hutchins, caused his family considerable misery and forced the children to assist their mother in running the plantation.91 John Hutchins and the other victims condemned the raid, but many inhabitants grudgingly complied with Willing’s demands, bound by their word. Matthew Phelps also condemned the raid of the American and surmised that “at length running short of means to support himself in his wild career, he began to display the real villainess [sic] of his character, by the execution of a most detestable business.”92 However, Willing eventually agreed not to seize any more property, including enslaved laborers.93 The enslavers had to agree to terms because they could not foresee the possibility that Great Britain would send soldiers to Natchez. Left alone by His Majesty’s forces, the people in Natchez relented to Willing’s demands to protect their lives and livelihoods. Willing knew the area and its inhabitants well, and he used that knowledge to the detriment of people who had crossed him while he was a frontier merchant in Natchez. While in Natchez, he took not only Hutchins’s enslaved Africans but also those on “Cuming’s Plantation.”94 Willing’s actions alarmed enslavers like William Dunbar, who lived farther down the river. This group moved all of its enslaved “for protection to the Spanish side [of the Mississippi River], which was effected before the sun rising next morning” in the spring of 1778. Willing valued African laborers so much that he followed some planters to the Spanish side to capture their human property. Dunbar avoided the same fate only because his enslaved “had been sent a considerable distance from the river side by which means they cou’d not discover them.”95 All in all, Willing captured approximately five hundred enslaved during his entire raid for sale in New Orleans. Judging by the estimated number of all enslaved in the region along the river, he captured about 40 percent of all African captives in the area. This presented a heavy loss to the planters and retarded the growth of a plantation economy in the Natchez District and the surrounding areas.96

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Willing left no garrison in Natchez, and after he had departed to execute raids on the plantations downriver, the British convinced the Choctaws to defend Natchez and protect it from subsequent American attacks. The Choctaws, under the leadership of Franchimastabé, supplied 155 warriors in three rotating shifts to garrison the old French fort and to make repairs. They stayed in Natchez for about a month and finally insisted on returning home because a British relief force had recently arrived at the post and yellow fever had also struck. The warriors understood the ramifications of a yellow fever epidemic and wanted to leave as quickly as possible to avoid the disease. Before the Choctaws left, however, their leader ominously warned the people of Natchez that they were behind the town folk. The meaning of his words was certainly clear to the people of Natchez, who had not always had an easy relationship with the Choctaw bands. Franchimastabé reminded them that the Choctaws quite literally stood behind them in war, but he also implied that the Choctaws would not tolerate a pro-American stance from Natchez’s inhabitants.97 The British garrison that was supposed to provide security to Natchez did nothing of the sort. John Campbell, the British military commander in chief in West Florida, informed his superior in May 1779 about serious problems between the settlers and the British garrison: “To be brief, their general line of conduct has thrown the credit of government into such Disrespect, that the inhabitants at the Natchez will not furnish cattle for fresh Provisions for the troops there, unless they are paid in ready cash, and will neither take bills nor give credit—In short their management creates discontent, distrust, confusion and misrule.”98 The settlers of Natchez, who had just suffered the loss of a good part of their valuable workforce, were not inclined to feed British soldiers without compensation. The financial instability and lack of any funds in West Florida, in combination with military ineptitude, left the people of Natchez to question the value of the British forces in the district, especially when those who had just suffered through an American raid had to feed the British without pay. The British were not oblivious to these problems, but there was little they could do. They valued the Natchez District highly (at least as far as the province of West Florida went) and sought to protect it if possible. Peter Chester, the British governor, realized that value and reported in 1779 that “the Natchez District on the Mississippi appears to be the settlement the most deserving of protection and encouragement in that quarter I have not only sent a garrison to Fort Panmure, but have distributed the works to be strengthened and repaired.”99 This

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force, however, could not protect Natchez from the Spanish. When Baton Rouge surrendered in the fall of 1779, Natchez fell to the Spanish invaders without spilling a drop of blood. British military power was unable to keep Natchez’s enslavers and enslaved secure. Although the planters knew the risk of a frontier plantation society and many had been soldiers, they certainly did not appreciate the ease with which first the Americans and then the Spanish wrested control of the district from the British. The British had missed the opportunity to command a decisive loyalty among the villagers, and although some of them remained loyal to Britain for a while longer, the majority of Natchez’s citizens welcomed Spain and the changes that came with the new Iberian rulers.

British Losses, Spanish Gains British dominance in the lower Mississippi Valley ended officially in 1781 with the surrender of Pensacola. Yet in Natchez, British governance had been under attack since Willing’s raid in 1778, and only a force of Choctaw allies secured the small but important outpost for a time. The British Empire did not exude confidence to its colonists in Natchez, and, as chapter 3 will show, the British turned Natchez over to the Spanish without much resistance. After almost a half century (during which Europeans had control of Natchez for maybe half the time), a third European empire would try its luck in the Natchez District. The recipe for success was well known by now, even though both the French and the British had failed to bring the ingredients together in the proper quantities. The most important ingredient was the enslavement of laborers based on their complexion supported by a legal and social system that increasingly leveraged nonwhite complexions as clear markers of inferiority. On the outskirts of empire, the Anglo-American settlers wanted to produce a crop to become rich, while at the same time remaining full subjects of the British Empire with all the inherent rights. This meant they had to seek as much differentiation as they could between their own whiteness and Britishness, as compared to the multitude of people of all complexions in the region. This was a difficult undertaking. Just as the French had been, the British were overwhelmed by the circumstances in Natchez. The isolated district was difficult to administer, and the British government in Pensacola was habitually starved of currency. Although the British tried to provide enslaved Africans by

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importing them from the Caribbean and enacted a slave code that made it easy to control human chattels, they lacked a strong military presence. They had to rely on the Choctaws to defend Natchez from American raiders, and they lacked the financial and military means to support the inchoate plantation society. Eventually the British were able to supply some enslaved Africans to the district, yet never enough to sate the appetite of enslavers. The British did not think the Natchez District important enough to protect it—or any other outposts along the Mississippi—with sufficient troops. All these missteps led to the ascent of Spain as the primary colonial power in the lower Mississippi Valley. Natchez’s enslavers, however, were not too perturbed. Spain provided, for the most part, what neither the British nor French could: strong support in the form of land grants, enslaved workers, and markets.

3 /

Masters of Complexion? Loyalists, Patriots, and Opportunists in the Colonial Backcountry

Spain’s conquest of Natchez in 1779 raised several issues for the Iberians. The Spanish governors had to find ways to control Anglo-American settlers on the edge of Spanish power in North America, they had to establish the laws of Spanish Louisiana in the formerly British district, and they had to defend its borders from foreign invasion. Controlling the settlers proved to be the most difficult task, as the Anglo population tested Spanish determination to institute a system of government based on the long tradition of Spanish colonies in the Americas. Spain convinced Natchez’s slave owners during the first years of the 1780s that it would be wise to remain loyal to the new rulers. In return, the Spanish instituted new commercial regulations that opened markets to the planters and sent enslaved Africans to Spanish Natchez in unprecedented numbers. Spanish success was not instantaneous. Constant conflict between imperial officials and Anglo enslavers marked the first six years of Spanish control between 1779 and 1785. Spanish administrators struggled to block attempts by Natchez’s slave owners to wrest control of the district away from them, as they had to find ways to communicate with their new subjects, who rarely spoke Spanish. Eventually, they opted for a language that everyone on the frontier understood: profit and complexion. The Spanish had to demonstrate to their new subjects that while Iberian laws were certainly enforced, the basic rules of complexion and slavery in the Atlantic World still applied. However, what appeared simple on paper was an intricate process that created new local customs. Enslaved Africans appeared as unfree laborers in both cultures, but there were

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minute differences. To sort out these differences between Spanish practices of complexion and Anglo-American standards took time, and so the Spanish had to redouble their efforts to keep locals in line. Louisiana’s governor, Bernardo de Gálvez, and his successor, Esteban Rodríguez Miró y Sabater, utilized new Spanish imperial policies and instituted a royal tobacco subsidy for Natchez. Meanwhile, King Charles III of Spain allowed tariff-free importations of enslaved Atlantic Africans and African Americans to Louisiana and thereby significantly increased the number of bound laborers in Natchez. The switch from British to Spanish government made Spanish policies to keep Anglo-American inhabitants loyal increasingly important, and the interactions of the new inhabitants frequently involved negotiations about the role of complexion in the developing Spanish American community. Therefore, it is important to sketch out how liminal Natchez’s circumstances were in the face of imperial changes and new laws that shaped—and at the same time were influenced by—the relationship between bound laborers and European settlers, as well as by competing definitions of blackness and whiteness. Enslaved people were central and essential to the success of the region. As the territory changed hands and new imperial laws took root, European colonial legal traditions shaped the experience of the enslaved. At the same time, enslaved people influenced definitions of blackness and whiteness, of slavery and freedom, and the ways in which courts enacted laws by litigating their cases in Spanish courts. Natchez’s settlers continued to build a plantation society. Spain wholeheartedly supported that notion, and the enslaved Atlantic Africans provided by Spain increased the slave owners’ ability to do so quickly. People like Matthew Phelps, the upstart American planter, or Francisco Bouligny, the troubled Spanish governor, essentially worked toward the same goal. Both wanted Natchez to become a successful enterprise.1 Phelps wanted to become wealthy, and Bouligny wanted to succeed in the name of the Spanish king to secure royal favor. In the process, both settlers and Spanish officials created a flexible society that could bend, but not break, under imperial, social, and economic hardships. Changes in the legal system often exemplified the transformations that officials, colonizers, and enslaved endured. The latter two saw the nature of power shaped by other people, and both were occasionally helpless to resist. Anglo-American settlers tried to navigate Spanish law, and Spanish governors tried to relay the meaning of Iberian law to the new colonists. In that liminal stage, issues of complexion could rise to the forefront.

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Anglo-American settlers and Spanish officials both relied on the fact that the law reenforced enslavement of Africans based on their complexion. However, the legal bases for the enslavement of African people were different and led to different legal standards. As Anglo-American settlers engaged Spanish officials, gray areas appeared that allowed for varying responses and input from settlers, officials, and the enslaved to shape Natchez’s slave society. The enslaved played a decisive role in these struggles. Enslavers and officials were mostly silent on how the enslaved contributed to the short but decisive conflict between the white settlers of Natchez and their new Spanish overlords, yet the enslaved affected the actions of the Euro-Americans. Under the British regime, the role of slavery had already begun to evolve. Natchez turned from a society with slaves to a slave society.2 Plantation agriculture continued to expand in the 1780s, and settlers used enslaved workers to produce an export crop. Tobacco soon became the leading crop in the Natchez District. Reports of families dependent upon their enslaved people had already appeared during Willing’s raid, and when the American captain took bound laborers captive, the consequences for the kidnapped bondspeople and their owners were often dramatic. The uncertain situation in Natchez between the raid and the final takeover by the Spanish did its part to further destabilize the frontier community. Spain remained eager to claim and pacify the district. The main goal of the Spanish Empire was to keep the Natchez District in a state of tranquility between 1781 and 1785. The easiest way to do so was to guarantee a steady supply of enslaved people to satisfy the ever-growing demand of newly arriving settlers. Although the Spanish went out of their way to accept settlers from all backgrounds, even Anglo-American Protestants, the issue at the heart of all problems was always slavery. To control Natchez, settlers had to be convinced that they could benefit from the Spanish administration. The economy, in turn, evolved around slavery. To stabilize the economy, then, the Iberian officials had to manage slavery, complexion, and the myriad transactions related to enslaved Africans and their owners. Spanish courts were soon overloaded with AngloAmerican petitions to recover debts, to record bills of sale, or to establish legally binding mortgages. The enslaved were frequently at the center of the court proceedings. Enslavers used them as collateral for mortgages, and they hence doubled as workforce and credit line.3 Planters took advantage of the African laborers, ignoring the fact that they risked not just their livelihood but also the family lives of the enslaved people they pawned in risky schemes to become rich.

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Perpetual Uncertainty in the Natchez District The recent struggles in the Atlantic World—the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution—and the ensuing confusion about the claims to Natchez caused concern among current and prospective settlers between 1779 and 1783. This uncertainty often bred insecurity for the aspiring planters. A change in empire also meant that land titles granted by the preceding empire were now in jeopardy. Enslavers had to resolve this problem before they could venture to the Natchez District with their enslaved workers and families. Imperial officials were left with an equally vexing problem: Should they trust the newcomers? If so, what were the criteria for trust? As it turned out, the dominant criterion for any official was the capability of the prospective settlers to provide a labor force for the granted land. Officials hoped that an increased number of settlers and enslaved Africans would automatically lead to more stability and security in the Natchez District. Before Spain took possession of Natchez, people were unsure about which empire was in power between 1778 and 1779. Frontier enslavers had invested all their capital in bound labor and the unstable political situation threatened their existence. In the quickly changing circumstances of the lower Mississippi Valley, enslavers were often forced to make decisions that put them, and their enslaved, in danger. One of those occasions is described by Captain Matthew Phelps. He encountered a group of settlers on a reconnaissance mission from British Natchez in 1779. On first sighting, he observed “lying on the Spanish side of the river, three very large floats, and an equal number of large bateaux, from which they had landed a great number of people, supposed by us to be near a thousand.” Phelps reported back to his British captain that he had seen the group but secretly committed to his diary that he hoped the new arrivals in the region were Americans: “At beholding the sight I was much rejoiced, not doubting but that they were the advance of the expected American army, of whom I confidently expected, that the propriety of their conduct would correct the errors of Willing’s banditti, and remove the stigma from the character of my countrymen.” Although Phelps clearly identifies himself as an American, he nevertheless understood that his duties lay with the British, since Natchez was still under British military control.4 The people Phelps had spotted were American, yet they were not military men. Instead, they were prospective settlers with their enslaved who sought to relocate their plantations from Manchac to Natchez under the

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leadership of a Colonel Gilyar and a Dr. Farrow. The Americans had cautiously stopped on the Spanish side of the Mississippi because they were not sure how they would be received in Natchez and because they did not know who was in control in the district. The Spanish, who were then friendly with the Americans, offered them safety and extended a generally warm welcome to prospective settlers.5 This example shows how confusing and risky the situation was for prospective and current residents of the Natchez District. The rich soil beckoned adventurous settlers, their families, and their human property toward the district. But transportation on the frontier was not easily obtained, even on the Mississippi River. In addition, the political situation was so unstable, and so many empires vied for Natchez, that the families of Colonel Gilyar and Dr. Farrow, as well as their enslaved, were caught in a very precarious position. On the one hand, British West Florida faced the serious threat of a Spanish invasion. The American Revolution raged in the East and consumed British military power, and the governor in Pensacola would have certainly objected to “American” settlers entering his territory. On the other hand, the newcomers would swell the ranks of the militia of the district, and a more densely populated area could stall Spanish designs to attack the British, just as Governor Chester had predicted in 1773.6 Therefore Captain Michael Jackson, presently in command at Natchez, “immediately dispatched a second flag to them, with the most solemn assurances that they should be safe in passing our fort and settlement, and that every necessary act of friendship should be extended to them that the situation of the garrison would admit.”7 But despite the boost in manpower, British control in Natchez did not last much longer.

Spanish Control and Its Legacy Willing’s 1778 raid had plunged the district into turmoil, but Natchez had managed to stay largely removed from the greater conflict. This was about to change. Worried that the Spanish might enter the fray on the side of the Americans and the French, the British dispatched 1,200 German mercenaries and Loyalists from Pennsylvania and Maryland to West Florida under the command of Brigadier General John Campbell. They arrived in Pensacola via Jamaica in 1779. The troops were inexperienced, ill-trained, and not necessarily loyal.8 On the Spanish side Bernardo de Gálvez, who became governor of Louisiana in 1777, had already begun preparing for military action and

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had significantly aided Captain Willing, stretching the neutrality with England to the seams. The main goal of the Spanish governor was the capture of Pensacola, the British capital, yet Natchez was never far from his mind. On June 21, 1779, Spain declared war against England, which caught British officials in West Florida and Iberian authorities in Louisiana by surprise. Spain entered the war to advance Spanish interests in Europe, not in Louisiana, yet the declaration of war immediately extended the struggle to the lower Mississippi Valley.9 The Age of Revolution had reached the region. The coming war changed the Atlantic World and would leave a lasting footprint in the Natchez District. The Spanish governor singled out Baton Rouge for his first strike. The British forts at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez were generally in poor repair. Gálvez knew the location of the British positions, and he moved quickly against the weakly constructed and defended outposts in the fall of 1779.10 Fighting heat, humidity, and the swampy Louisiana backcountry, Gálvez marshaled parts of the large population of African descent that lived in New Orleans to his support instead of waiting for reinforcements from Cuba that might never come. He utilized the free black militia of New Orleans, as well as enslaved conscripts used to row the boats up the Mississippi River.11 Governor Gálvez forced Baton Rouge to surrender after barely a day of fighting, and he did not accept surrender until the commanding British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dickson, also surrendered the fort at Natchez, which was smaller but easier to defend.12 In one stroke, Gálvez had eliminated the British presence on the Mississippi River and captured all of their forts. Gálvez knew from experience that slavery was essential to Louisiana colonists of all backgrounds. Shortly after he arrived in Louisiana and took office on January 1, 1777, Gálvez had fraternized with the New Orleans enslaver elite. Consisting of French Creoles, they quickly courted Gálvez and convinced him to maintain, and even expand, the French Code Noir.13 Complexion and slightly diverging ideas about liberty lay at the root of the discussions. French slave law “was weighted against manumission and discouraged self-purchase. It required manumitted slaves to defer to their former owners, punished free black people more severely than white ones, and barred interracial marriages.”14 Only free people of color retained the right to petition and some other legal rights of white settlers. Spanish slave law, by comparison, allowed bondspeople more freedoms that the French elites considered dangerous to their plantation regime. Most importantly, it allowed the enslaved to obtain freedom through self-purchase and a simple deed of manumission.15 While

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Gálvez had to contend with French legal traditions in New Orleans and the Creoles in power convinced him to make some alterations to Spanish traditions, Gálvez’s administrators in Natchez would have to contend with English settlers and their demands. In 1769 Governor Alejandro O’Reilly had implemented the Spanish slave law in Louisiana. Fearing that the Spanish code would undermine their authority, the French Creoles wanted to retain as much of the Code Noir as possible in the 1770s—a cause that they hoped Gálvez would champion. Gálvez, unlike his predecessors, had married a French Creole woman in 1777. Therefore, he came under the influence of his father-inlaw, Gilbert Antoine de St. Marxent. As one of the largest slaveholders in New Orleans, Marxent had a vested interest in retaining the Code Noir introduced in 1724 by the French rather than the more lenient Spanish slave laws. However, the relationship between Gálvez and the enslavers soured in late 1778. Instead of backing the statutes drawn up by the planters, Gálvez now stuck to Spanish law.16 Gálvez marched against the British outposts with a thorough understanding of how much demand there was for enslaved labor on the frontier. He also realized he had to appease the planters in the conquered territories. He needed them to be a productive part of the colonial society, helping make Louisiana a successful colony and him an effective manager. Gálvez’s career depended on the productivity of the colony, and he had to make sure that Louisiana continued to grow and prosper, even if there were short interruptions through warfare. Enslaved Africans were the key, as they planted the fields, hunted the woods, and logged trees in the backcountry of the Spanish empire.17 Therefore, Gálvez released all settlers and their bound labor as part of the surrender of Baton Rouge.

New Empire, New Law Gálvez understood that he had to maintain a good relationship with both French Creoles and the Anglos from British West Florida. He hoped to earn their allegiance by providing them with enslaved Africans. His plan bore fruit, as many of the planters thrived under the Spanish government. One of the people owning property in the Baton Rouge and Manchac area was the Scotsman William Dunbar. Dunbar, who would become instrumental in the Spanish effort to settle the Natchez District, had just begun to recover from the property damage inflicted by Willing’s raid when Spain declared war on Great Britain. He had weathered the raid fairly well since he had secured his enslaved workers in Spanish

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territory, and Willing had only a limited opportunity to plunder his other possessions. Displaying foresight and a strain of rogue colonialism, the Scotsman “secured a grant of land from the Spanish west of the Mississippi River and moved his human property to the new holdings after Willing’s raid in 1778. He even moved a small house from his land in the east to the new estate on the Spanish side.” Dunbar was not alone in his effort, as other settlers began to move into the area as well.18 Planters like Dunbar understood the risks of their actions, and in the unstable times between 1778 and 1781, many of them, including Dunbar, Gilyar, and Farrow, were caught in the maelstrom of the Atlantic World as it pummeled the Natchez District. Dunbar, however, had yet to learn how to steer clear of all the obstacles in the Natchez District. When the British began to introduce a few soldiers into the district, Dunbar once again relocated to the British side. Shortly after he decamped, Spain declared war on the British, and once again Dunbar realized that his move was ill-advised, and potentially costly. He heard the bad news while in New Orleans trying to sell some of the goods produced on his plantations. The Spanish authorities detained and imprisoned him and promised to release the planter as soon as Gálvez’s campaign against Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez was successful. When Baton Rouge capitulated on September 21, 1779, and Gálvez returned to New Orleans, Dunbar was released, but on his return he found his plantation sacked once more.19 Dunbar lamented, “[I] found my house had been plundered by the Indians or others during the Siege of Effects to the value of 6 to 700 Dollars.”20 Dunbar lost more than his money in the confusion of war. Many of his enslaved had taken their chances and escaped into the wilderness.21 Dunbar, who was a British subject yet not necessarily sympathetic to the British cause in the American Revolution, experienced the quickly changing currents of the backcountry frontier. This experience consequently tainted his loyalty. Whereas he had neither the luxury nor the time to contemplate the philosophical reasons that led American settlers on the East Coast to declare independence, Dunbar might or might not have entertained sympathies for their cause. Willing’s raid had reinforced his Loyalist leanings since it threatened his property.22 But unfortunately for Dunbar, the American Revolution was not simply a conflict between Loyalists and Patriots, especially not in the lower Mississippi Valley. Spain had long coveted the Natchez District and the other settlements on the riverbank. Once again, Dunbar could not escape the

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quickly changing tide of the Atlantic World and had to accept the fact that his life depended as much on his skill to navigate the slave frontier as it did on his skill to deal with ever-changing empires in the Valley. Whereas some of his fellow planters decided to give up and leave the district, Dunbar remained; he would not regret the decision.23 On January 3, 1780, only three months after the Spanish took control of the British territory along the river, Dunbar reported in his diary: “The women commenced to day cutting Canes in preparation of clearing a new field for Tobacco. The men chiefly employed in clearing a small field by the swamp side for provisions & getting some lumber for the Commandant as also finishing a fine new House for the Negroes.”24 Obviously, he had recovered some of his enslaved and had renewed his efforts to establish a profitable plantation. The Spanish would soon welcome his experimentation with tobacco, and it would serve him well in the future. Whereas before he had manufactured staves for export to the Caribbean, he started to focus on planting in the 1780s. It would make him a rich and powerful man under the Spanish and American regimes. In his quest to find better soil he soon relocated to Natchez, where he planted tobacco (and later cotton) in the heart of the Natchez District. It was no problem for him to replace enslaved workers he had lost with newly imported Africans.25 Other people living in the newly conquered parts of Spanish Louisiana did not profit from the change. For example, Molly Glass, a free woman of color, was accused of murder, prosecuted, and executed in Baton Rouge under British, not Spanish, law in 1781.26 Her fate stands as an example of the transitional period in which the newly conquered territory was under Spanish control, but planters still exercised British law. The shift from British to Spanish law was gradual rather than sudden. Molly Glass’s fate exemplifies the difficulties of the transitional period on all sides, and it also highlights the intricacies for people of color in navigating the ever-changing Atlantic world. The court case against her signaled the beginnings of a transitional phase that at its end would see an uneasy balance between Spanish law rooted in the century-old doctrine of the Siete Partidas and British common law. Both European and African-descended settlers anxiously awaited what these challenging times would bring. Dunbar made only a cursory note in his diary about the case. On Sunday, March 19, 1780, he wrote: “On Thursday last we held a Court at the fort for the tryal of Molly Glass for the murder of a white girl—Emilia— and brought her in guilty, sentencing her to have her hand cut off and

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afterwards hanged until she is dead.”27 He further noted that “this Tryal was made agreeable to the English laws under the Capitulation of Baton Rouge 21 Sept. last.”28 At least for the moment, then, the British settlers could control the African-descended population under their traditional law, and the British law was clear: if a person of color killed a white person, the punishment was death.29 The authorities sentenced Molly Glass and sent her to New Orleans for execution, which was duly undertaken by the Spanish authorities. During the transitional period, the Spanish authorities had decided to let the planters control people of color as it was customary for them.

The Eye of the Storm: Natchez Rejects Spanish Supremacy Despite Spanish efforts, the people in Natchez were not happy with the change in empire that occurred after Dickson surrendered the territory to Gálvez in 1779. The inhabitants were thunderstruck that the mighty British Empire and its army had surrendered Natchez without a fight, and the people made their disgust known. Isaac Johnson wrote: “In the mighty battle between Governor Gálvez and Colonel Dickson the Spaniards only lost one man and some say not one, the English about twenty-five and the commanding officer wounded in his head by his tea table.”30 The leaders of Natchez were quite obviously not amused to be part of the Spanish Empire, especially since most had an Anglo-American background. By October 6, 1779, Natchez had become Spanish and the last British troops had left for New Orleans.31 For the enslaved, this initial change in colonial overlords changed very little. Natchez remained a town of imprisonment. British law still ruled Natchez as it did Baton Rouge, and slave sales continued apace.32 Enslaved Africans remained the planters’ most valuable possession, and with an increase in plantation agriculture under the Spanish regime, their importance would expand even more. For the enslavers, however, the situation was unclear. They now were alien subjects of the Spanish Crown, but the British were still in Pensacola, fighting the lower Mississippi Valley extension of the American Revolution. Although some settlers considered leaving the district, in the end many signed the oath of allegiance to the Spanish Crown, making them legally Spanish citizens. Silently, many were hoping for a British victory in Pensacola followed by a triumphant return to Natchez.33 Some settlers were unwilling to wait. A handful of Natchez settlers were veterans of the British army, and they had served in the British

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campaign against Havana in 1762. Therefore, upon receiving information that a British fleet was on its way to the Gulf Coast to support the British troops and expel the Spaniards, these veterans took it upon themselves to oust the Spanish garrison in Natchez on April 22, 1781. Through deceit and the forging of a letter announcing that the fort was undermined and about to be blown up, the Spanish surrendered and left the district. While being escorted down the river, however, they encountered a large Spanish force and immediately returned to Natchez. Before Natchez’s citizens and Spanish soldiers could engage in battle, the people of Natchez received word that Pensacola had surrendered and that Spain was now in possession of British West Florida.34 For the people of Natchez, especially the ones who had just betrayed their oath of allegiance, the lower Mississippi Valley had once again demonstrated its treacherous nature. The leaders of the revolt saw no option other than to flee Natchez, leaving many of their possessions behind. Enslaved Africans constituted a moveable property, and they participated in their enslavers’ flight. In 1880, J. F. H. Claiborne described the desperate situation of some families as follows: “Leaving their homes which they had made comfortable by severe toil, their property which had been accumulated by patient industry; with no transportation but a few pack-horses, with no luggage but blankets and some scanty stores, they gathered their wives and children, and struck into the wilderness. Fearful of pursuit, fearful of ambush, dogged by famine, tortured by thirst, exposed to every vicissitude of weather, weakened by disease, more than decimated by death, the women and children dying every day, this terrible journey makes the darkest page of our record.”35 Enslavers knew what a flight through the wilderness might mean to their families and property, and at least some opted to spare their loved ones the arduous track back east. Despite the threat of Spanish retaliation against leaders of the revolt, some planters showed remarkable skill in utilizing the cultural difference between Spanish and British society. Claiborne refers to the case of Anthony Hutchins, the planter who also had been struck by Willing’s raid in 1778. Hutchins was one of the (alleged) leaders of the 1781 revolt and now had to make his escape to avoid capture and punishment.36 Instead of taking his family, his enslaved, and other moveable property with him, he employed a different strategy: he left his wife behind. In his absence, his wife took over the plantation and all their property, including the enslaved. The Spanish, upon hearing about the situation, allowed Mrs. Hutchins to remain on her land and keep most of her property.37

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Hutchins barely escaped the search party, and his wife had to save one of his enslaved from the noose at the last moment as the search party vented its frustration.38 The Spanish, in the meantime, accepted that Hutchins’s wife would manage the plantation, and she remained in charge of her property. Nevertheless, the Spaniards did not let the Hutchins family escape completely unscathed. Acting governor Pedro Piernas sent twelve enslaved people to New Orleans.39 Although Hutchins had to flee from punishment, his family and most of his property remained untouched. John Alston employed a variation of Hutchins’s strategy while on the run from the Spanish. An entry in the Spanish court records in Natchez reports his case. His wife, Elizabeth, died due to the rigor and stress of the situation, and his children had to be placed under court supervision while Alston was at large. The court recorded that “on information received on the death of Elizabeth Alston, late wife of John Alston, a fugitive Rebel of this District of Natchez, at present with the nation of Indians, called “Chitis” [Chittimaches], where he has taken refuge with most of his property, consisting of slaves, cattle and money, leaving his wife and children in the District, with a part of his slaves for their support, as also cattle, horses, hogs and sheep and a few articles of furniture.”40 Counting on the Spanish generosity toward women, Alston also entrusted his wife and some of his property to the Spanish authorities and fled to Indian country. His plan would have worked if his wife had not died of an unnamed illness.41 Elizabeth Alston’s death derailed her husband’s scheme and caused the family great misery. His goods and plantation were appraised for auction and sold together with his remaining enslaved. Alston was a relatively wealthy planter by the standards of the Spanish Natchez District. His inventory shows, among other things, land “with tobacco House and 15 negro cabins.”42 Alston’s wealth could not keep his family from suffering once he became a fugitive. Over the next six months Alexander McIntosh, the court-appointed guardian of the children, continued to sell off the property of the Alston family.43 In addition, one of Alston’s sons, Henry, died on August 3, 1781. The other children were sent to school in New Orleans.44 Alston realized that there was a price to pay for disobeying Spain. His fellow rebels did not fare any differently. Several of them were captured and taken to New Orleans for trial. Their property was confiscated and sold for fifteen thousand pesos. Friendly Indians under Charles de Gran Pré’s command eventually captured Alston together with ten captive Africans and one of his sons. Gran Pré had hitherto shown relative

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restraint in punishing the rebels, except for the ringleaders such as Alston. Alston’s son was released and the enslaved confiscated, his father sent to prison in New Orleans and ultimately released to the British in 1783.45 It is not clear what happened to the enslaved. Under the British legal system, they would have been sold to the highest bidder. The Spanish state, however, routinely owned African captives for public works, and the Natchez captives could have been put to work in projects in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.46 Natchez would not experience peace for another year. The Spanish handled the situation as best as they could, yet a strong Anglo-American resentment persisted. Alston and his fellow rebels remained in custody until the American Revolution ended in 1783. In April the governor in New Orleans released them to Jamaica, and they had to promise not to return to Natchez.47 After the rocky start to the Spanish regime in Natchez, the settlers and the colonial governors slowly came to appreciate each other during the mid-1780s. Although the rebellion had ousted several colonists, more than enough remained to build a strong and growing plantation economy. There was no animosity between the settlers who rebelled and those who had remained neutral. The Spanish did not contest property bought under the British regime and even encouraged the AngloAmericans to continue growing tobacco. The once unruly group had again become a peaceful, thriving community. As long as their property remained untouched, tranquility could be achieved.48 Spanish governors understood that and tried their best to rule the district through control of property, particularly the enslaved.

Governing Opportunists, Governing Empires Even though Spain had subdued the rebels, the Iberian Empire still needed to bolster Natchez’s population. Time and again, a growing number of settlers reinforced the claim of each empire, and any increase in the population augmented the military defenses of the district. Gran Pré understood that he needed to encourage settlement by Americans, but he also realized that many of them were opportunists or, worse, criminals on the run. For example, shortly after the arrest or flight of the rebel leaders, a small group of people arrived in Natchez in 1782. Gran Pré initially welcomed them, but he quickly grew suspicious of their demeanor and began an investigation. One of the new arrivals, Thomas Etridge, served as a witness in that investigation and was questioned thoroughly by the

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governor with the help of a translator.49 Etridge alleged “that those who came down with him are Americans by birth but not sentiment. Their conduct in America was always that of people who place themselves on the stronger side, now one, now the other, according to the success of the belligerent powers.”50 Etridge also explained that the new arrivals were not excited about living under Spanish government, yet had decided to do so anyway. The long-term interests of Spain and the newly arriving settlers were pitted against each other in this case. On the one hand, the Spanish Empire needed settlers to populate the Natchez District; on the other, they were not keen on inviting suspected criminals into their midst. Although the situation in Natchez was calm at the moment, it remained primed for conflict. It was the conflict that often ensued between planters and Spanish officials that drove change in Natchez over the next two decades, as both sides attempted to appease each other. In the process, they understood that slavery was a unifying interest that bound both sides together in mutual goals. On the other hand, the new arrivals brought everything they needed to start careers as planters. Therefore, the Spanish hoped to be able to contain them and cautiously welcomed them to Natchez. Gran Pré pressed Etridge especially hard on rumors of an imminent American attack and whether the new arrivals might be American spies. Etridge was able to assuage Gran Pré’s gravest fears, but the American was adamant that his countrymen were less than trustworthy. Gran Pré showed a deep interest in the origins of the enslaved brought to Natchez by these men, and Etridge did not disappoint him: “Of the Negroes that they own or which have been brought here by the one named David Smith, six were stolen, and these same Negroes will say and declare the name of their master in case they are so required. William Smith, brother of the former, also has a stolen Negress and a child.”51 Although the enslaved were reported as stolen property, Gran Pré could not, or would not, prevent the sale of at least some of them. David Smith quickly disposed of some of the human chattel he had brought with him, and Gran Pré opted to accept the Americans, despite their suspicious past. His actions suggest that Spain used easy access to, and transactions of, enslaved Africans to establish a measure of control over Natchez. The Spanish Empire was unusually open for immigrants to Louisiana. As the Iberians conquered Natchez, the Spanish court in Madrid developed immigration and colonization policies that allowed foreign settlers, including American Protestants, into their territory. This was

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highly unusual, but “this striking departure from the norm was pragmatically justified by local authorities, Prime Minister Floridablanca, his successor Manuel Godoy, and other Spanish officials and government advisors, on the grounds that the demographic growth of these colonies was essential for both frontier defense and economic development.”52 The Spaniards understood the risk involved in accepting settlers like the Smiths who had less than desirable reputations. Although they received orders that prospective settlers “must also be upstanding, law-abiding individuals,” these concerns were overruled by the dearth of settlers and enslaved in Natchez. Consequently, Gran Pré tried to add to the numbers of white settlers and enslaved Africans. His superiors agreed with him and argued that “once they have emigrated and sworn vassalage, anyone who takes part in a revolution will risk a great deal, and far from gaining glory, will stain his reputation with the ugly epithet of traitor.”53 Spanish officials allowed Anglo-American colonists to settle in the district because they were under enormous pressure to fulfill their orders.54

The Captive Market of Spanish Natchez The backcountry’s need for enslaved labor was not easy to satisfy. The remote location made it difficult for enslavers to observe prices and human stock at slave markets, which were not held regularly at this time. Merchants in New Orleans could provide enslaved Africans, but enslavers from Natchez were often too late to purchase enslaved people in desired numbers even if they were notified in time of the arrival of new shipments. This caused severe discontent in Natchez. The people were anxious to see how the new Spanish regime would handle the supply and demand for African laborers.55 The language barrier contributed to the anxiety. Communication at official proceedings and sales was often a mixture of English and Spanish, sometimes even French, underlining the diverse character of Natchez’s population. This was especially visible in the legal process. Understanding the difficult position of the Spanish government in an area dominated by English-speaking settlers, authorities tried to accommodate local law under the umbrella of the Spanish judicial system. Although the Spanish required all sales to be notarized, Natchez was not yet committed to the Spanish laws.56 Spanish authorities exercised their power carefully and thereby created a legal system that was constantly in flux, at least until 1789.57 Planters had to navigate that legal system to legitimize their trade

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in enslaved Africans, and the Spanish acquiesced to ensure that their authority was accepted. The enslavers of Natchez could rely on two sources for enslaved Africans under British control from 1763 until 1779. The first was the internal slave trade, usually consisting of enslavers bringing their slave property with them, or colonists traveling to the East Coast and purchasing a small number of enslaved Africans directly. The second opportunity allowed colonists to buy enslaved people on credit from Jamaican merchants under the British, but a similar custom had yet to be established under Spanish rule.58 Settlers were also worried that the internal slave trade from the United States might be cut off due to Spanish tariff impositions once the Iberian Empire took possession of the district in 1781. Both ways had introduced new enslaved Africans to Natchez, yet it is almost impossible to know how many enslaved arrived in the district by each method. Exact numbers for the slave trade to early Natchez cannot be provided.59 This is especially true for the importations to Natchez under Spanish rule from 1781 to 1798. A professional trading firm was not yet established and the Spanish legal system in Natchez did not necessarily record all sales. It is also doubtful that every sale of enslaved people was made in the courthouse.60 However, one can catch glimpses of the enslaved’s route to the district at some points, as their origin is often preserved in the documents when the slaves do appear as objects of a sale in the courthouse. For example, in 1788 John Willis bought four enslaved people from Peter Perkins in Bladen County, North Carolina, and brought them to the district. In July of 1792, Stephen Minor sold his captive “negro ‘Ned,’ native of Jamaica” and Francisco Pousset sold “‘Phoebe,’ aged 25, nat. of Guinea” in August of 1792.61 Americans in the South, including Spanish Natchez, had few qualms about selling and buying enslaved Africans and were not yet faced with abolitionist sentiments. Consequently, “promoters of the domestic slave trade used the ideals of the American Revolution to justify this abominable trade.”62 Nevertheless, the internal slave trade would not supply substantial numbers of enslaved to the district until the end of the 1790s, leaving planters dependent upon enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbeans imported into New Orleans by the Spaniards. The Spanish Crown was aware that Louisiana colonists desired a continuous stream of enslaved African and did its best to encourage imports of captured Africans. Recent developments in the Atlantic World had prompted the Spanish Crown to rethink its policy on slave imports, and the Natchez District benefitted from these changes.63

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The Spanish policies that allowed enslavers at Natchez to increase their human property had their origins not in Louisiana but in Cuba. In 1762, the Spanish lost Havana to an invading British force for ten months. Some of the soldiers who were part of the invasion force would later settle in Natchez and join the 1781 revolt.64 The British invasion left Cubans with the desire for more enslaved. In the short period that the Cubans were under British control, Cuba saw an increase in merchant ships arriving in the harbor, and more than ten thousand enslaved were imported. This led the Cuban elite to emphasize their demand for a steady supply of enslaved Africans, and the Spanish king, Charles III, used the Cuban complaints to begin national reforms to meet the demands.65 Before the British invasion, Spain had contracted the right to sell enslaved Africans in Cuba to individuals and later stock companies of any country. These asientos allowed the importing party a specified number of enslaved, who would be imported into the colonies and taxed by the Spanish Crown. The number of enslaved imported was always insufficient, so an illegal captive trade began to blossom in the Caribbean. The Crown realized the shortcoming of the asiento system, yet its own trading company, the Real Companía de Comercio de la Havana, set up after 1740, still failed to import an adequate number of human chattel to Cuba and the surrounding colonies.66 The reforms concerning Spanish America instituted by Charles III in 1778 turned Cuba’s major port, Havana, into one of the major trading hubs in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, including Louisiana.67 These reforms, occurring throughout the Spanish colonial empire, are known as the Bourbon Reforms.68 They included incentives and regulations for free trade and specifically put an end to the asiento system that had retarded the growth of the Cuban economy. Colonists in Louisiana experienced the effect of the Bourbon Reforms on the import of enslaved Africans before Cubans did. Charles III distrusted the Cuban planters, who had quickly sided with the British in 1763, and did not allow a free importation of enslaved or a deregulated sugar plantation economy on the island. Instead, he turned his reformer’s eye to Louisiana.69 In 1782, the Spanish exempted the colonists in Louisiana from all duties on enslaved imported from Africa, the French colonies, or America.70 This cédula came seven years before the Spanish Crown allowed such tax incentives and regulation-free trade in Cuba.71 Planters in New Orleans openly celebrated this new royal cédula in 1782. “The city welcomed the news with parades, illumination of houses, decoration of ships in the river, and cannon salutes fired by the vessels,” and

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the number of recorded slave imports to Louisiana rose tenfold from five hundred slaves in 1782 to more than five thousand in 1797.72 The Bourbon Reforms and their stipulation of free slave imports into Louisiana were a boon for Natchez enslavers. The importation of Africans did not benefit only male enslavers. Natchez’s female slave owners also benefitted from the Bourbon Reforms, even though single women consciously chose the courthouse sale over any other deal they might have struck with a seller. The wives of Hutchins or Alston, or widowed enslavers, often saw the courthouse sale as a protection. Under Spanish tutelage they retained the legal right to their property and were not entirely dependent on the managerial skill of their husbands. Widows protected their property by the use of a courthouse sale, as did both the widows Osborne and McIntosh. McIntosh’s widow sold land and plantation property to afford the purchase of enslaved Africans and also received an enslaved boy aged twelve, brought from Carolina, as part of the payment.73 Then she bought a “negro boy named ‘Luke,’ aged about ten years,” for three hundred dollars and a “negro man named ‘Antoine Ellis’ aged about forty years, native of Curacoa [sic]” on May 17, 1782.74 In the early summer of 1782, the widow bought two more enslaved women, Jane, age eighteen, and Bertha, age forty.75 Jane Osborne bought “a woman named ‘Mary,’ of the Senegal nation, and her daughter named ‘Emelia’ aged about five months.”76 Enslaved people of all ages and genders served as a valuable investment, in addition to their immediate return as a workforce. Under British law, in Virginia for example, white married women had to waive their rights to property ownership including enslaved people. The laws of Spanish Louisiana, however, granted all women—of any complexion—legal rights to property, which these women did use with some creativity.77 Women, especially widows, seemed to prefer small family units with young children and a female parent, or single enslaved women. This served several purposes. For one, an enslaved woman and her child presented less of a risk. It would be highly unlikely for the enslaved to run away by herself, and a runaway enslaved woman with a child did not stand much chance of surviving in the backcountry without help. Second, the threat of resistance was not as high as it would have been if the widows had purchased an adult enslaved male. An enslaved man had the potential—based on contemporary social standards—to physically threaten the widow, or simply to escape into the wilderness. This does not mean that female slave owners were not capable of controlling their enslaved, but it seems a logical choice, given the gender expectations of the time.78

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Enslaved people became the pivotal commodity that could make or break an enslaver’s dream of becoming rich. Enslaver entrepreneurs utilized the capital bound into their human captives to leverage them as collateral in business deals and to receive cash advances or credit from merchants.79 In colonial Natchez, settlers used the enslaved as tokens of wealth and created a modus operandi around human chattel and their service that closely bound the planter’s success to the availability of enslaved Africans. At the same time, the enslaved played an equally important role for the Spanish Empire. Although the settlers, not the empire, owned the enslaved, the bound Africans were at least some guarantee to imperial officials that the colonists would remain with the empire. Therefore, Spanish officials in Natchez invited as many slave owners into the district as possible, thereby bolstering the population and reinforcing the defenses of Natchez against all foes.80 Enslavers—even aspiring ones—in the Natchez District exhibited certain traits across all members of the class. They created a culture that mirrored that of Virginia planters of the eighteenth century. The enslavers of the Commonwealth directed all their attention and energy to creating a culture that was centered on the production of tobacco and slavery, subordinating everything else in its favor. Slave owners in Natchez, male and female, emulated the behavior of the Virginians.81 Natchez was on the verge of becoming a slave society under the British, but that crucial step could only be completed under Spanish tutelage.

Prosperity under Spanish Rule Historians writing about Natchez—usually antebellum Natchez— often contend that the ascent of King Cotton was inevitable. Hence, the colonial period of the Natchez District has been largely dismissed as a mere predecessor to the more colorful history of the district.82 Yet it is precisely the early colonial history with its constant strife between empires and experimentation with various staple crops that laid the foundation of antebellum Natchez. The conflicts that settlers and empires, especially the Spanish, had to endure drove the development of cotton. The royal crop would eventually become the preeminent staple, but not until the late 1790s. In many ways, Cuba’s sugar industry parallels Natchez’s development. Historians of Cuba long presumed that the eventual development of sugar was the driving force in the switch from a society with slaves to a slave society and regularly ignored the development that Cuba underwent before it became the major sugar producer

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in the Caribbean.83 Nobody could have predicted the slave rebellion on Haiti, which prompted the sudden rise of Cuba, or the advent of the cotton gin, making Natchez the center of the American planter aristocracy. Under the period of Spanish rule, the Natchez District was more closely connected to the Caribbean and Cuba than to the Anglo-American areas of settlement on the Eastern Seaboard. Indeed, it is useful to consider the development of Cuba before it became a sugar-producing island.84 Cuba and its early history has to be viewed in the larger context of the Atlantic World to explain why it became the world’s largest producer of sugar, and the developments preceding the 1790s aided that progress.85 A lack of enslaved workers held back the planters of Cuba prior to the Haitian rebellion of 1791. Ironically, it was the British invasion that spiked slave importations and showed Cuban enslavers what they could achieve if enslaved Africans could be purchased freely and in large numbers.86 Conversely, in Natchez, it was the advent of the Spanish regime that exposed British colonists to the possibilities under an administration that allowed for an easy importation of an unlimited number of enslaved Africans. Thus, the transition to a slave society marks a significant turn in both colonies of the Spanish Empire. The Natchez District actually preceded Cuba in its shift from a society with slaves to a slave society. As shown, American settlers and their enslaved continued to arrive in Natchez after 1781, although they had to live under Spanish rule. The first solid numbers of enslaved and white settlers in Natchez stem from a 1785 report. Francisco Bouligny, then governor, undertook “a conservative estimate based on the last census.” He estimated “a total of two hundred seventy-five families, which based on an average of four persons in each, represents one thousand and one hundred persons. There are to be added to this population about nine hundred Negro slaves, which make a total of two thousand persons, among whom it may be judged that there are one thousand laborers.”87 Bouligny went on to describe the capability of the settlers to produce products for market. He projected that “this small population, according to a conservative estimate, will extract this year from a peaceful and satisfactory cultivation a product of one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand pesos in tobacco, cotton, maize, vegetables, animals, wood for construction, and planed lumber—a thing to be marveled at by one who gives it any thought, for such production is seen in only a few parts of the world.”88 The economy of Natchez was clearly diversified and as of 1785 not yet dominated by a single crop. However, tobacco and cotton are listed as the first two items, and the previous mention of

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nine hundred enslaved Africans shows that Natchez was an expanding economy approaching a full-fledged slave society. The numbers of enslaved noted by Bouligny suggest that enslavers in Natchez used bound labor differently than in the area that would later become Vicksburg. Farming, especially if it was primarily done for subsistence, did not require enslavers to own more than a limited number of enslaved workers, and the ratio of enslaved and white people would not have approached fifty-to-fifty. Hence, the numbers of enslaved people around modern day Vicksburg remained comparatively low as farmers tended to hire the labor force of neighbors when needed at harvest time.89 The high number of enslaved people in Natchez, therefore, suggests that farmers and planters were producing a crop, either tobacco, cotton, or indigo, and sometimes wood and meat, for a market. They needed enslaved labor because no other labor was available, and the Spanish could provide the necessary workforce after 1782. Bouligny also reported the incredible productivity demonstrated by the people of Natchez. Although it can be assumed that Bouligny was self-serving in reporting that the district’s productivity was high, the number of enslaved supports his claims. Planters and farmers would have only invested heavily in African laborers if they could have utilized that labor and turned a staple crop into profit. Even though the number of enslaved suggests a thriving market production, there clearly was no mono-crop system in place as yet. In 1785, planters and farmers were producing multiple crops, and they often utilized their enslaved not only to harvest tobacco, indigo, or cotton but also to cut wood and sell it to the Caribbean. The wood cut in the Natchez District provided an additional link to the Caribbean for Natchez settlers. Natchez’s wood was probably used as fuel in Cuban boiling houses, since the burgeoning sugar production on the island quickly consumed the native wood. This economy was typical for frontier societies, yet the increasing number of enslaved in the district indicated that colonists began to focus on a single cash crop.90

The Price for Slavery’s Success The import of the enslaved to Natchez increased under Spanish tutelage. During the first seven years of Spanish rule between 1780 and 1787, the court records in Natchez list a total of 183 sales. Roughly half of these sales (87) were for captives brought directly from Africa, and only 20 percent (36) arrived from either the Caribbean or the United States. In

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30 percent of the court-registered sales (60), no origin of the enslaved was given. The numbers from the court records strangely conflict with the newest estimates on the Atlantic slave trade to Louisiana, which list no slave shipments arriving from Africa for that period. However, they do list 131 enslaved with unknown origin arriving in New Orleans. Based on these numbers—and if we assume that some of the unknown enslaved were from Africa—Natchez received at least half of all the enslaved brought from Africa, an astonishing number for the burgeoning but still relatively small outpost.91 The official 1787 census of Natchez lists a total of 658 enslaved living and toiling in the district, which is less than the number estimated by Francisco Bouligny in 1785.92 Settlers had to accrue financial assets in a cash-poor frontier economy to purchase Atlantic Africans. Most often, they purchased enslaved assets on credit. Debt therefore was a major issue in colonial Natchez. The people arriving in Natchez were often unlike the colonizers who would come to settle in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, or Texas in the early nineteenth century, who moved parts or their entire operations west.93 These migrants had the financial means and an available cash flow from the Atlantic Seaboard to undertake their settlement plans.94 Many of the people arriving in Natchez were unable to tap into large financial resources. Some of them brought enslaved workers, but cash remained in short supply on the frontier.95 Therefore, borrowing money was often the only chance to increase one’s property. The debtors had to hope that the investment they had made would yield a sufficiently high profit to pay back their debt in time. Enslaved Atlantic Africans were often the only commodities, aside from land, that the aspiring landowners could use as a security against their loan. If the aspiring enslaver had to default on his debt, he had to relinquish the enslaved used as security. By doing so, he not only lost his land, which was given back to the creditor or auctioned off, but also his enslaved workers. This is one reason why many debtors fled to Indian country and took their enslaved people with them. This at least secured them the slim chance for a new start. If, however, an enslaver paid his creditor in time, he likely invested in additional enslaved Africans and new land, continuing his rise in the planter class. This goal drove many an aspiring planter to take high risks. One example of using enslaved as collateral is the case of William Dueit. On August 15, 1783, Dueit received $1,100 from Don Miguel Eslava. Dueit promised “to pay in three months from date, for surety he mortgages three negroes, his property.”96 The enslaved people

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were three boys, two twelve-year-olds and one fourteen-year-old. He repaid the loan in three months, and the boys were out of danger. However, on December 20, 1783, Dueit sold another boy, Airy, aged ten, to Miguel Eslava for three hundred dollars.97 There were certain advantages to mortgaging young enslaved people because “they continued to appreciate in value.”98 Meanwhile, they could still continue to labor for Dueit. These mortgage deals could turn into a traumatic experience for the enslaved. Atlantic Africans never knew which one of them was part of the mortgage, and who was the likely creditor. Although mortgages in some cases could have been used as a tool to avoid sales, it was more common that families were separated.99 Dueit continued to use his enslaved as collateral, but he disappeared from the court records during the mid-1780s, indicating that he was unsuccessful. Still, it is evident how crucial the enslaved were to the function of Natchez’s economy. The Spanish did well to ensure that this part of the economy was not hampered by new regulations, thereby allowing business among planters to develop unperturbed by imperial policies. In turn, complexion remained important as blackness—even though its definition may have varied—still ensured enslavement and thereby secured the frontier for the Spanish.

Legal Change, Debt, and Slavery in Colonial Natchez The case of the Woods family and their enslaved Africans illustrates how closely connected debt, enslaved people, complexion, and success were on the slave frontier. John Woods was a settler who aspired to greater wealth and took the risk a little too far. His story in the court records began on August 1, 1783. He bought land from Stephen Minor—or Estevan Minor in the Spanish records—and either extended or established a plantation with Adam Bingaman, William Smith, and the Widow Coleman as neighbors for three hundred dollars. The land had originally belonged to John Blommart and was seized by the Spanish Crown after he had fled the town following the rebellion of 1781.100 The payment of the original land purchase was not due until December 1784, which gave Woods two harvest seasons to settle his debt. Yet Woods wanted more. On January 7, 1784, Woods sold “a negro boy named ‘Jack’ for $275” to Richard Harrison.101 Woods did not use the profit from the sale to satisfy the outstanding debt to Minor. Instead, he bought more land from fellow settlers in Natchez.102 In a short time, he bought about 1,250 arpents (1,200 acres) of land for a total of $1,025.103

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John Woods’s dreams came crashing down sometime in early April 1784. Creditors seized one of his plantations. The court appraised the plantation for $400, and two unnamed enslaved Atlantic Africans, mother and daughter, for $500. The property sold for a loss; Adam Bingaman bought the land for a mere $155, while Minor snatched the enslaved for $561.104 However, the case of John and Margaret Woods does not end with the forced sale of some of their property. According to eyewitness accounts and his wife, John Woods fled to the Choctaw Nation to hide from his creditors.105 Woods thereby followed the example set by John Alston and other men who decided to flee the Spanish authorities, either because of debt or treason. Continuing with the familiar pattern, John left his wife, Margaret, behind. The Woods plantation and property was foreclosed on, yet Margaret was able to petition the Spanish government for help. Before the first part of the Woods property could be sold, Margaret asked the governor “that a certain negro wench, named ‘Rebecca,’ with her children, be restored to her, which said wench was given to her by her husband, John Woods, at the time of her marriage, about eleven years ago.” Margaret Woods successfully claimed that the enslaved had always rightfully belonged to her and that the property of her husband would be enough to satisfy the creditors.106 Margaret Woods also sought to protect her status and her whiteness in the face of daunting difficulties by claiming the mother and daughter as her property. What happened next is unclear. John Woods reappeared in the court records on October 3, 1784. It seems that Woods was not able to escape Spanish law for long, because he is listed as “confined in the fort, or rather a prisoner on bail.”107 Shortly thereafter, on November 13, 1784, his wife demanded a passport to go to New Orleans for business. Strangely, John Woods was listed as “absconded” once again.108 However, Margaret Woods never made it to New Orleans.109 Just before Mrs. Woods could board the barge that would carry her downriver, Philip Trevino, the new governor of Natchez, stopped her. Maybe he already suspected that she was in league with her fugitive husband and had plans to disappear as well. It is unknown if Margaret had the requested enslaved woman with her, but it is a strong possibility since she would not dare to leave her only available property behind. Whatever the case, Margaret did not leave Natchez, and it is only in 1786 that the court finally discovered the full measure of the situation.110 In 1785 and 1786, the court in Natchez tried to shed light upon the case between Stephen Minor and Margaret and John Woods.111 While the court was interested in settling the debt issue, it also sought to

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understand why Margaret Woods had attempted to steal an additional enslaved woman who had been sold to Stephen Minor to satisfy John Woods’s debt. As the investigation revealed, Margaret Woods was fully involved in protecting the family property, and her actions belied the idea of a virtuous lady on the frontier. To protect her property, Mrs. Woods appealed to Estevan Miró, the Spanish governor of Louisiana. Woods had already been successful in petitioning the Spanish authorities for property she supposedly owned, and she likely hoped to convince Miró to give her additional leeway. For the same reasons, Minor tried to stop her. Stephen Minor was a leading citizen of Natchez and would in fact become interim governor at the end of the Spanish regime. He wanted to keep the case local, since Natchez offered him the greatest chance of success in reclaiming his property. Mrs. Woods, however, still pleaded her case to Governor Miró. On March 16, 1786, Margaret’s letter to the governor in which she explained her situation was received in New Orleans. She claimed: Her husband, John Woods, being a simple man and somewhat addicted to liquor, concluded a bargain with a certain Stephen Minor for a tract of land in the said District of Natchez, containing about 200 arpents, together with 3 horses, 3 cows, and 2 plows, and being intoxicated at the time, agreed to pay the said Minor for the same the enormous sum of $1500, a sum far beyond the real value thereof, and much more than the husband of your petitioner was able to pay without the total ruin of himself and family, as the event has proved.112 Mrs. Woods clearly tried to appeal to the European gender norms by presenting her husband as simple-minded and addicted to liquor. Maybe she anticipated that the governor in New Orleans would simply void the contract based on her description of her husband. Whatever Margaret hoped to achieve with the letter, the attempt backfired. Spurred by his superior in New Orleans, the new governor of Natchez, Charles de Gran Pré—now in his second term—initiated a thorough investigation. If Mrs. Woods had hoped to receive a sympathetic verdict again, she was sorely disappointed. Gran Pré began to examine the documents concerning the purchase made by John Woods, and he ordered witnesses to give their account of the sale. An examination of a copy of the original sale removed any legitimacy from Margaret Woods’s claim that Minor had somehow cheated her husband.113 The witnesses all agreed that the plantation had been sold

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at a reasonable and fair price.114 Margaret Woods’s claim that her husband had drunkenly struck a bad deal with Minor was therefore refuted. Now that the court had negated Margaret Woods’s initial claim, it went on to investigate all other matters connected to the land deal. The court addressed the claim of Margaret Woods that Rebecca and her child were Mrs. Woods’s property. Woods had claimed the woman as her possession, and therefore Rebecca—also called “Beck” or “Becky” in the court documents—was returned to her after her husband had to sell all their enslaved to Stephen Minor. However, as the Spanish continued to question additional witnesses, a pattern for Margaret Woods’s actions became evident. The story that unfolded in the Natchez court revolved around Rebecca, her child, and her husband, London. Shortly after she had claimed Rebecca, the wily Mrs. Woods was caught in the thickets around Natchez trying to steal London, who had also belonged to the family before their expansion scheme had faltered. In 1786, Abraham Mays had been hired by Stephen Minor to return London. Mays encountered London in the company of Margaret Woods, his former owner. Following Minor’s orders, Mays captured the enslaved man and led him back to Natchez. Woods followed Mays and his colleagues, and the following situation developed: “Mrs Woods finding herself detected in Stealing the negroes she then in some measure endeavoured to satisfy herself by following the party and giving leave to her tongue, which for a space of time dealt out scurrility in the greatest abundance.”115 Woods was obviously quite upset with the situation and did not withhold her contempt, mixed with a good measure of panic. Being caught in the act unraveled all her plans of escaping the Natchez District with the enslaved family.116 Mrs. Woods had begun planning her coup shortly after her husband defaulted on the property he had bought from Minor and fled the district in 1784. She had no legal claim to any of the enslaved, as the trial would prove.117 But Margaret Woods understood the importance of enslaved Africans on the frontier, and she desperately tried to retain at least some property. She explained to a fellow villager, Patience Welton, “that ever since she had been married she was used to have negroes wait upon her and that it would go very hard with her to be without a negro to do her business but she feared that it would take all of her husband’s negroes to pay the debts.”118 Thus, Woods wanted to keep as many enslaved people as possible. She elected to claim Rebecca because she had a child and a husband. She then conveyed to London that she had hidden Rebecca in a canebrake and wanted London to join his wife.119

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The story of the enslaved family is not unusual but aids our understanding of the general meaning of slavery for the enslaved in Natchez. Even after the Woods property had been divided between the debtors and Mrs. Woods, Rebecca and London remained in Natchez. Although they did not live on the same property, they were likely able to see each other on Sundays or during other occasions like market days in Natchez. Although a sale always loomed over the fragile family life of the enslaved, the Natchez District absorbed enslaved Africans and rarely sold them away since the demand was great. Their chances to remain at least in the vicinity of each other were therefore relatively good. In addition, London might have gathered from Minor that his current enslaver was trying to reclaim Rebecca as his rightful property. Hence, they still could attempt to build a life as a family, which many other enslaved people could not. Margaret Woods had to use the fear of sale, an effective weapon to coerce bondsmen and bondswomen into obedience across the Atlantic World, to coerce London away from Minor.120 When caught, London admitted to Abraham Mays that “Mrs. Woods had persuaded him to run away and told him Mr. Minor intended selling him to the Spaniards.”121 This news, even though invented, brought London’s world down. Once sold to the “Spaniards,” usually meaning New Orleans, he would not remain in Natchez and could end up in numerous destinations across the Caribbean. His wife and child would be lost to him, his family forever separated. When London heard that Woods had hidden Rebecca in a canebrake and wanted London to join his wife, he chose to run away and take his chances with the Woods among the Choctaws, but in company of his family.122 He thereby displayed his own agency in the face of permanent separation. This plan, in all likelihood, would have worked if not for the greed and chattiness of Margaret Woods. According to William Owens, Woods “begged of me and my wife to steal a wench, named ‘Kate,’ that Mr. Minor had bought of her.”123 Kate apparently was Margaret Woods’s favorite enslaved woman, and she did not want to leave her with Stephen Minor. Woods planned to lure London into running away and then to steal Kate. In a frontier town like Natchez, enslaved runaways were not uncommon, and, although people might have been suspicious, evidence suggests that enslaved people disappeared frequently. Francisco Bouligny, for example, reported in 1785 about the state of the defenses in the district. He asserted that the people lived at a great distance from each other and that most of their property had virgin woodland on at least one side.

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This land not only provided a chance for undetected escape, but it also invited “the many vagabonds and villains who inhabit the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.” Bouligny went on to explain that “the greater part of these vagabonds, dregs of Europe and America, are men abandoned to all vices and capable of committing any crime. They are the ones who have devastated this district with their continual theft of horses, mules and Negroes.” In other words, thefts of enslaved Africans, including “self-theft,” were common, and Kate would have just been another case of larceny. Unfortunately for Woods, Owens decided to play along with her and then to report back to Stephen Minor. Minor then set a trap for Margaret and London and retrieved his property.124 After Minor’s agent caught Margaret Woods, dragged her into Spanish court, and the legal process began, she tried to prove that Rebecca did in fact belong to her. However, she managed to call only three witnesses in her support. Stephen Jett, Archibald Rea, and John Pickens all testified for Margaret Woods. However, only two, Jett and Pickens, agreed that Margaret Woods had a legal claim to Rebecca. Archibald Rea named the slave Kate as Margaret’s property.125 Stephen Jett claimed that her husband had given Rebecca to Mrs. Woods “at the time of her marriage.”126 Yet Archibald Rea claimed that Margaret had inherited Rebecca from her father, Matthew Thompson.127 The case was lost. Margaret Woods’s key witnesses presented conflicting stories, giving the court all it needed to come to a decision that favored Stephen Minor. What had started as the dream of an aspiring planter couple in 1784 came toppling down by the end of 1786. Margaret Woods was a frequent “guest” in court, her husband, John, was on the run in the Choctaw Nation, and both of them had lost all their land. In December 1786, Charles de Gran Pré’s verdict also took away their last enslaved person. The verdict itself was short and simply read: “Margaret Woods is excluded from all claim to the woman ‘Rebecca.’”128 This one sentence ended all dreams the couple might have held when they came to Natchez from Carolina. With no enslaved laborers, no land, and no other assets, their chances to become successful colonists were nonexistent. Although the fate of the enslaved involved in this case is unknown, the sources yield some information on the rest of the people involved. After Charles de Gran Pré had given his verdict, Margaret Woods disappears from the records. Her husband, John, however, returned to Natchez sometime between 1786 and 1787. His lands and most of his property were sold off to satisfy his debt, and John must have reappeared from hiding to eke out an existence in Natchez. Woods continued to appear

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in court as a debtor.129 Although the sums were small in comparison to the debt Woods had amassed between 1783 and 1786, the ne’er-do-well planter had nothing left and lived a meager existence in the shadow of the other planters in the district. Nevertheless, Woods did not leave the area. It appears that he was able to acquire another plot of land by 1804, yet Jesse Lum claimed “preemption right to 250 acres in Jefferson County on Milburn’s Creek, waters of bayou Pierre, which he inhabited December 10, 1801.”130 Woods could not establish himself in any capacity in the district, and his high hopes had fallen fast and hard. Men and women like the Woods, however, exemplify the means settlers employed to achieve their dream of becoming a planter.

Spanish Dreams, American Nightmares The transition of the Natchez District from British to Spanish hands was not without its problems. The people in Natchez had to adapt to new laws, new economic policies, and a new language. Many of these transitions were contested, either in court or by force. Natchez slave owners wanted to forge their own destiny but were nevertheless dependent on the Spanish government and its laws—including definitions of complexion—as well as the economic and imperial forces of the lower Mississippi Valley. Its inhabitants had a strong understanding of who they were, and they were able to live under the rule of many empires as long as their property was safe, and the white enslavers prospered. After the Spanish had calmed the district and extracted the most rabid Loyalists, life in Natchez was largely undisturbed. Spanish immigration policies allowed Anglos and their enslaved to enter the district, and many came. Liberal Spanish trade regulations and the repeal of the duties on imported enslaved Africans further warmed the Anglo-American population to the presence of the Spanish, and it won many people over to the Spanish side. Yet not every settler found his or her dreams come true. Some people took great financial risks to achieve their dreams, but the boom climate made many forget the risks they were taking. Once in debt, the dream could quickly become a nightmare. Recognizing that the enslaved were the key to their economic fortune, prospective colonists tried to broker their human property in as many ways as they could. If, however, their enslaved were threatened, they became creative in holding on to them, and lengthy court cases could ensue, proving how precious the human property was for the new settlers. By using the enslaved as a collateral for their debts, they had a valuable pawn and a workforce to earn

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enough capital to repay the debt. With the enslaved gone, settlers had to rely on their own labor. Realizing that this would not suffice, they employed every method they could think of to protect their enslaved from sale. For the Spanish dons, the beneficial trade policies and the steadily rising number of slave sales and imports brought a measure of control that the preceding empires lacked. In an increasingly competitive lower Mississippi Valley—both in staple crops and colonial powers that sought to dominate it—the Spanish held on to Natchez longer and with more success than both their French and British predecessors. They were able to do so, even though they allowed enslaved and free people of color to openly challenge the white population in court. But since the Spanish kept slave importation levels high, the American settlers remained content with the Spanish dons. This would eventually change, but not before two decades came and went.


Spanish Complexions in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Making Race in Natchez

On a fall day in 1781 “James” appeared before the Spanish governor and sued Clement Dyson and John Staybraker over outstanding payments of fifty dollars for a quantity of corn he had sold them from his own supply. James was a free person of color and formerly enslaved by Philip Alston, brother of the rebel and fugitive John Alston. The defendants were white, and under British law James would have had no standing against them in court, a fact that Dyson and Staybraker probably sought to exploit. The sale was dated December 26, 1780, and James was not named in the note, but his former enslaver, Philip Alston, did appear as the seller of the corn. “According to English law, which forbids the negro to make any law claim,” James’s former owner had to sign the contract.1 In 1781, however, under Spanish law, James could legally claim his money from the two defendants—white or not—and the Spanish court lost no time in ordering Dyson and Staybraker to pay the money they owed.2 There are several important points to make about James’s case. Notably, James had to have heard from someone that he had a right to sue for his wages. There are no indications that the Spanish governor publicized any laws in Natchez. James’s original enslaver was an Anglo-American settler, so any previous knowledge of Spanish laws is unlikely. It is plausible that Atlantic Africans like James received their information through the networks of river-traveling enslaved Africans and free people of color that stretched from New Orleans to St. Louis and beyond. Armed with that information, James made his case. Yet James did more than simply win his claim. His case alerted people of

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color in Natchez that Spain allowed suits against white settlers in their courts. To the Anglo-American settlers it signaled that their whiteness alone no longer guaranteed success in courts, as James had proven that free Africans had just as much right to the courts as white settlers. Furthermore, people of African descent could defend their own liberty in court. This was nothing out of the ordinary in older Spanish colonies, but it challenged notions of white liberty that relied on a demonstrable superiority of whiteness in relationship to blackness, specifically in a region in which social structures remained liminal. More significantly, James’s case now served as a beacon of hope for all Africans in Natchez, proving that the use of the courts was a legitimate way to find some respite from captivity. Manumissions were always a possibility in the Atlantic World, but the Spanish legal system provided simpler—but not easy—routes to freedom. The following pages uncover the voices of enslaved African and African American from the court records and demonstrate that Atlantic Africans actively engaged courts and enslaver in a quest for their freedom. Families played an important part in this story. Slave owners manumitted the enslaved they saw as deserving in Spanish Natchez, and people with African ancestry frequently used family or kinship ties to whites in Natchez to defend their rights. Although the cases in the surviving sources are sparse, they show that Spanish Natchez offered people of color ways to challenge white control. The liminal period and the legal pluralism in the region allowed Atlantic Africans to become occasional actors in the larger story of the Revolutionary Atlantic World and influence local decisions in their favor.3 In 1781 the liminal stage of Natchez snaps sharply into focus.4 Spanish legal traditions clashed with Anglo-American ideas about the meaning of complexion and the theoretical ability of people of color to attain freedom or remain enslaved. Anglo settlers tested the boundaries of Spanish accommodations just as Atlantic Africans explored how flexible Spain was in entertaining their desires to become free. These actions were not necessarily limited to the courtroom, but it is there we can see them most clearly. Enslavers registered sales of bondspeople, African Americans entered their pleas for freedom, and Spanish administrators tried to administer the colony. At all times, the Iberian administrators had to balance the scales among imperial needs, settler demands, and the aspirations of African-descended people. Not an easy feat in a stable, established colony, it proved especially challenging on the outskirts of empire in Natchez.

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New Laws in the Borderlands With the arrival of the first Spanish governor of Natchez, Captain Charles de Gran Pré, in 1781, the people of the district saw a dramatic change in the laws governing the enslaved. The new arrivals quickly demonstrated that Spanish law was supreme and that it differed in significant ways from its British predecessor. Most significantly, Spanish legal tradition based in the Siete Partidas viewed people of nonwhite complexions, while certainly enslavable, not as inherently enslaved once in captivity. “Rather, it conceded that men ‘were naturally free.’”5 While this did not challenge the system of complexion-based slavery, it formed an important premise. Yet, ultimately, laws are enforced locally, and levels of enforcement vary greatly, in particular in liminal colonial spaces in which power waxes and wanes based on many factors. In this transitional period, identities of blackness and whiteness became important markers of change that African-descended people used to create legal avenues into courts, and eventually to freedom. Nowhere is this clearer than in the way the Spanish defined purity of blood. Like the previous French and English colonial periods in Natchez, the Spanish also carried on a discourse of complexion that centered on bloodlines, in this case limpieza de sangre (purity of blood). Both the French and the English fundamentally relied on the concept of bloodlines to define their own supremacy over African-descended people. This eventually led—during the proverbial long eighteenth century and the Age of Revolution—to the exclusionary and pseudoscientifically defined concept of whiteness versus blackness. In Spain, and later its American colonies, historians can trace a shift from the purely religious meaning of the purity laws in the fifteenth century (Muslims and Jewish people were seen as impure), to laws that treated numerous complexions as various levels of impurity in the colonies by the sixteenth century. Yet unlike in the English or French colonies, Catholicism remained an important underpinning to issues of complexion in the Spanish colonies.6 As the Bourbon Reforms and the Enlightenment were in full swing in Europe, the desire to create taxonomies of complexion increased in Spain and throughout Europe. Yet Spanish traditions of placing the various people of the empire in a caste system to create the illusion of a fixed catalogue of human variety in the Americas remained imperfect since complexion was still not the only indicator of caste. That had consequences for the administration of new territories like Natchez, where legal cases of nonwhite people found standing in court.7 This challenged

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the solidifying notions of whiteness and blackness held by the AngloAmerican colonists. In addition, Spanish courts were generally more accessible than their Anglo-American counterparts. Based on the administrative structure and the many career positions in that bureaucracy, Spanish colonial officials participated happily in the legal process to grow their service record and thereby enhance their status and advance their careers. They also continued to follow the principle of good government, which meant that “judicial actors and institutions were invested in litigating on behalf of slaves and other legal dependents—even if the substance of their complaints was of less interest than upholding and exalting the king’s authority.”8 This amplified the access of enslaved people to courts exponentially, and it consequently increased the litigiousness of Atlantic Africans. It did not negate the disadvantage of complexion but gently tilted the playing field toward blackness. As the enslaved or freedmen pursued their own agendas, they officially ushered in Spanish law. In many of these cases, it becomes quickly evident that they were doing more than simply struggling for their freedom. These people of African descent came from all across the Atlantic World: Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, the Caribbean, and some directly from Africa, and they forced their enslavers to contend with laws that were new to everyone. In doing so, these people created and shaped the legal culture that dominated Natchez between 1781 and 1798. They challenged slaveholders and Spanish bureaucrats to follow the new law and, in the process, aided in the creation of the legal culture that developed in the Natchez District under Spanish government. These developments surprised and challenged plantation owners. Not many welcomed the Spanish dons, but enslavers accepted Iberian overtures of wealth within the confines of the Spanish Empire. What they clearly did not expect was that Spanish colonial culture and the century-old legal system based in that culture would alter the way they had to interact with their enslaved property. While slavery was defined by complexion in the British colonies as well, the institution caused American enslavers to move from definitions of race that included multiple qualifiers to a pseudoscientific one that prioritized blackness. The institution cemented white superiority and, therefore, white freedom in Anglo-American thought. At the end of the eighteenth century, liberty became exclusively associated with whiteness in the United States, and the sheer existence of free people of color undermined the idea of white liberty.9 This was not the case in the Spanish colonies, where slavery was

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also based on complexion, yet there was no “elaborate justification for slavery” necessary to govern.10 Although the difference appears marginal, settlers and Spanish administrators quickly experienced the fallout from the divergent legal cultures. Anglo-American ideas of complexion—which were in the process of focusing exclusively on phenotype—in combination with a long tradition of paternalistic rule tolerated little deviation in governing families and Atlantic African subjects. Yet in the Spanish Empire paternalism had slightly different origins, especially regarding the management of the enslaved. Whereas the enslavers in the Anglo system had the clear backing of the courts, the state, and the king, Spanish colonial laws worked differently. The Spanish legal tradition in its American colonies developed in a peculiar setting. On the one hand, church law competed with civil (Roman) law. This pitted enslavers against ecclesiastical authorities, royal officials, and enslaved persons. The mixture of church and royal law, and early modern ideas about the “individual” and “liberty,” made for a peculiar place for Atlantic Africans in Spanish society. Atlantic Africans “in the absolutist legal matrix simultaneously constituted chattel, vassals of the Spanish king, and persons with souls.” Therefore, they could achieve freedom as a result “of the complex legal regime imported by Spaniards in which power was largely—if not exclusively—vested in the sovereign rather than the feudal nobility.”11 Courts had more freedoms in Spanish America to check the power of the enslavers, something that American colonists in Natchez soon experienced and resented. And while laws of complexion may have differed, slavery itself entailed the same violent and dehumanizing function whether the enslaver was from the Iberian, French, or British Atlantic World. Natchez had a legal system that had to compensate for very different ideas about government, management of the enslaved, complexion, and the meaning of freedom. All this change occurred at a time when regional and international boundaries, as well as the resulting trade agreements, could destabilize plantation fortunes. Settlers, therefore, closely monitored the ongoing discussions in the courts and on the courthouse steps. What they saw did not please them, as the enslaved, and especially bound women, were continuously able to become free. Freedom in Spanish Natchez also had different connotations. Whereas Anglo-American codes were frequently ambiguous in such matters, Spanish courts acted if called upon. African American settlers and the enslaved recognized that and used it to their advantage.

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Natchez remained a frontier society with predominantly AngloAmerican settlers throughout the British, Spanish, and American periods, which forced the Spanish to create a hybrid legal system. The Bourbon Reforms greatly aided the genesis of this hybrid system and highlighted the transitional period of Natchez and the greater Spanish Empire.12 Spanish governors and district commanders were specifically authorized to administer Natchez and its “foreign” inhabitants with more flexibility under the newly minted reforms. The new rules facilitated decision making by the commandants and granted them a measure of independence from Madrid. This leniency was not defined or circumscribed, which expanded the liminality in Natchez even further.13 Catholicism, for example, did not become the enforced religion in Spanish Natchez. Even though new settlers had to swear a loyalty oath to the Spanish king, they did not have to convert to Catholicism, which was highly unusual across the Spanish Empire. Nevertheless, as the following pages show, Spain did emphasize its own laws in other regards, particularly in questions of gender, complexion, and slavery. Spain carefully implemented legal changes based on long-established Iberian law and offered new chances for people of color to carve out their own place in colonial Natchez. For bondsmen and bondswomen, the smallest victory provided hope and a measure of safety vital to surviving forced labor and captivity. In doing so, they were able to influence Natchez’s society in turn and engage enslavers on a more level playing field.

Creating Spanish Natchez Beginning in 1781, Spanish law opened doors to freedom. Unlike the British code of West Florida, Spanish law treated the enslaved as “worthy of participating in the Christian community” and the enslaved “had the right to receive the sacraments, and their marriages and families were protected by law, custom, and the church.” Moreover, Spanish law granted local authorities considerable flexibility regarding the legal claims of the enslaved and created an environment favorable to manumission and self-purchase.14 The tradition of legal protection that the Spanish offered to the enslaved went back to the thirteenth-century code of the Siete Partidas and emanated throughout the Spanish colonies in the Atlantic World. Although changes occurred over the centuries, the philosophy of the code ultimately guided Spanish Crown policies all the way through the eighteenth century. Natchez transitioned to these statutes in 1781. Even

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when Spain introduced a new slave code in 1789 as a result of growing plantation economies throughout their empire, the influence of the Siete Partidas on enslavers and enslaved remained intact.15 The district’s enslaved were among those who struggled under a growing plantation economy, and even though their enslavers probably favored the older British slave code, Spanish law forced them to interact with their property in front of Spanish courts. These interactions determined in many ways how enslavers viewed their relationship with the Spanish government. In addition, it allowed the enslaved who sought to become free and people of color who defined themselves as free within the confines of the Spanish Empire to pursue their freedom. The transition from British to Spanish rule ultimately brought several improvements for both African and white settlers in Natchez. Spain supplied the settlers of Natchez with enslaved Africans to feed the growing plantation economy. At the same time, Spanish law lowered barriers to manumission and opened the courthouse to the enslaved. The Bourbon Reforms expanded local authority within the Spanish Empire to such a degree that resident officials gained unprecedented power. The administrators in Natchez used their new abilities to forge a working alliance between colonial Spain and Anglo-American settlers. This attempt to form a coalition resulted in a hybrid legal system influenced by British settlers, Spanish laws, and Atlantic Africans’ legal actions. At the same time, Natchez enslavers discovered that their human property was not without means to defend claims in court. Enslaved and free people of color learned to navigate the muddy legal waters of Spanish Natchez to acquire property and to protect it in court and even, on occasion, to gain their liberty. Administering Natchez was not an easy task. Therefore, to accompany the new rules on the enslaved, Spain also offered the Natchez colonists an additional incentive to remain in the district. They encouraged landowners to grow tobacco by offering subsidies and a guaranteed market, and they opened the captive trade from Africa.16 These concessions kept colonists loyal, but only temporarily, as Spanish support for tobacco wavered during the 1780s and collapsed in the 1790s. Madrid cut subsidies, prices dropped, and enslavers were left to deal with their debt from reckless speculation in enslaved Africans. Local authorities in the 1790s had to govern a district whose settlers were on the brink of bankruptcy and increasingly restless. Fortunately, the Bourbon Reforms allowed the legal system in Natchez some flexibility. When Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos took over the district in 1789, he catered to the wishes of

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his colonial subjects, but he nevertheless maintained the right of people of color to call on the courts and to sue for their rights.17 This royal paternalism presented a point of contention with the white Natchez colonial elites, yet the Spanish Empire and its laws would bend, but not break, under such critical circumstances. It was difficult, however, to implement the new Spanish slave code in Louisiana, and Natchez by extension.

Establishing Spanish Law in the Colonial Backwater The Spanish Empire was not unaccustomed to the problems legal change brought to the lower Mississippi Valley. Spain had governed Louisiana through New Orleans since 1763. The local French elite colonizers initially resisted Spain’s influence on law and culture, but over time a hybrid system between the new Spanish slave law and the old French Code Noir developed in the colony.18 This transition from the French to the Spanish legal systems did not go smoothly as administrators and planters in the Cabildo changed or completely abandoned established rules from the French regime to accommodate Spain. It became clear that Atlantic Africans could get easier access to Spanish courts, but they also had to live with tradeoffs. It is important to investigate some of these basic local Spanish laws concerning slavery. Specifically, historians need to understand how the government in Louisiana handled the clash between the Spanish code and the French Code Noir to understand how Spain handled the legal change in Natchez. Although the Code Noir was infused with Catholic ideology accepting all people into the church community (Catholic body of Christ), it was harsher than the new Spanish codes. For example, under the Code Noir “the enslaved could not ‘be parties to civil suits, either as plaintiffs or defendants, nor to parties [as complaints] in criminal cases, except their masters shall have the right to act for them in civil matters, and in criminal ones, to demand punishment and reparation for such outrages and excesses committed against their slaves.’”19 Spanish law treated the enslaved differently. Under Governor Estevan Miró in the 1770s, the government in Louisiana began to develop specific law codes that regulated all matters concerning slavery in the colony. Miró relied heavily on the New Orleans Cabildo (Municipal Government) to develop rules that were suited to a colonial backcountry struggling to become a slave society; these laws eventually became the legal standard in Natchez. Key to the new rules was the control of the behavior of the enslaved on and off the plantation.

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Since French Creole settlers sat in the Cabildo, they attempted to place some of their customary law into Spanish codes when they superseded the French Code Noir in the 1760s and 1770s. The Cabildo of New Orleans introduced its versions of new regulations, but Governor Miró finally settled on a version that remained exceedingly close to codes around the Caribbean—including a codification for self-purchase—on May 1, 1784. He then sent copies of this decree to post commandants, including the one in Natchez. The new Spanish codes clearly remained in the tradition of the Siete Partidas.20 For example, Spanish law, like the British slave codes, required enslaved people traveling off their home plantation to carry passes or face immediate punishment. If patrols encountered a suspicious African, the suspect was brought to jail and whipped under the supervision of a Spanish official. In Spanish Louisiana, then, corporal punishment of the enslaved was carried out under royal supervision. Slave patrols or owners did not exact the punishment. This law marked a clear departure from Anglo-American traditions under which slave patrols or owners, without the intervention of the state, could whip the enslaved immediately. Natchez’s settlers had to learn that their power over their human property had clearly defined limits. Many of the laws passed by the Cabildo reflected standard procedure for slave owners across the Americas. The Spaniards prohibited the sale of liquor, and they strongly discouraged the ownership of guns. The latter posed problems for both the enslaved and the enslavers. Slave owners on frontier plantations often armed their enslaved to hunt game to supplement their diet.21 The new Spanish laws explicitly challenged this custom by prohibiting the sale of gunpowder and shot to the enslaved. If owners armed their enslaved, the firearms had to be marked with the owner’s name. The enslaved no longer had the right to assemble or use (or own) horses, and free people of color had to carry documents that supported their freedom.22 In conjunction with the law requiring enslaved people to carry a pass, Spanish law clearly limited the ability of Atlantic Africans to move freely. While this new legislation made sense in urban New Orleans, it proved extremely difficult to enforce in rural settings like the Natchez District. Plantations were scattered, and Spanish law enforcement was sparse.23 Nevertheless, these rules strengthened some of the enslavers’ powers and reenforced control over their human property on the frontier. Despite these stringent provisions, the new codes did not work as well as anticipated for many enslavers. For one, the French-led Cabildo in New Orleans insisted on a generally harsher slave code in 1778. However,

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“the crown never approved it and judges continued to follow imperial law.” Spanish regulations rooted in the Siete Partidas remained.24 Even so, by circumscribing the freedom of movement of Atlantic Africans, the enslavers had also limited their own ability to do with their enslaved as they pleased. For example, the standard code prohibited the hiring out of unskilled bound laborers, thereby curtailing the chances of small slaveholders to add additional workers from neighbors at harvest time. The smaller agricultural entrepreneurs could not afford the larger workforce needed at harvest time because of the expense of supporting idle or underemployed hands. This regulation benefitted the wealthy settlers who sat in the Cabildo, but it hurt the upstart colonists.25 Spanish slave laws placed a particular burden on Anglo settlers who were accustomed to more economic freedom to dispose of their property and to make full use of the mobility that enslaved labor presented. Now the law, if enforced, reaffirmed their power to hold Africans in bondage but interfered with their ability to do as they pleased with them. Notwithstanding all these transformations, Spanish legal conventions did grant enslaved people customary privileges if they sought to purchase their own freedom in North America. Consequently, the custom to self-purchase, coartación, was the most important new legal addition in Spanish Louisiana.26 Coartación allowed an enslaved person to purchase his or her freedom for a specified sum that was either agreed upon with the enslaver or arranged in the courts. Once set, the purchase price could not be changed, and the slave owner had to honor the contract, even if the enslaved was sold. The enslaved could initiate this process themselves; they did not have to rely on their enslaver to start the process.27 Coartación in Louisiana was codified based on a customary practice stemming from Cuba. Yet even in Cuba, coartación did not appear based on established Spanish legal traditions. It seems that enslaved Cubans’ frequent litigation forced Spanish administrators to officially include coartación in the written codes. The Spanish government in New Orleans allowed this new law to take effect in 1769, after Alejandro O’Reilly had ended the rebellion of French Creoles in Louisiana. Soon after its passing, the first enslaved people attempted to ransom themselves.28 The enslaved demonstrated keen awareness of what the Spanish regime could offer them, even though the laws were not published. Historians have found that “indeed, the text of several Spanish documents indicates that slaves and free persons acting in the interest of slaves were aware of and acted upon the privileges extended to them by Spain.”29 The origin of that knowledge remains opaque, but enslaved people and

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their families employed wide-ranging communication networks that at times spanned the circum-Caribbean and the lower Mississippi Valley. New Orleans was a nexus of trade—including bondspeople—and information, and Atlantic Africans were skilled in divining knowledge vital to them. Literacy rates were low, but the enslaved relied on oral information networks. In addition, reading or writing skills—or rather their absence—did not preclude litigants of color from initiating, influencing, or participating in the legal process and to make their input count. The legal avenue to freedom presented a great opportunity for the enslaved, but it annoyed French and Anglo-American enslavers, many of whom loathed the newfound ability of people of color to participate in the legal process so extensively.30 Despite all of these improvements, Louisiana was still a backcountry; many enslaved lived on outlying plantations with no access to the court system. For those unable to take their cases to court, running away remained the primary routes to freedom.31 People of color in Spanish Louisiana asserted their rights to their own bodies by either participating in the legal process or by explicitly reacting against the practices of their enslavers to cut them out of the legal process. Even if their numbers were limited by their ability to know the law and access to courts, litigants of African ancestry inadvertently shaped Louisiana’s legal practices.32 Some of the new laws had a potentially negative effect on both enslavers and the enslaved. The 1790 Real cédula (royal decree) established the right to marry and encouraged efforts to Christianize the enslaved who had recently been swept into the district via the Atlantic slave trade. It included a law that forbade bondspeople working on Sunday unless compensated by their owners in the Catholic tradition. Although intended to stop the exploitation of the enslaved on the Sabbath, the law actually was detrimental to the enslaved and their enslavers. It had become customary for the enslaved under the Code Noir to tend their gardens on Sunday, much like the established custom in Anglo-American or Cuban slave societies. The new laws required adjustments for both the enslaved and the enslavers. The enslaved used the produce of Sunday work to supplement their paltry rations and sold the surplus in the market. When the legal change curtailed their right to work on Sundays, the enslaved—theoretically—lost an important source of food. Even worse, the loss of a relatively steady—if meager—income also threatened the enslaved’s avenue to coartación and freedom.33 Enslavers now had to provide additional food items for the enslaved’s diet, if they so chose. Yet the additional

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financial burden was not all. While coartación is often seen as a benefit for the enslaved, enslavers could also use it as a tool to ensure discipline. Slave owners had always dangled the possibility of self-purchase in front of the enslaved to motivate good behavior and keep the bound population under control. Atlantic Africans understood that if a captive misbehaved, enslavers could legally refuse to honor the contract that allowed the enslaved to pay off his or her worth.34 As Spanish law codes mandated a day off, driven by Catholic concerns over the enslaved’s spiritual fate, the administrators in fact jeopardized the security of the slave society by simultaneously restricting people with African ancestry from access to income. Therefore, the Spaniards weakened coartación as an instrument of discipline in the context of a population, both people of color and white, that had been accustomed to a different standard. In sum, both slave owners and the enslaved had to endure a time of transitions that brought some marked changes to their lives. Spanish administrators likewise struggled to transplant the laws of the Spanish Empire into the mixed French and Anglo traditions of the lower Mississippi Valley. As all parties involved sought to suss out the new legal landscape, a steadily growing number of Atlantic Africans and their families sought to take advantage of the confusion. They successfully established a toehold in courts as they wielded the new legal possibilities as a shield to protect them from enslaver’s domination where possible. As the slave trade carried more people from Africa and the Americas toward Louisiana, knowledge of rights arrived with the new bound laborers. The Bourbon Reforms allowed the Spanish to establish free trade through the port of New Orleans, which allowed for a steady increase in slave importations into Natchez. Fortunately for the colonists, Cuba was not absorbing large numbers of enslaved Africans in the 1780s, and the Spanish king explicitly granted Louisiana enslavers a preferred status over Cuba.35 Incoming captives were no longer Creoles from the Caribbean islands but rather direct imports from Africa. Between 12,000 and 15,000 African captives arrived in lower Louisiana between 1777 and 1795.36 At least 1,500 of the enslaved arriving in Louisiana (over 10 percent) would spend most of their captivity under the merciless sun of the Natchez District.37 In 1787, the official census recorded 658 enslaved people in Natchez, 21 of whom were labeled as mulattos.38 By 1795, the number of enslaved had more than tripled to 2,060, with a corresponding increase of enslaved mulattos to 74.39 It is evident that the rise of captives in the region also led to a rise of sex across the color line.40

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This influx of enslaved people, combined with the cheap land and initial subventions of the Spanish Crown for tobacco, appeased most enslavers and allowed a smooth transition from British to Spanish control in Natchez. Yet just as in New Orleans, enslavers and enslaved met each other in court more often than the Anglo-American colonists could have anticipated. Indeed, it appears that the enslaved in Natchez were as knowledgeable about the intricacies of the Spanish legal system that benefitted them and their families as their fellow Africans in New Orleans. Soon settlers would learn that their human property was willing—and capable—of exercising their rights.

Legal Transition in Natchez The population of free people of color increased dramatically in Natchez over the next two decades. The first American census in Natchez counted 182 free people of color in 1801, making the African-descended population in the city the highest it had ever been. Free people of color therefore constituted about 3.8 percent of the free population.41 In comparison, in New Orleans the ratio of free people of color increased from 97 (5.1 percent) in 1771 (O’Reilly had instituted the new Spanish law codes in 1769) to 862 (26.5 percent) in 1791.42 Why did the free Africandescended population in the district not grow at a faster rate? The small number of freed people in Natchez was indicative of the transitional period and the frontier character of the relatively small outpost. One has to consider the widely different circumstances of the two towns. The port on the Gulf was a thriving commercial hub with a long, stable history of slavery, whereas Natchez had only in the late 1770s experienced a slow rebirth as a plantation district. Unlike New Orleans, Natchez was still in the liminal stage between a society with slaves and a slave society. Settlers in Natchez developed a demand for enslaved laborers, creating a climate that stimulated an economic boom. Spanish tobacco subsidies caused prices for enslaved workers to remain stable and increased colonials’ desires to decrease the avenues to freedom for the enslaved. Spanish laws, however, presented roadblocks for enslavers and included loopholes for Atlantic Africans. Hence, the arrival of the Spanish did result in an increase in the freed population, if statistically not as impressive as in New Orleans.43 The legal structures were not the only factors that influenced the number of enslaved who could obtain freedom. Demographic pressures played important roles in the ease with which the enslaved could attain

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their freedom. In a frontier environment like Natchez, in which every enslaved African was invaluable, enslavers went to great lengths to protect their property. Market forces also were factors. During economic booms settlers were more comfortable with relinquishing their human property than during economic hardship. Multiple conditions had to be met throughout the Americas to facilitate an easier transition between bondage and freedom. Natchez was no exception, but its constantly churning demographic composition, economic instability, and imperial volatility enabled some Africans to seize the moment and attain liberty.44 The economic and social situation in Natchez almost offset the legal changes that occurred in the district. Anglo-American enslavers in general, but especially in Natchez, usually opposed manumissions. British slave codes and legal procedures had begun to emphasize whiteness over blackness, and in the Eastern Seaboard that led to the peculiar equation of liberty for white settlers grounded in enslavement for African captives.45 In contrast, the Spanish based their traditions of slavery on the twin pillars of the state (Roman law of Siete Partidas) and traditions of the Catholic Church to govern both free and enslaved. Anglo planters were unfamiliar with the manumission laws inspired by the Catholic Church and had a hard time grasping the meanings of freedom and complexion under the Spanish. They tried to resist the Spanish codes and endeavored to close some, if not all, of the legal routes to liberty. Still, the enslaved in Natchez achieved freedom through Spanish courts by mobilizing—and manipulating—ties of kinship and family and artfully playing toward Spanish and Catholic notions of morality, liberty, and complexion.

Resisting Coartación? The years between 1781 and 1786 saw both the enslaved and free people take active roles in events in the Natchez District. All governors were military men, and they changed posts frequently. The governors’ main goal was the defense of the district, but the question of complexion remained integral to their administration as a powerful group of colonists began to emerge during the tobacco boom in the 1780s. Local authorities understood that they needed to manage slavery to remain in control of the settlers. Therefore, the formative period of the Natchez District throughout the 1780s deserves special attention, as the material interest of the enslavers stood in stark contrast to the Iberians’ interpretation of Spanish law. In

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the 1781 rebellion, planters had proven that they were willing to resist the Spanish Empire, and Spanish officials went along with colonists’ demands only to keep a tentative peace. It is this process that needs to be investigated most carefully.46 The uneven power arrangement between settlers and Spanish officials through the first eight years of Spanish control meant that enslaved and free people of color (libres) could rarely take advantage of the Spanish court system. Enslavers apparently blocked access to the courts, since the surviving court records remain silent on manumissions or other cases involving the enslaved during this period.47 Other Spanish cities in the circum-Caribbean such as St. Augustine, Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Havana all developed systems that adapted (eventually) to varying procedures of legal coexistence between enslaved and enslavers. In Havana, for instance, enslaved and free people of color formed cabildos de nación, fraternal organizations in which people of African descent connected with each other. Free people of color joined the militia and had a crucial part in defending Cuba from invasions. They also gained social standing through their military service. In New Orleans, the Spanish also utilized free people of color in their militia, and the increase of manumissions under Spanish tutelage is undeniable. In St. Augustine, enslaved and formerly enslaved Atlantic Africans also played important roles in the defense of the city. They fought for their rights in court, gaining a good record for decisions in their favor. The big difference from the Natchez District is the prolonged time the other three areas spent under Spanish control. New Orleans had spent fourteen years under Spanish rule before a significant increase in the free population of Africans occurred.48 Spain struggled in Natchez where it had succeeded in New Orleans. It did its best to support the settlers in their endeavor to create a thriving slave society. Tobacco subsidies led settlers to import enslaved people on a large scale and at the same time forced them to keep their labor force under tight control. Spain wanted to keep the enslavers under control, and its governor in Natchez understood that he could exert stable authority only if he limited their complaints and kept their enslaved workforce growing. The difference, then, between Natchez and the other three slave societies was the frontier character, the economic boom climate, and the relatively short time Spain was in power. Settlers in Natchez were desperate for enslaved workers, buying them at high rates and tying their own livelihood to their human property. Two examples of slave sales illustrate the settlers’ desperate need for enslaved workers. On May 4, 1785, Richard Deval sold Leville to

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the merchant Francisco Menar. Menar paid three hundred dollars for Leville, which was about an average price for an enslaved person in the 1780s. What was not so average about this particular Atlantic African was his age. Leville was “more than 50 years of age.” Enslaved people were in high demand, and even at his advanced age Leville was still valuable. His occupation is unknown, but he could have been a skilled worker, or maybe he was able to read and write, which would explain Menar’s interest in Leville.49 In 1787 the demand for enslaved workers was still strong. Estevan Minor, one of the leading settlers in Natchez, sold Molly to Jacob Liephart for four hundred dollars. Molly was a native of Virginia, fifty years old, and had experienced the woes of the internal slave trade.50 Despite her age, she netted Minor a handsome profit. Both Molly and Leville were past their prime as manual laborers and, given the harsh conditions of frontier life, especially for an enslaved person, were likely not in prime physical condition. Nevertheless, the demand for enslaved Atlantic Africans drove up the prices even for old enslaved people, causing their owners to sell rather than manumit them.51 As these examples show, the economic boom sealed off avenues to freedom for the time being. However, the longer Spanish laws prevailed in the district, the more porous became the walls erected by Natchez’s enslavers to keep their enslaved in check. Enslaved and free people of color began to slip through the cracks and reached the open ear of Spanish justice. This went hand in hand with a steadily improving economy tied closely to the Spanish tobacco subsidies.

The Gift of Freedom Despite the steep prices that the market for the enslaved dictated in Natchez, some received their freedom in the first decade of Spanish rule. Natchez absorbed a growing number of enslaved every year, and sales in Natchez increased substantially after 1787. The courts recorded 257 transactions between 1788 and 1790, whereas during the previous eight years only 183 sales of enslaved people occurred.52 Dick was one of the first enslaved to be manumitted in Spanish Natchez. His enslaver, Stephen Jordan, died in early January 1788. Jordan was not an elite settler. He divided his relatively meager belongings among his family, and Dick was his most prized possession. Yet Jordan’s will specified “freedom to my negro Dick immediately,” and Dick became an example of how a captive could achieve freedom under the Spanish system. The will protected

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Dick against any claims the family members might bring against him, and he was protected throughout Spanish Louisiana.53 Over time, other enslaved people achieved manumission. Change becomes gradually visible through the court records. When William Pounteney died in February 1788, Spanish authorities recorded his outstanding debts and ordered their payment. Among the beneficiaries was “a negro wench” who received a back pay of four dollars for one shift of work.54 The term “negro wench” is rather ambiguous, and a name is not given in the court records. The African American woman was either a free person of color working for a wage, or the bondwoman of a Mrs. Baker, who claimed her outstanding debt for room and board from Pounteney. Under Spanish law the unnamed African American woman had a right to request her share of the debt, enslaved or not, and she received what was due to her. The enslaved who could not receive their freedom in the court sought it on the roads. Running away was the most frequent and visible form of resistance across the Americas. Natchez offered numerous opportunities to escape to freedom, and a plethora of white debtors set the example for enslaved runaways.55 However, the records yield only three examples of enslaved runaways and their families, despite the isolation of Natchez. Only reenslaved Atlantic Africans appear to have been recorded. Source material is simply insufficient to draw conclusions about runaway patterns, and the lack of court documents could point to a high success rate of runaways. Yet that would have undoubtedly triggered a response from the Spanish government. The enslaved certainly took advantage of Natchez’s geographic isolation and the ease of transportation on the Mississippi River to escape, as frequent advertisements in newspapers of the Mississippi Territory prove.56 However, not many runaway advertisements survive from the Spanish period. Atlantic African captives in Spanish Florida frequently ran away to the Seminole Indians and established themselves among the Natives.57 But the Indian nations around Natchez, unlike the Seminoles in Florida, adapted quickly to the slave culture of the Europeans. Hence, “it is romantic to imagine an alliance between African Americans and the Chickasaw, Choctaw, or Creek Indians in opposition to the expansion of slavery” during the last two decades of the eighteenth century. It was during the Spanish period that the Indian nations around the district began to tighten their control over the enslaved and welcome chattel slavery as a means of production.58 As Europeans in the region increasingly turned to enslavement based exclusively on complexion—in

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particular the Anglo-American settlers—Native people began to follow in their footsteps and continued a process begun during the French period. Like Europeans, Native Americans were not strangers to changing ideas of complexion, and at the end of the eighteenth century they began to fall in line with European ideas of complexion and subsequent demands on Atlantic Africans.59 The enslaved were aware of the troubles that they could face in “Indian country,” yet still they tried to escape. To illustrate, Robert and Mariana escaped their enslaver, Francisco Menar, with their children in June 1791. Although the enslaved certainly knew about the danger of escaping into the backcountry, the temptations of freedom were greater than fear of the risks. Ultimately, the Choctaws captured the family, and Stephen Minor assisted Menar in recovering them from the Natives.60 The Indian nations offered no protection, understanding the value of the runaways, both in money and as diplomatic currency. The Africans’ complexion easily identified them as outsiders both to Europeans and Indians, a profound change in the hierarchical classification of all people in the lower Mississippi Valley. Native American nations were also transitioning into slaveholding societies. For instance, on April 25, 1794, William Colbert and John Brown, “both of the Chickasaw Nation,” sold three enslaved people. Nancy, and potentially her two children Abraham and Emma, were sold for two horses and an additional unnamed woman of color to Arthur and William Cobb.61 Runaways frequently targeted New Orleans as the only hope for freedom, but the free people of color of New Orleans defined their own freedom by catching other Atlantic Africans and returning them to the lash. On the one hand, the city’s large population of free people of color and the often-chaotic life offered the enslaved on the run a place to disappear and virtually become free. On the other hand, the black militia of New Orleans excelled in captive retrieval, and a successful escape from Natchez to New Orleans could certainly end at the hands of African Creoles.62 Peter and Mary escaped from Natchez in 1787. They made their way down the Mississippi River, through swamps and bogs, and survived the ordeal to arrive in New Orleans. Here their luck ran out, and they were captured in 1788.63 Adam Bingaman’s bondsman Romeo also tried to escape to New Orleans in 1796, yet he, too, saw his dreams of freedom crushed as he ended up in jail. Whereas William Cooper reclaimed the enslaved Peter and Mary and returned them to Natchez, Adam Bingaman was not interested in taking Romeo back. According to Bingaman, Romeo was to be recovered from jail and then sold in the New Orleans slave market.64

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Peter, Mary, and Romeo all appear in short notes in the court records, but the records barely bespoke the effort the enslaved undertook to become free. Escapees had to make a decision and pick a destination. One could either seek freedom in the wilderness or find refuge among numbers in New Orleans or Mobile. Runaways consciously chose one or the other, and they had to rely on the same network of information that enabled other enslaved people to find their freedom in court. Based on the best available intelligence, the enslaved hedged their bets and either tried to find sympathetic Indians or compassionate libres in New Orleans. Yet neither was really an option at the end of the eighteenth century, as rules of complexion began to establish a tight grip on the lower Mississippi Valley. Nevertheless, it was a choice that required information obtained through a network of fellow Africans. The few recorded escape attempts during the Spanish period of Natchez were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the enslaved who escaped from Natchez were exemplary for their valor in seeking their freedom in the treacherous currents of the frontier. How many enslaved actually ran away is impossible to discern because the archives preserved only unsuccessful flights. Ultimately the dearth of recorded escapees and the unsuccessful attempts preserved in the records indicate how closely controlled the enslaved of the Natchez District were. Despite the Spanish legal system and its various ways to establish a measure of agency, enslaved Atlantic Africans obviously sought freedom outside of the courts. Nonetheless, escape from slavery was a daunting task.65

Challenging the Master Class The different perceptions of complexion between the Spanish and Anglo-American settlers become evident in the case of Juan (John) Bautista Morel. In 1791, the military commandant of Natchez, Joseph Page, imprisoned Morel, a suspected runaway. Page, an Anglo-American settler serving under Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, reacted based on the presumption that an African-descended man is enslaved unless he can prove otherwise. Morel struggled to provide sufficient evidence that he was indeed free and was presumed a runaway. He submitted his petition to the court in New Orleans, where a case was opened to hear two witnesses on his behalf. Both witnesses reported that the Morel family had freed Juan after their death because the “petitioner is the son of Mr. Morel’s brother and a negro woman.” Governor Miró himself presided over the case and set Morel free after hearing the testimony.66 If the

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person in charge of Morel’s arrest had been a Spanish colonist, Morel may have been spared the long journey in chains to New Orleans. In Spanish America, blackness was not automatically equated with being enslaved. Morel’s speech, behavior, and dress could have quickly convinced a willing Spanish official that Morel was free and a member of society “whose life and even honor and dignity were entitled to the law’s protection.”67 Morel counted on this legal culture when he set out on his travels, as he did not carry any papers proving his freedom, something that would have been anathema to free people of color in, for example, Virginia. There, as for Joseph Page, blackness was automatically equated with slavery in 1791. Another case illustrates how well enslaved and free people understood the legal machinations of the Spanish courts. Betty and Jude, two women of African descent from “Carolina,” had been taken from Anthony Hutchins during Willing’s raid in 1778. They were sold in New Orleans along with other stolen enslaved people. Betty and Jude disappeared in the bustling town, and Hutchins was never able to recover them. The women reappeared in 1786, when they appealed to the Spanish courts for their freedom. They insisted that Hutchins had initiated a process of gradual emancipation before the 1778 raid.68 No testimony survives describing what had happened to Betty and Jude between the raid and 1786, but they were finally able to petition their former enslavers to support their claim for liberty. The wheels of the Spanish legal system turned quickly, and the court ordered Anthony Hutchins and his wife to appear in New Orleans in early 1786. Hutchins did not protest the order. To the contrary, he gave testimony supporting the women’s claim. Hutchins swore that the two women were bound as apprentices by a British court in Carolina until they turned twenty-one. The colonist demonstrated his knowledge of Spanish and British laws when he added that both women were born to a “free mulatto woman,” bolstering the claim that Betty and Jude deserved their freedom, since in both societies children followed the status of the mother. He also stated that his “sole motive to make this declaration is to free my [Hutchins’s] mind from a distress that I have long been tortured with, being assured that they are as free born as my own children.” Hutchins concluded by asserting that he hoped both women would go free since it was not his intention to subject them or their offspring to perpetual slavery.69 Hutchins played the benevolent patriarch in this case. Recovering the women and returning them to servitude would have been impossible in Spanish Louisiana. They were mulattos, born

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to a free mother, and fulfilled all requirements for a Spanish administrator to set them free. Hutchins therefore performed his “whiteness” by appearing in court in New Orleans and setting the two sisters free, as he became the arbiter of freedom. Hutchins’s testimony created a strong case in the women’s favor. All that was left for the sisters to do was to add that “the petitioners have served the whole time of their indenture and several years more, [and] ask to be liberated.” With Hutchins and his wife as witnesses, the case was closed in New Orleans on March 21, 1788.70 Betty and Jude received their freedom in a Spanish court. The ties of the two sisters to their former enslaver eased their way to freedom. Without his aid, this case might have not been resolved in their favor because his testimony was essential to establish the sisters’ claim. Although Spanish law allowed them to sue for their freedom, it was their captor who sealed their liberty.

Spanish Laws and Litigants of Color Enslaved and free people of color engaged the Spanish courts independently, committed resources to their cases, and fought to establish some legal ground rules for people of color in Natchez. In turn, they defined what their blackness meant in the face of competing Anglo-American and Iberian definitions of whiteness. These cases frequently hit a nerve among white Anglo-American settlers in Natchez, as the legal suits directly challenged the premise of white supremacy. The preceding cases illuminate both possibilities and limitations for people of color to escape the control of whites in Spanish Natchez. It is clear that Spanish laws influenced Natchez’s legal culture, forcing American settlers to engage in uncomfortable debates about complexion with African-descended litigants. The Americans bristled at Spanish legal control and the concomitant changing concepts of complexion and meanings of freedom. White Americans living under the dons loathed the traditional roles of free people of color in a Spanish slave society. Nevertheless, the Spanish managed to install a legal system that both appeased the American settlers and opened pathways to freedom for the enslaved. Since the Spanish legal tradition had to be adjusted to govern American subjects, the resulting hybrid legal system created both opportunities and challenges for all parties involved.71 Evolving around concepts of race, slavery, and freedom, these discussions enhanced the liminality in Natchez, and white enslavers were never able to shake the uneasiness.

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Some people of color benefitted from the new legal system. These people were able to engage their communities and received the minimal support necessary to appeal to the Spanish courts. Records suggest that the cases presented in this chapter were by no means rare. However, many of the stories are lost. Natchez’s Spanish census records do not even list a column for libres, but they certainly existed. African-descended people challenged planter control openly, backed by a strong legal system. The laws of the Natchez District would never allow direct challenges by people of color again after 1798. Alongside legal challenges, these people of color also contested notions of race in Spanish Natchez. By doing so, they pushed the AngloAmerican population into a state of uncertainty that only enhanced the general ambiguity of empire in Natchez. Complexion, as subtle as the differences could seem, played an important role in the decision-making process about the future of the Natchez District. As these settlers defined liberty based on their ability to enslave and control Atlantic Africans, they saw that very concept challenged in Spanish courts. Rather than accepting the new rules, they sought to circumvent them in court. African-descended litigants, in turn, established precedents for other Atlantic Africans to follow.


Gendered Complexions: Freedom and Interracial Relationships in Spanish Natchez

On July 24, 1797, a desperate plea for help arrived on the desk of Manuel Gayoso de Lemos. As the outgoing Spanish governor of Natchez, Gayoso had spent the summer preparing to leave for New Orleans while the United States was finalizing its takeover of the Natchez District. The plea came from the enslaved woman Amy Lewis, who implored Gayoso “to grant her permission, to remove her suit to the tribunal at [New] Orleans where a more speedy decision may in all probability take place.”1 Lewis’s plea for liberty was accompanied by a statement that explained why she so desperately wanted the case moved. She argued “that as helpless and unprotected as she is, she sees no prospect of a speedy determination and the pangs of suspense being more terrible to her than the most dreadful certainty.”2 The “most dreadful certainty” was a life in slavery, and she rightfully feared reenslavement once the United States assumed control of Natchez on March 30, 1798. Amy Lewis’s case demonstrates the role people of color played in Natchez’s society and how they navigated the legal changes as the town went from control by Spain to control by the United States. In essence, the particular legal realities of the lower Mississippi Valley during the Age of Revolution forced Atlantic Africans like Amy Lewis to carefully sail between the Scylla of Spanish law and the Charybdis of Anglo-American legal codes. As many historians have pointed out, questions of complexion and law frequently came down to societal opinion on the matter. Historians of the eighteenth century really engage more of a mosaic of blackness then the stark contrast between “blackness” and “whiteness” of

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the nineteenth-century South. This makes the court cases in Natchez specifically important. Here, in a period characterized more by its liminality and congruent instabilities, white Anglo-American community members litigated complexion and freedom in front of courts that deemed some, if not most, of the Anglo-American ideas about legal whiteness unnecessary. Since Spanish courts, for example, viewed free people of color as citizens, all the rights pertaining to that status were in play. Enslaved people under the law based in the Siete Partidas were not inherently seen as enslaved, either. While this is a legal definition and competed with the cultural understanding of dark complexion, it mattered when it came to manumissions in front of Spanish judges in the Iberian colonies.3 Amy Lewis followed several other people of color in Natchez who had called on the Spanish court. Beginning in 1781, the dawn of Spanish legal control in Natchez, a number of people of color had utilized Spanish courts to claim their freedom, demand their rights, or secure their property. This was a marked departure from the previous two years. The Spanish had not imposed their laws on Natchez between 1779 and 1781. Governor Esteban Miró allowed British subjects to retain their laws under the surrender agreement signed in Baton Rouge. After the Natchez revolt, however, Spain took full control of the district and opened the courts to Atlantic Africans. Many of the cases involved women of color trying to secure justice for themselves and their families. For example, in 1782 a woman known only as “Jeannette” bought her son “Narcisse” from their former enslaver, who may have been the child’s father. Likewise, Nelly Price, who had been living in Natchez as a free woman of color since the British period, repeatedly appeared in court suing business partners and her landlord.4 These women had forged relationships—the nature of which is not clearly discernible from the sources—with white men in Natchez. What appears in the sources as a relationship between white settlers and African-descended women could range from rape to contractual sex and potentially even romantic connections. All of the previous could exist under the legal construct of plaçage, a civil union between Atlantic African women and white men. Louisiana also recorded official weddings across the line of complexions, which occasioned outrage by the leading white colonists. Power dynamics, however, were always heavily skewed in favor of the white men, white culture, and white laws, and so these unions continued to be blessed by the church.5 Nevertheless, the available legal documents in Natchez for the Spanish period show how

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Atlantic Africans engaged the courts by drawing on the language of freedom in the face of slavery’s undeniable pressure for people of complexion to remain outside of the grasp of liberty.6 The four surviving censuses of Spanish Natchez do not list free people of color (libres).7 This already points to an anomaly since the surrounding settlements of Mobile, Pensacola, New Orleans, and Natchitoches all had specific columns for people with African ancestry. During the British period only two known free people of color lived in Natchez.8 After the Spanish vacated Natchez in 1798, the first American census of 1801 listed 182 free people of color living in the three counties that were carved out of the Spanish Natchez District.9 Of those free people of color, 155 lived in Adams County, where Natchez was located. The census does not list separate male and female columns, and it is therefore impossible to determine the gender ratio in the Natchez District. It is clear, however, that free people of color were a growing part of Natchez’s society. Atlantic African women and white colonists negotiated complexion, freedom, and bondage on the edge of empires in Natchez. Women of color used varying definitions of female gender roles—such as mother, wife, and consort—in relationships with white men to gain freedom. The strong presence of mixed-complexion families in the records highlights the role of women in frontier slave regimes.10 The implementation of Spanish law regarding enslaved and free people of color began in 1781, and the new laws had far-reaching effects in the cases of women of color. They tried to maintain kinship and family ties in an economic environment that stacked the odds against them. To prevail, they operated within the accepted sphere of women in the eighteenth-century Spanish world: family, household, and church. By emphasizing their role as mothers and wives, women of color in Spanish Natchez legally, culturally, socially, and ecclesiastically laid a claim to womanhood—and by extension personhood—that under British law was reserved for white women.11 Hence, they attempted to legitimize their relationships—and their children—and consequently their ability to claim their freedom. The Catholic Church, at times, offered women of color a second path to achieve legitimacy in society, and if not for them, then for their offspring. Once Spain extended its colonial power to Natchez, the Catholic Church followed suit. Now both pillars of Spanish colonial power, church and state, were present in Natchez. Because of the liminal state of the district and the majority of Protestant Anglo settlers, the church never claimed the power that it did elsewhere in the Spanish Caribbean. Yet for enslaved people, the presence of Catholic priests and rites still presented

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a chance to baptize their children. In that process, they wove intricate webs between their children and the carefully chosen godparents and thereby created important fictive kinship networks that breached the caste system rooted in complexion. Atlantic Africans used the Catholic Church to connect their children to members of Natchez’s society who could provide benefits and serve as important arbiters of power in the future. The women discussed in this chapter embraced their roles as mothers to mixed-complexion children. They used motherhood as a chance for freedom. Motherhood, particularly in the Spanish legal system that was so heavily influenced by Roman Catholic notions, granted Africandescended women agency. They may have not been able to control their own bodies, but their children presented a toehold in society that many women of color sought to exploit by ensuring a chance at freedom for them. In combination with the benefits the Spanish legal system offered mothers, African-descended women created—intentionally or not—a situation that allowed enslaved women a bit more room to navigate for freedom. Nevertheless, motherhood was no guarantee of freedom. The hopes of women of color rested on a fickle legal system that hinged on Spanish law and the baptism practices of the Catholic Church.12 Enslaved Africans frequently relied on kinship networks to aid their cause. It was not enough for the new laws to be in place—somehow African-descended captives had to find the resources to make use of them. Families, extended families, and fictive kinship groups often provided those resources. Yet in a frontier settlement like Natchez such networks were hard to establish. It took time to create functioning networks among spouses and families as white enslavers looked to Atlantic Africans to fill the void created by a lack of white women.13 Nevertheless, women of color were able to form ties with white settlers. Therefore they found access to courts more freely, and the relationships, frequently involving rape, did allow African-descended women to tap into information shared by the enslavers.

Women of Color in the Spanish Empire of Complexion Women of color had a better chance of claiming their freedom than men in colonial Natchez.14 As historians have previously argued, “freedom suits held particular significance for enslaved women, who would also gain the ability to pass free status on to their descendants.”15 To illustrate, the first free person of color to register the purchase and

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subsequent manumission of an enslaved person in Spanish Natchez was Jeannette. A free woman of color, she had followed Charles de Gran Pré from their former home in Point Coupée to Gran Pré’s new posting in Natchez. On January 17, 1782, the records of Natchez documented the following: Be it known, etc. that I, Jeannette, a free women of colour, residing at present in the District of Natchez, having purchased from Don Charles de Grandpre,16 the Commandant of the Post of Pointe Coupee, a mulatto boy named “Narcisse,” my natural son, now aged 8 years, for which I paid him in cash as will more fully appear in the bill of sale, executed at Pointe Coupee afsd. On 7 June 1781, with the intent to enfranchise and set free from all service whatever the said boy.17 To legalize the rights of her son, Jeannette had a Letter of Enfranchisement drawn up by Gran Pré that certified her son’s status as a free person of color.18 Gran Pré set a legal precedent that altered slavery in Natchez. The first Spanish governor—in all likelihood without fully comprehending the consequences—introduced the Spanish practice of coartación to the Natchez District. This practice secured the enslaved their freedom if they could pay the agreed-upon price. The price was either set in negotiations with the enslaver or through arbitration in court.19 Jeannette utilized her bond with Gran Pré for access to the court and then leveraged her new rights to free her son. Jeannette made clear in her statement that it was she who set her son free after purchasing him from her former enslaver. She initiated the transaction and set an example for others to follow. Jeannette’s origins remain a mystery. We can discern from the sources, however, that she had been with Gran Pré for at least eight years.20 Gran Pré, an Acadian, could have purchased her during his tenure at Point Coupée.21 Whatever the case, Jeannette did not receive her freedom until after Narcisse’s birth in 1773, because children followed the status of their mothers, and Narcisse remained enslaved. Jeannette may have followed Gran Pré to Natchez because the Spanish officer still owned her son. Jeannette exercised her right to coartación rather than Gran Pré simply liberating Narcisse. Although we know little about Jeannette’s journey to freedom, it is possible, but unlikely, that Gran Pré manumitted the woman without compensation. Jeannette learned valuable lessons along her way to freedom. Living in Spanish Point Coupée familiarized her with Spanish culture and legal

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practice. Once freed, Jeannette likely remained in the employ of Gran Pré and saved money toward her son’s freedom. Spanish law protected Jeannette’s privileges, and Narcisse by contract belonged at least partially to his mother once an agreement for coartación was reached. Gran Pré ensured the freedom of mother and son by following Spanish protocol and recording their new legal status in the court records.22 Jeannette was able to protect her small family with the help of the court, even though Gran Pré did not show a particular interest in their child and forced Jeannette to buy their son. The case raises several questions regarding the Spanish regime in Natchez. In the Spanish colonies, Charles de Gran Pré’s actions were not uncommon. He may have been the father of the “mulatto boy” whose mother, Jeannette, was “well known to me Commandant aforesaid.”23 A Spanish colonial bishop complained “that Spanish military officers ‘and a good many inhabitants live almost publicly with colored concubines,’ and they did not even ‘blush’ when they carried their illegitimate children ‘to be recorded in the registries as their natural children’” in New Orleans.24 Jeannette, the former bondswoman, posed a different problem for Natchez enslavers. She and her son represented a curious case in a town that had neither seen large numbers of free people of color nor any recorded sexual relationships between enslavers and enslaved. In a small place like Natchez, no news of this scale could be hidden for long. It set a precedent that could potentially be harmful to the emerging slave society, especially if viewed through the eyes of slave owners with Anglo-American heritage. The majority of enslavers originated from the British seaboard colonies, where changing ideas of complexion were beginning to influence how whiteness related to blackness. Despite the occasional manumission in these colonies, the enslavers who made their way to Natchez were suspicious of a free African-descended woman. Every free person of color threatened to upset the carefully crafted scales of white supremacy, jeopardizing the ideal that enslaved meant a dark complexion and white free. It is important to note that Jeannette’s case remains an anomaly; her freedom bespoke personal ties to an important Spaniard, not an unsound legal footing for slavery. Still, Natchez provided more than one chance for mother and son to inform their fellow people of color about the opportunities under the Spanish. From the market in Natchez, news spread throughout the neighborhoods of the district. Over the next two decades, women of color in relationships with white men repeatedly approached the court. Like Jeannette, they often defended kin and tried to resist the vortex of Natchez’s developing slave society.

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Baptism and Complexion Another way for women and their families to build vital connections to the white community and to appeal to Spanish cultural norms was rooted in the Catholic traditions of the Iberian enslavers. Spanish colonial laws theoretically imposed Catholicism on all settlers, yet Natchez received a specific reprieve under the Bourbon Reforms. These new government regulations greatly aided the genesis of the hybrid legal system that developed in Natchez and highlighted the transitional period of the region and the greater Spanish Empire.25 Spanish governors and district commanders were specifically authorized to administer Natchez and its “foreign” inhabitants with more leniency under the newly minted reforms. The new rules facilitated decision making by the commandants and granted them a measure of independence from Madrid. This leniency was not defined or circumscribed, which created an almost constant state of liminality in the district. For example, even though new settlers had to swear a loyalty oath to the Spanish king, they did not have to convert to Catholicism, which was highly unusual across the Spanish Empire. Nevertheless, Spain did emphasize its own laws in other regards, particularly in questions of gender, race, and slavery. Despite Natchez’s settlers’ Protestant Christianity, their enslaved embraced Catholicism and the avenues it offered to connect more deeply to white, and often Spanish, settlers and soldiers in the community. African couples, single women of color, and mixed-complexion couples chose the godparents for their children with great care. Even though these relationships did not grant an explicit avenue to freedom, they were more than a casual selection. Powerful white or free people of color could establish credibility in courts, and potentially become allimportant arbiters of freedom in the future. Linking children to those arbiters through compadrazgo (godparenthood) was a calculated move by the parents, and the Catholic Church offered splendid opportunities to do just that.26 Compadrazgo was a concept alien to Anglo-American enslavers, but the enslaved understood precisely what it could offer.27 The records of Natchez suggest that white Protestants picked godparents according to Catholic customs as well, but the stakes for them were not nearly as high as they were for the African American members of Natchez’s community.28 Aside from the spiritual importance of infant baptism and by extension the spiritual importance of the godparents in the Catholic Church, the social significance of baptism for the enslaved has to be

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highlighted. Without baptism, people in the Spanish Empire did not have a legal identity.29 Yet even though “ties of spiritual kinship were intended to serve a religious purpose, in practice compadrazgo often acquired a social character.” The enslaved sought to use the fictional kinship ties established through godparents to develop broader social networks, beyond the household or plantation of their enslaver.30 Conversely, some elite whites also agreed to become godparents in an effort to establish “social linkages between dominant classes and those being dominated.” In doing so, they could “incorporate the unfree and freed segments of the population into the larger community.”31 Spanish inhabitants of the Natchez District followed the example whereby higher-status whites often served as godparents to those of African descent, whereas Anglo-American whites were rarely found among the godparents of children of color. To them, the association through the Christian community with the enslaved was a sign of equality, and they did not approach the issue from the paternalist ideas harbored by many whites in the Spanish community. To Anglo enslavers, associations with African descendants, free or enslaved, in such an official capacity called into question white supremacy and may even have weakened the slave society, whereas Spanish settlers followed their century-old traditions and saw no challenge to white supremacy or slavery in their actions.32 In Spanish slave societies, baptisms also did not automatically free the children of enslaved couples or mothers: “Although Hispanic society granted enslaved people legal rights beyond those that existed for their counterparts in Anglo-American settings, socially both groups were equally disconnected from the world they had known before. A rejection of Africa’s familial reality helped to rationalize the morality of slavery.”33 Baptisms were important events for Catholic society to both undergird slavery and to allow a few cracks for the enslaved to glean freedom in the future. The church records of Natchez are instructional on many levels. The Spanish had to walk a perilous path in their attempt to bring the Catholic faith to the people of Natchez. The predominantly English-speaking population—both enslaved and free—also presented an enormous logistical problem for the Spanish Empire. Even though the Bourbon Reforms gave imperial administrators considerable leeway in their approach to the Protestant settlers, the Catholic Church could not be completely ignored. How, then, should the Catholic Church of the Spanish Empire reach parishioners who by and large did not speak a word of Spanish? The answer came from Ireland. The Spanish Empire sent Irish Catholic

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priests, trained in Spain but fluent in English, to minister to the souls of the Natchez congregation.34 However, Irish priests had some trouble fitting into Natchez society—they very often were the literal “odd man out.” They were not members of the local leadership of the old AngloAmerican group, nor were they part of the Spanish administrative leadership.35 The perfect embodiment of Spanish Natchez’s society, the Irish priests existed in a state of liminality, in a condition in which the cultural transfer was simply not completed. And this caused problems for the Natchez society at large, as the Catholic Church of San Salvador became the focal point for many African-descended people to lay claim to their kinship networks. That was not unusual in Iberian colonies, as Catholicism and the church were open—by law and custom—to all people, enslaved and free, black and white.36 But the priests did not satisfy either the Spanish administrators or the Anglo-American settlers in the way they handled their parishioners. Their services were often deserted, as the Spanish required the Protestant settlers to attend only Christmas and Easter mass. Even though parishioners sought them out for baptisms, the Irish priests quickly developed a reputation for being more proficient at drinking than at baptizing.37 But the deepest problems arose because the Irish priests simply did not comply with the rules of complexion stipulated by colonial societies, either British or Spanish. The priests did not keep segregated records for their white and African-descended charges. On May 9, 1796, the diocese of New Orleans audited the parish of San Salvador in Natchez. During his review, the auditor found that the Irish priests Guillermo Savage, Francisco Lennan, Gregory White, and John Brady had not followed the long-established Iberian custom in the Americas to differentiate between white and Atlantic Africans in the respective books of marriage, baptism, and death—at least not to the expected standards in the Spanish Empire. While they had recorded the complexion of the baptized person—for the most part—they had not done so in segregated books. The Libro primero de bautisados [sic] que da principio en el año de 1789 initially included all baptisms carried out in the parish, and only in 1796 did the Libro primero de baptisados de pardos y negros begin recording separate baptisms. The same is true for the Libro primero de muertos de pardos y negros. The book of baptism (Libro primero de baptisados) was continued after 1796 for white people exclusively, and the records for marriages were never segregated, indicating that people of color rarely sought to make their relationships official beyond declarations of paternity and maternity.

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The unprecise entries were judged to be an egregious mistake, as these “diminutive accounts . . . will produce confusion in the future.” The “confusion” to which the report refers was maybe the most crucial distinction in colonial slave societies, the distinction between white and African, free and enslaved. The Irish priests may have had no concept of the importance of complexion in the slave societies of the New World. Bored and lonely, the priests certainly had enough time to keep the records according to orders but essentially had to be threatened with legal punishment to differentiate blackness and whiteness.38 The Spanish authorities often relied on the Catholic Church to arbitrate moral transgression such as breaking marital vows, since the church kept the marriage records. Even more important, the church kept the baptismal records. If parishioners were not recorded correctly by their name, birthdate, and complexion, the fabric of Spanish slave society could be threatened. In future court cases, the complexion of an accuser or accused could determine the outcome of the case. People of color had certain rights in Spanish America, but there were many sanctions the state could level against African-descended perpetrators. Certain occupations were off-limits if one was legally considered a person of color, and an entry in the baptismal book of Natchez that lacked the proper identification of mother and father, particularly their complexion, could muddle the picture.39 It could be even more confusing, at a later date, to pry apart who was rightfully listed in the white book of baptisms and who was not. Authorities had to be able to provide clear and unmistakable evidence for the race of a person, as skin color alone was not necessarily enough anymore in the fluid world of the Natchez District. If that could not be done, the border between blackness and whiteness could potentially break down and cloud the distinction between free and enslaved. The Spanish Empire had long ago recognized that this was problematic and shifted their laws of racial determination to the principle of limpieza de sangre, the “purity of blood.” It was even more important that Spanish clerks and clergy kept reliable baptism and marriage records that clearly indicated phenotype. In many ways the role Catholicism played in Natchez represented a transmission of rights into a liminal period that opened up more access for people of color to customs and institutions that were closed off to them in Anglo-American slave societies.40 Anglicans did not follow that model. Recent research also clearly shows that Christianity in the AngloAmerican colonies of England (and later Great Britain), and by extension

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the American colonies, did not grant the enslaved any avenues to freedom since the second half of the seventeenth century. In fact, Christianity had been used to create an even greater chasm between enslaved Africans and white settlers in the North American colonies.41 Once Spain and the Catholic Church came to Natchez, Atlantic Africans appeared in large numbers in the Baptism Records of Natchez. We have no information about most of the people who registered the birth of their children with the Catholic Church beyond the ecclesiastical record, but we can glean quite a bit from the thin evidence. For example, Isag was baptized on November 28, 1791. He was the son of a white man named Doshy and of an enslaved woman named Nenny. As godparents the two chose the soldier Jose Garcia and the woman of color Rachel.42 Because the priest noted that Nenny was enslaved, we can infer that Rachel was free, since he made no mention of her as enslaved. The priest also did not record (as mentioned above) that Isag followed his mother’s status; presumably Isag was not enslaved. In Virginia or South Carolina, Isag would have unquestionably followed his mother’s status, if his father had not purchased his mother’s—or Isag’s—freedom. This also gave Isag full rights to inherit his father’s property later on, as in the eyes of Spain, he was legally accepted by his father through the baptism.43 The relationship between the parents was also somewhat unusual. By baptizing the child together as a couple, the father officially acknowledged his paternity, something that was rather rare in the Anglo-American colonies. He may have been a Spanish soldier, as the godfather also came from the ranks of the military. The godmother, by design, was likely chosen because of her status as a free person of color in the community. She lent weight to the status of the boy as a free person and could educate him in the intricate ways free people of color utilized courts and unofficial—yet potent—traditions for navigating slave societies. A second example further highlights the importance of these baptism records. Pedro Bode, named after his father, was born October 18, 1791. His mother was enslaved, named Margarita, and owned by Madam Lamber. The status of the son is not explicitly mentioned, which suggests that he was free, as the preceding and following entries by the same priest define other children as enslaved. The priest here noted that Pedro was the legitimate son, an important caveat. This meant that Pedro Bode officially recognized his son, not only freeing him but also ensuring that Pedro junior would inherit part of his father’s property (depending on how many children Bode had), even if his mother remained enslaved. Both of his godparents, appropriately, were white members of Natchez

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society: Jose Lalana and Luisa Dorotea. Pedro’s parents tried to establish him as a free member of society from birth by creating important connections to white community members.44 Nevertheless, Pedro likely lived with his mother and her mistress, Madam Lamber. Now the baptismal record became extremely important as “a higher probability of reenslavement ensued from baptismal manumission if the child remained in a familial unit that enslaved or tied to the same household.” Even though Pedro, based on his baptismal record, appeared free, living with his enslaved mother potentially exposed him to reenslavement. However, his mother may have preferred that scenario initially to ensure he was cared for and protected in her enslaver’s household, knowing that his godparents and the baptismal records allowed Pedro to sue for his freedom later.45 Of course, this was a risky strategy in the liminal period in Natchez, as enslaved families always lived under the threat of sale. Maybe more important, yet probably not understood by many AngloAmerican settlers, was the process of making the offspring legitimate. Just as the issue of complexion in the Anglophone world was treated as dualistic—one was either African-descended or white; people of mixed complexion threatened white supremacy and were hence legally Africandescended—Anglo-American law also treated children as either legitimate or not. The Iberian legal system worked differently. In the Spanish colonies, a hijo natural, or a child born out of wedlock but acknowledged by their white father, was not seen as a bastard, or hijo ilegitimo (or worse, hijo adulterino).46 In fact, as long as one parent acknowledged his or her offspring during baptism—or later, as Jeannette did for Narcisse— the child entered society as hijo natural. This was of major importance, because it potentially opened a path for these children to become fully legitimated later in life. Their parents could marry, or they could—at least in theory—purchase gracias al sacar (purchase of whiteness) to lay claim to the whiteness of (most frequently) their father.47 Especially important for the enslaved partners in a relationship between free and enslaved parents was the connection the enslaved now legally held to their offspring. Enslaved mothers, like Margarita, could now be given the right to care for their children, enslaved or free, until age three.48 This allowed for much closer relationships in the communities, in particular in frontier groups and societies still transforming into their solid forms. The baptisms and the corresponding legal ramifications must have been confusing for white Anglo enslavers but presented opportunities for Atlantic Africans to profit from the confusion.

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The third example is extraordinary. Maria Josefa Tom was born December 6, 1790. Her parents waited more than a year to baptize the little girl, which may already hint at the problems her family faced. Her father was Tom, an enslaved man. Her mother was “Patty Brenon, white woman.”49 White women rarely declared the paternity of their children if the father was African-descended in Anglo-American colonies, certainly not if the father was enslaved. The mixed-complexion heritage of the child would of course have never been in question, but legally it would have followed the status of the mother. Nevertheless, colonial governments in Virginia and elsewhere in the Anglo-American world had passed legislation on sexual behavior in an effort to control sex across the color line. They predominantly governed female bodies by making it illegal to have cross-complexion intercourse and then punishing women harshly, and almost exclusively, to stem the growing number of mixed-complexion children.50 To counter the issues their union surely created within the largely Anglo-American community in Natchez, Tom and Patty Brenon chose the girl’s godparents particularly carefully. The godfather was Don Simon de Arze, sergeant of the Royal Company of Artillery. Once again, a Spaniard fulfills the role of godparent, which speaks volumes to the support of Anglo-American settlers in the community, but Simon de Arze was clearly a man of importance. The godmother was Maria Josefa, either a white woman or a free woman of color. Both parties were chosen to preserve connections in Natchez’s society for little Maria. Her middle name, Josefa, strongly connects her to her godmother. Her godfather, through his military position, may also have been able to preserve some benefits for the girl. As the little girl was born to a free mother, her status was that of a free person of color. It appears that women in particular were able to utilize Spanish legal and religious culture to claim their rights. We can glean a clearer picture of Natchez’s society from these records. Atlantic Africans in the region established fictive kinship networks, even though their Anglo enslavers’ religious and social systems often did not recognize such constructions explicitly. But Spanish laws did. By emphasizing their role as mothers and wives, African-descended women in Spanish Natchez legally, culturally, and socially laid a claim to womanhood that under British law was reserved for white women.51 As Rebecca Scott has recently shown for the Siete Partidas as a whole, Spanish law could present a powerful cultural subcurrent that had a prevailing influence on all people living in slave societies governed, or once governed, by Iberian codes.52 Natchez was no exception. In conjunction with the attraction of the Catholic Church, one

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that was in equal parts spiritual and social, the African-descended inhabitants of Natchez set out to utilize the present social system to their advantage. Freedom was the ultimate goal, and a growing number of free people of color began to create a life in the borderlands after the Spanish arrived.

Working and Surviving as a Free Person of Color in Spanish Natchez Surviving in a blossoming slave society as a free person of color was difficult. Natchez remained an outpost with no resemblance to a town until the Spanish governor, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, laid out a grid of plots in the 1790s. The white population usually relegated people of color to manual labor in the docks, as small artisans in town, or as hands on the outlying plantations.53 The small population of the Natchez District did not support a service industry that could absorb many libres.54 Yet the court records reveal several African-descended people, many of them women, who managed to work for a wage and provide services to the white community. Women of color successfully claimed positions as domestic laborers. To illustrate, the “Negress Betty” successfully sued for an outstanding debt of ten dollars. The debtor was Captain James Willing, the American rebel who had led a military expedition against British Natchez. Betty had been washing and mending his clothes. Near the end of 1783, Betty sued for her wages since she had heard that Willing was about to leave the district for good, and Betty wanted to secure her debt before Willing could disappear.55 African-descended women living in the town of Natchez had an available market for their services. One remarkable freed woman who rendered a multitude of services was Nelly Price, whom we have already met in a previous chapter. She supported prisoners in the Natchez fort and peddled all kinds of goods. Price frequently came into contact with the courts and made full use of her rights under the Spanish system. She sued influential people like Thomas Green and Richard King, won her cases, and received payment on all outstanding debts.56 In one case, she served as midwife—potentially to an enslaved woman—and charged eight dollars “to attendance wench in labor.”57 Price continued to claim a foothold in Natchez society and utilized the courts for her own designs. In the early 1780s Nelly Price sought a stable position to gain a steady income. In 1782 she began to live with the hat manufacturer Mitchel

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(Miguel) López. After López passed away in 1788, Price again called on the courts to defend her assets. She claimed several outstanding debts from López’s estate, amounting to more than 970 dollars. This amount was suspect to Spanish officials, since a notation in the margins denoted that “errors [are] expected.”58 In addition, the free person of color also claimed that at least part of López’s house belonged to her. Price clearly expected some difficulties, because she approached the governor of Louisiana, Estevan Miró, with her demands. Miró ordered Gran Pré to satisfy the debt, if witnesses could sustain her claims. The witnesses who were called before Gran Pré supported Price’s claim by commenting on the relationship between her and López. Eyewitnesses declared that Price indeed had a claim to half of the house. They also supported Price’s assertion that López owed her pay for six years of work. Many witnesses felt compelled to highlight the abusive relationship between López and Price. A former German soldier described a scene in the summer of 1782, when he explained that he “saw the free mulatto, Price Nelly [sic], who was crying and asking her what was the matter she told him that Miguel López had beaten her, and at this same time she left his house in order to go live elsewhere; and the said López coming to her begged her to return, which the said mulatto refused to do unless López promised to give her ten dollars a month.” The witness, likely a white settler, continued the testimony by reporting that Price and López eventually agreed to the terms. Sexual violence was always a potential part of life for women of color, and it seems Price was not an exception.59 The nature of the relationship between López and Price is difficult to glean from the sources. It was clearly complex and exemplified the choice women had to make in slave societies to survive. Obviously, the power dynamic and violence in this relationship, as in most relationships of white men and African-descended women, did not favor Nelly Price.60 The relationship offered her something she deemed valuable enough to risk living with the violence. Price had braved the frontier in Natchez since the British period. She had proven her independence and resourcefulness and established that she understood how to survive in Natchez. It seems that López offered her the best opportunity to achieve her goals. Yet she did not want to rely solely on López’s support. With López’s death, Price sued for her outstanding income, which she evidently had not received during López’s lifetime. She only sued twice for outstanding debts in the years from 1782 to 1786, implying that she had resources to survive.61 López’s violent outburst, however, likely dissuaded her from suing for her wages. It is also unclear what the wages were for.

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What is clear, though, is that the reserves Nelly Price built up were not sufficient after López’s death. While many court cases in Natchez included enslaved people and property in excess of one hundred dollars, Price usually sued for less. She sued James Barfield for thirty-eight dollars, Jesse Standley for one-third of a cow, John Stowers for fourteen dollars, John Farquhar for five dollars, and Thomas Green for twentysix dollars.62 Price’s white customers paid the small sums without delay. She was never intimidated and recovered her debts despite her blackness. Price may have learned quickly how to operate within the Spanish legal system, relying on the examples set by James, Jeannette, and others. She had successfully created an existence among white colonists that frequently exceeded the meager existence of some of the nonelite white folk who moved to, and then quickly out of, the Natchez District without any means of support. This was a remarkable achievement for an Africandescended woman in the borderlands buttressed by her ability to use the courts to her advantage. Unfortunately, Nelly Price’s life turned from bad to worse after Miguel López drew his last breath in the early fall of 1788. Although she sued successfully to receive her outstanding pay from his estate, she could never fully establish a claim for at least half of the house owned by López. The house was auctioned three times to satisfy López’s creditors, yet no suitable buyer stepped forward. Price bided her time in the hope of getting the house well below market value. Her hopes were dashed when in the fourth sale she bid $301 but then was outbid by Robert Abrams. The house was finally adjudged to Price for $305. She was unable to pay the sum in cash—and in the cash-starved plantation district not many could have—because William Brocus had to serve as her surety.63 Despite having the backing of William Brocus, Price did not enjoy the house for very long. By June 1789, the courts foreclosed on Price. She was not able to earn enough money to support herself and make the payments on her house. Brocus refused to assume any financial responsibility for her, and Gran Pré sold the house to Robert Abrams that same month.64 In all likelihood, this was the end of Nelly Price’s residence in the Natchez District. No court records mention her again, either as debtor, creditor, or in any other capacity. For at least two decades she had worked and lived in Natchez and had carved out a niche among white and enslaved settlers. She successfully navigated the society of Spanish Natchez to take advantage of the court system established by the Iberian Empire. Several leading citizens used her services as midwife and seamstress, and she

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became a member of the Natchez community. However, communal ties ended when Price lost her house to a white settler. Libres like Price were very much part of Natchez society, although often at or near the bottom of the social ladder. Lewis, for example, was a mulatto and indebted to Polser Shilling for nine dollars and to Thomas Yarrow for six dollars in 1783. Lewis may have also owed Joseph Duncan twenty dollars in the same year.65 The governor of Natchez at the time, Philip Trevino, gave Lewis three days to respond to the charge against him, but Lewis disappeared from the records, and it is unknown if he retired his debts. Still, free people of color operated businesses and created a livelihood for themselves but were frequently dependent on white patrons. Even so, the Spanish courts took claims of free people of color seriously and granted them fair trials and equal protection. African Americans could not expect that courtesy from any future Mississippi court for almost another two centuries.

“What Is of Much Greater Importance to Her Than Life, Her Liberty” African people attacked the fault lines created by the legal changes. They exploited the variances between the legal systems and thereby proved that the concept of complexion-based slavery was much more ambiguous, even for Anglo enslavers, than previously thought. Multiple legal systems implemented in Natchez during the second half of the eighteenth century reveal “some of the countervailing tendencies of the law of slavery”—in particular competing ideas about Spanish and Anglo-American law—“which at times upheld slaveholders’ power but could also recognize an enslaved person’s right to freedom.”66 In Natchez, these forces were at work throughout the Spanish period, and Amy Lewis tried to take advantage. Amy Lewis’s case is exceptional in that the court records are surprisingly complete—they stretch through the Spanish and American periods.67 The case highlights the way the Spanish legal system allowed Lewis to maintain and defend her fractional freedom and to call on the courts in her defense, and it also shows that her journey to freedom came to a sudden stop in the newly established American courts.68 Lewis utilized her strong familial relation to her former master and the father of her child, yet everything was undone because Lewis’s European family threw its weight behind the American law.

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Throughout the trial, Amy Lewis employed a variety of strategies to defend the freedom of her and her son. Most importantly, she tried to appeal to the Spanish authorities and to play to their understanding of complexion and gender. She made sure that the court understood the mixed complexion of her son and her role as single mother in Spanish Natchez. The significance of this has to be appreciated. Court cases involving enslaved and free people of color frequently turned on ideas of complexion—pitting whiteness against blackness—especially in AngloAmerican courts. Witnesses and plaintiffs “performed whiteness,” proving through specific actions bound within the honor code and southern virtues that they were, in fact, white. This whiteness endowed them with credibility and purposefully distanced them from the “blackness” of Atlantic Africans and the various associated negative stereotypes.69 Performed whiteness superseded—or at least had the possibility to supplant—other factors such as skin color within the courtroom. Litigators employed these models to prove, or disprove, someone’s whiteness in the face of accusations of blackness.70 However, Spanish authorities trod lightly and certainly entertained suits brought in front of them based on Anglo-American legal presumptions. Therefore, they allowed for flexibility within their court system that white colonists sought to exploit. That, however, was at times helpful to the enslaved and free African-descended of Natchez. These Atlantic Africans were able to actively participate in shaping the way courts legislated complexion, precisely because they performed to Spanish standards of blackness rather than trying to perform traits of whiteness. In the Anglo-American legal tradition, only white people could be citizens and use the full power of the court. Therefore, whiteness took on an unusually important meaning for Anglo-American settlers. In Latin American slave societies, complexion was not a necessary determinant for citizenship. Therefore, litigants of color in Natchez were not forced to apologize for their skin color; rather, they led the way for others to follow. Hence, Anglo-Americans attempted to use their ideas of complexion in a system that did not value them, whereas people of African descent sought to exploit the flexibility inherent in the legal structure in Natchez. No one did this more so than Amy Lewis. Both enslaver and enslaved lived inconspicuous lives on the frontier. Amy Lewis’s enslaver, Asahel Lewis, had been in Natchez since at least 1788.71 He was a rather successful, if not extremely wealthy, inhabitant of the Natchez District. For instance, in April 1790 he and his partner Charles Boardman bought a sawmill from Bennet Truly for three

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thousand dollars.72 When Amy Lewis and her future enslaver first crossed paths is unclear. Lewis possibly exchanged her for an enslaved man named Jameson in a trade with his widowed sister, Mary Carpenter. Asahel Lewis acquired Amy on September 9, 1790.73 Although Amy Lewis’s history is elusive in the archives, there are several facts we can gather from the records. She was born in 1765 and must have arrived in Natchez before 1788, for she was listed in Richard Carpenter’s will of that same year. The bill of sale drawn up by Mary Carpenter and Asahel Lewis listed her as a native of South Carolina, indicating that she was an American Creole and born into slavery. It was possible she had some knowledge of the slave laws of South Carolina and therefore understood the beneficial Spanish laws as the avenue to liberty for her and her son. Her status as a Creole was an important distinction in Spanish America. White society had tempered her, in the eyes of Europeans, and therefore she was fully accepted into the Spanish community. As a bozale—a captive born in Africa—Amy would have been viewed with suspicion because the “process by which transplanted individuals became immersed in new social relations and acquired new habits, beliefs, and local interests” would have been incomplete.74 As a Creole (born in the Americas), she was free to follow the example of Jeannette and call on the courts. It is unclear whether Amy Lewis was literate. She possibly signed some of the court documents, but illiterate people—both enslaved and free—in the Spanish system had the option to dictate their missives to a court clerk. Usually, however, Spanish officials noted if a plaintiff could only sign with his or her mark, and in Amy Lewis’s case, this note is missing. Consequently, it is likely that she could at the very least sign her name. Much like her potential literacy, Amy Lewis gained knowledge throughout her years in the Natchez District that would aid her greatly in her effort to become free. Many facts about Asahel, Amy, and Henry Lewis remain buried in history. We can only speculate how Amy and Asahel Lewis met and how they viewed their relationship. Since Asahel Lewis was the brother of Mary Carpenter, it is likely that Asahel Lewis had been acquainted with Amy before he acquired her in 1790.75 It is possible that Amy Lewis was pregnant at the time of her sale to Asahel Lewis. A 1799 document lists her and a son named Marshal in addition to her son Henry (Henrique). Yet on the original bill of sale, no child is listed.76 Henry was demonstrably the son of Amy and Asahel Lewis, and the latter wished for both to

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be freed after his death.77 Lewis thereby opened the road to freedom for Amy and their son, following a custom across Latin America. Marshall, however, does not appear in records outside of the 1799 document. Marshall represents a challenging case in the study of sources on slavery. His mother, Amy, was saddled with tough choices in her life as an enslaved woman. She evidently made a decision about the freedom of her sons. There is a reason Marshall was not part of the court records at large. We do not know who his father was, but it was not Asahel Lewis. Because of that, Amy Lewis had no legal means or argument for freeing Marshall. Hence, she seemed to have focused all her attention on Henry and hoped to at least gain his freedom. Amy Lewis “survived in ways not typically heroic,” but Marshall “succumbed to the violence inflicted on them.” Violence here is both psychological and historical. The pain for Lewis must have been excruciating as she made the decision to achieve liberty for only two-thirds of her family, and the archives in the centuries since have marginalized Marshall even further. This production of European history is a further expression of the challenges people of color faced in creating their personhood by becoming free.78 Amy and Henry Lewis should have had no problem becoming free members of Natchez society after Lewis’s death unless one of his bondspeople had to be sold off to satisfy his creditors. Such cases were not uncommon. In 1791, for example, Ezekiel DeWitt left all his property to his wife but freed his “negro girl Margaret when you should become of age.”79 In 1787 Carlos Enrique Barchelot Desubias freed two enslaved people in his will, yet his outstanding debts forced both captives to remain in bondage. The presiding judge hired them out to pay off Desubias’s debts, and then they were freed.80 Although Lewis and her son(s) would not share that destiny, they would still face adversity after the death of their enslaver and father. Asahel Lewis had possibly fallen ill by the time he wrote the manumission into his testament, since he was dead by March 1795. Amy Lewis submitted her suit to the Spanish court on March 9, 1795, and demanded her freedom on the basis of her enslaver’s testament. It is unclear if she had already retained legal counsel at this time, or if she only acquired it later in the case. Nevertheless, she demonstrated her intimate knowledge of Spanish law when she informed Governor Gayoso that “his [Lewis’s] Estate is very little in debt, therefore after his debts were discharged, most earnestly . . . that your Excellency will be pleased to confirm Mr. Lewis [sic] desire in setting (your petitioner) me free.” Lewis also reminded Gayoso that these measures would be “consistent with the laws of the

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Country.”81 Gayoso acknowledged her claim and ordered a review of Asahel Lewis’s papers. Yet neither Amy Lewis nor the Spanish governor could foresee the odyssey that Lewis would have to complete before she could taste her liberty, only to have it negated by American courts. Lewis’s suit fell into a period of prolonged liminality that led to a universal feeling of insecurity in Natchez.82 The legal system and predominant cultural understandings of complexion and slavery were on the chopping block if the United States took over. Manuel Gayoso de Lemos himself denied an immediate transfer of Natchez to the United States, and Anglo-American settlers had no choice but to wait and see what would happen. Meanwhile, their livelihood, staked on enslaved Atlantic Africans and land, was very much in jeopardy. Within this climate of political, geographic, and economic uncertainty, the case added another dimension to the smoldering crisis: anxiety about the meaning of complexion and slavery in a borderland society that depended on bound labor to create a viable economy on the outskirts of empires. Her deceased enslaver may have advised Lewis to file her suit as quickly as possible, and she profited from Lewis’s knowledge of the law and her close ties to him. Potentially, Amy Lewis essentially underwent a process of a delayed manumission negotiated between her and Asahel. As one historian puts it, “delayed manumissions, pursuant to legal action urging freedom, was the ‘default’ arrangement of less economically prosperous owners and their domestic slaves.”83 But Lewis’s help did not reach beyond the grave. Although everything went well initially, Amy Lewis soon encountered insurmountable obstacles.84 Adversaries of her freedom quickly appeared in the form of relatives of Asahel Lewis. After a three-year struggle, Amy Lewis lost her case, but not before exhausting all legal options at her disposal. Amy Lewis’s legal battle began on July 4, 1796, and the Spanish legal system in the person of Governor Gayoso attempted to even the scales of justice. The libre endeavored to preempt the challenge of the Lewis family by establishing that her former enslaver had freed her in his will.85 This claim was cemented by a document found in Lewis’s house, which officials identified as the legitimate will of her owner.86 The Lewis family promptly challenged the document’s authenticity. Their lawyer, Joseph Bernard, submitted a petition on July 4, 1796, asserting that Amy Lewis was still a part of the estate and that she “for a considerable time past imagined herself to be free in consequence of a writing found among the papers of her deceased master.”87 It seems plausible that there was financial insecurity behind the Carpenters’ attempt to reenslave Amy Lewis. As part of the

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estate settlement, John Brown, a merchant from Rhode Island, brought a claim of $2,599 against the family. In the face of these large sums, Amy Lewis’s personhood meant little to the Carpenter family.88 Bernard continued his missive with an accusation that rattled Lewis even more. He asserted that, “from a full examination into the matter, it appears from the evidence of four persons upon oath, that said writing [carta de libertad (freedom papers)] is not authentic, but a forgery in all its parts.” Based on this claim, Bernard demanded that Lewis and her children “return to their duty and obedience.”89 Bernard’s statement reasserted his clients’ claim to Lewis and her small family. Importantly, Lewis had taken both Henry and Marshall with her and extended liberty to both of them, but Asahel Lewis had mentioned only Henry in his will. It seems unlikely that Amy Lewis forged the document that asserted her freedom since she would have been likely to include her second child in the document.90 The Spanish had sent Charles de Gran Pré, the highest military official and military commander of Natchez, to Lewis’s house in January to ensure that all papers were in order. Gran Pré and the witnesses found the will and the carta de libertad, yet the Spanish officer remarked in his report that they needed further investigation into the document’s signature and the handwriting. He stopped short of calling it a forgery, but he was suspicious.91 Lewis was distraught. She understood her perilous situation but remained determined to claim her freedom. She asked Gayoso for a lawyer two weeks after Bernard had submitted his claim to the court. In her plea, either she or the Spanish clerk recording the claim used the surname Lewis for the first time.92 Previously, it was always Negress Amy, but never Amy Lewis. If Amy used the surname for the first time, she strategically asserted her family connection to her previous owner, and she affirmed her legal status. Amy Lewis understood how the Spanish system worked and the seriousness of the accusations made by her adversaries. Gayoso acknowledged the woman’s request and named Manuel Texada, a highly regarded Spanish colonist and lawyer, to represent her.93 His choice could have not been accidental. Anglo-American settlers dominated Natchez’s population, yet Gayoso specifically appointed a Spanish settler who was familiar with the law and culture of slavery in Spanish America. Spanish law supported her claim, and Asahel Lewis’s will indicated her liberty. Yet when the document came under scrutiny, the Spanish court also acknowledged the rights of the heirs. Therefore, Lewis needed a representative who could navigate the Spanish courts with more dexterity than she could muster.

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While the case continued to wend its way through the Spanish courts, the shadow of the impending United States takeover loomed ever-larger over the Natchez District. In the middle of the American takeover, Amy Lewis’s classification under Spanish law as a free person of color met its limits. Lewis encountered the complexities of liminality in Natchez and fell victim to the volatile nature of transitional periods. Amy Lewis, along with the rest of Natchez’s free and enslaved African-descended population, entered a period where they were “at once no longer classified and not yet classified.”94 Yet Lewis did not stand alone in her fight for freedom. Kinship networks played important roles in these success stories. In 1796, the enslaved woman Nanette also entered into a suit that ultimately granted her liberty. However, Nanette had a spokesperson on her side. Her father, a free person of color named Samba from New Orleans, supported the nineteen-year-old’s claim by offering to pay a court-regulated sum to her enslaver, William Brocus. Nanette’s case offers a small window into the world of people of color in Natchez. Despite the town’s rather remote location, Nanette was able to communicate with her free father in New Orleans and arrange for a purchase. This provides a glimpse of the ability of the enslaved to obtain and trade information vital to their survival. From what we can glean in the sources, Samba never traveled upriver; nonetheless, the case unfolded favorably for the family of color. Samba purchased Nanette from Brocus for $460 on August 5, 1796, possibly trying to free his daughter before the looming United States takeover of the district and the resulting legal instability. Gayoso quickly resolved Nanette’s case; Brocus received the money and relinquished any right to Nanette. Gayoso thus supported the Spanish law of coartación, yet Nanette was the last person who received her freedom through coartación in Natchez. The impending arrival of the American legal system foreshadowed a time when it was harder to achieve freedom in the district, as Lewis was to learn shortly after Nanette escaped captivity.95 Amy Lewis had no reason to despair yet, but she was wise to request a lawyer. Texada familiarized himself with the case and proceeded to pursue a clever tactic. Instead of trying to prove the validity of the suspicious document, he tried to establish the exact relationship between Asahel and Amy Lewis.96 On September 10, 1796, Texada began to interrogate Amy Lewis. He inquired if she had indeed forged her enslaver’s signature, which she denied. Satisfied with her answers, Texada then proceeded to establish facts about the relationship. His familiarity with the Spanish law benefitted Lewis, since Texada established five distinctive points that

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he believed would undoubtedly prove that her claim was just and her freedom legitimate.97 The first point Texada tried to prove was that the relationship between Amy and Asahel went beyond that of enslaver and enslaved. Spanish law did not recognize a relationship as marriage until vows were exchanged in church, but the lawyer still intended to present the relationship of enslaved and enslaver as being as close as possible to what Anglo-American tradition referred to as common law. The sources are again silent on the exact nature of the relationship. Violence, specifically rape, may well have been at the heart of it, as Asahel Lewis did not free Amy before his death. Slavery implies violence, and enslaved women had to live with at least the threat of sexual violence. Texada maintained that Amy and Asahel Lewis ate at one table and slept in the same bed and that they exhibited this behavior not only when they were alone. Texada also continued to call Lewis by her full name, adding her surname to every document presented to court. His point became especially clear when Texada explained that the fruit of this relationship was a child and that Lewis had declared publicly that the child was his. Texada showed that Lewis had nursed her enslaver during his fatal illness and that Asahel had rewarded Amy with her freedom upon his death. But Manuel Texada did more than that. What appeared to the AngloAmerican litigants like a simple description of the relationship between enslaved and enslaver implied deeper meanings for Spanish American courts. Texada addressed the moral issue prompted by the illicit relationship in the eyes of the church. Across Spanish America, the phrase comer y domer a una mesa y cama como si fueran marido y mujer (eating at a table and sleeping in a bed as if they were husband and wife) was widely used in trials that adjudged illegitimate relationships and immoral behavior. The key in this case is, however, that generally the Catholic Church undertook such trials, not the state courts. In Natchez, the Catholic Church, due to the Bourbon Reforms, had never established a court that judged moral transgressions.98 Nevertheless, long-standing traditions in Spanish America had established that “Christianity enabled the enslaved to stake claims to social existence to the Christian social order. The absolutist state did not exercise control as an all-powerful entity, relying instead on symbolic forms of dominance and (through Christianity) self-regulation.”99 Natchez’s transitional stage blurred the legal and moral lines of this case, certainly for the opposing AngloAmerican lawyer, who may have not grasped the full effect of the position Texada tried to establish. From the Spaniards’ standpoint, however,

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he established the existence of a relationship, as judged by the Catholic Church, and one that had to be honored by the state courts. Even though Gayoso was likely the only person who understood the line of argument, he was the one that counted. Texada’s tactic had several benefits that Amy Lewis would not have enjoyed under American law. For example, interracial common-law marriage in the United States “was always vulnerable to legal harassment and its legitimacy could always at least be called into question.”100 Although Spanish society frowned on interracial marriages as well, unions between a white man and a woman of color were not illegal.101 But Amy never married Asahel in church, either Protestant or Catholic. Nevertheless, Texada imbued Amy Lewis with something that almost resembled personhood. Therefore, Texada argued, the deed of manumission was authentic, and Amy Lewis and Henry were legally free. When Asahel Lewis acknowledged paternity of Henry and freed him, he made him a hijo natural reconocido (recognized natural child). That explains why Texada was so intent on the relationship between Asahel and Henry. He may have intended this as a fail-safe: if Amy lost her case, Henry would go free anyway. Spanish law then recognized Henry’s status as a son, and he had a right to his father’s inheritance.102 Furthermore, Henry was not seen as a “bastard,” but his “maternal and paternal heritage was legally defined.”103 Thus, Texada established a recognized kinship relation between father and son as defined by Spanish law.104 The principal issue was that witnesses to the signing of the will arrived late at the Lewis residence, after Asahel had already passed away. Texada therefore demanded that a number of settlers appear before the court to testify in the case, hoping that they would corroborate Lewis’s version of events. Among those called were William Bisland, Joseph Backor, William Boardman, and George Cochran—all influential and powerful people. All witnesses were white, which made their testaments even more powerful, particularly as this case played out in a largely AngloAmerican community. Spanish law made no distinction between African-descended and white witnesses, but the whiteness of the witnesses certainly lent more weight to Amy Lewis’s case. Cochran and Bisland made multiple appearances in the court records, and they were men of means. The number of witnesses also attests to the importance the Spanish court gave to the case. Texada made sure that Lewis received the due process of Spanish justice.105 He demanded that all witnesses answer to five statements involving Amy, Asahel, and Henry.106 Over the next nineteen days, witnesses made

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their appearance in front of Gayoso, who understood the magnitude of this case. Gayoso conducted the hearings in Spanish, and even though he spoke English—and was in fact selected for this post because of it— he elected to employ a translator throughout the testimonies. He clearly expected that this case might make its way to New Orleans, in which case the documents needed to be in Spanish.107 The first people to testify were Guillermo (William) and Juana (Jane) Kirkwood. Both had known Amy and Asahel for about six years, and neither of the Kirkwoods left any doubt that Asahel had treated Amy like a (common-law) wife. The most enlightening part of their testimony related to Henry. Guillermo Kirkwood assured the court that Lewis “had always recognized the small mulatto as his son Henry” and intended to send him to Philadelphia for schooling. In addition, the couple agreed that Asahel had made it clear that Amy was to be freed after his death and that Henry was to inherit all of his property.108 Asahel Lewis evidently had a deep affection for his son, and Lewis planned to give him every opportunity to succeed in life. Only white children could take advantage of education in the lower Mississippi Valley. Natchez did not build an academy until 1801, and New Orleans had yet to offer sufficient educational facilities, as did cities in the Caribbean.109 Currently, New Orleans only had educational facilities for girls within the Ursuline convent. Since no institutions existed that boys could attend, their families’ only option for their schooling was to hire a private tutor. Lewis clearly understood the difficulty of providing an education for his boy on the frontier. Even though Spanish laws provided people of color with paths to freedom and laws to defend their rights, education was not among those benefits. Sending Henry to Philadelphia was a conscious choice on Lewis’s part to better his son’s chances of success. The Kirkwoods did not hesitate to declare that Asahel treated Amy “on all occasions as his own wife.” This suggests that Natchez society in the 1790s was not as racially closed as other slave societies in the territory of the United States.110 Both witnesses understood that Amy Lewis was still enslaved, yet they seem to have had no moral qualms about the union. They were frequently guests in the Lewis house and treated Amy Lewis as the wife and hostess.111 It is again hard to discern whether Amy Lewis played the willing hostess or was in fact forced to do her enslaver’s bidding. Either way, it worked in her favor after her enslaver passed to play her role. Other white Anglo-American settlers during these times, especially women, would not have interacted with the mixed-race family

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with the ease that Jane Kirkwood did. Mistresses across the Americas feared that their husbands would step outside their marital vows and rape enslaved women, which was then blamed on the “Jezebel” stereotype of women of color in the Anglophone world.112 In Spanish Natchez, however, Amy was accepted as a friend, hostess, mother, and wife. Amy blurred the lines of slavery and freedom and contributed an ambiguous understanding of complexion. This also highlights the fluidity of complexion. Amy Lewis acted white by essentially countering the “Jezebel” stereotype. She became, as defined by her acquaintances, a role model for white femininity. She checked every box required for a white wife and hence, at least theoretically, transcended her complexion. By performing whiteness, she was treated differently by her community. Her actions culturally whitened her to her friends, who in turn came to her assistance. They may have perceived the court proceedings as a threat to their whiteness in turn. If Amy Lewis, who acted free and white, could be forced back into slavery, what did freedom mean for white people who may have struggled to come to sound financial footing in the frontier economy?113 The report of many witnesses that Lewis planned to bestow his property on his son suggests why Lewis’s family pursued the case so vigorously. Amy, of course, was by herself a valuable commodity.114 Enslaved people could own property under Spanish law, but Asahel Lewis had left no will that declared Amy Lewis an heir. However, if the court confirmed Henry’s freedom, he stood to inherit some of his father’s possessions due to his status as a free natural child. Lewis had already successfully sued for a horse, and the Spanish courts had no qualms about delivering judgment on behalf of people of color in Natchez if their claims were justified. Lewis’s heirs stood to lose more than the immediate value of Amy and her offspring.115 They also faced a possible lawsuit over half of the mill that Lewis had operated. The white family members also might have simply been playing for time. Understanding that the American laws would be entirely on their side, they may have intended to stall the case long enough for the United States to take control of Natchez.116 Amy Lewis would barely have a chance under the much more stringent and limited laws for people of color in the American legal system. John Williams’s testimony shed further light on the circumstances surrounding Asahel Lewis’s death and Amy Lewis’s role in the events. He stated that he had specifically asked Asahel about Amy, and Lewis had told him that he wanted to pay off his debt, then free Amy, and relocate with her to the United States.117 Lewis’s sickness interfered with

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those plans. According to Williams, Asahel had fallen sick in the house of his sister, Amy’s former owner Mary Carpenter. The latter apparently neglected to care for her sickly brother, but Amy attended him with “great affection.” It was there that Asahel Lewis repeated his desire to emancipate Amy after his death. This decision apparently angered Carpenter, who wanted Amy and her offspring returned to her possession.118 Texada introduced no further evidence after he finished the interviews. Amy Lewis appeared in court as a litigant in an unrelated matter on January 11, 1797, when she sued Juan Rodriguez for payment over some goods sold to him. It seems that she was indeed able to provide an income for herself and her children by working for townspeople.119 In April 1797, Texada implored Gayoso to verify Amy and Henry Lewis’s freedom based on the testimony and the carta de libertad found among Lewis’s papers. Gayoso forwarded the request to Asahel Lewis’s heirs and committed everything to the records so that Amy Lewis’s status could be secured, once a decision was finally reached.120 Two weeks passed before Texada again approached the court. This time he demanded freedom for his clients as well as a provision that would secure Henry’s education. Texada suggested that some of Lewis’s property should be added to a fund to send the boy to school, as was his right as a natural recognized son (free) under Spanish law. The witness accounts supported the claims that Henry was indeed Asahel’s natural son. The Spanish courts appeared poised to award not only Amy Lewis her freedom but also additional property of Asahel Lewis to benefit Henry’s education.121 The Treaty of San Lorenzo smothered this hope, and the swift current of the Mississippi River brought the new American dignitaries and their laws to Natchez. The strong forces that had pulled the interest of the United States toward the Natchez District proved too difficult for Spain to defeat, and in the waning moments of Spanish control in 1797 Amy Lewis’s case was the first victim of the treacherous currents. The emissary of the United States, Andrew Ellicott, had finally established the process for a successful transfer of power from Gayoso. Gayoso and his officers were embroiled in the complex redeployment of the Spanish troops to Louisiana. Charles de Gran Pré was reassigned to Baton Rouge, and Josef Vidal became the commandant of the newly established post of Concordia (now Vidalia), across the Mississippi River from Natchez in Louisiana. Gayoso himself assumed the governorship of Louisiana and left Natchez in late July 1797, arriving in New Orleans on August 5.122 Throughout all these proceedings, which had an international impact

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and changed the landscape of the lower Mississippi Valley forever, the case of Amy Lewis remained unresolved. On July 24, 1797, five days before Gayoso left the Natchez District for New Orleans, Amy Lewis grasped the last straw and sent her heartwrenching plea to the departing governor. Obviously, the intervention of Texada had not borne fruit over the last two months, and the news of Gayoso’s impeding departure struck cold fear into her heart. With Gayoso and his lieutenants gone, Spanish law also made its exit from the district. Lewis understood what this meant for her, Henry (and potentially Marshall), and their freedom. Therefore, she pleaded one more time with Gayoso that “Your Excellencies humble petitioner late the slave of Mr. Asahel Lewis deceased, presents herself before your Excellency and says she has for nearly three years unsuccessfully prosecuted before your Excellency for what is of much greater importance to her than life, her liberty, which by the mildness of the laws, she is led to hope she is entitled to.”123 Once again, Lewis demonstrated intimate knowledge of the legal system. She knew that American law was more stringent and would not champion her cause, since she had been enslaved before in South Carolina. Spanish law, in contrast, was her only hope to assure liberty for Henry and herself. Unlike the other court documents, Lewis’s last plea was written in English, hinting at the time constraints under which she was working. One more time she beseeched Gayoso to honor the law and grant her liberty. Knowing that Gayoso was about to become the primary judicial official in New Orleans, Amy Lewis wrote: “That as helpless and unprotected as she is, she sees no prospect of a speedy determination and the pangs of suspense being more terrible to her that the most dreadful certainty, she begs your Excellency to grant her permission, to remove her suit to the tribunal at Orleans where a more speedy decision may in all probability take place.”124 Lewis correctly assumed that she would lose any legal protection under the newly established American legal system. With American law came a decidedly different understanding of complexion and a different idea of how free people of color fit into society. Generally speaking, complexion had now become the dominating factor in the way that Americans evaluated the enslavability of Atlantic Africans. In addition, white lawmakers also changed the legal language people of color had to utilize. Since blackness was now understood exclusively as a marker of property, Atlantic Africans had to change their strategies accordingly. After 1798, they had to argue in front of courts about their personhood as something they sought to possess, thereby

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utilizing a language understood and—even if begrudgingly—respected by their white contemporaries.125 As recent studies have shown, free people of color’s status changed in the American republic around the turn of the century. A constantly growing free population in Virginia, for example, did not signify a looming end of slavery. Indeed, “of particular importance in Virginia’s experiment with manumission in the generation after 1782 was the way that Virginia’s slaveowners learned to use emancipation as a way to control slaves.” This stood in stark contrast to the late colonial period, during which Virginians were committed to limiting the number of free people of color at all cost. Manumission had turned into an effective tool to retain control of a growing population of free people of color until other measures could be put in place to prevent more freedom suits.126 These legal constructs were now knocking on the door in Natchez. Understanding her dire situation, Amy Lewis saw only one solution. New Orleans was still Spanish, and Gayoso, who had until now followed Spanish law to the letter in Lewis’s case, would be the highest authority in that city. Therefore, she tried to move her case to New Orleans. What happened next is unknown. Lewis’s presence in the Spanish court documents vanished, but it would return shortly in the first American records in Natchez. She was unsuccessful in moving her case to New Orleans, and in the chaos of the power change in Natchez, her liberty was one casualty that went unnoticed. With Gayoso and the Spanish law gone, her case crumbled. Texada had no sway over the new judicial power. Lewis could no longer call on the court, since her status was not defined as free. African-descended people no longer appeared as active participants in the documents with the arrival of American judges. While they continued to appear in records, they had to use white lawyers and work in a legal system that simply privileged whiteness over blackness. Atlantic Africans certainly made crucial points in future litigation through their lawyers and they continued to influence the outcome of cases and the interpretation of laws, but their voices become rare in the documents. Atlantic Africans continued to fight for their freedom and their rights, but the territorial period of Mississippi significantly changed the legal landscape.127 After four years of fighting, hoping, and ostensibly winning, her hopes for freedom were vanquished by the powers in Madrid and Washington. Amy Lewis made it clear to the Spanish court that there was no monetary value that could be attached to her freedom and that liberty was the most valuable prize she could imagine. The white relatives of Asahel

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Lewis begged to differ. They pinpointed her value at $425 and sold Amy and her older son Marshall back into slavery to Ebenezer Rees in October 1799. Two years had passed, but Lewis does not appear in any surviving court records. Maybe she continued her fight, but whatever she did, she ultimately lost.128 Henry, however, became a free, yet penniless orphan in an environment that did not offer many chances for children, nor for people of mixed complexion. It seems doubtful that the family freed him for any charitable reason. It may have been their most heartless action in the whole case. Nowhere in the deed of manumission did they mention that Henry was Asahel’s son, likely because the status of the son followed the mother’s status. They described him only as an enslaved mulatto, the only hint that Asahel could have fathered him.129 Although Asahel Lewis’s family did not acknowledge Henry’s paternity, they freed him nevertheless. The reason for this, at least, could have been the public statements of the witnesses brought to court by Amy Lewis. All witnesses reported that Lewis had publicly announced that Henry was his son, and public pressure may have forced Lewis’s heirs to manumit Henry. Either way, Henry became a free person, but his mother and his stepbrother (presumably) remained enslaved. Henry was not yet even ten years old. No trace remains of where he went after the manumission or how he supported himself. His mother and stepbrother also disappear from the court records. The family that Amy Lewis tried so hard to keep together succumbed to the dark currents of the Atlantic World and disappeared in the anonymity of slavery in the Natchez District. Could Amy Lewis have been saved under Spanish rule? Speculating can be fruitless, but there is evidence that Manuel Gayoso de Lemos would have granted Lewis and her son liberty. Shortly after he arrived in New Orleans, an eerily similar case was brought before him. In 1797 Renato Trahan of New Orleans had died, and his will also included a provision to free his “black mistress and their mulatto children.” As with Amy Lewis, the white heirs in the case contested the will, attempting to claim Trahan’s human property for themselves. Gayoso, possibly inspired by the Lewis case, granted the woman of color and her children their freedom and one-fifth of the estate. Gayoso ruled in favor of the enslaved person because “she was the mother of Trahan’s children,” and the “ruling followed Spanish law.” The only caveat was that the price of the woman and that of her children was subtracted from her part of the inheritance.130 Margarita Josepha, another enslaved woman, also pleaded her case with Gayoso one year later. She argued that she was “half white

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and her children were sired by a white man.” Gayoso freed Josepha and her children.131 Iberian ideas of complexion in New Orleans had become more pervasive and persuasive than they ever were in Spanish Natchez. Whites in New Orleans, culturally more adept in adopting new systems of government, did not protest Gayoso’s ruling. Judging by Gayoso’s decisions in those cases, Amy Lewis would have become a legally free person if her case had not overlapped with the American takeover.

Protection of the Law? Atlantic Africans in Natchez struggled beneath the shadow of slavery under Spanish rule, but small windows to freedom opened that allowed a handful of enslaved Atlantic Africans to escape. Most Atlantic Africans—predominantly women—had to rely on connections with white husbands, lovers, and fathers to succeed. Still, in many ways Jeannette, Amy Lewis, and Nelly Price made their own luck. Lewis’s case fell right into the period of change in Natchez and demonstrated convincingly how different the legal systems of the United States and the Spanish Empire were. Not only did her case end abruptly under American control, but she also lost the path to freedom she had followed under Spanish rule. For Lewis and other women of color in Natchez, the regime change forced a change in legal strategies, which required a new set of legal skills. Lewis was forced back into slavery and vanished from the records as the color of her skin deprived her of the legal channels to claim her rights. But even the short period she spent in court asserting her freedom allows a glimpse at the ever-changing legal systems and the way people of color tried to utilize every possible means to gain liberty. In Amy Lewis’s case, freedom was not forthcoming, but her son remained free, and that was likely worth a great deal to his mother. However, Amy Lewis’s blackness now marked her as property, as a person with no liberties and with no redress in the legal arena. Her complexion now granted her notably fewer avenues to freedom than Spanish law had previously allowed, and her case foreshadowed the stringent American slave codes of the decades to come. Her status as a mother and wife also held no more protections, as her blackness displaced those markers of social status. Where under Spanish law motherhood had offered a few protections, those small comforts disappeared after 1798.


New Crop, New Rules of Complexion: From Prince Tobacco to King Cotton

The last decade of the eighteenth century brought change to the Natchez District. The invention of the cotton gin and the United States’ desire to make Natchez a part of the republic led to the departure of Spain from the district in 1798 and ultimately from the lower Mississippi Valley. Yet when Manuel Gayoso de Lemos came to Natchez as new governor in the summer of 1789, neither he nor the people of the district could foresee that the United States would be in control of the district nine years later. It fell on Gayoso to develop Natchez’s economy, negotiate with its inhabitants, and to implement Spanish colonial policies that would court the planters and convince them to stay loyal to Spain. The greatest difficulty for Gayoso was executing the policies of the Spanish Crown—including the regional geopolitical goals of the empire—in the face of an unruly and wildly independent settler population.1 In other words, Gayoso had to navigate the liminal period with all its pitfalls, most notably the economic booms and busts that shaped notions of complexion in the Natchez District. White settlers in Natchez attempted to remain relevant entrepreneurs in the Atlantic World, but their hopes for this rested on a painless transition of the agricultural sector from tobacco to cotton. This means that the stories of Atlantic Africans are not as prominent in the narrative, yet their presence is far from hidden. They constituted, after all, the labor force that drove the dreams of wealth for the local colonists. On top of that, the district transitioned to the United States at the end of the period, which coincided with the first cotton boom in the region. That required

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enslavers, the enslaved, and U.S. administrators to adjust to new laws of complexion that once again opened hitherto unknown avenues for the enslaved but also closed other important roads to freedom. Hence, this transitional period serves as a backdrop to explain Mississippi’s territorial period. While enslaved and free Atlantic Africans do not necessarily appear as actors, their presence looms large in the actions of all European American colonizers in the region and reinforces solidifying definitions of complexion. The “frontier” that Gayoso encountered in 1789 continued to change dramatically throughout his governance. Whereas Natchez during the first decade of Spanish rule can be described as borderless, the westward expansion of the United States turned Natchez into a borderland by the time Gayoso took office. Before the 1790s, Spain held sway over a Natchez District whose outlines existed in theory on maps, but realistically neither the region nor the cultural development of its settlers was sharply defined.2 The emergence of the United States as a continental power in the 1790s through its expansion into modern-day Kentucky and Tennessee turned the lower Mississippi Valley into a clearly defined borderland. Then, as the United States pressed Spain to negotiate the Treaty of San Lorenzo in 1795, the Natchez District turned into a bordered land with clearly defined edges.3 Nonetheless, it took Spain and the United States an additional three years to negotiate these borders in Natchez, and in this period fell the advent of cotton and other economic struggles that forced both empires to court Natchez settlers in support of their measures. The enslaved were the losing party in the transfer of power. Both the United States and Spain recognized that slavery was essential to Natchez’s growth. People of African descent, however, lost much of the maneuverability that had existed before Natchez became a “bordered land.” The status of Natchez as a borderland allowed the enslaved to find relief from slavery to some degree in Spanish courts. Unfortunately for Natchez’s bound population, “intercultural frontiers yielded to hardened and more ‘exclusive’ hierarchies” under American control.4 As demonstrated by the example of Amy Lewis, the transfer from Spain to the United States further diminished chances for the enslaved to create situations in which they could attain freedom. It is important, however, to investigate the process of imperial change to show how colonists engaged imperial politics and policies since those changes did have a tremendous effect on the lives of the enslaved population in Natchez. Most significantly, ideas of complexion may have not

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Figure 3. “View of the Fort of the Natchez,” from Georges Henri Victor Collot’s Voyage dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, ou Description des pays arrosés par le Mississipi, l’Ohio, le Missouri. Originally published in 1796. Wikimedia Commons.

dominated the debates, but the settlers were certainly aware that welcoming the United States to the district would also allow them to finally engage in a legal culture that reflected their own ideas about complexion more precisely. However, that had to be carefully weighed against questions of debt and concerns over land grants. In the end, the enslaved and laws of complexion presented one part of an equation that enslavers carefully considered as they tried to influence the decision made in Philadelphia and Madrid. Gayoso succeeded in his mission to court the settlers for the Spanish Empire. He backed the colonists’ plans to expand tobacco production, and he supported them in the economic crisis following the end of tobacco subsidies until the economy recovered. He assisted settlers in numerous other ways, understanding that his power, to a degree, rested on the shoulders of the major landowners. Although his subjects sometimes challenged Gayoso’s judgment, they never contested his authority until the American plan to incorporate Natchez into the new nation succeeded in 1795.

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The transition of power was laden with pitfalls. It took two years for the American delegation under the leadership of Andrew Ellicott to arrive in the remote frontier settlement, and Ellicott’s arrival sparked immediate unrest. Gayoso soon found himself embroiled in small conflicts that obstructed his administration until it came to a grinding halt in the summer of 1797, when the Spanish king promoted Gayoso to the post of governor of Louisiana and he left Natchez permanently. Gayoso and Ellicott understood that Natchez could only be governed with the help of its colonists, and both went to great lengths to gain the support of the landowners. Ultimately, the settlers in Natchez found Gayoso more likeable than Ellicott, but the booming United States backed Ellicott, which swayed many enslavers in Natchez to support him. Gayoso faced multiple issues in Natchez related to his efforts to maintain Spanish control over the region. Constantly expecting warfare—with either Indians or the United States—the governor had to carefully evaluate his policies to keep the Natchez District in equilibrium in an increasingly tumultuous lower Mississippi Valley. Gayoso had to negotiate conflicts between planters and ranchers, marking the last threshold of change to an agricultural society dominated by plantations. He had to stabilize military control in Natchez, and he did so by creating an elite company, led by himself, that would supplement royal Spanish troops in case of emergencies. 5 Gayoso also endeared himself to many colonists by constantly supporting issues that were critical to the enslavers. Multiple episodes demonstrate how Gayoso courted the slave owners and tried to weld Natchez to the Spanish Empire but also balanced his actions to meet the desires of the Crown. In addition to being the supreme legal authority in Natchez, Gayoso took an active part in social events, building close friendships with enslavers, especially with the Minor clan. He relied on established Spaniards who had resided in Natchez since 1779, working most closely with Charles de Gran Pré, his military commander. This close-knit personal network allowed Gayoso to maintain peace and order in Natchez even when Andrew Ellicott stirred the waters and threatened Gayoso with a rebellion of Natchez’s citizens. In short, Gayoso was able to secure tentative loyalty from at least some of the colonists in Natchez, based on economic policies of the Spanish Empire and Gayoso’s willingness to vouch for them in the Spanish royal court.6

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Andrew Ellicott, on the other hand, found his hope for a quick and smooth transfer of the district to the United States swiftly destroyed. Although American settlers dominated the population in Natchez, Ellicott did not automatically command their loyalty.7 As the U.S. territorial governors who succeeded Ellicott soon learned, governing Natchez, and later the Mississippi Territory, could only be achieved through the support of the enslavers—including providing markets, as well as secure land grants—and secure complexion-based slavery.8 Ellicott’s journal and his letters to his superiors in Washington attest that the American already had his hands full in 1797, and it would continue to be a troublesome situation until 1798, when Spain finally vacated the district. Both Gayoso and Ellicott assailed each other continuously throughout the period, blaming one another for torpedoing negotiations, violating the treaty conditions, and being unpleasant to deal with in general.9 The bickering of the two officials went on unabated, and Stephen Minor, the American who became lieutenant governor of Natchez under Gayoso, was left to sort through the diplomatic entanglement in the end.

Establishing a Firm Spanish Hand Manuel Gayoso de Lemos arrived in Natchez in the late summer of 1789. One of his first orders pertained to the rights and privileges of the settlers in Natchez. The orders originated from the governor of Louisiana, Estevan Miró, but it was Gayoso’s responsibility to implement them. Gayoso was able to grant new settlers land in proportion to the number of people a prospective enslaver brought with him. Most importantly, he announced that “they [settlers] will have the liberty of importing all their property in any produce whatsoever of the Country without paying any duty whatever, with the absolute freedom to dispose of the said property in the Posts they should pass by or in this town.” The settlers enjoyed all privileges of a citizen of Spain, and the Iberians only required an oath of allegiance and service in the militia in exchange.10 The Spanish administrators went to great lengths to ensure an equal distribution of land. Gayoso recognized that colonists with enslaved Atlantic Africans had an advantage over settlers without enslaved workers since the former were to be granted more land than those without human chattel. Other officials in the Spanish Empire recognized the same issues. Accordingly, Miró received new orders in 1789 granting a minimum acreage (six-by-forty arpents) to new settlers, with increased acreage if they had at least four children.11 The Spanish understood that

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they could attract new settlers only if they offered them enticing options once they arrived in Natchez. An ever-growing slave market was one side of the offer; cheap land was the other. This motivated many Americans to travel through the dangerous backcountry and establish a homestead in Natchez.12 In fact, the Spanish custom of land grants established by Manuel Gayoso was more egalitarian than that of the United States, which led to increasing distrust between the two powers in the lower Mississippi Valley.13 Gayoso was very lenient with his land grant policies, frequently exceeding the stipulated minimum acreage when new colonists arrived.14 The governor supported the immigration of enslavers and their human chattel because they boosted the economic production of the district, yet he kept a tight grip on the land policies and did not allow slave owners to dabble in land speculation. That would have run counter to Spain’s plan to “ensure that colonists would cultivate and reside on their lands and not obtain them for speculative purposes.” Gayoso intervened when colonists tried to sell their grants and leave the district. Land speculation was strongly discouraged in Spanish Natchez, and planters had to return their land to the Spanish Crown if they left. The Spanish followed the same strategies as every other empire at the time and hoped that “domicile could transform aliens into natives.” That, in turn, ensured “membership in local communities” and “linking individuals to the kingdom,” making the “‘law of domicile’ . . . as important, if not more important than the law of birth (ius soli) and descent (ius sanguinis).”15 Although Gayoso and the Spanish government were enacting these favorable and egalitarian measures to attract new settlers, they also sparked conflict with the United States. Kentucky also appealed to many enslavers and their enslaved property, but settlers were confronted with inflated prices for land, driven up by speculators and unchecked by the government in Washington. Many of the colonists who were unsuccessful in establishing a plantation in Kentucky moved on to Natchez, where land was readily available, and the Spanish Empire checked speculation. Adding to the trepidation of the westward-moving settlers was an additional problem that reared its head in the United States but was completely unheard of in Natchez: the abolition of slavery. Slaveholders were welcomed in Natchez with open arms, but the Northwest Ordinance had barred slaveholders from carrying their property across the boundaries of the Northwest Territory in 1787, and enslavers were fearful that their ownership of human property could be endangered by similar policies in the newly established U.S. territories. The governor of the Northwest

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Territory, Arthur St. Clair, was alarmed by the possibility of slaveholders moving west into Spanish territory and becoming loyal Spanish subjects, which posed a threat to the territorial integrity of the United States.16 The enslavers of Natchez were many things, but they were no abolitionists. While American politicians in Congress pondered the abolition of slavery in the Northwest Territory and the end of the Atlantic slave trade had become authorized in the Constitution of the United States, while Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grappled with their consciences, and while some wealthy Virginians manumitted their human property, the enslavers of Natchez had no such sentiments.17 Many enslavers who decided to move west were displeased with the wavering politics of the American government and did not have to think twice about moving to Natchez, where debates over slavery belonged entirely to the realm of philosophy—even though questions of complexions did not. Spain offered extremely cheap land and a continuous supply of enslaved Africans through the Atlantic slave trade. Therefore, settlers undertook the gamble of crossing the treacherous Indian country with their families to come to Natchez. Once in Natchez, these new settlers received land, and they could immediately profit from several other Spanish policies designed to attract American settlers. Spain offered guaranteed prices for staples such as indigo and tobacco, no import duties on captive Africans, and therefore a seemingly secure economic environment. Gayoso successfully courted new American immigrants to the Natchez district, and his success left the United States worried about the prospects of westward expansion.18 The United States had coveted the Natchez District since the 1780s, but it had yet to find a way to integrate it into its territory. Spain’s successful attempt to attract American settlers ran counter to the plans of American expansion and “on the whole, American settlers in the lower Mississippi Valley seemed generally content under Spanish rule, adding to the concerns of American officials and policymakers charged with bolstering the American presence in the West.”19 Spain wanted American settlers to reinforce its claim to the land, and the United States wanted Spain expelled from its immediate neighborhood. It was Thomas Jefferson who prophesied that eventually the growing numbers of Americans in Natchez and the liberal Spanish immigration policy would lead to a peaceful transition from Natchez to the United States. Generally, “immigrants from the United States began to Americanize Spain’s border provinces long before the United States acquired those territories politically.”20 Yet it was never a design on which the United States could comfortably rest its hopes.

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Creating Loyalty in a Backcountry Gayoso tried hard to gain the favor of his subjects. By the time he arrived in Natchez in the summer of 1789, the town had already undergone significant development since it became part of the Spanish Empire. When Gayoso took command, he restructured the plans and incorporated some modern features, including zoning, into the layout. Natchez grew to a two-tiered township, one section becoming quickly known as the infamous “Under-the-Hill.” Gayoso chartered the new section as Spanish Town. Buildings were erected swiftly, and by 1791 Spanish Town had taken shape. Colonists were expected to live on their plantations that were not far from town and not to purchase houses in the town proper.21 Thus, Gayoso created a focal point of power in the town center, a point for the colonists to congregate and to sue one another. Concurrently, he also fostered a place for nonwhite people to exchange information and to observe the larger events unfold in plain view, allowing them to choose various strategies to interact with their enslavers and colonial administrators. Gayoso quickly proved to be a skilled administrator and planner. He vetoed the establishment of a hamlet on Cole’s Creek because the location was swampy and unhealthy.22 Instead, he relocated the settlement to a more suitable place, which quickly earned him the respect and admiration of influential planters like Cato West, as well as the Green, Murray, and Cabot families living on Cole’s Creek. These leading citizens approached the Louisiana governor and suggested that their village should be renamed Villa Gayoso in honor of their new governor.23 Louisiana governor Baron Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet granted the request, and Gayoso wrote a letter to his leading citizens expressing his gratitude for the honor bestowed upon him.24 Although both notions were likely motivated by political calculation as much as true sentiment, they nevertheless show that Gayoso had quickly become a respected man and that he was successful in courting the colonists. He advanced these relationships by creating a royal militia company under his command and naming it Compañía Real Carlos after the Spanish king. Among those colonists in the company were members of the Green family, Stephen Minor, Adam Bingaman, Manuel Fescada, William Dunbar, Abraham Ellis, and Ebenezer Rees. Thus, the elite enslavers of early Natchez formed this company, and Gayoso consciously chose the elite to be under his command. If the order of the names in Gayoso’s list is any indication, Stephen Minor ranked highest among the

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enslavers of Natchez in the governor’s esteem. Even Spanish colonists like Manuel Texada or Josef Vidal did not rival him.25 Over the next decade under Spanish rule, Minor would cement his standing and eventually rise to the post of lieutenant governor of Natchez, while Gayoso was promoted to governor of Louisiana. Minor was then responsible for transferring Natchez without any major complications from the Spanish to the Americans in 1797 and 1798, and his social position remained intact throughout the proceedings. However, offering enslavers elevated social status was not enough to rule the Natchez District. Although the militia served as a bonding mechanism between the Spanish Crown and Natchez’s colonists, Gayoso realized that the enslavers’ loyalty could not be bought through their honorable service to the Spanish king alone. While Gayoso’s Compañía Real Carlos certainly elevated the social standing of his subjects, it did not grant them any advantages beyond the increase in status. When Gayoso took office in 1789, no dominant staple crop had established its reign over Natchez. Tobacco and indigo were both viable options, and cotton was only an experimental crop. Therefore, Gayoso understood that before all else he had to satisfy the hunger of settlers for land, enslaved Africans, and profits. Enslaved people in particular were important as they served as a labor force, capital, and a way to establish social standing in a still cash poor society.26 Yet the governor also carefully balanced his actions with the traditions of the Spanish legal system and consistently ensured that his subjects knew they could push, but not break, the boundaries established by the Iberian codes, in particular when it came to complexion.

Prince Tobacco Cotton was king in antebellum Natchez, but it had not established its reign in the Spanish period. Instead, prince tobacco paved the way for King Cotton’s dominance in later years, providing enslavers with a stable income. Beginning in 1784, the Spanish royal government in Madrid offered “hard cash and a ready market to the province’s tobacco planters.” The Spanish Crown promised enslavers in Natchez and Point Coupée to purchase two million pounds of tobacco per year.27 This promise gave the Natchez tobacco producers a false—and ultimately dangerous—sense of security. The guaranteed price for tobacco under the royal monopoly shielded Natchez tobacco growers from the market forces of the Atlantic World that had buffeted their brethren in Virginia for the

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last eight decades and ultimately forced many of the Virginia enslavers into a mounting debt.28 Accordingly, the settlers were very interested in the Spanish policies regarding tobacco. To illustrate, Natchez colonist Daniel Clark sent a letter in 1781 to Martin Navarro, the Spanish intendant in New Orleans, reminding him of the quality of Natchez’s tobacco.29 Clark pointed out that the tobacco grown in Natchez could be sold in America and Europe and that its quality was easily comparable to the crop generally grown in North America, particularly in Virginia.30 The settlers appealed to Navarro to maintain his support for their crop and to keep the guaranteed prices in place, thereby securing the colonists’ fortune. Speculating on the guaranteed return from Spain, and receiving cheap land grants from the Spanish Crown, the settlers invested in enslaved Africans. They calculated that with the guaranteed profit and an expanding labor force, many obstacles to wealth and fortune would be removed. From 1783 to 1787, 2,145 enslaved Africans were imported into Louisiana. The following four years saw the number of enslaved workers brought across the Atlantic and Caribbean increase to 4,833. Imports of African captives more than doubled, thus satisfying demands in Natchez and elsewhere.31 During that same timespan, enslavers registered 257 slave sales in the Natchez courthouse. Sales were up across the board, highlighting the success of both Natchez enslavers and Spanish government to promote the plantation economy in Natchez.32 Soon, however, the fickle world the colonists had constructed around their tobacco crop began to fall apart. Spanish officials grew wary about the increasing production as early as 1788. The quality of Natchez tobacco was not equal to the tobacco grown in Virginia or elsewhere.33 Still, Natchez settlers insisted on growing tobacco and even petitioned Intendant Navarro to adopt changes in the marketing and transportation requirements for their crop. The colonists informed the intendant that the use of hogsheads for Natchez tobacco was impracticable, since they did not have the facilities to manufacture the containers. They also reminded the intendant that they had no proper warehouses for the storage of tobacco hogsheads, thus leading to the idea of maintaining carrots as storage containers.34 A carrot was much smaller and easier to make. Workers bundled the tobacco tightly, wrapped the rolled-up leaves in cloth, secured them with twine and shipped them in canvas to protect the carrot from water. Carrots could weigh anywhere from one to three pounds. These carrots could also be more easily stored in smaller houses, allowing for greater convenience for Natchez enslavers.35

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Although the colonists acknowledged the favorable conditions offered by the Spanish Crown for their tobacco, they still managed to raise complaints. The settlers admitted that the price they received for their tobacco was higher than Virginians extracted yet argued that the purchase power of the Spanish dollar received in Natchez was inferior to that of the American dollar in Virginia. Although the Mississippi River presented a perfect transportation artery for their crops, enslavers lamented the price charged by merchants and boatmen for transportation and storage costs, which added to the low return for their crop.36 But the key to their problems was the rising costs that the Spanish imposed on their cash crop. Settlers repeatedly pointed to the increased burden laid upon them by the requirement of hogsheads, and they reminded Navarro that the climate in Natchez was much different from that of Virginia. They conceded that plants grew quickly and “luxuriously” but cautioned that the fragile tobacco plant was threatened by “the frequent heavy rains of that place, nor is it free from the violent exhales of the scorching sun when it happens directly after a rainy attack.” The reasons the colonists pointed to the weakness of the tobacco plant and the trouble of packaging it were all closely connected to the profit margin of ten “Spanish Milled dollars per 100 pounds weight,” which not one tobacco grower wanted to relinquish.37 The settlers who signed this petition were among the leading members of the Natchez elite. They understood perfectly that the new restrictions placed on them for transportation would cut into their profit margin and endanger their position on the frontier. Their guaranteed profit had placed many enslavers on financially risky footing, and as soon as the tobacco revenues faltered, so did the settlers. The enslavers besieged the Spanish government with their concerns. As they pointed out to Navarro, food items like salt were more expensive on the market in New Orleans than in Virginia, not even considering the transportation to Natchez from the city. In addition to items like salt, colonists expressed their concern for the most valuable commodity known in Natchez—enslaved Atlantic Africans. Natchez’s enslavers coveted more human chattels, and although the Spanish had opened the African trade to them, the enslavers were still unhappy with the availability and price of their favorite commodity. The tobacco growers of Natchez were quick to point out that they had a disadvantage to Virginia “notwithstanding the echo of so high a price for Tobacco.”38 The premium price they had to pay for their enslaved allegedly had caused many enslavers to share the fate of their Virginia brethren; they had incurred large debts that had to be paid off, while at the same time they hungered

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for still more enslaved Africans. More captives equaled more acres that could be planted with more tobacco, resulting in larger profits, if a settler could escape the clutches of debt he incurred along the way.39 However, outside of the internal issues in the Natchez and Louisiana colonies, there were other forces at play. A crisis in the Atlantic World reached Natchez in 1789. The Spanish tobacco market was flooded with tobacco and prices were depressed. In addition, Spain’s treasury—notoriously empty—could not afford to maintain the premium prices guaranteed to Natchez agricultural entrepreneurs. The year 1789 brought in a crop of 1,402,725 pounds for Natchez, but Spain took this occasion to drop its tobacco subsidies.40 Instead of offering guaranteed prices, the Spanish Crown announced that it would unlock commerce to every nation in the world and end the royal monopoly for Natchez. They allowed local settlers to market their tobacco freely, but the problem was that Natchez tobacco was subpar and could not compete. Although Gayoso linked the favorable price conditions of tobacco directly to the loyalty of his American subjects, the Spanish Crown did not relent.41 The suppressed prices were not the only problem the people of Natchez encountered with their staple crop. Not only did the Atlantic market economy begin to hurt their interests, but Spanish border politics also took its toll on the Natchez plantation world. Although Governor Estevan Miró had previously placed great emphasis on attracting new settlers to Natchez, and thereby securing the northern border of Louisiana, the governor now shifted his focus even farther north. Kentucky, also a tobacco-growing region, approached Miró under the leadership of James Wilkinson. The latter negotiated for equally favorable prices for Kentucky tobacco with the Spanish, and Miró saw his chance to further infringe on American expansion.42 The Kentucky enslavers readily took advantage of the Spanish offer to use the Mississippi River and had no complaints like their fellow enslavers in Natchez. Shipping their tobacco across the United States to the East Coast ports was more expensive than utilizing the Spanish-controlled Mississippi and trading their crop in New Orleans. For the Spanish, the Kentucky tobacco trade presented an equally favorable opportunity. Previously Miró had prioritized Natchez and its people as a protective barrier against American expansion into northern Louisiana, but he now saw a chance to spread his frontier defenses even farther north. He attempted to lure Kentucky toward the Spanish Empire the same way he had created the loyalties of the settlers of the Natchez District. In doing

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so, he sacrificed the economic well-being of the region. Instead of granting the prices to the colonists in Natchez, Miró purchased significant amounts of tobacco from Wilkinson and his Kentucky tobacco growers, undermining the Natchez economy in favor of border stability.43 Accordingly, the interest of Natchez’s enslavers and those of the Iberian Empire worked at cross purposes, as Spain willingly sacrificed Natchez’s inhabitants for the greater good of the empire and lastingly damaged the relationship. Settlers obviously preferred imperial politics and policies to work in concert to guarantee economic stability and prosperity in the district. In December 1790 a royal order reduced the amount of tobacco purchased by the royal factory in Seville, Spain, to forty thousand pounds annually. This order interfered with Miró’s designs for both Natchez and Kentucky, eliminating the economic attraction of the Spanish Empire for most Americans. The free trade, which Spain offered instead of the tobacco subsidies, was not an important incentive for colonists outside of the Louisiana colony, and so Spanish politics decided the fate of tobacco as a staple crop for Natchez. Enslavers in Kentucky switched back to food crops. The latter were in high demand because the immigration to Kentucky had swelled the local population immensely and the United States military activities against the area’s indigenous people all led to a consumption of surplus foodstuffs in Kentucky.44 Colonists in Natchez faced financial ruin with the end of Spanish subsidies. It was left to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos to deal with the circumstances created by his superiors in Spain after the change in tobacco policies became known in Natchez. Debt was the most precarious issue Gayoso faced, as most Natchez enslavers had incurred critical amounts over the last decade. This also affected the enslaved population at large, as many of them served as securities for debts incurred by their enslavers. As the economy waxed and waned, they never knew what the next day might bring. Insecurities generated through Spanish policies therefore inconvenienced white enslavers, but they outright threatened the families and lives that the enslaved had forged in the district. Slave owners had counted on the Spanish subsides for their tobacco and had continuously acquired additional enslaved laborers to increase their production of the crop. Now that Spain had limited the production to forty thousand pounds per year—a weight exceeded the previous year by Adam Bingaman and David Williams alone—the planters of Natchez were in dire straits. For example, Benjamin Farrar, one of the most prosperous enslavers in Natchez, had recently applied for permission from the Spanish Crown

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to import two hundred captives from the coast of Africa annually to the Natchez District.45 He had clearly anticipated a strong demand for enslaved labor in the future. Without the guaranteed stability of Spanish subventions, however, merchants began to call in their outstanding debts, thus threatening the livelihood of many a Natchez settler. Although Gayoso was a recent arrival in Natchez, he immediately demonstrated his ability to negotiate with the local elites and therefore justified his selection as the first English-speaking Spanish governor. Natchez’s commanders before him had a military function, with the addition of judicial responsibilities. Gayoso, however, was the supreme military and civilian commander of Natchez. This position granted him extraordinary leeway, which he tended to utilize to the best of his abilities. He attempted to devise a policy that somehow unified settler interest with the desires of the Spanish Empire.46 The need of both the Spanish and the colonists of Natchez in the early 1790s was predominantly defined by a reduction of the debt. Although the royal authorities in Madrid and New Orleans had demonstrated that they would and could sacrifice the people of Natchez for the greater good of the empire, Gayoso was nevertheless convinced that Natchez was the key to the longevity of Spanish Louisiana.47 In 1792, the situation was threatening enough for the colonists to address the legislature in New Orleans. The petition crafted by Anthony Hutchins and signed by several leading enslavers leaves no doubt that the tobacco growers had fully converted to plantation agriculture, investing only in enslaved workers and tools to grow tobacco, and exhibiting the same traits that doomed crop diversification in the antebellum South. As Hutchins described the situation: “Few of us possessed much stock. When our crops fell short many of us had no other resources.”48 Only a lucky few had diversified their crops, and those were small operations. All large landowners had transitioned to tobacco.49 Hutchins assigned blame for the enslavers’ situation to the court of Spain and the merchants of Natchez. He accused them of profiting from the enslavers’ helpless situation, demanding higher interests and paying below market value for crops like cotton and indigo, or cattle.50 Understanding the delicate balance between empire and American settlers, Hutchins reminded Gayoso that the current situation would not attract immigrants from the United States. He still praised the opportunities at Natchez as “the mildness of government—the equity of the laws— their impartial administration—no taxes imposed—the climate and soil so happily blended of the cultivation of both northern and southern

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products.” The colonist finished the letter with an ominous prediction that showed how thin the resources of his colleagues were stretched and how taut their nerves were. Hutchins predicted that “time is not very far distant when the planter must destroy the merchant, or the merchant must destroy the planter.”51 The merchants, on the other hand, were also hard-pressed since their accounts were equally overdrawn by insufficient business, and they depended on the repayment of debts to stay afloat in a suddenly hostile Atlantic economy. Therefore, they, too, addressed the government and explained that enslavers had failed to pay their debts regularly since 1771. They allowed the settlers a grace period until February 1793, claiming “it will only be in extreme cases that coercion will be resorted to.”52 But they still demanded that the debtors at least try to produce a crop of some staple, clarifying that they had not done so since tobacco had failed because they simply did not know what else to plant. In addition to indigo and corn, the merchants suggested cotton as a possible crop and even guaranteed a price for either the seed or cleaned cotton. Although Eli Whitney had not yet invented the cotton gin that would make short staple cotton profitable, the merchants nonetheless supported the production of the future royal crop in 1792. It was left to Gayoso and his superiors to prevent the destruction of either “planter or merchant,” as Hutchins put it, because both were needed in the frontier economy of the Natchez District. Gayoso tried his best throughout the years 1791 and 1792 to lobby for Natchez tobacco, and he described the settlers in the town as extremely industrious and frugal. He also explained that they put all of their enslaved Africans to work, and it would not be just to “leave them drowning” in their debt. He suggested that Miró should continue to buy the tobacco, at least until the king opened the world market to the inhabitants of Natchez. He repeated his plea twice, arguing that the colonists grew enough tobacco to receive at least a fair price for the bulk of their product if sold on the open market. This would allow them to pay at a minimum some of their debt.53 None of the pleas were successful, and so Miró and Gayoso had to find an internal solution that could grant both debtors and creditors a chance to survive the current crisis. Gayoso’s pleadings were partially answered when Governor Miró issued a moratorium on the debt situation in Natchez following the letters of the enslavers and the merchants’ response. Miró declared that the settlers had to repay their debt, yet at a fixed rate of 5 percent per year. The moratorium read: “It is declared that what is called ‘lawful interest,’ in

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the stipulations between the inhabitants of Natchez and their creditors, is to be understood at the rate of five percentum only, and the same, by any delay in the payment thereof, shall not be converted into principal, and interest be paid upon interest; because that would be manifest usury. The accounts of the said inhabitants shall be settled upon this principle, abating such as have been previously settled at a higher rate than is here prescribed.”54 Although this solution slightly favored the debtors by capping the ceiling of their obligations, it satisfied both sides for the present. Unfortunately, Miró’s decree was not able to mend the rift between debtors and merchants in Natchez permanently. In December 1795, the enslavers of Natchez wrote a lengthy letter to the new Louisiana governor, Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet. They again complained about their debt and the dishonest merchants who did not allow for a settlement according to Miró’s 1791 moratorium. The enslavers therefore asked Miró to forward their letter explaining the debtors’ plea for debt reduction and solidified debt repayment to the Spanish king.55 Again, the enslavers complained that their “debts are so increased as to form their present monstrous and Hydra-headed figure.” Although the Natchez merchants were their chief adversaries in this case, the tobacco growers raised the issue of debt beyond the borders of the Natchez District. Although they only alluded to it, they made certain that the Spanish king understood how closely connected the fate of the Natchez enslavers was with the well-being of the Spanish Empire in North America: And although the Gentlemen [Manuel Gayoso de Lemos and Baron de Carondelet] who from principles of virtue, have recommended our case to Your Majesty’s notice and consideration, have had our grateful thanks for the same, yet moreover we resolve, that they shall not have cause to blush before the Throne; for allegiance is our ambition, we pride in acts of duty and firmness, and it is notorious from our efforts on all occasions, when exigencies of Government require our exertions (although it greatly disconcerts us in our Crops and preparations for payment of Debts) that we confirm our attachment and zealous endorsements, by ever preferring the cause of Government, to that of Merchants or Individuals, or even that of our own concerns.56 Enslavers were loyal to the Spanish Empire, yet the merchants were not trustworthy. Although they expressed their loyalty, the settlers also described the crosscurrents that had gripped the Natchez District. If the

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colonists wavered, the whole district was poised to change hands. Thus, Spain had better lend its support to the suffering enslavers. The enslaved were visible throughout the negotiations between debtors and creditors. While they did not appear as actors, they were nevertheless exposed to the same economic forces, occasionally getting caught in the court proceedings. For instance, on March 11, 1796, merchant Maurice Stackpoole “begs leave to present to your excellency, that the following persons are indebted to him.” The list included eight Natchez settlers who had not paid their debts over the course of the preceding year.57 Stackpoole and the administrators of Spain specifically targeted Jesse Hamilton as he still had not paid by the beginning of April. So on April 4, William Gillespie authorized the seizure “of one negro boy about fifteen years old named Mick” in lieu of cash payments.58 But on April 23, Jesse Hamilton came forward and leveraged all his property against his debt in exchange for Mick, which was approved by the governor on June 25, 1796.59 Jesse Hamilton decided to keep the enslaved youth over much of his property to pay his debt, knowing full well that the investment in his Atlantic African captive provided better chances for returns in the future than any of his property. At the same time, Mick avoided the fate of many a fellow enslaved African who ended up on the trading block, and he could remain at his home, at least for now. Only a new staple crop that would return the colonists to profitability and the merchants to affluence could bring lasting peace and tranquility to the district. Enslavers turned to indigo from about 1792 to 1795 as their main staple crop, with prices ranging from “one and a half to two dollars and a half per pound.” But in 1793 a caterpillar plague began to ravish the whole colony of Louisiana and destroyed Natchez’s indigo crop by 1795.60 The destruction of that crop then left only cotton as a viable option, with Eli Whitney’s gin—invented in 1793 and patented in 1794—making its way to Natchez by 1795. Unfortunately, cotton was not able to mend the division between planters and merchants quickly, and newcomers had to learn how to navigate the dangerous undercurrents in Natchez.

King Cotton’s Infancy in the Natchez District Eli Whitney’s cotton gin changed slavery in the United States forever, especially in the Lower South. Long staple cotton had been grown in South Carolina and Georgia, and its production had increased during the American Revolution to supplement fabrics imported from Great

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Britain. Yet the short staple variety of cotton, more suitable to plantation agriculture in the Lower South, could not be cleaned as easily as the long staple variety. Previous experiments of enslavers to become wealthy with the smooth fiber were unsuccessful.61 It took approximately two years before the gin arrived in Natchez, and in the meantime settlers in the district fell on hard times.62 The economic crisis was soon followed by social unrest. Merchants had become increasingly agitated about the ongoing dispute over payments, and they began to blame Gayoso for protecting the debtors.63 Social tensions ran high, and they increased when news of a slave conspiracy in Point Coupée arrived in Natchez. Although no violence occurred, enslavers were extremely nervous. Their fear increased when Neptuno, an enslaved man from Natchez, began to inform his fellow captives that “blacks in Point Coupée had murdered eighteen whites, after which they fled to avoid arrest. Neptuno claimed that these well-armed runaways now were in Bayou Sara in the Natchez District.”64 Although no insurrection had occurred in Natchez since the 1729 revolt against the French, enslavers understood that the increasing number of enslaved in the district presented not only an economic opportunity but also a growing danger.65 The enslaved themselves, however, did not seem to have been actively planning an insurrection in Natchez. The questioning of Neptuno led nowhere, and the district remained at peace. Although the enslaved in Natchez had many opportunities throughout the Spanish period to seize the day and rebel during the frequent periods of unrest, they wisely chose not to do so. They were never in the majority in Natchez during the Spanish period, substantially decreasing the chance for a successful revolt.66 Yet the advent of cotton required substantial numbers of enslaved workers. Natchez enslavers had not grown cotton in any significant quantity before 1787. The 1792 census recorded 75,227 pounds, but that number declined to 36,351 pounds in 1794. The same year also saw indigo production decline to 17,521 pounds.67 However, after 1795 the production of cotton increased rapidly to 1.2 million pounds, or up to 3 million pounds, depending on the source. This explosion in cotton production can be attributed to the cotton gin that John Barclay and his business partner, Daniel Clark, brought to the district. Barclay was an indebted enslaver who went to North Carolina in 1794 but returned to Natchez the following year, after Daniel Clark settled Barclay’s debt. With him, he brought the design for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.68

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Success of Technology Constructing a gin at Natchez was not as easy as Barclay or Daniel Clark imagined. Clark informed Anthony Hutchins that “Barclay will soon have his gin sufficiently forward to essay [sic] how it will work. I have done a great deal to bring this brat into the world, and if it succeeds shall put in a claim for my share of the honor.” Clark still had to convince the Spanish Crown that everybody in Natchez would profit from the new machine.69 Under Spanish rule, the construction of a cotton gin had to be approved by the colonial government. Therefore, Clark and Barclay had to convince the local official and the governor of Louisiana that their project was promising. Leading settlers quickly lent their support to Barclay. The engineer pointed out that the whole community of Natchez would be able to profit from this invention. Barclay went into great detail about the machine itself, especially pointing to the fact that the gin was very efficient and could clean quite a bit of cotton in a short time.70 Charles de Gran Pré sent a report to Carondelet, in which he supported the construction of the mill. He also allowed the construction of a test version. Barclay asked to construct the mill on the property of Daniel Clark, and William Dunbar, Peter Walker, and Henry Hunter were named as witnesses to report on the ginning capabilities of Barclay’s apparatus. Gran Pré made sure to inform his superior about the necessity to gin the cotton, and what a successful cotton crop could do for Natchez enslavers and the economic viability of the Louisiana colony in general. In addition, Gran Pré offered recommendations for the widespread adoption of the cotton gin, if the invention succeeded.71 Colonists like Daniel Clark or John O’Connor had already officially pledged their support to the new machine, as they announced to the Spanish government in a short declaration in August. They saw the machine at work while only partially finished and described its amazing capabilities as “far superior to anything hitherto seen.” They added that they were convinced that the gin would be efficient enough “to give a thousand pounds of clean cotton per day once fully complete.”72 Cotton quickly triumphed in Natchez. Several additional gins were in operation by 1796. Some of them were public and usable for a fee; others were constructed on the properties of the wealthier colonists. William Dunbar, the local surveyor and scientist, quickly began to experiment with cotton crops. By 1801 he ordered a screw press from Philadelphia and began to investigate the use of cottonseed oil.73 As many plantation owners had hoped, cotton became the dominant staple crop of Natchez.

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Now the settlers benefitted from the Spanish trade policies that allowed them to export their products across the world, and Natchez cotton began its rise to the number-one export commodity in the antebellum period. Once again, Natchez’s proximity to New Orleans, and the riverways of the Mississippi enabled settlers to bring their crop quickly to— and establish dominance over—the market. The enslaved were the obvious losers in the first Natchez cotton boom. They did not profit from the new crop. To the contrary, the new cotton market quickly turned the somewhat porous slave society of Spanish Natchez into a solid slave regime that reduced the roads to freedom for the enslaved, as the example of Amy Lewis (from chapter 5) makes clear. The crop that lifted all of the enslavers’ boats in the district proved to be an anchor that dragged Natchez’s enslaved people into the despair of the powerful market forces of the Atlantic World, whose clutches they could not escape. Enslavers found a cash crop that was in great demand by Great Britain, granting them profits in an Atlantic market that was previously hostile to their tobacco crop. The colonists were not going to jeopardize any cog in their newly tuned plantation machine, especially not the human chattel that drove it. The cotton gin, then, sealed the fate of the Natchez District as a resilient plantation society. The advent of the cotton gin also eased the path of the United States toward the Natchez District. In the same year the gin arrived, 1795, the United States acquired the district from the Spanish Empire in the Treaty of San Lorenzo.

King Cotton Turns the Tide Although the adoption of cotton did not proceed without difficulties, its ascension to the throne was never seriously hampered.74 But the economic success of the cotton gin also had side effects that the Spanish Empire did not anticipate. As the Iberians had withdrawn their support for tobacco prices five years earlier, they had simultaneously struck down every commercial barrier or tariff in existence, allowing Natchez’s colonists to trade freely. This meant that enslavers could now import enslaved Africans from anywhere they desired, and they could dispense their crops at competitive rates since prices were not artificially raised through export duties. Now enslavers had a crop to sell, and they reaped impressive profits. That in turn spurred the slave trade to Natchez.75 Enslavers never looked back. By 1799, the cotton gin had been improved by mechanics David Greenleaf and William Hazlett to a degree that Dunbar enthusiastically proclaimed: “I have reason to think that the

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new gin has been greatly improved here. Our latest and best make, injure the staple little more than cards.”76 Annual production grew quickly to more than one million pounds in 1800, exceeding any other commodity in the district. The newfound freedom to export at the enslavers’ own volition and the relatively stable and secure market for cotton weakened the position of the Spanish Empire severely. From the beginning of the Spanish occupation, enslavers in Natchez were willing to cooperate with the Spanish Empire because it granted them access to enslaved workers, access to a market, and a subsidy for tobacco. Enslavers even adjusted to the new laws of complexion. After the arrival of the cotton gin, the settlers no longer needed to lean as heavily on Spanish authorities for their profits. The enslaved were no longer just available from Africa in larger groups, as the internal slave trade began to increase dramatically throughout the mid-1790s.77 With both enslaved people and profits available independently from the Spanish Empire, Natchez enslavers became more independent than the Spanish preferred. As Natchez began its transition from Spain to the United States, enslavers displayed their independence for the Atlantic World to see, and the Spanish Empire to fret. The year 1795 marked an important turning point in the history of the Natchez District as Spain by treaty transferred the district to the United States and the cotton gin arrived in Natchez. Change was also occurring on the local level. Yet for the next three years, first the United States and later Spain managed to stall the transition of the district. Despite Gayoso’s valiant efforts to create a tighter community in Natchez among Iberian officials and Anglo-American settlers, his courtship had suffered through the recent economic difficulties.

Natchez after the Treaty of San Lorenzo After Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo on October 27, 1795, Natchez ostensibly became part of the United States. Yet due to politics and the distance of Natchez from the central government in Philadelphia, it took an astonishing three years until the transition was completed.78 In those three years, the people in Natchez had to undergo several critical periods, during which they contested the Spanish Empire or the American emissary, Andrew Ellicott. At the base of every crisis in Natchez, before and during this period, was the issue of property. In this case, Natchez settlers desired the umbrella of United States control because Spain could no longer offer them any incentives. The problem,

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however, consisted of the multiple land grants the colonists had received under Spanish and British control and the debts the enslavers had incurred under Spanish reign. While the Spanish Empire tried to stall its evacuation of the district, Natchez’s colonists began to fear for their lands, and the merchants for the validity of their outstanding debts. Since both Spanish and British grants sometimes had competing claims, the settlers grew nervous about which grants would be accepted by the Americans. With every month the Spanish stalled, the United States envoys and Natchez enslavers grew more anxious to determine the boundaries and land claims, especially with the cotton crops exceeding expectations.79 In addition, American land speculators had moved into the district to claim, sell, and buy land north of Natchez soon to be under American control, thereby destabilizing a land market where Spain had kept a tight control over land grants and strongly discouraged or disallowed land speculation. The presence of these speculators further unnerved the enslavers who understood the value of cheap land perfectly.80 A second issue arose in the aftermath of the 1795 slave conspiracy at Point Coupée and the freedom struggle of Africans in Haiti.81 Governor Carondelet issued new laws to control the growing enslaved population in the colony. Although the governor did not stiffen the slave code significantly—in large part simply reiterating laws in place—control of enslaved Africans remained a core tenet of the codes. Carondelet moved to curb severe punishments that had been exerted by enslavers to prevent unrest among the enslaved population, and he reaffirmed the rights of free people of color, acknowledging that they had the same rights as any white person. The only caveat was that people of color had to be courteous to Europeans. Although “courteous” was a relatively flexible term, basic rights for free people of color could not be violated. As shown above, the enslavers in Natchez were content to live under these rules, even though tensions of complexions were an issue at times. However, the enslavers in the New Orleans cabildo convinced Carondelet in 1796 to ban the importation of enslaved captives. Carondelet and the New Orleans enslavers were concerned about possible slave insurrections, and unlike Natchez, which had adopted cotton, southern Louisiana struggled in the mid-1790s and did not require new captives. The situation in Natchez was the direct opposite, and with Spain closing off the slave trade from Africa, Natchez enslavers lost almost all incentive to stay with the Iberian Empire.82 Andrew Ellicott, the American commissioner who had been sent to mark the boundary between the United States and Spain, did his part to

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keep tempers flaring in a frontier district that had seen its share of territorial changes. Unprepared for the diplomatic challenge that awaited him, he could not negotiate effectively enough to convince the Spaniards to leave. This caused him to turn toward the settlers and even sparked a revolt among the people of Natchez.83 The first exchange between Gayoso and Ellicott on February 24, 1797, already set the tone as Ellicott only announced his arrival in the district to Gayoso by letter the moment he reached Natchez. Diplomatic etiquette dictated giving the Spanish an appropriate warning. Hence, Gayoso was unprepared and scolded Ellicott for his unexpected appearance.84 This, in turned, drew the ire of Ellicott, who insisted on carrying out his mission and eventually settled into a position a short distance from Natchez, where he raised the American flag on February 27. Demonstrating his inexperience in diplomacy, Ellicott refused to lower the flag when Gayoso asked him to do so. This strained the relationship between Spain and the United States. In the span of three days, Ellicott had not only created a tense situation with the Spanish but also forced the settlers to choose a side in the struggle between Madrid and Philadelphia.85 Gayoso and Ellicott eventually established a civil rapport after the feisty American commissioner found his footing in Natchez, yet each side distrusted the other. Gayoso did his best to remain cordial, and once more it was his skill with the English language that eased the tension. However, in July 1797 he was promoted to the post of governor of Louisiana and left Natchez in the capable hands of Stephen Minor. The continuous evasiveness exhibited by Spain increasingly rattled the world of the colonists. Like all businessmen, enslavers preferred stable imperial conditions that allowed them to steady their business and secure profits. Therefore, a resistance began to form against the Spanish that helped to accelerate the transition of the not so loyal Anglo-American subjects. Natchez was soon split between merchant-creditors and planterdebtors, with the debtors favoring the American side, and the creditors remaining overwhelmingly loyal to Spain. Although this breakdown was not without exception, it was generally accurate.86 Given the division of the population, Gayoso’s mission became even more difficult. The enslavers and merchants exhibited an independence that should have warned not only Gayoso but also Ellicott. Yet the American thought himself so secure in the powers vested in him by President John Adams that he considered himself as the premier authority figure. But the divisions in the town, furthered by the American military commander Percy Smith Pope, who had accompanied Ellicott as an escort, soon escalated

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on June 20 to a barely averted revolt of some Natchez citizens.87 Settlers quickly reacted to the threatening conditions and formed a committee of citizens to deal with the troublesome situation. Gayoso accepted the competence of this committee to maintain peace in Natchez and advised his officers and officials to cooperate with the committee. Andrew Ellicott had no place on the committee and remained an outsider.88 Despite Ellicott’s inability to negotiate a quick solution and facilitate Spain’s withdrawal from Natchez, and despite his difficulty in establishing a kindred relationship with the American settlers, the Quaker abolitionist nevertheless understood what drove the enslavers of Natchez. While Ellicott doubted that a democratic government would be supported by colonists “until their habits become more congenial to the true principles of liberty,” he proclaimed that “although domestic slavery is extremely disagreeable to the inhabitants of the eastern states, it will nevertheless be expedient to tolerate it in the district of Natchez, where that species of property is very common, and let it remain on the same footing as in the southern states, otherwise emigrants possessed of that kind of property, would be induced to settle in the Spanish territory.”89 He was clearly dissatisfied with the settlers and their all-too-independent stance during his negotiations with Spain, and the settlers’ unmistakable dependency on slavery added to his misgivings. Yet the American emissary evidently had quickly learned what was important to the settlers and what the United States had to do to secure the settlers’ loyalty. In addition to their enslaved property, the enslavers were also concerned with the disposition “of the vacant land.”90 Ellicott maintained that the settlers needed to be able to buy land in small quantities at reasonable prices, a continuity of Spanish practice. Land should only be sold to actual settlers, keeping speculators out and local elites in control.91 Ellicott had learned that the United States had to provide enslaved labor and land in reasonable quantities and at low prices to maintain the enslavers’ favor and keep tranquility in Natchez. Without those two factors, neither Ellicott, the U.S. military, nor any treaty could guarantee the loyalty of Natchez’s inhabitants.

The End of Spanish Law The advent of cotton changed Spanish Natchez and put the district on its path to become the dominant producer of the crop in the antebellum period. When cotton came, Spain left Natchez, and with Spain the mechanisms for the enslaved to achieve freedom sank into the muddy sills of

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the Mississippi River. While their enslavers vied for land and speculated about the timing of the Spanish withdrawal, the enslaved saw the advent of a new labor regime under cotton, and for generations to come these captives and their heirs would see few changes coming to the district. When the borderlands of Natchez changed to bordered lands between Spain and the United States, the line between freedom and slavery was redrawn to align with American laws of complexion. The United States solidified its power in Natchez over the next twenty years, and despite all the modifications to the slave society of Natchez that had occurred earlier, the Natchez economy was set in its ways from 1795 forward. Although political turmoil persisted, eventually culminating in secession in 1861, the imperial turbulence that had held Natchez in its grip vanished. This does not imply that the enslaved did not try to challenge their enslavers anymore. But their paths to freedom had to be altered to work in a new legal system. Generally, King Cotton’s reign was profitable for Natchez’s enslavers, and it spelled disaster for their human chattel. While the American republic was more appealing than the struggling Spanish Empire for economic expansion, it was detrimental for the liberty of Atlantic Africans. All of Spain’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful because the transition from borderlands to bordered lands made the United States look preferable to the Iberian Empire. Ultimately, the American republic offered a strategic power that could be altered by participation in the democratic process, giving settlers a voice in government that was lacking with Spain. Despite all of Gayoso’s efforts, his authority collapsed in the turmoil of the transition period from tobacco to cotton.

7 /

Mississippi Fever: Fortifying the “Malignant Empire” of Complexion

After nineteen years under Spanish rule, the Natchez District became the first economic center of the newly formed Mississippi Territory on April 7, 1798. The enslavers were now under the protective umbrella of the United States. The major concern of the white people in Natchez for the next twenty years was their wealth. Any interference from Washington, Madrid, Paris—or the enslaved—elicited a sharp response from the unruly inhabitants of the Natchez District. Andrew Ellicott had assured the enslavers of the district that the federal government would not interfere. Yet the enslavers understood that Ellicott had no authority to do so. From the very beginning, Natchez enslavers labored to convince Congress that “they welcomed American rule but opposed any measures to restrict slavery.”1 Enslavers were the dominant political faction in the district, and they sought to expand their power constantly. They met challenges to their power with stern resistance. The loyalties of Natchez’s enslavers lay with themselves, and they valued their profits, their access to markets, and their economic freedom over loyalty to the new nation.2 The economic independence gained under Spain to sell their crops to whomever they pleased, although it was a shallow gesture at the time, firmly rooted the Natchez elite in the economy of the Atlantic World. Slavery and the slave trade were a driving force of that world, and if the new republic harbored any sentiment about the abolition of slavery, the enslavers in Natchez would hear none of it.3 Consequently, the United States indulged the enslavers’ needs and counted on cotton exports to support the westward expansion of the

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United States. Slavery was instrumental to that end.4 After four decades under British and then Spanish imperial control, the enslavers finally reached the pinnacle of their power: They were in control. They controlled local politics, they controlled their labor, and they could marshal the police and military power of a central—but faraway—federal government to do their bidding. The transition to cotton and the United States heralded hard times to come for the enslaved. Imports of enslaved people from the eastern states continued to increase, while the captive market of New Orleans reopened to supply enslaved Africans. In time, the Natchez slave market at the Forks of the Road would signify the solid and unwavering commitment not only to slavery but also to the trade in humans. Mississippi territorial law made it increasingly more difficult for slave owners to manumit their enslaved, and bondspeople suing for their freedom had to adjust and employ different strategies. The new regime attempted to mute the enslaved’s voices to facilitate the steady drumbeat of cotton production, the enslavers’ hunger for more bound laborers, and the westward expansion of the American republic. Yet as hard as the enslavers tried, they were never entirely successful. Whereas Spanish law had offered the enslaved ways to establish legal personhood in front of courts, their blackness under U.S. law forced them to claim “legal personhood through the language of property—language articulated to an audience in which an understanding of and respect for law and property rights would resonate. Through this language they were able to make whites accountable to their promises and rhetoric, navigate the world in which they lived, and exploit the inconsistencies in southern racial and economic ideologies.”5 A key change, aside from the legal system, were the attitudes toward blackness exhibited by settlers and administrators. Blackness had particular meanings under the Spanish based on cultural signifiers and behaviors. It still allowed people of color to navigate the court systems and Natchez society with relative ease. Under U.S. law, phenotype became a total, all-encompassing marker signifying slavery in territorial Natchez. As in the larger Anglo-American Atlantic World, blackness was, at the turn of the century, without question a marker of slavery. Freedom had to be proven, as signified by African American legal tactics. The Spanish period had seen a flurry of legal actions by people of color, but the enslavers now relied on American and territorial law to keep the enslaved in check and to maintain tight control over any possible avenues to freedom. Complexion played a significant role in these times of change. While the new law codes established tacit white supremacy in all matters social,

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legal, and economic, the meaning of complexion also arrived at an apex. As the previous chapters have shown, complexion relied on many cultural markers to function as a mosaic that led to race making. Race “was not always visible in ways that we recognize immediately today; it was, however, visible to early modern and eighteenth-century Europeans in the clothing, habitations, and trading behavior of other people.”6 Complexion indicated “far more than skin color, [which] was just one of the qualities that could be used to distinguish individuals from one another.”7 By the time Natchez became part of the American republic, that had either already changed for American settlers or the process of change was near completion. Blackness had become an unmistakable social and cultural predetermined identifier of slavery, whereas whiteness equaled freedom. Even more, freedom was something that the enslaved had to earn in the sense that white enslavers could gift it to them. Freedom was not returned to enslaved Atlantic Africans but granted by the enslavers for the first time since the enslaved’s blackness automatically precluded them from naturally possessing it.8 And the legal system that began to develop in Natchez, both through national and local inputs, soon reflected this. The change from the Spanish Empire to the American republic transformed the lower Mississippi Valley forever. It signaled the region’s transition from the margin of empire to the center of American expansion and the spread of slavery. Of course, both Europeans and Americans ignored the Indian nations of Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Creeks living, and still dominating, life outside of the pockets of white settlements, yet over the next two decades the United States established an unquestioned dominance over the Mississippi Territory.9 The enslavers continuously developed their skills in growing cotton, managing and acquiring more enslaved Atlantic Africans, and accessing the cotton markets of the Atlantic World. Between 1798 and 1820, Natchez enslavers took on every challenge posed to them and attempted to enforce their will on the government of the Mississippi Territory and the federal government in Washington.10 Complete control proved elusive, as neither Indians nor the enslaved accepted the dominance of the Natchez cotton masters without resistance. For the enslaved the departure of the Spanish legal codes also signaled the end of comparatively easy access to courts to gain their freedom. The changes did not discourage the enslaved from challenging their enslavers’ control. They ran away, but newspapers created under the territorial government carried numerous advertisements for runaways, effectively

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shrinking the world the enslaved could utilize for their escape. Nevertheless, as numerous runaway ads suggest, the enslaved increasingly sought their freedom through flight.11 They also vied for their freedom in court, tried to circumvent the law of their enslavers where possible, and maintained an identity aside from the enslaver-inflicted control of an enslaved worker, as they did across the Americas. But the Natchez District of the Mississippi Territory was different from the district under Spanish control.

Transitions of Complexion The new legal system itself was difficult to decipher for both the enslaved and the enslavers. Until territorial law codes established laws that directly negated traditional legal practices, these continued to work. That potentially allowed litigants of color to pursue cases built on Spanish law. While all legal systems fully accepted the legal protection of property, including captive Africans, they varied in the approach to maintain the legal status of the enslaved in front of local judges.12 People of color continued to exploit these traditions to earn their freedom. Initially, issues of law could be confusing. Spain was still tantalizingly close. Obviously, the Spanish legal system no longer held sway in Natchez, yet until France wrested Louisiana away from Spain and sold it to the United States in 1803, crossing the river could bring freedom. Spanish authorities were not actively encouraging the enslaved to run away as they had done in the eighteenth century in Florida, yet Spanish law did offer some rare opportunities for freedom.13 For example, Phillis, enslaved to Thomas Bissett of Kentucky, crossed the river to seek her freedom in 1800. Bissett’s brother Joseph took Phillis through Natchez and across the Mississippi River, where he liberated her without the consent of his brother. Thomas Bissett then retained Joseph Ray as his lawyer, and Ray crossed the Mississippi and confronted the Spanish courts with Bissett’s claims. Bissett did not want Phillis back, so he simply instructed Ray to sell Phillis in Natchez after he had regained possession of her.14 Phillis never left town, which forced her back into slavery. Joseph Ray crossed the river and reclaimed Phillis as human property. He then sold her to Prosper King of Natchez for $450.15 To avoid cases like Phillis’s, Natchez’s enslavers insured their property rights against Spanish law. John Joseph Rodriguez, a Spanish inhabitant of Natchez, had apparently mortgaged two slaves to

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Walter Beall in 1790. Beall, by then hailing from Kentucky, bought the enslaved for one thousand dollars in 1800. Understanding the problems between the two legal systems, he included in the bill of sale a provision that “any claim or demand the Spanish Government may have claiming for and under it which are not meant to be warranted against” would be null and void. In other words, the enslaved were his under American law, and they had no legal standing as litigants in any court.16 The enslavers, like the enslaved, were certainly savvy enough to recognize the difference between the legal codes, and they sought to exploit them. The Spanish government, on the other side of the river, had already made concessions concerning property claims in 1798, yet American settlers wanted to make sure that they could deal in their human chattel without any interference from their Iberian neighbors across the river. Territorial settlers knew many of the Spanish officials on the other side of the Mississippi from Natchez’s Spanish days. The Spanish authorities had apparently decided that in cases where property was in dispute, they would remain neutral and follow the law of the United States after 1798. Many Spanish settlers such as Josef Vidal, Antonio Gras, and Francisco Candle, who had spent twenty years in Natchez and then had settled across the river, endorsed that decision.17 Mississippi’s territorial laws very quickly and continuously restricted possible avenues of freedom.18 Aside from the change in the actual laws, people of color, both enslaved and free, had to learn a new legal language to approach the courts. Initially, in combination with the much more restrictive definition of complexion, local judges may have still made decisions based on established legal precedents.19 But as the years of American jurisprudence crept ahead, and the 1807 territorial laws finalized the arrival of United States legal culture replete with laws governing enslaved and freed people based on complexion, people of color had to adopt the new language of individuals as property. Seven years after Spain and its legal culture vacated the Natchez District, the American settlers in the newly formed Mississippi Territory passed the Act to Prevent the Liberation of Slaves. Enacted on July 20, 1805, the law made it difficult and costly for a slave owner to free an enslaved person and was an early example of changes to come. Enslavers had to “first prove to the satisfaction of the General Assembly, that such slave, or slaves, have done some meritorious act; either for the benefit of the said owner, or for the benefit of this territory.” Whereas in Spanish

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Figure 4. European travelers frequently commented on the number of enslaved Africans working on the fertile soil along the Mississippi River. Johannes Alexander Rudolf Best, Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw Catches Residents’ Attention on Mississippi Riverbank, 1837, Rijks Museum.

Natchez a visit to the courthouse was enough to grant an African captive his freedom, now the General Assembly probed every act of manumission for its merit. In addition, the act stipulated that “the owner or owners of the said slave or slaves, shall first give bond and security to the governor.” The money was collected as insurance, in case the free person should become “chargeable to the public.”20 Liberty became a commodity that no longer rested on the will of the enslaver, not to mention the ability of the enslaved to procure funds to buy his or her own freedom. With the advent of American law, the enslaved had to find ways to exploit the shrinking cracks in the masonry of slave law. Although the American legal system heavily favored the enslavers, enslaved Africans, especially women with families, still challenged their owners for freedom. They relied on the same family networks that the African-descended population under the Spanish had used to secure

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justice. Yet their efforts tended to occur before the territory transitioned to statehood, and before the territorial legal codes were formalized in 1805 and 1807 respectively. If, after these dates, the enslaved approached the courts and justices with an understanding of law that still reflected cultural ideas of blackness and whiteness reminiscent of the Spanish period, their efforts did not yield freedom. Only when they used a new language of property, marking themselves simultaneously as owned and able to secure their rights in themselves, did their legal activities produce positive outcomes.21

Coming to Terms with Change: Slavery and Freedom under the New Government The new government brought transformations that affected all people in Natchez. The most obvious and easiest transition occurred on the administrative level. The district was split into Adams and Pickering Counties in 1799. The Republican William C. C. Claiborne relieved the first territorial governor, Federalist Winthrop Sargent, on November 22, 1801. Claiborne moved the capital six miles to the east of Natchez, to the new town of Washington, but Natchez remained the focal point of politics and intrigue, as well as the economic hub of the Mississippi Territory.22 The other settlements closely hugged the Mississippi; none was located farther than twenty miles away. Then, in December 1801, the Choctaw Nation signed a treaty that ceded lands north of Natchez to the United States, providing more land for settlers to grow cotton.23 The captive trade soon became a driving economic force for Natchez, and the enslavers closely monitored the importation of Africans.24 For example, William Dunbar inquired of the firm of Tunno and Price in Charleston, South Carolina, about securing their “assistance to procure a Certain number of African slaves” in 1807, before the United States enacted the ban on the international slave trade. He was willing to “procure slaves to the amount of £3000 sterling including all expenses to the hour of shipment from Charleston.” Dunbar continued to describe the enslaved he desired in detail, even addressing the required gender ratio among them. He also asked the traders not to procure captives from the coast of Africa but rather from the interior of the continent because bondspeople from the African coast were less “civilized” than their fellow Africans.25 The increase in imports of African captives was not followed by an increase in manumissions in Natchez. With only a few exceptions,

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enslavers did not willingly manumit their enslaved during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Daniel Clark, for instance, the enslaver and merchant who was so instrumental in bringing the cotton gin to Natchez in 1795, registered two separate manumissions in the Natchez court in 1799 and 1800. In 1799, Clark freed Pollidore for “his great merit, services, honesty, and fidelity, during the term of twelve years.” On February 20, 1800, Adams County judge Thomas Wilkins officially granted Pollidore his freedom.26 Pollidore’s twelve years of faithful service netted him his freedom. Pollidore joined 181 free people of color who were registered by the first census of Washington, Pickering, and Adams Counties in 1801. It is impossible to tell if the 1801 figure represented an increase or decrease in the population since Spanish census records do not indicate the number of free people of color living in Natchez. It seems plausible to speculate that the majority of free people of color in Natchez had lived there under Spanish dominion as well. (If I estimate the number of free people of color conservatively at 150 at the end of the Spanish period and compare it to the number of enslaved in the 1795 census, the percentage of free people of color is an estimated 6 percent (6.2 percent) of the Africandescended population in Natchez.) Regardless of the increase or decrease in the population of free people of color, the number of enslaved Atlantic Africans in Natchez had already increased dramatically. Whereas the Spanish recorded 2,062 enslaved in their last census in 1795, six years later that number had increased to 3,481. By 1810, the same three counties had an enslaved population of 8,840, more than the other eight counties of the Mississippi Territory combined (7,863). The population of freed men and women had decreased to 121 (1.4 percent) in Adams, Washington, and Jefferson (formerly Pickering) Counties, and the population of free people of color in the whole Mississippi Territory (which still included Mobile) was down to 174 (1 percent), eight fewer than nine years earlier. The laws introduced into the territory obviously took their toll on enslaved and free people of color alike.27 A second string of manumissions dates back to the Spanish period. The Clarks once again became active in front of a judge in Natchez, this time in the case of Jupiter Dowda and his family. Their “first slave” Jupiter Dowda died in Philadelphia in 1799. He had relocated to the Eastern Seaboard after his manumission. He potentially had come from Pennsylvania with the Clarks, who had migrated to Natchez during the previous decades and had then returned back home. Dowda understood that Philadelphia offered him unique opportunities with its large population of

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freed people. In addition, Pennsylvania had passed laws that put the state on the “ragged road to abolition” in the previous decade.28 Dowda was able to free the rest of his family as well, probably profiting from the close ties he had developed with his enslaver over the preceding decades. Family ties once more underlay the motive of an enslaver to free his human chattel, and Jupiter Dowda succeeded in uniting his entire nuclear family in liberty in the City of Brotherly Love. We know about this case because of the manumission of Dowda’s daughter Susana, entered into court on January 1, 1800. Susana was the last child of Dowda still in Clark’s possession. Other members of her family had already been freed before she at last received her freedom. Clark had freed Dowda’s wife, Nanny, their daughter Isabella, and their son Jonathan over the preceding years, all in recognition of Jupiter’s “uncommon fidelity” to the Clarks and under Spanish law.29 The Dowda family then relocated to Philadelphia, and Susana followed them in 1800, to live in freedom away from the scorching sun of Mississippi’s cotton fields. The periodic proximity to Spanish law and Iberian definitions of complexion aided the Dowda family in their quest for freedom, but as Natchez continued its transition from a United States territory to a state over the next seventeen years, the liminality of the region diminished quickly. The inroads of American law wiped away the opportunities granted to the enslaved under Spanish law as a rising tide would eliminate footsteps on beach sand. Although manumissions would occur later in the history of the state of Mississippi, and free people continued to live in the Natchez District, the changes in administration, law, and definitions of complexion significantly affected the people of color in Natchez. Family ties remained the surest way to receive freedom until people of color adjusted to new strategies to engage the courts.

Managing Human Chattel The growing enslaved population worried the administrators of the Mississippi Territory. After the United States implemented its legal system in Natchez, manumissions such as the ones undertaken by the Clarks became a rare occurrence. The new laws discouraged enslavers from offering freedom to the enslaved and left bondspeople without many legal avenues to freedom. Enslavers could almost sense the desperation of their enslaved as word of Gabriel’s Rebellion reached Natchez in 1800, and officials immediately urged enslavers to remain vigilant.30

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Winthrop Sargent stated in a circular letter to all planters of the territory that there were several dangers posed by the large enslaved population in their midst, yet reason should prevail over panic. Apparently two overseers on the plantations of David Lintot and Mr. Moore had been recently attacked. Yet Sargent dismissed these outbreaks of violence as unrelated incidents based upon the alleged misconduct of the respective overseers. Sargent further reiterated that he did not believe that the enslaved were threatening to rise against their enslavers at this moment. Rebellion was always a threat, but the governor expressed hope that revolt could be avoided with “mild and wise Treatment.”31 The danger that enslavers sensed was not to be underestimated. Sargent warned his constituents about recently imported captives, “some of whom, it is more than probable have been actors in the Bloody scenes that have already devastated whole Countries.”32 The governor referred to the enslaved who had arrived in the lower Mississippi Valley from the French colony of Saint-Domingue, where Atlantic Africans had risen and successfully defeated French, British, and Spanish efforts to regain control of the wealthiest slave colony in the history of the Atlantic World. Some of those captives had made their way to Louisiana, and Sargent feared that the influence of revolutionary Haiti might manifest itself among the enslaved in Natchez.33 Two months later, Sargent issued new orders to the territorial militia. Once again, a major concern—besides the ever-present Indian threat—was the issue of slavery. Sargent urged them in a January 12, 1801, address to remain heedful and well-armed because the number of enslaved Africans in the district had increased gradually and Sargent was painfully aware of the numbers arriving through the domestic slave trade. The trade not only added to the numbers of enslaved in the district, but “reasoning from the fine feelings of Man to the number of our most inveterate Enemies also.”34 Sargent specifically cautioned: “Tis more than probable, that in the Lapse of another year, there will be more Blacks than Whites within the Mississippi Territory.—That we deprive them of the sacred Boon of Liberty is a Crime they can never forgive— Mild and humane Treatment may for a Time Continue them quiet, but can never fully Reconcile them to their situation—and Calculating from the Experience of some amongst us, in a War with any European, or even Indian Power, they might be irresistibly stimulated to Vengance.”35 Sargent reiterated that it was most important to treat the captives in a way that belied the very foundations of slavery, cautioning any enslaver from driving his human chattels too hard and punishing them too severely.

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The American governor perceived a serious threat in the enslaved’s presence in the district.36 Winthrop Sargent even ventured so far as to remind the enslavers that slavery was indeed a crime, and a revolt of the enslaved a logical consequence. To counter this, Sargent declared that officers of the militia needed “to Carry into full effect, the Laws for the Regulation of Slaves.” He ordered slave patrols and cautioned once again that he had received reports of “cruel and Barbarous usage practiced towards slaves, under a pretended Authority.” These actions earned his official disapproval because they put the district in further danger of a slave rebellion, not because he was a humanitarian.37 Unsanctioned and unscrupulous assaults on captives were, of course, very much a part of chattel slavery in Natchez. However, the combination of a regime change, a large influx of enslaved workers, and the fearsome reports of the Haitian revolution and Gabriel’s Rebellion did their part to magnify the fears of Natchez’s enslavers.38 Although they finally were able to pass laws of complexion that seemingly dehumanized their human chattel, they nevertheless recognized that enslaved Africans were neither incapable of resisting nor disinclined to resist their white owners wherever they could. Enslavers quickly established new legal codes in the Mississippi Territory to counter these threats. They passed two acts heralding the change from the Spanish to Anglo-American legal tradition in January 1803 and January 1805. The 1803 Act Concerning Marriages outlawed all unions between white people and people of color, free or enslaved, and it also punished both the newlyweds and the orchestrator of the wedding with heavy fines.39 This was, legally speaking, a marked departure from the previous Spanish legal standards. Although official marriages across the color line do not appear in the records, unions between people of color and white members of Natchez existed. Unsanctioned unions, as well as sexual acts of violence, continued to exist, of course. Spanish law, even if only in theory, “granted privileges that these men and women [in Louisiana] had not possessed . . . including the right to marry, donate property to one another and to their children, and to provide for the manumission of enslaved lovers and children.”40 The change here was significant. Unlike in Louisiana, where litigants of color continued, under American territorial rule, to press for their customary rights from the Spanish period, litigants in Natchez did not push their luck by seeking their former rights in court.41 Two years later, the legislature passed An Act Respecting Slaves. This act expanded on the British Act of 1766 in its severity, specifically

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enshrining blackness as the only marker of perpetual servitude. The enslaved could not bear witness against white people and could not carry weapons or own property. According to the act, captives could sell only the produce they raised in their free time with the express permission of the enslaver. The administration severely limited the enslaved’s movement and restricted it to their plantation or enslaver’s home, unless they carried written permission to leave the plantation.42 But the legislature pushed even further. The enslaved were also prohibited from keeping dogs or horses. Resistance against white people was obviously forbidden and severely punished under all circumstances. If an enslaved African were tried for a capital crime, two-thirds of the jury had to be “composed of owners of slaves.” Courts only permitted slave testimony in felony cases involving other bondsmen. Originally, the act included a clause that required the jury to estimate the value of the enslaved and then called for the reimbursement of the enslaver through territorial funds if the enslaved was executed. Evidently, this section of the act was not ratified. Instead, the administration levied a special tax on slave owners to establish a fund from which the owner of an executed enslaved person could be reimbursed.43 Beginning in 1805, then, the legal status of the enslaved had been clearly relegated to that of property. Although Spanish law certainly did not endorse capital crime by the enslaved and cracked down on such violence equally severely, Iberian laws did not define slavery as the natural state of an African-descended person. After 1805 people of color in Natchez had become just that, and they constantly had to prove their freedom, if they could obtain it. All of these independent acts were formally enshrined into the comprehensive territorial laws in 1807. The legal traditions of the judges in the American Natchez District were rooted in British Caribbean slave codes mixed with codes from Virginia and South Carolina. People of color were clearly treated as nonhuman, and they lost all the outlets to freedom the Spanish codes provided them. The new laws were appreciably based on complexion and finalized the Anglo-American cultural push to turn blackness into the only quantifiable necessity that presupposed enslavement; this was evident even outside the included slave code. For example, any person who had African (or Native American) ancestry as far back as “the third generation . . . whether bond or free, shall be taken and deemed incapable in law, to be witnesses in any case whatsoever, except for and against each other.”44 If a person of color committed a crime that did not automatically draw the death penalty, “he or she shall be burnt in the hand by the sheriff in open court, or suffer such other

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and corporal punishment as the court shall think fit to inflict.” Violent mutilations of African bodies were the base punishment for any offense, and enslavers then codified that the death penalty became the immediate option if a person of color was convicted for the same crime again.45 The threat of mutilation did not stop there. A false testimony required “without further trial” that the person of color had “one ear nailed to the pillory, and there stand for one hour; and then the said ear to be cut of[f], and thereafter the other ear nailed in like manner, and cut off at the expiration of one other hour, and moreover to receive thirty-nine lashes on his or her back, well laid on, at the public whipping post.”46 Even while whites tried to legally turn Atlantic Africans into property, they still had to face them as persons in the courts, and persons could make statements that could affect white honor, even if it could not lead to a legal conviction. In a society where honor mattered a lot, blackness became a sign of dishonor, both because blackness became the marker of slavery and because whiteness became the marker of honor. Hence, the punishment for false testimony of a person of color was extremely violent and public, reinforcing these standards of honor. Yet even so, enslavers implicitly acknowledged that there was agency that Africandescended people could exert on the law, as otherwise such punishments would have been unnecessary.47 It was also clearly important for the lawmakers to enshrine whiteness and blackness as diametrically opposed in the laws. One section declared that anyone “guilty of stealing or selling any free person for a slave . . . [and] shall suffer death.”48 “Free” here is very clearly defined as white, as there were indeed many examples of free people of color kidnapped and then enslaved in Natchez, but none of the kidnappers were threatened with the death penalty.49 This law clearly defined the unlawful captivity of a white person as a capital crime, while at the same time ensuring that the lawful enslavement of African captives was not. Enslaved people were also not permitted to brand cattle “unless the said slave be in company, and under the direction of some reputable white person.”50 Human chattel, in other words, could not legally proceed to mark what effectively amounted to other livestock, even if the white owner was the same. The previous laws were outside of the actual slave codes that were included in as comprehensive a code as the Natchez District had seen in 1807. The 1807 comprehensive territorial code included the first compiled Act Respecting Slaves as well. Even within a few years, the territorial legislature made significant changes. To wit, they declared that “no slave be admitted a witness against any person, in any matter, cause, or thing

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whatsoever, civil or criminal, except in criminal cases, in which the evidence of one slave shall be admitted for or against another slave.”51 This diminished the chances for the enslaved further to participate in the legal system, even though it did not preclude them entirely. Much of the slave code then focused on legally circumscribing the freedom of movement of the enslaved in the territory, limiting their ability to participate in the local economy or to own property, as well as other laws that reflect the larger Anglo-American legal landscape in governing people of nonwhite complexions.52 As if the legal text left any doubt that the status of enslaved people had changed, white supremacy in the world of complexion found its expression perfectly in a subclause of the code that explains: “Whereas it has been the humane policy of all civilized nations, where slavery has been permitted, to protect this useful, but degraded class of men, from cruelty and oppression . . . no cruel or unusual punishment shall be inflicted on any slave within this territory.” White supremacy and paternalism coexist side by side and subsequently show the contempt white enslavers held for their captives. Punishment of a violation of this section was a fine not to exceed “two hundred dollars,” hardly a sufficient deterrent for anyone inclined to commit the cruelties of slavery on the humans they owned, who, after all, were a “degraded class.”53 The fines in the law also did not represent a humanitarian interest in the well-being of the enslaved. The primary reason for the law was the prevention of violence that was too excessive even in the eyes of fellow enslavers. Mississippians sought to prevent the uprising of the enslaved on one plantation, which could then possibly spread across the region.54 Natchez enslavers enacted legislation that empowered them to subject people of color—in particular the enslaved—to tight control in all matters of life, and thereby established a tentative feeling of security. This security was easily destroyed by rumors of rebellion and no legal code, no matter how restrictive, could prevent enslavers from fearing that their enslaved could rise up in rebellion. Yet the new codes served their purpose. Manumissions became exceedingly rare, and enslavers successfully relegated African-descended people to the bottom of society.

The Price of American Slavery While rare, manumission occasionally occurred after the change in legal systems and white settlers passed the new territorial laws in 1805 and 1807. Although enslavers (and often fathers) manumitted family

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members before 1805, the legislature had to do so after that date, and only if the enslaver provided the necessary funds. The paternity of the enslaver (or a white person) was often implicitly stated because the petitions described the mothers as African-descended, but the children as mixed-complexion. The Natchez court records reveal a few manumissions based on provisions in wills, as well as a smattering of self-purchases. This continued to be a possibility because it also grouped enslaved people as property. For example, William Vousdan manumitted Ben in 1803, and Anthony Hutchins manumitted Tony in 1805 in their wills.55 Jane Clark manumitted her slave Dinah, yet Dinah had to pay her former enslaver thirty Spanish silver dollars for the manumission, as well as an additional thirty every year for ten years. Robert Moore allowed Esther to purchase her freedom for one hundred dollars in 1804, and John Forsyth freed Hannah after she paid him a total of seven hundred dollars—an enormous sum in 1804.56 Enslavers soon endeavored to patch this loophole as well. In 1807 Susanna Scott freed the four-year-old enslaved girl Clarinda. Her parents, Monday and Philly, paid Scott two hundred dollars. While Clarinda was now free, her parents were not.57 The strategies her parents employed for her future are unknown, but they secured the “cheapest” member of their family first, demonstrating a sophisticated comprehension of the new language of property and displaying how to use it successfully in the courts. Yet earning the money required for the purchase got appreciably harder after 1807. The 1807 law code infringed dramatically on the ability of enslaved Africans to save enough money to approach their enslavers in an attempt to buy their freedom. It stipulated that “no person whatsoever, shall buy, sell, or receive of, to, or from a slave, any commodity whatsoever” without the approval of the enslaver.58 With no access to markets, income to purchase one’s freedom was hard to come by. In addition, the regulations punished everyone who had business with enslaved people, and even punished enslavers who “license[d] such slave to go at large.” Coming after Gabriel’s Rebellion in Virginia, the codes also outlawed the previously common practice of “hiring-out.”59 All these codes served the dual purpose of limiting the enslaved’s mobility and circumscribing their ability to accrue capital to purchase their own bodies. This, of course, was not always successful, but enslavers understood that participating in markets was a privilege tightly connected to whiteness, and so they sought to regulate the enslaved’s participation as much as possible.60

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The case of George Fitzgerald is an especially informative tale and also highlights the importance of complexion for freedom. In 1804 he informed the court that he wanted to free his “negro woman named Mary and her four mulatoe children christened by the names of Elizabeth, Polly, Isabelle and George.” He did so because of “divers good causes and considerations,” and specifically because of “principles of humanity and tenderness to the said Mary and her four children aforesaid as being unfit to undergo the hardships of slavery to which the said Mary and her four children might in the state of bondage be exposed.”61 Several indications in the court document suggest that George Fitzgerald was the father of the four children. Mary was from Jamaica and not described as a mulatto, but her children were of mixed complexion. Before the territorial laws legally defined blackness as a status that included long lines of ancestry, their mixed complexion may have aided their freedom. Conversely, Fitzgerald may have seen the writing on the wall and wanted to free his children with the least amount of complex legal maneuvering. The only boy among the four was named George, possibly after George Fitzgerald. Yet Fitzgerald and some of the other men who manumitted enslaved people were not abolitionist. Not only did he own Mary and her four children, but two years after the manumission was carried out, he purchased another enslaved woman named Hannah and her child, Phillister.62 Obviously, Fitzgerald had no qualms about the institution of slavery, but he was concerned with the fate of Mary and her children. Another Fitzgerald, James, divided his estate in equal parts between his “mulattoe children” and two mulatto women after his death in 1812.63 Both Fitzgeralds freed some their African captives from slavery and spared them from the destiny of many enslaved families in Natchez that would have been broken up through sales or other business dealings of their enslavers. In both instances we know little about the potential sexual violence encountered by the women, nor do we know what happened to them or their children after freedom. Few enslaved followed Mary and her children to freedom in Natchez. The first enslaved Africans freed by the legislature of the territory and not by their enslavers were another enslaved woman and her eight children on December 28, 1805.64 Overall, the deed record books of Adams County contain only thirteen manumissions in the first decade of territorial government beyond that single act of manumission by the legislature. Almost all of these manumissions, except two, occurred before July 20, 1805, the date on which the new slave law was enacted by the

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legislature of the Mississippi Territory. In contrast, under Spain, somewhere between 100 and 150 enslaved people received their freedom.65 Other formerly enslaved people who were manumitted in other states or territories had their manumission deeds documented in the Natchez records to avoid any complications and to prove conclusively that they were indeed free.66 For example, John Foster had to rely on his legal papers from Kentucky to defend his freedom in the Natchez courts. As is evident in the Natchez records, Adams County officials requested not only legal proof of his freedom from Kentucky but also two witness statements that corroborated that the “dark mulatto,” John Foster, was indeed free in the state of Kentucky. Both witnesses testified that John Foster, age twenty-three, was born to free parents in North Carolina and had migrated from there first to Kentucky, and then later to Natchez.67 He had to prove his freedom based on his complexion, as sources frequently reference his most notable feature as a “dark mulatto.” People in Natchez judged his complexion as a sure indicator of slavery, no matter what John Foster explained. Fortunately, Foster was able to legalize his status as a free person of color. Another formerly enslaved African American, manumitted by the Reverend Adam Boyd in Georgia in 1799 and then brought to Natchez, continued to serve his enslaver for set wages but provided proof of his freedom to the local courts as well.68 Freed people had to secure a living wage in the face of a booming economy, as accelerating cotton production in Natchez absorbed a continuously growing enslaved population. Skilled laborers had little trouble finding employment, but unskilled workers were hard-pressed to find jobs.69 Many might have sought to move to New Orleans to find suitable jobs. In many ways, the Mississippi River offered superior employment opportunities to the Natchez District because it allowed for easy movement and little resistance from local societies or elites.70 Some ex-enslaved remained in servitude but on their own terms. They indentured themselves for a limited time to white settlers. Romino, for example, entered a second indenture contract with a white settler in 1805. He contractually bound himself for three years and three months, and the court document includes a witnessed note from his new enslaver that declared that after the contract had expired, Romino would once again be a free man.71 The contract did not stipulate what kind of work Romino was doing, yet it netted him a job for over three years, and it secured Natchez as his home. Perhaps he had a family on a surrounding plantation, and, rather than leaving, he entered an indenture to remain close to his loved ones.72

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Direct manumissions were not the only means by which enslavers allowed their captives to receive their freedom. Some enslavers sold their human property yet provided clauses in the sales contract that in theory afforded freedom for the enslaved at a future time. Unlike provisions comparable to this one under Spanish law—like self-purchase that was guaranteed in contract over time—the manumissions that should have occurred based on such contracts in Natchez were not documented.73 While enslavers promised to free their chattel eventually, they were unwilling to forego some recompense for that deed. They thereby placed the onus on the new owner and somehow expected that that person would ignore the financial side of the deal and set the enslaved free. Unfortunately, Natchez enslavers never had been known for their willingness to let a profit slip. Many attempted gradual manumissions never came to fruition. James Moore, for instance, bought Polly from her Kentucky owner James Ward in 1800. Aside from the usual legal text associated with a bill of sale, however, Ward added: “Until she shall arrive at the age of twenty five years, which will be on the first day of January One Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty and whereas the said Polly is now my Slave for life Now know ye that I the said James Ward, for diverse good causes and Reasons and Conditions me thereunto moving, have manumitted, set free, and wholly exonerate the said Polly from servitude after the said first day of January [illegible] of said year.”74 Polly was five years old at the time of sale and could only hope that she would receive freedom at age twentyfive, although the court records do not reveal whether she ever became free. Polly’s age suggests that the likelihood of her becoming free was slim.75 One can speculate that the previous enslavers simply tried to ease their conscience by inserting a clause for manumission after a set time, or perhaps they wanted to appease the enslaved, or rather the families of the enslaved. If the bondspeople learned of the sale, yet were promised freedom for good behavior after a certain time of service, their obedience could be secured without threats or violence, and transportation to their new owner was achieved with less flight risk.76 However, the restrictive manumission policies of the Mississippi Territory prohibited many manumissions from being carried out. Although free people of color lived in Natchez, it was increasingly difficult for an enslaved person to become free in a world dominated by cotton and its labor demands. The case of Clarinda is the most telling of how the legal change in Natchez could destroy any hope of freedom for the enslaved. The haunting

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story transpired just as the Mississippi Territory sharpened its manumission law again in 1808 and compelled enslavers who manumitted their chattel to pay a security in case the enslaved became a burden to the public, on top of the requirement to go through the approval of the legislature. Joseph Galvan, Clarinda’s enslaver, did not consider this when he manumitted her on June 24, 1808.77 Exactly five months later, Galvan rescinded his manumission. He stated that “at the time of executing this emancipation [he] was unacquainted with the conditions prescribed by the statute of this Territory for liberating slaves and he now not being able nor inclined to give the security in such cases required, doth hereby renounce, revoke and make null to all intends [sic] and purposes the within manumition [sic].”78 Despite his expressed “consideration of the faithful service” of Clarinda, the merit of her service was not sufficient to validate the price tag that came with freedom for her.79 This represented a dramatic reversal of custom, not only from the Spanish period but even from the first decade of American legislation. Consequently, slavery became ever more restrictive in a system that now was largely based on complexion. The continuation of American government and eventually statehood did nothing to lessen the obstacles placed in the way of bondspeople who tried to claim their liberty. Even family bonds that often assisted the enslaved to claim freedom no longer sufficed to guarantee success of their liberty suits. To illustrate, Mary Ann, who was sold from Maryland to Mississippi, claimed that she was not sold as an enslaved woman but as an indentured servant. Under the terms of her servitude her contract was to expire after six years, and she demanded her freedom in 1821. Her current owner in Mississippi simply claimed that he had paid the full price and purchased her as enslaved for life, and Mary Ann lost her case. Although some documents remain that state that Mary Ann’s Maryland enslaver had indeed tried to emancipate her after the service of six years, the courts of Mississippi did not uphold the legal validity of the paper and rejected Mary Ann’s suit.80 Her complexion doomed her case. On July 20, 1821, Debby committed a similar story to the records of the Adams County court. She also claimed that she had been sold in Maryland as an indentured servant and that her term had expired after fourteen years of service. Debby was not alone. She requested the freedom of her children Barley, Charles, Joseph, Polly, and Hetty as well. The whole family, according to Debby, was rightfully free, and their master, Anthony Campbell, held them in bondage without any justification.81 To demonstrate her desire and determination, Debby described herself

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and her family as “Debby, a free person of color, and her children.” She went so far as to demand “damages for their services, work and labor and injuries done their persons.”82 Debby attempted to reclaim her personhood in the face of a system that deemed her ineligible to do so because of her complexion, but she also showed she understood the legal conceptualization of blackness by Mississippi’s enslavers. She described herself as a commodity, and since her personhood had been taken from her, she insisted on being reimbursed appropriately, a language understood and at times honored by white Mississippians.83 The field was nevertheless stacked against her. Campbell held her small family in captivity, and Debby could not validate her claim until she ran away and found the assistance of a lawyer. However, the law was clear that this was not the correct process to initiate the proceedings, a fact that heavily weighed against her in court.84 Debby’s petition explained that she had not been in the possession of Anthony Campbell “for some few weeks last past, nor is she now in his possession.”85 Her case apparently moved attorney Edmund Turner to come to her aid, and he brought her claim to court. Debby’s children remained in bondage and under Campbell’s control, and Debby must have feared for their well-being while she ran away to secure the family’s liberty. As the case unfolded in the superior court, Debby’s claim to personhood and the trial that followed made her a litigant and participant in the legal process, whether or not white citizens deemed her a person. She forced the issue into the public sphere, and this in turn required a legal reckoning with complexion in Mississippi courts.86 To Campbell’s chagrin, Debby had a strong case. Not only did she have the foresight to obtain the services of an attorney, but she could also produce witnesses to testify that she indeed had been sold as an indentured servant.87 According to James Grafton, his brother Daniel had bought Debby’s contract in 1805. The contract was set to expire in 1819, but Daniel Grafton had died in June 1816, and Campbell had taken over the contract and Debby. With the new owner, her complexion now became a powerful enemy of freedom because she had to prove that indeed there was a contract for a term of servitude. Furthermore, the witness stated that all of Debby’s five children were born after 1805, technically making none of them chattel. But that all depended on her status at the time of birth, as her blackness marked her as enslaved first, and children followed the status of the mother. James Grafton also proclaimed that he had seen Debby’s indenture contract and knew that “she was indentured to serve but fourteen years, when [she] was to be free and that it was on

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these terms his said brother Daniel Grafton purchased the plaintiff.”88 Debby’s case seemed to have powerful allies and strong evidence. After the court received the witness report, attorneys for both sides went to work and questioned James Grafton thoroughly. Campbell’s lawyer tried to press Grafton on several points of his testimony, including whether he had actually seen Debby give birth to any of her children, or if he had really seen the bill of sale. Here Grafton ran into some trouble. He could not remember the exact date on the bill, nor whether it was a witnessed bill of sale. Grafton did not know Debby’s status prior to her sale, nor did he know the name of her original owner.89 Debby’s lawyer asked similar questions. Grafton again proclaimed that Debby had made it known that she was to be freed, but he was not sure if papers could prove her status. Apparently, the papers were not in order when Debby was transferred from Daniel Grafton to Campbell after Grafton’s death. The witness could neither remember exactly what the bill of sale said, nor if a manumission in any county was attached, but he testified that Debby was supposed to go free at some point in time. When Grafton was asked why an African-descended indentured servant should be purchased in Maryland, he replied that it was customary in Maryland to sell bondspeople as term slaves with limited service contracts.90 As to Debby’s children, Grafton could not provide any additional information. He did not know if his brother intended to free them as well, or if he strove to keep them in bondage.91 Debby’s chances for success decreased over the following weeks. The questioning was postponed until August 1, 1821. When the hearing continued, Campbell’s lawyer reiterated that Debby had indeed run away from the plantation in the spring of 1821 to obtain a trial and an attorney. He also revealed that it was James Grafton who had originally procured Debby’s lawyer and asked him for advice on how to proceed in the case.92 He continued to press hard, but no further substantial evidence could be introduced that moved the case either way. After the interrogations were completed, no further witnesses were called. James Grafton, curiously, remained the only witness interrogated in the case, and his role in the case or his relationship to Debby is difficult to glean from the sources. He helped Debby tremendously when he organized her defense and functioned as a key witness in the case, but his motives are unknown. It also seems that Debby had sought refuge in his house for a while, which adds to the murky circumstances of the case. His brother held Debby and her children as his property, yet James Grafton willingly helped her, trying to prevent her and her children from becoming enslaved for life.

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In summary, this case demonstrates why enslaved African Americans were rarely freed as Mississippi transitioned from territory to state, and why enslavers were so keen to avoid freedom suits altogether. Not only could they lose their enslaved property, but the owner of a freed person had to “first give bond and security to the governor, for the time being, that the said slave or slaves should not become chargeable to the public.”93 Campbell stood to lose much more than the workforce of Debby and her children or their market value. The additional $1,800 designated as bond for the enslaved was also a substantial sum of money, and Campbell surely tried his best to avoid that payment. In addition, every fellow enslaver who might face similar suits in the future sided with Campbell. Therefore, the outcome of the trial is not surprising and demonstrates how much the legal culture of Natchez had changed in the two decades since Spanish control. The case lingered for two years in the courts, but ultimately an all-white jury explained, “We of the jury find that the defendants are slaves, and not free persons in manner and form as in their petition they have alleged.”94 The court and jury obviously did not think the evidence in the case sufficient—or they simply ignored it based on Debby’s complexion—and condemned her and her children to a life of perpetual bondage in Natchez. Yet Debby still had demonstrated the agency of enslaved people in front of courts, and where she failed, others succeeded. In less than a decade, the American territorial government, backed and prodded by the enslavers, had enacted a series of laws that made manumission harder to achieve and changed the language of freedom drastically. People of color had to work through a benefactor to achieve their goals, or they had to hire a lawyer. Although the enslaved still relayed the information the lawyer in turn transmitted to court, the extra cost and the extra step were just one more hurdle to clear. As under Spanish rule, families were often the only resort for the enslaved to achieve freedom. Either an enslaver freed his partner and their children, or a father agreed to free at least the children of an enslaved family for a price. Cases in which enslavers freed slaves for good services on their deathbed were rare, and these cases virtually disappear after 1805. The road to freedom in the American Natchez District was exclusively dependent on the new language that deemed the enslaved exclusively as property.

Ebb and Flow of Slavery in Early Nineteenth-Century Natchez Avenues to freedom closed in lockstep with the emergence of King Cotton. Enslavers felt secure in their society as patriarchs, and they

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began to plot their ascent to the fabulous riches of the antebellum South’s crown jewel. Along the way, they had to weather a few more bumps in the road, such as the War of 1812, where the lower Mississippi Valley became a battleground between U.S. and British troops, and statehood, which was finally granted in 1817. Much smaller bumps were present in the attempts of the enslaved to continue to strive for their freedom and in economic struggles. Newly arriving settlers or young sons of established landowners frequently asked for advice from frontier-hardened and successful enslavers living in Natchez. Most of the time, the men wanted to know in what they should invest their wealth, and more often than not the answer evolved around Atlantic Africans. Even when they left Natchez to try their luck in the booming lands of the Louisiana Purchase, this equation held true. A case in point was James Steer, nephew of the prominent Natchez enslaver John Minor. Trying to stake his fortune in the lower Mississippi Valley, young James Steer responded to his uncle’s advice to invest in a bank (probably the Bank of the State of Mississippi). Steer explained to his uncle that it would be unwise to do so and argued as follows: “After reflecting on the subject, I feel disposed to decline taking any Bank Stock at this period. From a young man, just commencing in life, the best stock, in which he can invest capital, is, I think, negro stock. While cotton can command from 20 to 30 cts per pound, negroes will yield a much larger income than any bank dividend.”95 Enslaved African Americans were the most valuable property in the lower Mississippi Valley, and neither bank stock nor the profits reaped from cotton outperformed the possible investment return on African captives. However, Steer was already stricken with the problems that would befall future generations of enslavers and that troubled the inhabitants of Natchez during the Spanish period—debt. He told his uncle in no uncertain terms that his finances were simply not sufficient for investments of the order his uncle proposed (more than ten thousand dollars). Payments for parts of his land were due, Steer explained, and his debtors were not paying him promptly. Therefore, he opted to avoid speculation and picked the safest investment to be had on the frontier of the lower Mississippi Valley—African captives.96 Another enslaver’s correspondence supports this point. Philander Smith had received a letter from his mother in 1806, in which she presumed that he was a rich settler in Natchez. Philander was quick to point out that he, in fact, was not rich (at least not by his standards, or probably the high standards of Natchez). He announced that his mother was

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“mistaken in thinking we [Smith brothers] are rich.” He also pointed out that “none of us is under the necessity to labor for our living we all have slaves enough to take the drudgery off our hands. I have nineteen some of my brothers is [sic] in better circumstances than I am and none in much worse but our fortunes are small compared to many in this country.”97 Many poorer whites across the Mississippi Territory certainly envied Smith his enslaved workforce, even if he was still not rich by Natchez standards. Nineteen enslaved people were nothing to scoff at and represented a considerable investment. Still, the examples of Smith and Steer show that the enslavers’ demands for Atlantic African captives were insatiable. The enslaved were a highly valued investment, yet having bound laborers alone was no longer enough to break into the phalanx of the wealthy in Natchez. Ownership of people with African ancestry was simply a requisite to attain any respectable social position in Natchez, as they served as a kind of social capital.98 Although settlers were concerned with their financial situation, they considered the sky the limit once they paid their debts. Nathaniel Evans was one who had closely watched the cotton market for a decade and tried to make sure that his crop was sold at the right price. After weathering the 1807 Embargo Act, as well as the War of 1812, he could finally declare himself debt free in 1816. His agent in London, Peter Ogden, congratulated him on the achievement. The decade before 1816 had seen a few smaller economic crises in Natchez, and the cotton price had varied over time. According to Ogden, Evans managed to escape debt because he maintained his payments and his yearly crop was bountiful. In the same breath, Ogden urged the planter to be cautious and not to flood the market with too much cotton. He warned Evans that the demand for cotton would not rise again for approximately two years and that it would be prudent to curb production until then so as not to ruin the prices on the market.99 Whether Evans took the advice is unknown, but cotton enabled enslavers to escape debt, and the enslaved provided their owners with the labor necessary to produce a crop. And, as Ogden had predicted, prices did collapse, causing the Panic of 1819. The Natchez District remained a popular destination for prospective enslavers. They either tried to come and settle or they solicited advice on how to become an enslaver elsewhere. William Saul, either a banker or merchant in New Orleans, informed George Tichenor in 1819 that he had just purchased twenty enslaved people. As we know from Steer’s letter, these numbers were small for established Natchez enslavers, yet to Saul they represented a fortune. He asked Tichenor for advice on selecting

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suitable land for a plantation. Tichenor was a powerful member of Natchez’s society, and he held a position at the Bank of the State of Mississippi. Therefore, he was well suited to dispense business advice to Saul.100 Unfortunately for Saul, his good luck expired quickly. The enslaved whom he bought in January 1819 could no longer be sold profitably in November because the Panic of 1819 had reached the lower Mississippi Valley. Saul faced mounting requests for payments on his debts, and he asked Tichenor to dispose of some of his property in Natchez in order to retire a few of the notes against him. He also asked for an additional loan to keep his plantation afloat. Instead of selling his enslaved people at a loss, Saul chose to buy even more human property, hoping to profit from the depressed market.101 The prospect of cheap captives and the resulting hope that the increased workforce would yield better profits to pay off the debt overrode all caution and financial wisdom. But in the late 1810s and early 1820s, the economy and prices for the enslaved were depressed for good reason. The first cotton boom had ended, and the United States entered an economic recession. Nevertheless, enslavers such as Saul were eager to increase their human chattel, simply because the Natchez District—and the lower Mississippi Valley—promised riches that would justify all the risks taken if a planter were successful.102 Acquiring land became a problem under the auspices of the U.S. government.103 Spain’s egalitarian land laws no longer ruled Natchez. With the coming of the United States in the lower Mississippi Valley, American land speculators had also arrived in Natchez. Land grants came under question, and established settlers such as William Dunbar had to use the courts to protect their land. People who wanted to enter the district from the American republic tried hard to find available land. Even if they had a claim, it was hard to prove it.104 Nicholas Philip Trist was one such prospective settler. He was born in 1800 and would later marry Virginia Jefferson Randolph, the granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, and become a key negotiator in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848.105 Trist’s father had acquired land under the Spanish government in Natchez. In 1802, Nicholas Trist’s mother wrote William Dunbar, the influential surveyor under British, Spanish, and American governments, to ensure that a tract of two hundred acres would be recorded in favor of the Trist family. Dunbar obliged her and promised that the tract was there, yet he cautioned that it was a Spanish land grant.106 Apparently Trist’s mother had no interest in moving to Natchez with her toddler, because she sent no more letters until Nicholas came of age and graduated from West Point in 1822.

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In the meantime, Theodon Stark laid claim to the tract in 1816, based on the fact that he was owed money from Trist’s father’s estate.107 This dispute must have lingered for several more years, because in 1822 the young Nicholas Trist himself inquired about his father’s land in Natchez. William Dunbar’s reply was cordial, but curt. He explained that the claim was old, that some of the lands had been settled in the meantime, and that Trist would have a difficult time reclaiming the property in question. In addition to the Spanish land grants of Trist’s father, current settlers could stake their claim to British land grants preceding the one of the Trist family. All those facts weakened Trist’s claim considerably, and Trist remained in Virginia, seeking his right via the postal service rather than claiming it in person.108 Even so, the young man was eager to claim his land in Natchez, and he was relentless in his pursuit of what he considered his property. Dunbar maintained a cordial correspondence with the eager Virginian, but he continued to explain to him that hopes for recovering the Spanish land grant were slim.109 Whoever else Nicholas Trist contacted in Natchez over the next year either referred the impatient young man back to Dunbar or politely told him that there was virtually no chance for him to reclaim his property.110 William Dunbar himself grew increasingly impatient with Trist. Answering two of Trist’s letters in 1822, Dunbar explained: “Indeed I have nothing of importance to communicate to you on this occasion. I have only to repeat that my opinion remaining unchanged, that there cannot be any difficulty between us. Having translated the certificate of survey, I am, if possible better convinced than before.”111 Although cordial, Dunbar did not play coy with Trist. He had had enough of the letters sent from Virginia. Parties living in Natchez disputed the land, and Trist had not deemed it important enough to travel south to claim his father’s land in person. After seeing his duty done, Dunbar no longer wanted any part of the process. At this point, then, Natchez had become a closely knit and closed-off plantation society, as some historians have argued it was under the Spanish.112 No matter how hard Nicholas Trist tried, he was at least a decade late in claiming his land. Enslaved people were pouring into the Natchez District not only through the overland slave trade and through the slave pens of New Orleans but also through Natchez’s own slave market at the Forks of the Road.113 With enslaved African Americans easily available, land became the major factor in the town, and no outsider was allowed easy access. The territorial period offered some chances at upward mobility for a lucky few, and social hierarchies at times offered some

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flexibilities. After 1817 and the achievement of statehood, however, “the urbanization had produced not only some degree of order and sophistication at Natchez but also a tendency toward class stratification.”114 The Natchez nabobs by then held tight control over who might enter their circles and who might not. With his dream of becoming an enslaver shattered, Trist entered the service of the United States and became a clerk in the State Department in 1828. Eventually he would rise to become a prominent diplomat, yet an enslaver in Natchez he never was.115

Violence and Flight on the Cotton Frontier As the legal control of the enslavers steadily throttled the enslaved’s avenues to freedom, the enslavers’ fears of violent resistance increased. Complexion had become the sole marker of slavery, and blackness had become the equivalent of “social death.”116 Freedom could be obtained, but only by understanding that one’s African-descended body had to be treated as property. The tension created by that legal shift was palpable. In 1810, after the American planters of Spanish West Florida decided to become independent and oust the Spanish from West Florida for good, Governor David Holmes feared that the insurgency of the settlers there might lead to a rebellion of the enslaved in the area below Natchez.117 He mobilized two companies of regular troops in September 1810 because he feared “an insurrection of the slaves, who are very numerous in the upper part of the province [West Florida].” He ordered his troops to patrol the borderline and to inspect every movement of people of color, making sure that the enslaved did not cross the line in either direction.118 No insurrection took place. Less than four months later Holmes again had to alert his military commanders about a possible slave insurrection. This time his fear was based on an actual rebellion in the sugar parishes of the German Coast in Louisiana. Between two hundred and three hundred enslaved people joined in a revolt to end their enslavement, but Louisiana enslavers who rallied to the support of their brethren crushed them. More than one hundred enslaved people were executed.119 Although the rebellion was quickly put down, Governor Holmes was suspicious of his own enslaved population, by then numbering 16,703. In contrast, the households on the German Coast held only 1,480 African captives. However, only 274 white people lived among their enslaved, whereas whites still outnumbered their enslaved by a margin larger than two to one in the Mississippi Territory.120 Still, Holmes sent out troops to patrol the district and

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to suppress any possible actions taken by the enslaved in the area to follow their fellow Africans in rebellion.121 Six months after the affair he heard rumors of an additional insurrection in Louisiana and once again called out his troops to defend the territory from (potentially) rebellious captives.122 During the War of 1812, Holmes also grew suspicious of the enslaved population and was more afraid of them than of the Choctaws to the north. He feared that the enslaved would take their chances with the British and were scheming to throw off the yoke of American enslavement as their brethren in Haiti had done.123 Natchez’s slaveholders continued to police their human chattel closely after the end of the Spanish regime. American officials attempted to limit the availability of alcohol as best they could, especially for the enslaved. At first the people of Natchez were more concerned about intoxicated Native Americans and the resulting trouble with the still powerful nations surrounding Natchez, but soon those restrictions were extended to the enslaved and free people of color as well. Although planters might occasionally supply alcoholic beverages to their enslaved on the plantations, the town of Natchez tried to deter drinking among the enslaved while they visited the town. The territorial judiciary prosecuted multiple persons for the distribution of alcohol to the enslaved. Obviously, the enslavers had become more concerned with their human chattels’ indulgence in alcohol, and they tried to maintain a higher level of control to counter any alcohol-fueled fraternization that could lead to unrest and rebellion among the ever-growing enslaved population. The prohibition against both the sale of alcohol and gambling was in place in Natchez by 1807. Under the Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, the sale, deliverance, or even gift of alcohol of any kind to “any apprentice, servant or slave” was punishable by a fine of at least ten dollars for the first offense, and twenty dollars for any additional act of illegal distribution.124 Elites tried to maintain a maximum of social control, but the enslaved were not the only groups excluded from the purchase of alcohol. The law also forbade United States soldiers and Native Americans from purchasing alcohol of any kind.125 For example, “a law passed in 1809 [that] required all retailers to swear an oath that they would not buy or sell liquor to slaves without written permission from the slave owner.” Yet problems with the sale of alcohol persisted since many retailers did not even care to acquire a license for selling liquor, or they simply disobeyed the law if they had a license. White people were rightfully worried because alcohol consumption tended to increase the mingling between poor whites and people of color. This broke barriers of complexion, and

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when poor whites associated with enslaved workers who visited Natchez from the surrounding plantations, those barriers were eroded even further.126 What by 1807 had been enshrined plainly into law, now had to be enforced: blackness and whiteness were incompatible, white equaled free, a dark complexion did not. Fear of rebellion was deeply ingrained in the nature of enslavers, and Gabriel’s Rebellion, the Haitian Revolution, as well as the 1811 freedom struggle in Louisiana were still fresh in the minds of many in the early 1800s. Contemporary whites believed specifically that Gabriel’s plot arose from fraternization between people of color and poor whites in Richmond.127 The enslaver elites of the South clearly feared a union of poor whites and African Americans, and so they tried their very best to keep the complexions separate—and sober.128 In the late 1810s, several cases in Natchez were brought against people who illegally sold alcohol to the enslaved. In 1815 George Duncan was accused and convicted of selling whiskey to enslaved patrons without the permission of their owners.129 In 1818 two similar cases were brought to court. Courts charged Daniel Herring with selling liquor to the enslaved and levied a fine of one hundred dollars.130 Authorities indicted William Brooks for that same offense in that same year. It seems that authorities attempted to crack down hard on illicit activities in Natchez when the enslaved were involved.131 Possibly the enslavers hoped to set examples and prove to the inhabitants of Natchez that they were more than willing to enforce the law banning the sale of alcohol to the enslaved if they had witnesses and evidence to convict the offenders. Alcohol consumption was not only a problem with people of color. Alcohol-fueled violence in Natchez was on the upswing among whites as well. The enslaved frequently became victims of white violence while they were in Natchez. This increase in violence is noteworthy because the Spanish records do not list violence of white citizens directed solely against the enslaved. The enslaved were sometimes part of mixed-complexion traveling parties that were attacked, or they served their enslaver in leading such an attack or raid. Hence, if the court records of Natchez are any indication, it is plausible to suggest that violence against people of color increased.132 We know about these incidents because enslavers sued each other for loss of value, not for justice for their human chattel. Among these cases of violence, one incident demonstrates how the law had evolved in the last two decades. In January 1817, Joseph White assaulted Amy, an enslaved woman belonging to Joseph Clarke. Clarke immediately filed a suit against White, and the court proceedings of this case survived, albeit only partially. White had owed Amy money

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for unspecified services, and when the enslaved woman came to collect the debt, White assaulted her.133 Amy’s bold move challenged White. The enslaved woman insulted his manhood and dishonored his whiteness in her attempt to confront him about the debt he rightfully owed. As could be expected, the incident was not treated as an assault, but as a proceeding that revolved around the concept of property. Amy’s blackness did not allow for another way. Despite the obvious injustice that Amy experienced, this episode also serves to show that the change in the legal system in Natchez was profound. Spanish court records held many cases in which people of color appealed to Spanish justice to receive their outstanding debts and won. Under American laws of complexion, the enslaved had no access to the courts and were expressly forbidden from hiring out their services. Amy, trying to claim her wages anyway, endured a beating because she had no legal recourse. Her enslaver then filed a suit against her attacker in the courts, but not to recover her wages. Joseph Clarke was more interested in receiving damages for the labor lost when Amy could not do her chores than in justice for Amy. The court case did not address the issue of debt repayment and reduced Amy to property, with no voice in the legal system.134 Natchez courts held no place for the complaint of the enslaved, and that left flight as the only viable option. A review of two Mississippi Territory newspapers covering the years from 1805 to 1810 revealed 111 advertisements for enslaved runaways.135 These five years allow for an estimate of roughly two runaways per month. These numbers suggest that the enslaved were actively scheming for their freedom, even though the newspapers provided an outlet for enslavers to provide descriptions of their enslaved, thereby decreasing the chances for a successful flight. Unfortunately, these numbers cannot be compared to Spanish Natchez because only seven advertisements for enslaved runaways survived from that period. This number is significantly smaller than the numbers that survived in the Natchez newspaper ads from 1805 to 1810. It is clear that the enslaved sought their liberty in any way available to them, be it the courts or the wilderness of the Mississippi Territory. Although the number of self-emancipated captives increased with the growing number of African Americans living in captivity, they also increased because the new complexion-based laws of 1805 and 1808 made manumission extremely difficult. For many enslaved, the only remaining choice was flight. Newspapers began to arrive in Natchez at the same time that the United States took control of the region and closed off legal avenues

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to freedom permanently. The first newspaper, the Mississippi Gazette, began publishing in 1799. The following year, Green’s Partial Observer appeared, but it ceased publication after two years.136 Andrew Marshalk began printing the Mississippi Herald in 1802. Samuel and Timothy Terrell began producing the Mississippi Messenger at the same time. None of these newspapers had considerable long-term success, nor were they archived in any quantity. Varying publications make it difficult to track runaway ads. Consequently, exact numbers cannot be provided, especially because no complete collection of Natchez newspapers exists.137 Reasons for running away are rarely given, yet sometimes they are quite apparent. Fortune, for example, escaped Joseph Robert at the Natchez Landing on June 11, 1806. His captor described his posture, complexion, and other features of his body. Most noticeably, Robert depicted two scars, one “dim . . . extending across the upper part of his breast and on[e] large and visible on his left side, which he says was occasioned by the severity of a Frenchman, to whom he was once hired.”138 John Walton advertised for Mark: “his back is very much marked with the whip.”139 The violence written on the bodies of the enslaved was evident, and although the enslavers tried to deflect from their own cruelty, it is obvious why the captives self-emancipated. The descriptions also sent clear messages to the public. Both men had been punished severely and so were potentially very dangerous. Their blackness and propensity for disregarding white authority marked them for all whites to see, a message that contemporaries understood.140 In May 1806, eight of John Lambermo’s enslaved people escaped servitude. Among them were two mothers with their children. The advertisement in the Mississippi Messenger clarified that “Judah, not very black, has two children, both boys, one is 2 yrs. old and the other 4 months. Sally is a mulatto girl with two children—both mulattoes. The oldest is a boy about 3 yrs. old and the other about 5 months.”141 In March 1808, “a mulatto woman about 32 or 33 named Beck” took her three children plus two other children and ran away from their enslaver, Nicholas Boyce.142 Judah and Sally both took their small families on the treacherous road to freedom by running away, but they were the exceptions. Of all 111 advertisements, only three include families that ran away. Nineteen advertisements were searching for enslaved people who fled in groups but were not related to each other. In flight, so it seems, enslaved families were an obstacle, but women still tried. Usually, however, the enslaved escaped alone. Escaping from enslavement was a dangerous act that incurred violent repercussions and had small chance of success. It was a risk better taken alone.143

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The End of Liberty? After Spain vacated the Natchez District, opportunity for freedom dwindled as complexion became an all-important factor in legal procedures. Following the 1805 act, the records of manumissions shrink for bondspeople in the Natchez District. The legal language that had to be used to achieve freedom changed from one based on personal rights to one grounded in the idea of property. An African body was an owned body, and the question became who owned it. People of color came under intense scrutiny, and enslaved people became the focal point of social control in Natchez. Enslavers did all they could to limit access to the courts, and whereas courts had been accessible to enslaved people in Spanish Natchez, they now became an institution controlled by slave owners. These enslavers were unwilling to let enslaved people achieve freedom, and, in conjunction with new legislation, they succeeded in fashioning a tightly knit slave society. While litigators of color attempted to build cases that allowed them to influence some of the law, they could not utilize the liminal period as much as before. Nevertheless, they still tried to exploit the courts to their advantage, although judges and the law were no longer as inclined to side with them as Spanish courts sometimes were. If all else failed, they ran away, as the increased number of runaway ads suggests. Although King Cotton’s reign was undisputed, small acts of resistance persisted, even though they left only faint evidence in the court records. Social control had returned to the hands of the enslavers. Captives challenging that control were met with stern new laws and the reality of a booming cotton economy. For the first time in two decades, enslavers’ desires and codified law went hand in hand to subjugate the enslaved to a life of servitude with as little room to maneuver as possible. The first two decades of the nineteenth century saw the uneven—but unstoppable— development of Natchez into a slave society of a magnitude unmatched in the cotton counties of the South. The number of enslaved increased constantly, and enslavers were unwilling to let any of them receive liberty, no matter the circumstances. The enslaved were the prime investment for established and prospective planters alike, and none of them wanted their assets to disappear. They fastened laws based on complexion to an economy that so heavily depended on enslaved workers and created a society that disallowed the idea of freedom for African-descended people. Nevertheless, they persisted.


Seeking to attract tourists to Natchez in the 1920s, the Garden Club founded the Natchez Pilgrimage. Today a biannual event, the pilgrimage is held in the spring and fall of each year, when the climate and temperature in Natchez are pleasant. The affair brings droves of tourists to the small Mississippi town and presents one of the major sources of income for the region. These tourists are thirsty to indulge in a place “Where the Old South Still Lives.” The Garden Club has created, as House and Garden once put it, “the ‘Mecca of charm’ for the nation,” a tourism event that yearly draws more than 230,000 visitors and generates an estimated $83 million in revenue for the local economy.1 Through tours of the town’s historic mansions, the ladies of modern Natchez re-create a past they deem lost through the Civil War. They attempt to reestablish links to this past by tracing the current inhabitants of selected homes to the elites of the Cotton Kingdom (and the Confederacy), ancestors like the Minors, Dunbars, Holmeses and Davises. According to Steven Hoelscher, “When an ‘old home’ like The Briars is fortunate to count the woman who eventually married Jefferson Davis as one of its earliest inhabitants, lineage trumps all other stories.”2 By focusing solely on Natchez’s illustrious inhabitants of the antebellum period, the Garden Club has marginalized other former inhabitants for practical reasons. It would not sell home-tour tickets very well, for example, to trace one’s lineage back to Jeremiah Bryan. Bryan makes an appearance in the court records when his neighbor, George Weagle, informed the Spanish governor that “a certain Jeremiah Bryan has

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Figure 5. Natchez’s “white-pillared past” is usually captured only in images of antebellum splendor. Richmond, Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, Library of Congress.

against decency and humanity bitten and struck your petitioner in the testicles.”3 Such behavior was unseemly for a gentleman of Natchez. Similarly, Jacob Holmes would also not make a stellar ancestral example for the Natchez Pilgrimage. Citizens found his body in the gallery of John O’Connor’s house one December morning in 1791 and concluded that

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“his death had proceeded from intoxication and being exposed to the cold all night.”4 Though they would not likely attract visitors to the rural Mississippi town, people like Bryan, Weagle, O’Connor, and Holmes were nevertheless part of Natchez’s eventual rise, laying the foundations for Natchez’s wealth at a time before cotton was a money-making crop. Notably, the Natchez Pilgrimage used to skirt another large section of Natchez’s population. African Americans, whose forced labor built the fabulous wealth of all Natchez planters, receive only scant attention. In fact, the residents of Natchez’s most famous African American inhabitant, the barber William Johnson, does not appear on the program.5 During pilgrimages, tourists are guided through many fine and elaborate homes belonging to former enslavers, but Johnson’s house, once owned by the Garden Club itself and now operated by the National Park Service as a museum, is not a stop. As Hoelscher notes: “Only dwellings that conform to the dictates of the white-pillared past have a place in Natchez’s landscapes of memory; all others are deemed ‘out of place’ and a potential threat to the entire project.”6 Johnson’s place in the past does not easily fit the streamlined history created in and for Natchez, far too frequently connected to myths of the Lost Cause. Nevertheless, enslaved African Americans were crucial to the making of Natchez, and the conflicts fought over and with enslaved people in the town’s first century created the slave society that would come to dominate Natchez by 1817. To quote Thomas Holt: “Emancipation must begin with self-emancipation because the self was the first victim of the politically correct racial orders in which they [Frantz Fanon and W. E. B. Du Bois] lived. They realized that despite the forces arrayed against us, we—especially historians— must provide some of the materials for that self-fashioning and thus self-emancipation. The burden of our history is great; the burden of our history-making is all the greater.”7 This book solves the issue by placing Atlantic Africans at the front and center of Natchez’s foundational story. Mississippi became a state and joined the United States in 1817. Natchez, still the major commercial center of the new state, had weathered its fourth change of empire and finally come to rest in the arms of the American republic. The enslavers in the Natchez District could now send representatives to both houses of Congress and soon took part in the national debate about slavery during the Missouri crisis. Over the prior two decades, enslavers established an iron grip on their enslaved, eradicating most avenues to freedom that existed in the previous decades. There was no doubt that Natchez had become a slave society. People of African descent were predominantly reduced to the lowest rungs of

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society. Achieving and securing freedom, if possible, now required the involvement of the state legislature, a lengthy process that could not be initiated by a person of color and necessitated the sponsorship of a white patron. In addition, enslaved people had to describe themselves as property to gain freedom. Natchez had moved far from the days when Eleanor Price and Amy Lewis openly defied societal boundaries and challenged white people in court. Debby tried to do the same in the American period, but the Mississippi courts quickly quashed her efforts. Complexion now ruled the day. Blackness predominantly identified a human as enslaved, as not worthy of personhood and hence not able to participate in society, which was exclusive to white people. The court cases in this book illustrate the resiliency of the enslaved’s desires to claim their freedom. For the prior century, African-descended people had utilized family or kinship connections in Natchez to advance their causes if they saw a chance to do so. However, enslavers introduced new slave laws during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, and people of color had no other choice but to litigate their cases through white lawyers. They still strategically chose which information to share with council, but their voices are harder to trace. While the legal options for people of color in the courts decreased and the domestic slave trade was in full swing, the enslaved population in the district increased significantly. By the 1820s the counties of the Natchez District all boasted an enslaved majority. Adams County alone had an enslaved population of 60 percent. If one excludes the city of Natchez and its large number of white inhabitants, that percentage increases to 74 percent. In 1810 only two of the river counties had an enslaved majority. By 1820 that number had doubled and would continue to grow over the coming decades.8 With a steadily swelling stream of new captives arriving from the east, slaveholders in the district took precautions to protect themselves and their property from any loss through manumission. The enslaved were no longer given the opportunity to easily form the kinship or family networks that might once have offered them a chance for liberty. Undoubtedly enslavers continued to force relationships with enslaved women, but it became more difficult for these women to call on the courts or submit demands of any kind. During the preceding century, particularly during the Spanish period, several enslaved Atlantic Africans brought cases against white people without the involvement of an outside white supporter. By the 1820s, however, whites in Natchez had developed those unbending rules of slavery that created a legal system that snuffed out the opportunities that slaves had previously grasped.

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Over the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the ranks of the original seventy enslaved Africans who toiled in the hot sun of the Natchez District under French control were gradually swelled by new forced migrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and the eastern plantation districts of the thirteen British colonies and later the United States. When Mississippi became a state in 1817, several thousand enslaved toiled for their white enslavers in the rich soil of Natchez. The ladies of the modern Garden Club choose to highlight but a small portion of the “history” of their town. The myriad tales of Natchez’s African-descended residents, discarded in favor of the wealth that they built, recede from memory. Quite to the contrary, people of African descent played an instrumental role in shaping the Natchez District and in the ways the settlers sought to facilitate the plantation business in the region. Central to their participation were the varying definitions of complexion that allowed, or disallowed, African descendants’ participation in the legal arena. Therefore, the story of colonial Natchez needs to be grounded in the district’s dark fertile soil and the Africans who worked it. As I have laid out in the preceding chapters, colonists in Natchez sought to control their captives and the steadily growing number of free people of color. They hoped to duplicate the success of similar slave societies across the Americas and enforce their supremacy through laws of complexion. But the European empires governing the district at times hampered the efforts of the enslavers. The French, British, Spanish, and Americans sought to contain the colonists’ independence and exact dominance over all complexions in the region. The tensions between the Natchez elite and the ruling empires sometimes allowed enslaved people to resist their enslavers as legal changes brought by every new empire redefined the boundaries of slave agency and the rules of complexion in the district. Over its first century as an infant slave society, people in Natchez faced a complicated web of imperial rules that inhabitants, both black and white, tried to either utilize or circumvent to achieve their goals. In the process, litigation by Atlantic Africans shaped Natchez’s society and legal culture. Slave owners, accustomed to favored status and omnipotence on their own lands, found the field of the law strewn with obstacles; wars, regime changes, and an unstable economy conspired to place their mastery—as well as their titles to land and enslaved—on unsound footing. The pitched legal battles between the enslaved and their owners had a profound effect on a region that became the heart of the Deep South as the people in Natchez sought to define the role of complexion. As this occurred along

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with the contests between colonial subjects and their respective countries, it made for social dynamics that threatened cultural cohesion in the region. Throughout the long eighteenth century, slavery was instrumental for empires to establish a foothold in Natchez. The would-be colonists repeatedly demanded a constant supply of African laborers to support the struggling plantations clustered around the motley buildings of Natchez. Despite their best efforts, the French endeavors in Natchez did not last long. French officials and settlers were so focused on creating a plantation society that rivaled Virginia or Saint-Domingue that they overlooked the mounting tension defined by complexion that gripped Natchez. They introduced the revised Code Noir to Louisiana in 1724 and soon enforced a hierarchy within Natchez’s diverse population built on complexion that ultimately led to disaster. The French subordinated not only their enslaved Africans but the Natchez Indians as well. French administrators misjudged their position in Natchez badly, and the combined revolt of people with nonwhite complexion caught them by surprise. The Natchez Indians successfully ended French settlement attempts in Natchez in November 1729 with the cooperation of enslaved Africans. The Code Noir, designed by Colbert to administer the French colonies and control the enslaved population, achieved the exact opposite and effectively stopped French expansion in the lower Mississippi Valley. The British Empire was only marginally more successful. They inherited the Natchez District after the French and Indian War and attempted to lure settlers and their bound labor to this remote corner of their American empire. Although settlers and enslaved laborers did not initially arrive in great numbers, the British nevertheless established a slave code in the 1760s that benefitted slaveholders tremendously. Whereas the enslaved in French Natchez did have avenues of freedom, and manumission was possible, British regulations practically eliminated that possibility. British culture and legal practices at the time began to focus increasingly on phenotype as a clear marker of enslavability, and soon after they privileged blackness as the defining marker of bondspeople. Simultaneously, through new laws and financial stipulations, the British effectively discouraged enslavers from liberating their human property and protected whiteness as the key marker of freedom. Records indicate that only two free people of color lived in British Natchez. Spanish laws changed many of the stringent British stipulations built on definitions of complexion in 1781. Free people of color could approach

conclusion / 221

the court freely and sue for their property and outstanding wages. Court documents indicate that they took European colonists to court on many occasions. Enslaved Africans also established their presence in court by suing for their freedom and affirming their limited rights within the Spanish legal system. The enslaved also relied on kinship networks to achieve their ultimate goals by strategically choosing godparents. They drew on the long-standing Catholic traditions in the Spanish Empire that included enslaved people in the Christian community. Overall, Spain was primarily focused on protecting its imperial interests in the lower Mississippi Valley and in appeasing the Anglo colonizers. The Spanish avoided open confrontation about African people’s rights during the first decade of Spanish government but never sacrificed some of the core tenets of their legal traditions. Spain also provided the colonists with a guaranteed market for their tobacco and tariff-free imports of enslaved people. They purposely bought the settlers’ loyalty. The longer Spain controlled Natchez, however, the more the enslaved took advantage of the new legal system. Although they still relied on white kinship ties, the voices of the enslaved were clearly present in courts in Spanish Natchez. Even as cotton began its ascent to the throne, enslaved people used the courts to claim their rights. Throughout the Spanish period, people of color established a presence and influence in the courts that was unprecedented and would not remain under the United States’ purview. In the early 1790s, Spain removed the tobacco subsidies that tied Anglo-American colonists to the empire. As a result, many enslavers found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, and only Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos’s skillful negotiations between planter-debtors and merchant-creditors maintained a tentative peace in Natchez. In spite of his eloquent governance, the Spanish Empire had effectively destroyed the trust of Anglo colonists by cutting their tobacco market. Ultimately the cotton gin sealed the fate of the Natchez District. The enslavers of Natchez understood that the fertile ground of their plantations granted them the potential for immense riches if they could find a suitable crop. Cotton suited the soil well, and with the introduction of the gin in 1795, and the ongoing Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, the market for the crop was almost insatiable. The ideal combination of crop, technology, and markets, centered on a slave society, perfectly fit the desires of Natchez enslavers. When the governor of Louisiana discontinued the slave trade to the colony for fear of revolt—and because of a lack of demand outside of Natchez—Anglo enslavers in the district shunned

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Spain and embraced the United States as the new power in the district. The new laws that promised tight control of nonwhite people added to the allure of the American republic. The advent of cotton coincided with the establishment of the Mississippi Territory, and it signaled the end of most legal avenues to freedom for people of color as their complexion now defined them as enslaved. The rights of freed people were severely limited by numerous acts of the legislature, and slave laws circumscribed what few options were left to the enslaved. They could no longer address the court, as the examples of Amy Lewis and Debby had demonstrated in their own time. Enslaved Africans who had at times aggressively pursued justice for themselves in Spanish Natchez were relegated to the legal margins in the antebellum Natchez District. Yet even in the margins, they continued to influence legal proceedings in Mississippi by deliberately choosing what information they shared with courts and lawyers. This book illuminates the development of slavery in the Natchez District. In a larger sense, it contributes to an emerging historiography on slavery in the southern borderlands—a literature that complicates narratives of slavery that sidestep the lower Mississippi Valley in favor of places like the Chesapeake and the Carolinas. It places complexion at the center of efforts to create a plantation regime in Natchez and situates the district at the center of imperial struggles for control of North America.9 Moreover, by examining how slavery evolved in a setting that passed from one colonial regime to another, this study considers how changing legal systems shaped the institution’s development. In particular, the Spanish period and the advent of Iberian legal codes—though refined to meet demands in Natchez—offer intriguing insights into the development of complexion-based slavery in North America. Natchez was not only on the frontier of the United States; it was also the outer frontier to the vast landholdings of the Spanish in North America. It is necessary to incorporate the marginal histories of the southern region of the modern-day United States into the story of historic slavery.10 Without these border regions, no picture of slavery in North America can be complete. Complexion remains a vexing problem to investigate. All empires in Natchez relied on the blackness of Africans to justify their enslavement, yet there were significant differences in how skin color was deployed to mark bodies during the long eighteenth century. Whereas phenotype initially was one of many markers of “otherness,” black complexions became the ultimate marker of enslavability in Anglo-American slave societies during the Age of Revolution. But people of African descent

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resisted the idea that their blackness made them undeserving of personhood and sought to exploit the various liminal stages in the lower Mississippi Valley to find ways to shape their future. In doing so, they made white people define their whiteness in court and occasionally came away victorious in their own pursuits despite their blackness. They challenged the way enslavers tried to define their complexion, and they demonstrate that definitions of complexions remained flexible and culturally defined—especially in front of courts—throughout the eighteenth century. Only Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” forced enslaved people in Natchez to accept their complexion in court, as now they had to use the language of property in their legal claims to gain freedom. The experience of people of color in the lower Mississippi Valley can only be understood if we comprehend the genesis of complexion-based slavery in the early South. Though their voices may be faint, enslaved Africans transmit the lasting legacy of an incredible will for freedom and numerous daring attempts to resist white supremacy. Empires, laws, and society might have changed, but the lives of African-descended people remained much the same. The enslaved toiled in the fields; free people of color labored as seamstresses, midwives, washerwomen, and at a host of primarily menial jobs. They all took part in generating the wealth that helped to construct Natchez’s architectural masterpieces visited today—romantic monuments to the antebellum South. As modern tourists visit and exalt the fruits of the enslaved’s labors, the many varied faces and fates of colonial slaves and freedmen have to be promoted in these narratives.

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Introduction 1. D. Phelps, “Narrative of Hostilities,” 5; Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 120–21. 2. Milne, Natchez Country, 93–97. 3. D. Phelps, “Narrative of Hostilities,” 5. 4. Carta de Libertad, Asahel Lewis, Natchez, undated (the Carta de Libertad was probably recorded on November 1, 1794), Natchez Trace Collection: Provincial and Territorial Records (hereafter abbreviated as NTC: PTR), Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 5. Amy Lewis to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 24, 1797, NTC: PTR. 6. Cultural-legal historians have been hard at work to sketch out the meaning of law in the definition of race, both in North America and South America (see Gross, “Beyond Black and White: Cultural Approaches to Race and Slavery”; Gross, “Comparative Studies of Law, Slavery, and Race in the Americas”; Gross, “Race, Law, and Comparative History”; and de la Fuente and Gross, Becoming Free, Becoming Black). 7. When it comes to ideas of race and slavery, Orlando Patterson’s premise that the enslaved were socially dead still holds sway in studies of U.S. slavery, especially in the antebellum South (see D. Davis, Inhuman Bondage; and Patterson, Slavery and Social Death). In recent years, that premise has come under attack by legal scholars and scholars of slavery in Spanish America, who point out that the enslaved were nominally treated as outsiders but utilized in many ways to become a very active part of society, especially in courtrooms and in the church. Both institutions, in conjunction and in opposition, shaped Iberian ideas about race and slavery, and about how much control the state had over each, which were clearly differentiated from AngloAmerican traditions, where the state and its agents had a monopoly on power (see, for example, Soulodre-La France, “Socially Not So Dead!”; Bennett, Colonial Blackness; and Sweet, “Defying Social Death”). In Natchez, the intersection of both American

226 / notes to introduction and Iberian legal cultures provides an opportunity to dissect the meaning of race in a borderland colony that was struggling to develop a slave economy that could participate in the Atlantic market. 8. Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina, 51. 9. Bennett, African Kings and Black Slaves, 5–6; see also W. Johnson, “Agency.” 10. See A. Rothman, Slave Country; Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told; and W. Johnson, River of Dark Dreams. 11. This book in many ways follows the calls of Claudio Saunt and Juliana Barr to explore the history of the early American West in more detail. I aim to complicate the history of colonial America in ways that allow me to explain the interplay of complexion, enslavement, and freedom. While the Atlantic Seaboard certainly deserves attention, the complicated histories of the region between Jamestown and Santa Fe hold significant lessons for our understanding of slavery and race in the founding of American society (see Saunt, “Go West”; and Barr, “How Do You Get from Jamestown to Santa Fe?”). See also a more recent call by Karin Wulf to engage the complexities of early American history on a broader geographic scale (Wulf, “Vast Early America”). 12. Barr, “How Do You Get from Jamestown to Santa Fe?” See also Rebecca Goetz’s overview of Atlantic slavery in colonial America in “Rethinking the ‘Unthinking Decision.’” 13. Bassi, An Aqueous Territory, 3. See also the works by Elizabeth Ellis and Mary Draper for a slightly different interpretation of similar geographic spaces (Ellis, “The Many Ties of the Petites Nations”; Draper, “Timbering and Turtling”). Vidal argues as well that at least New Orleans was part of the Caribbean, but in his view, the French outposts were not. He also contends that concepts of race arrived in New Orleans from the Caribbean ready to be employed in legal and cultural systems to control the city’s African-descended population. My work, in essence, takes the opposite approach in a region I do very much consider an extension of the Caribbean (Vidal, Caribbean New Orleans, 17, 35–39). 14. For recent histories of colonial St. Louis, see, for example, Cleary, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil; Ekberg and Person, St. Louis Rising; and Gitlin, The Bourgeois Frontier. Kelly Kennington builds her history of freedom suits in antebellum St. Louis on it colonial past as well (Kennington, In the Shadow of Dred Scott). 15. See Rebecca Earle’s article on the casta paintings of colonial Spain for an informative way to drive at the mutability of skin color in favor of social representation (Earle, “The Pleasures of Taxonomy,” 432). 16. Barr, “How Do You Get from Jamestown to Santa Fe?” 553–66. 17. See, for example, Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom; Aubert, “The Blood of France”; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; Vidal, Caribbean New Orleans; Vidal, “Caribbean Louisiana”; S. White, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians; and S. White, Voices of the Enslaved. 18. I have not found any court cases pertaining to Natchez under the French. However, as Sophie White’s book shows, the role the enslaved claimed in French courts had effects on the legal process. As White argues, “appearing before the court provided individuals with an unexpected opportunity to narrate their own stories, to digress, to redirect questioning, and to introduce unrelated matters in an arena where, commanding full attention, they had to be heard.” However, their blackness barred them from filing claims as victims which the Superior Council did not prosecute, even

notes to introduction / 227 though the Code Noir very specifically included these provisions (S. White, Voices of the Enslaved, 6, 10–14, 32, quote on 13). 19. Bennett, Colonial Blackness, 2. On litigation in the Spanish tradition, see Kagan, Lawsuits and Litigants in Castile, 1500–1700. 20. A. Byrd, Captives and Voyagers, 78–82. 21. For more on the Code Napoléon and the law in Louisiana, see Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom; Burton and Smith, Colonial Natchitoches; Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire; Din, Spaniards, Enslavers, and Slaves; Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places; Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; and West, Family or Freedom. 22. Martínez, Genealogical Fictions, 3. 23. B. Fields, “Slavery, Race and Ideology,” 101. A more complete view of Fields’s ideas about race can be found in K. Fields and B. Fields, Racecraft. Other recent works that address the larger issues of race in America, and the myths they entail, include Jones, A Dreadful Deceit; and Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning. 24. Weheliye, Habeas Viscus, 3. 25. Holt, “Marking,” 16. 26. Martínez, Genealogical Fictions, 4–5. On the connections of slavery and Christianity, see, for example, Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia; Kopelson, Faithful Bodies; and Gerbner, Christian Slavery. 27. Block, Colonial Complexions, 2. 28. Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 8–10. 29. Block, Colonial Complexions, 3. 30. On casta paintings and colonial Spanish taxonomies, see, especially, Earle, “The Pleasures of Taxonomy.” On the problems of categorizing people by skin color in Spanish society, see, for example, Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo; Twinam, Public Lives, Private Secrets; and Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness. On legal ramifications for people of color and their respective skin color, see, for example, Premo, The Enlightenment on Trial; and Premo, “Before the Law.” 31. Guasco, Slavery and Englishmen, 9. 32. Wheeler, The Complexion of Race, 4. 33. E. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 386. Similar to Morgan, C. L. R. James reasoned that slavery enabled the bourgeoisie of France to rebel against their king, as the fruit of the unfree labor in the Americas bolstered the income of French merchants and strengthened their position in society (see C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins). For a comparable argument on the British, see E. Williams, Capitalism & Slavery. 34. Resistance occurred in many forms, and, as Stephanie Camp argues: “Resistance is not created outside of hegemonic ideologies and other forms of domination but is constituted within them. Domination not only calls forth resistance, it also establishes the terrain over which struggle ensues.” In this case, Camp’s critique of Frantz Fanon is also applicable to the law as a specific terrain that people of color claimed as their own (Camp, “The Pleasures of Resistance,” 538–39n12). 35. Daniel Usner plays on the notion of available spaces for Indians, Africans, and Europeans to negotiate what he calls a frontier exchange economy. Yet Usner contends that only economic forces controlled the liminal space, and he focuses mostly on New Orleans (see Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves).

228 / notes to chapter 1 36. Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen. 37. Díaz, “Beyond Tannenbaum”; de la Fuente, “Slave Law and Claims-Making in Cuba”; de la Fuente, “From Slaves to Citizens?”; McKinley, Fractional Freedoms, 10–11, quote on 10. 38. Anthropologist Arnold van Gennep developed the concept of liminality in 1909 to study religious rituals. He defined liminality as a threshold in a transitional period with no certainty toward its outcome. Victor Turner further developed the concept in his The Ritual Process. He focuses on initiation rituals and specifically asserts that the liminal period is one of uncertainty but that the outcome is never in doubt. Liminality in the context of my work considers the various thresholds that majorities and minorities negotiated each time there was a shift in Natchez’s power structure. As a concept, liminality is not just a transition but also a successful completion of a passage, in this case the development of a plantation society in Natchez. Liminality is only ended, or the threshold successfully crossed, when a clear definition of spaces and clear rules are established. Natchez, however, remained a contested space in any sense of the word until the United States established a lasting power and an unquestioned legal system in the early 1800s. The transitions between empires in Natchez created several thresholds, which in turn produced unique responses by all parties involved, allowing empires and people in Natchez a certain flexibility. The concept has undergone several new interpretations since its inception by van Gennep and its resurgence through Victor Turner. Some examples in history are Richard White’s The Middle Ground and Greg Dening’s Islands and Beaches. In the context of Atlantic history, legal liminality offers a perfect complement to a growing literature on legal pluralism in colonial empires. Whereas legal pluralism investigates the role of states and defines the legal system in European colonies as fluid, liminality refocuses my study on the people in those colonies (see, for example, Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures; Benton and Ross, Legal Pluralism and Empires; van Gennep, Les rites de passag; Szakolczai, “Liminality and Experience,” 149; Thomassen, “The Uses and Meanings of Liminality”; Turner, The Ritual Process; and R. White, The Middle Ground). 39. Benton and Ross, “Jurisdiction, Sovereignty, and Political Imagination,” 1–17. For a general idea about the complex relationships between colonial spaces and the legal traditions (and their respective transmissions to the colonies), see, for example, Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures; Herzog, Defining Nations; Herzog, Frontiers of Possession; and Cardim et al., eds., Polycentric Monarchies.

1 / The Purity of Blood and Dark Complexions 1. Caillot, A Company Man, 66–75; Greenwald, Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of the Indies in Louisiana, 106–13. 2. Greenwald, Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of the Indies in Louisiana, 103–5. On the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, specifically the lack of medical treatment and the frequency and occurrence of disease, violence, and death, see, particularly, Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea. On the meandering ways of slaving voyages and the effect on the enslaved, see O’Malley, Final Passages. 3. On New Orleans and its Caribbean connection, see Vidal, Caribbean New Orleans. 4. Legally speaking, there were issues on how to govern enslaved people before the Code Noir. In concept, enslaved people who came to mainland France technically still

notes to chapter 1 / 229 could file a suit for their freedom. The French actually struggled with the “freedom principle” and concomitant issues of defining Atlantic Africans when they accompanied their enslavers to France (see Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France; quote from Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 7). 5. On early Louisiana and slavery, see Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire, 120–21; G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana; Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves; and S. White, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians. 6. Perier to Maurepas, New Orleans, August 15, 1729, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:657–58. 7. See Burton and Smith, Colonial Natchitoches; and Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 55. The authors correctly argue that the French never recovered from the blow in Natchez, even though they held on to Louisiana until 1763. Kathleen Duval describes the French fear of an Indian-African alliance and finds that the French stopped slave imports after 1729 almost completely, thereby dooming any further plantation development and hopes for profit in Louisiana (DuVal, “Indian Intermarriage and Metissage in Colonial Louisiana,” 274). 8. See Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves; and Vidal, “Caribbean Louisiana.” 9. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 53. 10. Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans; Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 1–28; Milne, Natchez Country, 1–3; Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance, 122–23. 11. On the development of the Code Noir, see Palmer, “The Origins and Authors of the Code Noir”; and Watson, “The Origins of the Code Noir Revisited.” Both scholars engage in a lively debate about the origins of the Code. Whereas Palmer makes a strong case that the Code was developed locally in the French Atlantic, Watson insists that traces of Roman law are obvious with the Code’s titles and hence have a dominating influence on its local interpretation. I agree with Palmer that the Code, especially in Louisiana, had prevalent local overtones. For additional information on the Code Noir in Louisiana, see Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom; Aubert, “The Blood of France”; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; and Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance, 123. 12. Banks, Chasing Empire across the Sea; Axtell, Natives and Newcomers, 32. 13. As quoted in DuVal, “Indian Intermarriage and Metissage in Colonial Louisiana,” 275. 14. Jean-Baptist Dubois Duclos to Ponchartrain, Dauphine Island, December 25, 1715, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:208; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 33. 15. Sweet, “The Iberian Roots of American Racist Thought,” 144. Sweet argues that through such classifications the French and other European nations developed “pseudoscientific classifications of persons based on race” that “merely reinforced old ideological notions.” On other origins of the pseudoscience of race, see D. Davis, Inhuman Bondage, 73–76. 16. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 33. 17. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 58. 18. The mixtures of complexions that resulted from these encounters in New Orleans eventually led to the creation of the term “quadroon,” a conflation of terms

230 / notes to chapter 1 used to describe women of color with lighter complexions based on French and Spanish traditions (see Clark, The Strange History of the American Quadroon, 2–9). 19. Memoir of D’Artaguette to Ponchartrain, Colony of Louisiana, September 8, 1712, and Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac to Pontchartrain, Fort Louis of Louisiana, October 26, 1713, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701– 1729, 2:72, 167. Unions with Indian women allowed French men to build trade relations with the women’s families and kin. 20. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 468. 21. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 470. 22. Guillaume Aubert traces traditions of French ideas about purity of blood back to the sixteenth century. At that point, the French used the concept to trace noble lineages. In the New World, they quickly adopted the same standards to set Europeans apart from Indians and Africans (Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 448). In addition, a similar concept of limpieza de sangre had developed in medieval Spain, and Russian nobles at the same time period tried to differentiate themselves from Russian serfs by connecting their lineage to French, Italian, or German ancestors (see Blackburn, “The Old World Background to European Colonial Slavery,” 77–78, 83–84). 23. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 442, 453–54. 24. See Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 4–10; and S. White, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians, 9–13. 25. Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance, 160–64. 26. Proces-verbal du Conseil [de Marine], September 1, 1716, as quoted in Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 33. 27. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 53; S. White, Voices of the Enslaved, 32. 28. See S. White, Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians, 209–15. On general ideas about race and complexion in French Louisiana, see Aubert, “To Establish One Law and Definite Rules”; Le Glaunec, “The Small World of Louisiana Slavery”; and Vidal, “Caribbean Louisiana.” 29. Dawdy, “Enlightenment from the Ground,” 26–27. 30. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 465. 31. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 461–65; DuVal, “Indian Intermarriage and Metissage in Colonial Louisiana.” See also Milne, Natchez Country; Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country; and Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. 32. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. Sophie White points out that while these laws existed in theory, the actual enforcement could differ substantially from the written law in New Orleans (S. White, Voices of the Enslaved). 33. S. White, Voices of the Enslaved, 30. 34. Article 9 of the 1724 Louisiana Code Noir, as quoted in Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, 62. 35. Aubert, “The Blood of France,” 473–77. 36. Milne, Natchez Country, 149–74. 37. For the British Indian slave trade, see Ethridge and Shuck-Hall, eds., Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone; Ethridge, From Chicaza to Chickasaw; Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade; and Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country. 38. See Report of Mr. De Sauvole, Biloxi, August 4, 1701, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:13.

notes to chapter 1 / 231 39. Milne, Natchez Country, 115–17. For the importance of gift giving in Mississippian culture and the way power relations in nations were built around gifts, see J. Hall, Zamumo’s Gifts. 40. Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 27–28. George Milne rejects the term “First Natchez War” and strongly argues for the “Natchez Hostage Crisis.” However, to the casual reader, the “First Natchez War” may conceivably establish a clear understanding of the chronology of events. 41. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 97. 42. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 62–103. 43. A French Company of the Indies had been in existence in various forms from its charter by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, since September 1, 1664. It underwent several changes, some of them tightly connected to the Louisiana colony. Since Louisiana profits did not develop quickly after initial settlement in the early 1700s, the French government sought an investor to manage Louisiana and finally found one in the financier Antoine Crozat. But his company never became profitable, and by 1716 the French state created one large company under the Scotch investor John Law that carried the moniker Compagnie des Indes. Law created an investment bubble that spectacularly burst in 1720 and forced Law into exile by the end of that year. However, the company, under new directors, continued to operate and flourish, with profits (Greenwald, Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of the Indies in Louisiana, 15–36). 44. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 10. For the common cultural traits created by trade networks, see Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves. 45. On the Natchez and captivity, see Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country. On Native American captivity practices in general, see, for example, Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance. 46. See Edward Milne’s book for a comparative look of Louis XIV’s French and Natchez societies. Milne argues that in both societies family and state play significant roles and that both societies were governed by a clear hierarchical system, which eased the cultural understanding between Europeans and Indians (Milne, Natchez Country, 15–78; Sayers, “Plotting the Natchez Massacre,” 391). 47. Seed, Ceremonies of Possession, 41–68. 48. On legal pluralism, see Benton, A Search for Sovereignty; Benton and Ross, Legal Pluralism; and, especially, Benton and Ross, “Jurisdiction, Sovereignty, and Political Imagination.” On polycentric monarchies with special attention to Spain and Portugal, see Cardim et al., eds., Polycentric Monarchies, and, especially, in that volume, Herzog, “Can You Tell a Spaniard When You See One? ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ in the Early Modern Iberian Atlantic”; and Herzog, Frontiers of Possession, 7–9. On the particular importance of space and the constant negotiations in the region between Natives and the French, see Ellis, “The Many Ties of the Petites Nations,” 9–11, especially chaps. 3, 4, and 5. 49. See, for example, Tivas de Gourville to Ponchartrain, Rochefort, June 1712, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:67–72. 50. Council of Louisiana to Directors of the Company of the Indies, New Orleans, August 28, 1725, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701– 1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:492. 51. Conrad, “Emigration Forceé,” 125–35. See also Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire.

232 / notes to chapter 1 52. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 168; Milne, Natchez Country, 149–50. 53. Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance, 122–64, quote on 133. 54. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 8; Barnett, The Natchez Indians, 26–62. 55. If this was a specifically chosen strategy (and there is no real evidence that it was), it was ill chosen. The French simply only imperfectly understood the culture of the Natchez. 56. du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, 26–27. For a critical analysis of du Pratz’s history in light of the Enlightenment, with some attention to questions of complexion and the differentiation between Natchez and Atlantic Africans, see Dawdy, “Enlightenment from the Ground.” 57. D. Phelps, “Narrative of the Hostilities Committed by the Natchez against the Concession of St. Catherine,” 5. 58. Milne, Natchez Country, 106–11. 59. On other occasions, the enslaved’s work for their French enslavers also put them in harm’s way (see Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 120–21). 60. Bienville to Council of the Indies, New Orleans, August 3, 1723, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 3: French Dominion, 1704–1743, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 3:360–71. See also Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 8. 61. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 108–11. 62. Edward Milne’s recent work does a splendid job in laying open all the fault lines in Natchez (see Milne, Natchez Country, 122–60). For a particularly useful discussion on the varying importance of actors in European colonies, see, specifically, Herzog, Frontiers of Possession, 17–24, 70–148. For a precise breakdown of French diplomacy with the Natchez and its collapse, see Ellis, “The Many Ties of the Petites Nations,” 143–69. 63. Barnett, The Natchez Indians, 93–94. 64. Milne, “Picking up the Pieces,” 394. 65. Minutes of the Superior Council of Louisiana, November 23, 1723, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 3: French Dominion, 1704–1743, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 3:385–87. 66. See Barnett, The Natchez Indians, 93. 67. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 112–14. 68. Milne, “Picking up the Pieces” 388–90, 94; Sayers, “Plotting the Natchez Massacre,” 399–400. 69. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana. See especially pages 68–115 for an analysis of Bambara slaves and their military training in Africa and their service to the French Crown. 70. Milne, Natchez Country, 139–40. Raphael Bernard, for example, petitioned the Superior Council in New Orleans for back wages worth one thousand livres in April 1724. Bernard had apparently been recruited in France. Fresh on the heels of the new Code Noir, his employer, Dumanoir, tried to turn the tables and had him arrested. Workers like Bernard were necessary to supplement the enslaved workforce, as tobacco required experienced hands. This experience came from French workers, many of whom left as quickly as they could to return home.

notes to chapter 1 / 233 71. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 130–32. 72. De la Chaise to Council Company of the Indies, New Orleans, April 26, 1725, in du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, 34–35. 73. Milne, Natchez Country, 80. 74. Rowland and Sanders, eds., Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, 2:76. In his recent work, Edward Milne has even estimated a very conservative number of a minimum of just 126 slaves in Natchez in 1729. The actual number remains unclear because no census of Natchez in 1729 exists (Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 168). 75. Council of Louisiana to Directors of the Company of the Indies, August 28, 1725, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, vol. 2: French Dominion, 1701–1729, ed. Rowland and Sanders, 2:492–503. 76. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 100. 77. Historians of the colonial Southeast have tried to pinpoint the idea of race entering Indian nations for some time, and many come to the conclusion that it first happened in the lower Mississippi Valley. That recognition of one’s own race as something different also spurred the idea that other people should try to subjugate a specific group based on race (see Milne, Natchez Country; Shoemaker, “How Indians Got to Be Red”; Shoemaker, A Strange Likeness; and Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country). 78. Du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, 73. 79. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 100–101. 80. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 99. 81. Barnett, The Natchez Indians, 101–2. 82. Milne, Natchez Country, 153–54, quote on 152. 83. For the role of female captives in diplomacy and trade, see Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman; and Brooks, Captives and Cousins. 84. Milne, Natchez Country, 156–59. 85. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 100–101. 86. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 202. 87. See Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade. 88. On the importance of kinship ties in the Indian community and how they enabled slaves to become free and equal members of the Natchez, see Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country, 1–45. However, sometimes prisoners of war were also sacrificed. 89. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 8–9. 90. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 173. 91. du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, 83. 92. de Montigny, The Memoir of Lieutenant Dumont, 183; quote from Ellis, “The Many Ties of the Petites Nations,” 176. 93. du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, 76. 94. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 197–203. 95. Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country; G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 101–12. Hall suggests that the enslaved Bambara who refused to cooperate with either Chickasaws or the French were indeed intent on creating their own slave society in Natchez territory. The Bambara among them, according to Hall, also plotted to overthrow the French, again with Indian assistance, in 1731. Hall may be mistaken in identifying most of the enslaved in Louisiana as Bambara. While the port of origin for most of the captives was Fort St. Louis in Senegal, many of the prisoners there came

234 / notes to chapter 2 from the vast region that fed the slave trade at the fort (see Le Glaunec, “The Small World of Louisiana Slavery”). 96. Milne, Natchez Country, 177. 97. See Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 74–75; Usner, “American Indians on the Cotton Frontier.” 98. Caillot Manuscript, MSS596, Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection (hereafter abbreviated as HNOC), 166–67, translated from French by the author. See also the edited and translated volume, Caillot, A Company Man, 144. 99. For the story of Samba Bambara, see G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 109–12. 100. On the important concept of what and how Native Americans perceived their ancestral homeland, see DuVal, The Native Ground. 101. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 220. 102. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 229–32. 103. Milne, “Rising Suns, Fallen Forts, and Impudent Immigrants,” 234; Milne, Natchez Country, 207–8. 104. On the concept of native ground, see DuVal, The Native Ground, 8–12. 105. Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, 287–89. On Natchez survivors in Creek country into the nineteenth century, consult Milne, Natchez Country, 208. 106. Indian slavery had been outlawed in Spanish possessions since the sixteenth century. 107. Letter to Madrid, New Orleans, February 28, 1794, legajo 2532, Archivo General de Indies: Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Williams Research Center, HNOC. 108. Letter to Madrid, New Orleans, February 28, 1794, legajo 2532, Archivo General de Indies: Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Williams Research Center, HNOC. 109. Letter to Madrid, New Orleans, February 28, 1794, legajo 2532, Archivo General de Indies: Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Williams Research Center, HNOC.

2 / English Bloodlines and the Expansion of Empire 1. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 12. On St. Louis, see, for example, Cleary, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil; and Ekberg and Person, St. Louis Rising. 2. Morris, Becoming Southern, 6. 3. Claiborne, Mississippi, 102–3; Fitzpatrick, The Merchant of Manchac, ed. Dalrymple, 18. 4. Instructions of Board of Trade, quoted in Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 111. 5. See Claiborne, Mississippi. Claiborne, writing in the late nineteenth century, proclaims that these men were not Tories. He deems this characterization unjust because “rather than stain their hands with kindred blood, [they] renounced home, comfort, society and position for an asylum in the wilderness.” Claiborne certainly was correct in describing the outpost as wilderness, but the settlers were not without their own motives. The French knew very early on that Natchez soil was extremely fertile, and there is no reason to suspect that the British did not know it as well. Although in the wilderness, Natchez certainly offered very good chances for the prospective settlers to put their enslaved to profitable work. Brandon Layton, most recently, claims that the

notes to chapter 2 / 235 incoming settlers were Loyalists in name only and left the East Coast precisely to stay out of any potential fighting (Layton, “Indian Country to Slave Country,” 27). 6. Wolf, “Manumission and the Two-Race System in Early National Virginia,” 314. 7. Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 104–5. 8. Holly Brewer sheds new light on the way the English established the legal roots of slavery. Most scholars continue to classify Locke and his ideas as supportive of slavery; Brewer, however, notes that Locke certainly allowed for the just enslavement of people, but not in perpetuity. Prisoners of war could be enslaved, but not their children. The rise of complexion as an increasingly important signifier of status, in this case enslavement, changed English legal interpretations (Brewer, “Slavery, Sovereignty, and ‘Inheritable Blood,’” 1054–56). She argues that “claims to power over slaves in the West Indies were therefore as flimsy as the Stuarts’ claims of lordship or dominion, both based upon fraud” (quote on 1056). 9. Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 111. 10. While Voltaire is often represented as one of the Enlightenment thinkers who criticized slavery, his writings also paint a picture of the inferior African, clearly separate from the rest of humanity (see Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 14). 11. Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 2–4. 12. Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 6. 13. Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 87. For a more indepth reading of the racialization of gender in travelogues, see especially J. Morgan, “Some Could Suckle over Their Shoulder”; and Wheeler, The Complexion of Race. 14. Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 107. 15. Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 107–8. On race and Christianity specifically, see, most recently, Gerbner, Christian Slavery; Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia; and Kopelson, Faithful Bodies. 16. On that process, see Wheeler, The Complexion of Race, 2–6; Newman, A Dark Inheritance, 84–88; and Block, Colonial Complexions, 10–34. 17. Curran, The Anatomy of Blackness, 6. 18. Guasco, Slavery and Englishmen, 11–40. Guasco clearly shows that while slavery no longer existed in England, multiple other forms of servitude did. Based on these models, the English, and later British, would eventually establish precedents for the enslavement of other complexions. 19. The sole exception were the Puritans in New England and in Barbados. They viewed the community of all people through body politics—the body of Christ. Through the Lord’s Supper, community members created one body, even though women were always excluded from the table but did receive bread. Members of the church were supposed to form one body through Christ, but since that body also represented the political realm, matters of race complicated the issue dramatically (Kopelson, Faithful Bodies, 77–79, 90–100). However, this did not mean that they, like any other English man or woman, had no conception of African slavery. 20. In addition to Rebecca Goetz’s recent work, Winthrop Jordan’s seminal study follows similar trends in investigating colonial American ideas of race in the seventeenth century. Joanne Pope Melish highlights the genesis of racism in New England, arguing that racism there developed not necessarily because of slavery but rather because white people pointed to the abolition of slavery and argued that the low social standing of African Americans was based on an innate inferiority. James Gigantino

236 / notes to chapter 2 observed similar trends in New Jersey, where slavery died a much slower death than in New England (see Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia, 63, 66–67, 73; Gigantino, The Ragged Road to Abolition; Jordan, White over Black; and Melish, Disowning Slavery, 2–4). 21. See Kopelson, Faithful Bodies; and Kopelson, “Sinning Property and the Legal Transformations of Abominable Sex in Early Bermuda.” 22. Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia, 86–87. 23. Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia, 110. 24. For a brilliant explanation of the English reliance on bloodlines, see Newman, A Dark Inheritance, 10–16. 25. Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia, 110–11. 26. Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia, 136–37. 27. Kopelson, Faithful Bodies, 109–15. On the origins of slavery and its strong connection to Indian slavery, see Newell, Brethren by Nature. 28. Kopelson, Faithful Bodies, 117. Interestingly, Puritans rejected the curse of Ham as a reason for blackness. For the development of legal codes for non-Europeans and the legislation of interracial sex in American slave societies, see, for example, K. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs, chap. 6; Holt, Aubert, and Martinez, “Forum: Purity of Blood and the Social Order”; Nash, “The Hidden History of Mestizo America”; Canizares-Esguerra and Sidbury, “Mapping Ethnogenesis in the Early Modern Atlantic”; Block, Colonial Complexions; and Newman, A Dark Inheritance. 29. Kopelson, Faithful Bodies, 123–25; Newell, Brethren by Nature; Newman, A Dark Inheritance, 10–11. 30. Newman, A Dark Inheritance, 10–11. 31. Fitzpatrick, The Merchant of Manchac, ed. Dalrymple, 12–13; D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 15–16; Layton, “Indian Country to Slave Country.”; Starr, Tories, Dons, and Rebels. 32. Claiborne, Mississippi, 105–6. 33. DuVal, Independence Lost, 60. On the slave trade to North America from the Caribbean, see, in particular, O’Malley, Final Passages. 34. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 13. 35. Claiborne, Mississippi, 104. 36. Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 124–28. 37. Major Robert Farmar to Secretary of War, Mobile, January 24, 1764, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 9; Elliott, The Fort of Natchez, 19–20. Elliott shows that Governor Johnston was nervous about letting any of his soldiers leave Pensacola to go to Natchez, due to the threat of Indian attacks (D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 13). 38. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 14. 39. Major Robert Farmar, List of Appointments needed at Mobile, January 24, 1764, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 64. 40. Major Robert Farmar’s Instructions to Officers, Mobile, October 24, 1763, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 93. 41. Farmar’s Instructions to Officers, Mobile, October 24, 1763, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 93. 42. Montfort Brown to Lord Hillsborough, Pensacola?, July 6, 1768, as quoted in Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 7.

notes to chapter 2 / 237 43. See, for example, Pittman, The Present State of the European Settlements on the Mississippi, 37–39; and Wynne, A General History of the British Empire in America, 401–7, quote on 405. 44. Wynne, A General History of the British Empire in America, 407. 45. Handler, “Custom and Law,” 239. 46. Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, 340. 47. Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation, xiii. The concept of the completely racial definition of freedom and slavery was not limited to Virginia or even to the South. Joan Pope Melish finds a similar reluctance among white people in New England to accept the liberty of citizens of color (see Melish, Disowning Slavery). 48. E. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 386. 49. See Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 100. 50. An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves, December 24, 1766, Records of the States of the United States (Early State Records), Film 554: West Florida, David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. 51. An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 52. An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 53. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 100. 54. George Johnstone to John Pownall, Jamaica, Kingston, September 25, 1764, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 170–71. 55. See appendix 4 in Fabel, The Economy of British West Florida, 214–36. 56. See Articles II, IV, and VI of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 57. See Articles XV, XVIII and XXXI of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 58. See Article XXIV of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 59. See Fabel, The Economy of British West Florida, 25. 60. Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina, 24. 61. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 101–2. 62. Compare Fabel, The Economy of British West Florida, 42–43; and Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 100. 63. Claiborne, Mississippi, 102–3. 64. See Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 101–2. 65. For a discussion of slaves introduced into British West Florida, see Fabel, The Economy of British West Florida, 22–48. The numbers Fabel is able to supply are for all of West Florida, and there is no breakdown available for the Natchez District. 66. See Article VIII of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 67. See Article IX and X of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 68. Governor Johnston to M. Aubry, Pensacola, July 2, 1766, in Mississippi Provincial Archives: English Dominion, ed. Rowland, 316–18. 69. Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 139. 70. Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country, 208, 12. 71. Proceedings at a Congress of the Principal Chiefs and Warriors of the Upper Creek Nation, Pensacola, October 29 and November 3, 1771, Mississippi Provincial

238 / notes to chapter 2 Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772 Series 688, 11:34, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (hereafter abbreviated as MDAH). 72. Chester to Unzaga, Pensacola, August 28, 1773, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:56, MDAH; Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves, 138. 73. Peter Chester to the Earl of Dartmouth, Pensacola, May 16, 1773, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:43–44, MDAH. 74. Chester to Dartmouth, Pensacola, August 27, 1773, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:53–54, MDAH. 75. Peter Chester to the Earl of Dartmouth, Pensacola, May 16, 1773, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:43–44, MDAH. 76. Claiborne, Mississippi, 107. 77. Chester to Dartmouth, Pensacola, May 18, 1773, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:46–49, MDAH. 78. O’Brien, “We Are behind You,” 109. The Choctaws had no unified hierarchical structure, and although some Choctaw leaders supported the British, other villages sided with the Spanish or remained neutral, depending on the circumstances and conditions of a possible treaty. 79. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 22. 80. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 17–18; Layton, “Indian Country to Slave Country,” 33–34. 81. Chester to Dartmouth, Pensacola, June 9, 1775, Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1774–1776 Series 688, 13:27, MDAH. 82. Chester to George Germain, Pensacola, August 24, 1777, Series 688, 13:84, MDAH. 83. See Natchez Census, 1784, legajo 116, Archivo General de Indias: Papeles de Cuba, Williams Research Center, HNOC, Louisiana (hereafter abbreviated as AGI: PC). Unfortunately, the census is incomplete, and the last page severely damaged. In addition, no heading for the different columns survived, making this no more than an estimate based on the format of subsequent census records. 84. For a detailed analysis of Willing’s raid, see John Caughey, “The Natchez Rebellion of 1781 and Its Aftermath”; Caughey, Bernardo De Gálvez in Louisiana; Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 53–75; and Starr, Tories, Dons, and Rebels, 78–121. 85. O’Brien, “We Are behind You,” 109. 86. Claiborne, Mississippi, 102–3; DuVal, Independence Lost, 93–94. 87. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 57. 88. The Diary of John Hutchins, 6, typescript, Hutchins Papers, MDAH. Hutchins was not entirely correct in his claim that Willing had a forged commission. The captain’s commission was real but was not given by Congress. Rather, the captain had received his commission from the Commerce Committee, a subordinate agency, because the mission had an almost undercover character. 89. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution.

notes to chapter 3 / 239 90. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 58. 91. The Diary of John Hutchinson, 7, typescript, Hutchins Papers, MDAH. 92. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 63–64. 93. M. Phelps, Memoirs and Adventures of Captain Matthew Phelps, 35. 94. William Dunbar, In the Accadian Country, May 1, 1778, in Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 61; DuVal, Independence Lost, 102. 95. William Dunbar, In the Accadian Country, May 1, 1778, in Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 62. 96. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 62–66. One has to be careful about the estimated numbers of enslaved Africans in Natchez. Most historians, in absence of a census, base their estimates on a letter written by the governor of West Florida, who reports the staggering number of 2,500 white settlers and 600 enslaved, but he refers to the entire western district of West Florida, which includes, but is not limited to, Natchez. Baton Rouge, Manchac, and Point Coupée also held a number of enslaved Africans and settlers. 97. O’Brien, “We Are behind You,” 110–17. 98. John Campbell to Sir Henry Clinton, Pensacola, May 31, 1779, Administrative Papers and Land Grant Records, Military Dispatches, MF 3497, Series 682, MDAH. 99. Peter Chester to George Germain, Pensacola, July 14, 1779, Administrative Papers and Land Grant Records, Correspondence, MF 3497, Series 682, MDAH.

3 / Masters of Complexion? 1. Sylvia Hilton convincingly argues that “Spanish occupation of North American borderland colonies was preemptive in character and defensive in function.” Yet Louisiana, based on location and demographic, was “especially sensitive to the international transatlantic conflicts of the age, forcing imperial authorities to embrace a highly adaptive approach to their internal government, as local actors maneuvered in defense of their own interest” (Hilton, “Spanish Louisiana in Atlantic Contexts,” 68). 2. See Berlin, Many Thousands Gone. 3. On slave mortgages, see Martin, “Slavery’s Invisible Engine.” 4. Phelps, Memoirs and Adventures of Captain Matthew Phelps, 38. Phelps had come to Natchez to become a planter, yet he was unable to do so. He claimed it was not because he was “destitute of property” but because he could not turn anything into cash. He therefore enlisted as a corporal and tried to gain some capital through smaller business ventures. 5. Phelps, Memoirs and Adventures of Captain Matthew Phelps, 45; Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 9–11. 6. Chester to Dartmouth, Pensacola, May 18, 1773, in Mississippi Provincial Archives, British Dominion, Correspondence of Governor Peter Chester, 1772–1773 Series 688, 12:46–49, MDAH. 7. Phelps, Memoirs and Adventures of Captain Matthew Phelps, 45. 8. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 105–7. 9. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 111. 10. Elliott, The Fort of Natchez, 11, 19; Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 109–10; D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 24. 11. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 82–83. For more information on free black militia in New Orleans, see Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places.

240 / notes to chapter 3 12. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 119–23. 13. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 74. 14. Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 42. See also Ingersoll, “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans.” 15. Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 89–93. After the Natchez rebellion of 1729, the plantation society of Louisiana quickly reverted to a society with slaves, and even the Code Noir was enforced less. With the advent of the Spanish regime and the restoration of a plantation society, French planters were eager to revive the Code and the control it presented. 16. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 77–78. Gilbert Din is not the only historian who argues that the French Creole settlers were trying to maintain not only their culture but also the French legal system and thereby the French colonial society. However, Din uses New Orleans as the base for his thesis, and only sources related to New Orleans. Natchitoches, as described in Burton and Smith’s Colonial Natchitoches, shows the same inclination of the Creole colonists to retain the old system, yet they even prevailed under Spanish law, which New Orleans did not, according to Din. Natchez, as I will show, is an entirely different case. Din is generalizing for all of Louisiana, based on his meticulous research on New Orleans and the vicinity of the city. He argues mainly against Gwendolyn Hall’s contention that the French Code Noir overrode every Spanish law in Louisiana in Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana. 17. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 122. 18. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 42. On rogue colonialism see Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire, 5. Rogue colonialism perfectly fits the development of the Natchez District and the experiences of its inhabitants. The people of Natchez tried to refashion slavery in a way that fit both their demand for labor and the empires’ demands of slave control. In the process, they developed a system of slave control that helped to sustain a growing slave society through the unstable colonial era. 19. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 43. 20. Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 70. 21. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 45. 22. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 40. 23. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 45. 24. Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 70. 25. DeRosier, William Dunbar, 46. 26. Saxon, Father Mississippi, 142–46; Downey, “The Hand and Head of Molly Glass.” Both sources are of a literary nature; however, both agree that Molly Glass was a free person of color, married to a deserter of the British army (possible a German), and exceptionally strong in physique and character. Both sources also note that she posed a threat to society, either by being a strong free woman of color (Downey), or by being a cruel quadroon who enslaved white people (Saxon). Gwendolyn Hall argues that the case represents an example of cruelty on the part of slave owners perpetuated against women (Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 312). Hall gives her name as Marie Glass, but the rest of the literature uses the name Molly. 27. Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 72. 28. Dunbar, Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, 72. Molly Glass was quickly judged and condemned by her British peers. In other cases throughout the Spanish period in the lower Mississippi Valley, free people of color accused of murder

notes to chapter 3 / 241 received a fair trial overseen by Spanish authorities. Witness, for example, the trial of Juan Boquin. He allegedly killed his employer, Daniel Exompe, in 1797. Although a person of color, Boquin was granted all protection of the law until his guilt or innocence was proven (see Trial of Juan Boquin, September 13, 1797, St. Stephen, legajo 172-B, AGI: PC). 29. See Article VI of An Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves. 30. Isaac Johnson to Anthony Hutchins, October 5, 1779, quoted in Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 124. 31. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 125. 32. Bill of sale?, Winfree to Philip Winfree, Natchez, April 6, 1780, Natchez Trace Collection: Provincial and Territorial Records (hereafter abbreviated as NTC: PTR), Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin. For the year 1780, Natchez court records are thin. They become substantial in 1781, when more recorded sales of enslaved people and court cases survived. However, unfree labor was always in demand in Natchez, and there is no indication that the sales slowed down in 1780. That year the Spanish slave market in New Orleans became available to Natchez settlers, many of whom sought to purchase enslaved Africans there. 33. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 124–25; Claiborne, Mississippi, 127. 34. Claiborne, Mississippi, 127–29; Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 101–6. 35. Claiborne, Mississippi, 129–30. 36. There are contrasting interpretations of his involvement (see Caughey, “The Natchez Rebellion of 1781 and Its Aftermath”; Grant, “The Natchez Revolt of 1781”; Grant, “Anthony Hutchins”; and Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution). 37. Claiborne, Mississippi, 133. Hutchins’s wife fearlessly faced Willing during the raid. Instead of delivering her gold, as the captain demanded, Mrs. Hutchins gave up only a bag of lead. The Spanish knew about Mrs. Hutchins’s role in the Willing raid and even referenced it in their decision to spare most of her property. 38. Claiborne, Mississippi, 131. 39. Orders, Natchez, March 23, 1782, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 12. 40. Appointment of Guardian, Natchez, July 29, 1781, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 1. 41. Apparently, it was a long-standing and cherished tradition among Natchez inhabitants to flee to Indian country to avoid capture or to avoid paying debts. In the following chapters, cases like Alston’s will occur time and again. See McIntosh’s complaint about settlers constantly evading debt: Appointment of Guardian, Natchez, August 11, 1781, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 2. Tropical diseases frequently ravaged Natchez. Yellow fever, for example, continued to plague the population every summer even past the mid-nineteenth century, causing many to abandon the town for the outlying plantations or other, healthier climates. William Scarborough calls yellow fever “the most dreaded scourge of the nineteenth-century South” (see Alford, Prince among Slaves, 143; and Scarborough, Masters of the Big House, 149). 42. Appointment of Guardian, Natchez, July 31, 1781, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 1.

242 / notes to chapter 3 43. Appointment of Guardian, Natchez, September 12, 15, 1781; March 29, 1782, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 3. 44. Appointment of Guardian, Natchez, August 11, 1781, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 2. 45. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 142–53; McBee, Natchez Court Records, 3–5. 46. See, for example, Díaz, The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre. 47. Haynes, The Natchez District and the American Revolution, 147–56; Bernardo de Gálvez to Prince William, Duke of Lancaster, April 4, 1783, Guarcio, Mississippi Provincial Archives: Spanish Dominion, vol. 2: 1783–1786, 2, MDAH. Alston nevertheless reappeared in the Natchez court documents as a witness to land sales in 1801. He apparently made his return, although it is unclear if he did so under the Spanish or American regime (see Indenture, February 26, 1801, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 371). 48. Grant, “The Natchez Revolt of 1781,” 322–23. 49. Carlos de Grand-Pré to Estevan Miró, Natchez, May 26, 1782, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:16–17. 50. Kinnaird, ed., Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 3:17. 51. Kinnaird, ed., Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 3:17. 52. Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 9. 53. Miró to Campo de Alange, Madrid, August 11, 1792, as quoted in Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 10. 54. Hilton, “Spanish Louisiana in Atlantic Contexts,” 9–11. 55. D. Clayton James reports that people in Natchez immediately utilized their new trade connections with New Orleans. Gilbert Din shows that Spanish mercantile interest were heavily involved in importing larger numbers of enslaved Africans to Louisiana (D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 29–30; Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 67–68). 56. According to Jack Holmes, “English local government customs were followed from the beginning of Spanish rule” (Holmes, “Law and Order in Spanish Natchez, 187). For a discussion of the Spanish process of selling a slave, see Bergad, García, and Barcia, The Cuban Slave Market. 57. Edwards, The People and Their Peace, 3–54. There has been no in-depth study of the legal changes from British to Spanish law in Natchez. Edwards’s study about the differences between local and state law in post-Revolutionary North and South Carolina comes very close in describing the discrepancies between both systems in the Anglo-American law tradition. One can assume that the people of Natchez followed a similar path in understanding and utilizing the new Spanish law. When Manuel Gayoso de Lemos arrived in Natchez, he would alter that approach significantly. 58. Claiborne, Mississippi, 137. 59. As Robert H. Gudmestad argues, albeit for a later period: “Disentangling the various strands of forced migration is like trying to unite the Gordian knot. Migration with owners, planter purchase, and the interstate trade blended together to form a seamless whole” (Gudmestad, A Troublesome Commerce, 8). 60. Spanish court records registered an increasing number of slave sales between 1781 and 1782 in the Natchez courthouse. In 1781, three sales were registered, in which nineteen enslaved people changed owners. In 1782, the number of sales that

notes to chapter 3 / 243 were recorded at the courthouse increased to seventeen, and forty-six enslaved people were forced to leave their homes behind. The gender ratio in these sales was also very even. In the two-year period, eighteen men and seventeen women were sold. This is indicative of a frontier slave market depending on natural increase and not on African imports. Most of the sales of the enslaved involved one or two slaves at a time, and often it was a mother and her child (see McBee, Natchez Court Records, 1–18; and slave sales, Natchez, January 19–28, 1782; February 14, 1782; April 9, 1782; April 16, 1782, NTC: PTR). The bills of sale did not always include the enslaved’s gender, especially when children were involved. Therefore, the numbers of enslaved men and women are less than the total number of people sold in Natchez. 61. Bill of sale, Bladen County, North Carolina, January 18, 1788, Barnes-Willis Family Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Bill of sale, Ned, Natchez, July 31, 1792 and Bill of sale, Phoebe, Natchez, August 18, 1792 in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 92. 62. Deyle, Carry Me Back, 17; D. Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 164–67. 63. Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 146; G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 275–315. The numbers for slaves with an African origin vary greatly throughout the literature. For example, Hall calculates an increase of enslaved from Africa in Pointe Coupée alone of sixteen enslaved people. In a more recent work on the slave trade to colonial Louisiana, Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec records no arrival of captives out of Africa. Le Glaunec focuses on shipping manifests, whereas Hall works off census records. Exact numbers are probably not available, and the truth will be somewhere in the middle (see Le Glaunec, “Slave Migrations in Spanish and Early American Louisiana, 195). For the Natchez District, no census records with the origins of slaves survive. However, eighty-seven slave sales recorded in the courthouse between 1780 and 1787 included slaves with an African origin. This constituted 47 percent of all slave sales recorded. Le Glaunec records zero imports from Africa during that time period to all of Louisiana (see R. Davis, The Black Experience in Natchez, 10). 64. Claiborne, Mississippi, 127. 65. Knight, Slave Society in Cuba, 7. 66. S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 26. 67. Knight, Slave Society in Cuba, 10–11. 68. Murray, Odious Commerce, 10. 69. S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 56. 70. Royal Cedula granting new favors to encourage the commerce of Louisiana, 1782. By Order of his Majesty, January 22, 1782, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:3. 71. Knight, Slave Society in Cuba, 11. 72. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 122. 73. Sales contract, Natchez, May 12, 1782, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 13. 74. Bill of sale, Luke, Natchez, May 17, 1782, and Bill of sale, Antoine Ellis, Natchez, May 17, 1782 in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 13. There is a notice of death for William McIntosh in the Natchez Court Records, but none for Alexander. However, Alexander disappears in late 1781, whereas Anne McIntosh, widow, appears frequently. 75. Sales contracts, Natchez, May 12, May 17, June 1, 1782, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 13–14.

244 / notes to chapter 3 76. Slave sale, Natchez, January 28, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 11. 77. Martin, “Slavery’s Invisible Engine,” 824. 78. Historians, of course, have shown that women were just as capable of violence and slave control as men (see, for example, Camp, “The Pleasures of Resistance”; Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property; Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household; Owens, “Fantasies of Consent”; and D. White, Ar’n’t I a Woman?). 79. Martin, “Slavery’s Invisible Engine,” 817–21. 80. Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 14–15. 81. See, for example, Breen, Tobacco Culture; K. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs; Isaac, Uneasy Kingdom; E. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom; and P. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint. 82. See, for example, Buckner, “Constructing Identities on the Frontier of Slavery”; Herring, “Natchez, 1795–1830”; D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez; Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi; and Moore, The Emergence of the Cotton Kingdom in the Old Southwest. 83. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 1–17. 84. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 1–17. 85. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 3. 86. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 27. 87. Francisco Bouligny to Esteban Miró, August 22, 1785, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:136. 88. Bouligny to Miró, August 22, 1785, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:137. 89. Morris, Becoming Southern, 27. 90. Morris, Becoming Southern, 31. 91. See R. Davis, The Black Experience in Natchez, 10; Le Glaunec, “Slave Migrations in Spanish and Early American Louisiana,” 195; and McBee, Natchez Court Records. 92. 1787 Census, Natchez, January 18, 1787, legajo 200, AGI: PC. Translation by the author unless otherwise noted. 93. This movement of planters largely happened throughout the nineteenth century, but Natchez follows the same trajectory (see Baptist, Creating an Old South, 16–36; Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 163–209; Campbell, An Empire for Slavery; Dupre, Transforming the Cotton Frontier; and Miller, “Plantation Labor Organization and Slave Life on the Cotton Frontier”). 94. See Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion; Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause; and A. Rothman, Slave Country. 95. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 100; Petition by John Farquhar, Natchez, February 25, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 25. 96. Loan, Natchez, August 15, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 21. 97. Bill of Sale, Natchez, December 20, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 21. Airy’s age is given as twelve years at first, then later as ten. They might be two different people, but I have no evidence to support either assumption. 98. Martin, “Slavery’s Invisible Engine,” 820–21. 99. Martin, “Slavery’s Invisible Engine,” 820–21. 100. Land sale, Natchez, August 1, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 20. John Blommart continued to haunt the Spanish in the circum-Caribbean. His name

notes to chapter 3 / 245 reappeared in a Spanish report that described him as the leader of a British expedition that aimed to conquer the port of Cartagena (see Bassi, An Aqueous Territory, 114–15). 101. Bill of sale, Natchez, January 7, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 22. 102. Bill of sale, Natchez, February 6, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 22; and bill of sale, Natchez, February 17, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 22–23. 103. One arpent equals 0.99 acres. 104. Appraisement of John Woods Property, Natchez, April 3, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 24. 105. Stephen Hayward, Natchez, June 28, 1785, NTC: PTR. 106. Petition of Margaret Woods, Natchez, January 16, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 164. As it turns out, there was only one child. 107. John Woods versus Russel Jones, Natchez, October 3, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 324. 108. Travel permission, Natchez, November 13, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 164. 109. Francisco Bouligny to Estevan Miro, Natchez, August 22, 1785, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:138. 110. Statement of Daniel Perry, Natchez, undated, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 164. 111. John Woods returned to Natchez in 1785, accompanying an American agent from Georgia. He probably hoped that a regime change would grant him a new chance in Natchez through Georgia’s Bourbon County scheme, yet the Spanish immediately arrested him, and otherwise thwarted his and the American’s plans as well (see Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 120–30). 112. Margaret Woods to Estevan Miro, New Orleans, March 16, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 164. 113. Colonel Don Felipe Trevino to Carlos the Gran Pré, Natchez, June 12, 1784, NTC: PTR. 114. Witness accounts, Stephen Haywood, John Ellis, Richard Harrison, Natchez, July 3, 1786, and John Bingaman, Natchez, July 9, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 165. Benjamin Belt, Natchez, undated, NTC: PTR. 115. Abraham Mays, Coles Creek, July 7, 1786, NTC: PTR. 116. Abraham Mays, Coles Creek, July 7, 1786, NTC: PTR. 117. Deposition of Patience Welton, Natchez, July 9, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 165. 118. Patience Welton, Natchez, July 9, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 165. 119. Statement of William Owens, Natchez, July 7, 1786, Minor Family Papers, 1783–1852, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 120. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone; Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation. 121. Abraham Mays, Coles Creek, July 7, 1786, NTC: PTR. 122. Statement of William Owens, Natchez, July 7, 1786, Minor Family Papers, 1783–1852, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 123. Statement of William Owens, Natchez, July 7, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 166. 124. Bouligny to Miro, Natchez, August 22, 1785, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 3:137.

246 / notes to chapter 4 125. Deposition of Stephen Jett, Natchez, October 4, 1784, Archibald Rea and John Pickens, Natchez, October 1, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 137. 126. Stephen Jett, Natchez, October 4, 1784, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 167. 127. Archibald Rea, Natchez, October 4, 1784, McBee, Natchez Court Records, 167. 128. Examination, Natchez, December 16, 1786, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 167. 129. John Pickens vs. John Woods, Natchez, June 25, 1787; John Vaucheret vs. John Woods, Natchez, December 27, 1787; Appraisement and Sale, Natchez, January 16, 1788, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 254–55. 130. Land Claim of Jesse Lum, Adams County, March 19, 1804, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 522.

4 / Spanish Complexions in the Lower Mississippi Valley 1. Negro James v. Clement Dyson and John Staybraker, Natchez, October 21, 1781, Natchez Court Records: Original Spanish Records (hereafter abbreviated as NCR: OSR), Book 1, Adams County Court House, Natchez, Mississippi. 2. James v. Dyson et al. I discuss this case more explicitly in Pinnen, “Slavery, Race, and Freedom on the Spanish Anglo Borderlands.” 3. On legal pluralism and its effect on law, see Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures; Benton, A Search for Sovereignty; Benton and Ross, “Jurisdiction, Sovereignty, and Political Imagination”; Benton and Ross, Legal Pluralism and Empires; Cardim et al., eds., Polycentric Monarchies; and Herzog, Frontiers of Possession. 4. Liminality in the context of my work considers the various thresholds that majorities and minorities negotiated each time there was a shift in Natchez’s power structure. As a concept, liminality is not just a transition but also a successful completion of a passage, in this case the development of a plantation society in Natchez. Liminality is only ended, or the threshold successfully crossed, when a clear definition of spaces and clear rules are established. Natchez, however, remained a contested space in any sense of the word until the United States established a lasting power and an unquestioned legal system in the early 1800s. The transitions between empires in Natchez created several thresholds, which in turn produced unique responses, by all parties involved, allowing empires and people in Natchez a certain flexibility. The concept has undergone several new interpretations since its inception by van Gennep and its resurgence through Victor Turner. Some examples in history are Richard White’s The Middle Ground and Greg Dening’s Islands and Beaches. In the context of Atlantic history, legal liminality offers a perfect complement to a growing literature of legal pluralism in colonial empires. Whereas legal pluralism investigates the role of states and defines the legal system in European colonies as fluid, liminality refocuses my study on the people in those colonies. See, for example, Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures; Benton and Ross, Legal Pluralism and Empires; van Gennep, Les rites de passag; Szakolczai, “Liminality and Experience,” 149; Thomassen, “The Uses and Meanings of Liminality”; and Turner, The Ritual Process. 5. Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness, 85. 6. On limpieza de sangre and Spanish ideas of complexion connected to the concept, see, for example, Earle, “The Pleasures of Taxonomy”; Martínez, Genealogical Fictions; Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo; and Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness.

notes to chapter 4 / 247 7. On this point, see, specifically, Earle, “The Pleasures of Taxonomy,” 433–34; and Martínez, Genealogical Fictions, 227–64. Both authors place the emergence of casta paintings at the center of a new push, at least in Spain, to sort or catalogue the various people and colonists of the Spanish Empire in a way that made sense to the Europeans. 8. Díaz, The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre, 15–17; McKinley, Fractional Freedoms, 4–5, quote on 4. 9. On the development of race in the British Atlantic see, for example, Block, Colonial Complexions; and Newman, A Dark Inheritance. Specifically in the context of constructing race in the new republic, see E. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 386; and Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation, xii. 10. Cottrol, The Long, Lingering Shadow, 45. 11. Bennett, Colonial Blackness, 2. 12. The Bourbon Reforms were a set of economic and political legislation introduced by Spain throughout the eighteenth century. Intended to modernize imperial Spain, the reforms in Spanish America were designed to create a more efficient administration and to promote the economic, commercial, and fiscal development of the Spanish colonies. The reforms became policy under the Spanish Bourbon monarchs Charles III (1759–88) and his heir, Charles IV (1788–1808). These reforms were also designed to combat British capitalism, and British settlers often viewed BritishSpanish relationships through a lens of moral superiority, which frequently had antiSpanish undertones (Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 25–26; and S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 11–12). 13. On this specifically, see Hilton, “Spanish Louisiana in Atlantic Contexts.” 14. See de la Fuente, “Slave Law and Claims-Making in Cuba,” 339–70. In a more recent article, de la Fuente shows that coartación was such a customary privilege that Cuban officials were forced by the enslaved to write it into the official Cuban law codes in the nineteenth century (de la Fuente, “Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba”; Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen, 69). Spain altered the slave codes one more time in 1845. 15. Jennings, “Paths to Freedom,” 123; see also Martínez, Genealogical Fictions; and Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo. 16. See Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers”; Smith and Hilton, Nexus of Empire; and Hilton, “Spanish Louisiana in Atlantic Contexts.” 17. Jack Holmes argues that Gayoso was “almost independent, though he submitted his proposals for new rules and regulations dutifully to the governor general after they were a fait accompli” (Holmes, Gayoso, 53). 18. The Spanish laws drew on the tradition of the medieval Las Siete Partidas and the 1680 Recopilación de leyes de los reinos de las Indias (Compilation of the laws of the kingdom of the Indies). These laws “drew together diverse legislation applying to Spain’s New World empire in 1681” (Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 24). 19. S. White, Voices of the Enslaved, 31. 20. For a discussion of the struggle between French Creole planters and the Spanish governors, see Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 35–133; and Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 24–26. See also Holmes, Gayoso, 53. Holmes interprets the proceedings differently and suggests that the French Creoles did exert quite a bit of control.

248 / notes to chapter 4 21. This was not uncommon on many plantation frontiers. See, for example, some of the literature on colonial South Carolina: R. Brown, African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry; Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina; Wood, Black Majority; and Quintana, “Planner, Planters, and Slaves.” 22. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 94. 23. Holmes shows that Gayoso and the Spanish Empire tried to rely on friendly Indian nations to protect their borders to relieve the thinly stretched Spanish military force in Louisiana (Holmes, Gayoso, 98). 24. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 25. 25. The enslaved could no longer move freely from plantation to plantation and assist with the harvest, which meant that small farmers were left without a valuable and affordable source of labor. 26. According to Alejandro de la Fuente, coartación was more a custom than a law, and very often not codified until later. In his study, Cuba did not make coartación a law until the mid-eighteenth century (de la Fuente, “Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba”). 27. Ingersoll argues that Alejandro O’Reilly had introduced coartación as a legal code to Cuba in 1762 or 1763 and then brought it to New Orleans and Louisiana on his punitive expedition against the revolt of the French elite against Spanish rule. Ingersoll also contends that O’Reilly never made the new avenue to freedom public, yet the enslaved still found out about the new beneficial law (Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 21, 25; Ingersoll, “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans,” 41–43). 28. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 25; de la Fuente, “Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba,” 661–65, quote on 661. 29. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 26. The practice of coartación goes back to medieval Spain, yet most planters in Louisiana came from a French background and were unfamiliar with the practice. Therefore, they opposed it. 30. See Scott, The Common Wind; and Pinnen, “The Cultural Transfer of Racial and Legal Traditions.” On the Spanish “Republic of the Unlettered,” see Premo, The Enlightenment on Trial, 10. On the lack of regulations for the literacy of the enslaved under the French, see S. White, Voices of the Enslaved, 6. On the enslavers straining against the Spanish legal system, see, for example, Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 129; and Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 21–24. 31. Maroons were runaway slaves who evaded capture and created their own runaway communities in swamps or other hard-to-access places. 32. For the effect of interactions between people of color and Europeans on laws, see, for example, de la Fuente, “Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba,” 659–92; Kennington, “Law, Geography, and Mobility”; Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom; and Vidal, ed., Louisiana. 33. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 143–46. 34. Across the Spanish Empire, manumissions and the process of manumitting the enslaved was always reliant on the owner-owned relationship. If the (ex-)slave disrespected or injured the enslaver in any way, the manumission could be revoked (see Cottrol, The Long, Lingering Shadow, 60–62). In Louisiana, there was no definition given for misbehavior, which allowed the planter to judge liberally based on his own definition (Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 129). A similar conundrum affected Virginia after the American Revolution. As slave owners were confronted with ideas of

notes to chapter 4 / 249 liberty and the problem of slavery, they began to use manumissions as a tool to ensure slave discipline (see Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation, 39–84, esp. 65–66). 35. Intendant Martin Navarro favored an extremely liberal trading policy, especially with the French Caribbean, to bring in more enslaved people, which in turn was supposed to attract more European settlers. A royal cédula followed Navarro’s suggestions in January 1782. It even expanded on the intendant’s suggestion by including all friendly European countries in the trade to Louisiana. Cuba was not included in these measures (Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 146). 36. Numbers vary depending on the historian. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall estimates roughly fourteen thousand arrivals, but recently Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec arrived at the estimate of from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand. He particularly corrected the origins of the enslaved, which Hall had argued were mostly Bambara. Le Glaunec identified a much larger variety by employing parish records, which asked questions of origin (see G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 276–88; Le Glaunec, “Slave Migrations in Spanish and Early American Louisiana,” 202; and Le Glaunec, “The Small World of Louisiana Slavery,” 107–9). 37. Slave numbers in Natchez grew from 505 in 1784 to 2,060 in 1794 (see 1784 Census of Natchez, Natchez, undated, 1784, legajo 116, AGI: PC; and Natchez Census, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC.) 38. Census of the Natchez District, Natchez, January 18, 1787, legajo 200, AGI: PC. 39. Census of the Natchez District, Natchez, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC. 40. On relations across the color line, sexual assault, and rape, see, for example, Block, Colonial Complexions; Block, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America; Berry and Harris, eds., Sexuality and Slavery; M. Williams, “Private Lives and Public Orders;” Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; and Owens, “Fantasies of Consent.” 41. First Territorial Census of Washington, Pickering, and Adams Counties, 1801, Microfilm 2528, MDAH. 42. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 23. 43. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 27–33. 44. Frank Tannenbaum’s thesis on the law in Spanish colonies is based on his concluding assumption that colonial officials followed it to the letter. That part of the thesis has been challenged, but this does not mean that Spanish law had no influence on the lives of the enslaved. The key for the discrepancies in the number of free people of color between Natchez and New Orleans lay in the character of each settlement. If Frank Tannenbaum’s thesis prevails in its entirety, the number of free people of color in Natchez would increase just as much as in New Orleans, based on the new Spanish legislation. Yet Eugene Genovese has long since qualified Tannenbaum’s ideas as he separates the idealist from the materialist approach (see Genovese, “Materialism and Idealism in the History of Negro Slavery in the Americas,” 19). The idealist Tannenbaum based his theory on the law and the assumption that colonial officials followed it to the letter. Historians like Laura Foner and Genovese, as well as anthropologist Marvin Harris, on the other hand, argue that material conditions also defined the chances for freedom. Harris, for example, explains that the sex ratio of white settlers and the black-to-white ratio had a significant influence on manumissions. White fathers were more inclined to free their offspring or sexual partners than a regular field hand. In societies where people of color outnumbered whites, Africans also filled the role of

250 / notes to chapter 4 artisans and service employees. They could earn money and then buy their own freedom, usurping the role of the master as the only person with the power to free a slave (see Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas). Ingersoll forcefully refutes the Tannenbaum thesis for New Orleans squarely based on legal codes and no cultural considerations, yet his research is not as minute as Kimberly Hanger’s investigation. Therefore, I am more inclined to follow Hanger’s reasoning (see Ingersoll, “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans, 1718–1807”). Demographics, however, were not the only reason for enslavers to manumit their enslaved. The state of the plantation economy also dictated how likely it was for an enslaver to free a human in bondage. Hanger concludes that manumissions were most easily achieved at the very top or the very bottom of the economic cycle. Foner and Genovese agree with this economic explanation. They also argue that the rates of manumission were not only connected to demographics but also to the market structure: “Slave treatment and manumission rates followed economic cycles.” If the economy was undergoing a boom phase and commodity and slave prices were locked in an upward spiral, slavery became more restrictive, and slave owners became more reluctant to grant manumissions. If, however, the economy declined, circumstances were reversed. As production declined, slave prices dropped, and planters looked for ways to rid themselves of human chattels. At the peak of the cycle, planters felt secure enough in their wealth to free a slave. The reverse was true in an economic downturn. Many times, according to Hanger, “masters reduced their costs by manumitting crippled, ill, or retarded slaves” (see Foner, “The Free People of Color in Louisiana and St. Domingue; Genovese, “Materialism and Idealism in the History of Negro Slavery in the Americas,” 1; and Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 19). 45. See, for example, Gross, “Litigating Whiteness”; E. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom; and Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation. 46. Many critiques of the Tannenbaum thesis focus on the materialist interpretation of slave societies. Genovese argues that Tannenbaum had “greatly deepened our understanding of the process by which specific slaveholding classes were formed, and those processes are, or ought to be, the central concern of a materialist interpretation of history” (Genovese, “Materialism and Idealism,” 383). 47. The reason for that is twofold. There probably were not many attempts of enslaved Africans (yet) to gain advantage through Spanish courts. In addition, we do not know if all court records survived the centuries in Natchez. Sections of the records disappeared and are now housed at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin. It is possible that more records disappeared and have not been recovered; they may never be. 48. On Cuba, see, for example, Childs, The 1812 Aponte Rebellion, 78–119; and S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba. On Spanish St. Augustine and the role of the “Negro Fort,” see Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida, 202–29; Kimberly Hanger’s data shows that the free population of color in New Orleans increased from 97 in 1771 to 315 in 1777. This number more than doubled again in 1788 to 820. At the same time, imports of enslaved people rose slightly less, from 1,227 to 2,131. Hanger clearly shows that the number of free people of color increased exponentially in Spanish New Orleans. However, Thomas Ingersoll argues equally eloquently that the laws, in fact, did not change enough to justify the increase. His analysis is strictly based on the local slave codes passed and is not focused on

notes to chapter 4 / 251 overall social change as is Hanger’s analysis (Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 22; Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans). Din follows Hanger’s approach, and he comes to comparable conclusions, also arguing that the Spanish codes indeed opened the way for freedom for many formerly enslaved Africans (Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 65). 49. Slave sale, Richard Deval to Francisco Menar, Natchez, May 4, 1785, James Mather to Richard Deval, Natchez, April 6, 1785, Francisco Menar to Estevan Minor, Natchez, July 11, 1785, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 31. 50. Slave sale, Estevan Minor to Jacob Liephart, Natchez, July 9, 1787, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 42. 51. On the intrinsic value of all enslaved people at all ages, see, especially, Berry, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh. 52. R. Davis, The Black Experience in Natchez, 10. These numbers exclude importations, which could come from New Orleans or any other port that planters visited to purchase their enslaved. The vast numbers of the growing slave populations were bought outside of Natchez, and then imported. 53. Will of Stephen Jordan, January 18, 1788, Natchez, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 49. 54. Estate sale of William Pounteney, February 9, 1788, Natchez, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 50. 55. On settlers fleeing to “Indian country” because of debt, see chapter 3. 56. Beginning in 1807, newspapers survive that indicate a much more frequent occurrence of slave flight than any sources of Spanish Natchez indicate. Those ads will be analyzed in chapter 7. A 2013 volume of the Journal of Mississippi History collected runaway assessments for a later period (Journal of Mississippi History 75, no. 2 [Summer 2013]). 57. Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida, 67. 58. Quote from A. Rothman, Slave Country, 61, see also 139–44. As seen in chapter 1, the Natchez changed their ideas and interpretations of complexion to adjust to a world suddenly influenced by racial, rather than cultural, slavery. Yet the role of Native Americans in harboring runaway slaves depended both on the time and the geographic location of the Indians. As Landers points out, the Seminoles accepted runaway slaves in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, however, with the onslaught of plantation slavery in middle Florida, the Seminoles often killed runaways found in their territory during the Second Seminole War (1835–42) (see Baptist, Creating an Old South, 204–7). Enslaved women escaping from slave societies in South Carolina during the late eighteenth century also could find refuge among the Creek Indians, whereas the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations were not forthcoming in offering runaway slaves sanctuary. On the absorption of female runaways slaves into Creek society, see Krauthamer, “Kinship and Freedom,” 148–65; and Krauthamer, “A Particular Kind of Freedom,” 100–27. In addition to Adam Rothman, Christina Snyder and Daniel Usner have also argued that the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations did not assist enslaved fugitives and, beginning during the Spanish period, began to develop their own slave societies according to racial principles (see Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country; and Usner, Indians, Settlers & Slaves). 59. See, especially, Krauthammer, Black Slaves, Indian Masters. 60. Power of attorney, Natchez, June 16, 1791, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 84.

252 / notes to chapter 5 61. Bill of sale, Natchez, April 25, 1794, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 101. 62. G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 201–36. Kimberly Hanger also suggests that enslaved runaways contributed to the growing population of free people of color in New Orleans (Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 21–22, 53, 119n123, 192). 63. McBee, Natchez Court Records, 139. 64. McBee, Natchez Court Records, 126. 65. There is strong evidence for maroon villages in Louisiana, but there is no mention of any maroon activity around Natchez, likely due to the fact that the Indians still controlled the backcountry and returned runways quickly. 66. Petition of Juan Bautista Morel (Mulatto) to prove his freedom, New Orleans, January 12, 1791, Dispatches of the Spanish Governors 1766–1800, Document 2675, Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans. 67. Cottrol, The Long, Lingering Shadow, 43–48. Cottrol explains convincingly that the history of race in Spain originates in the legal codes of Rome and the adapted code of the Siete Partidas that spread from medieval Spain to its colonies in the Americas. The key, as Cottrol points out, is that “slavery in the Spanish Empire did not require a justifying ideology, one that made people of African descent a group apart, radically separated from all others” (quote on 46). 68. Slaves Betty and Jude, New Orleans, no date given (probably 1786), NCR: OSR, Book 8. 69. Slaves Betty and Jude, New Orleans, no date given (probably 1786), NCR: OSR, Book 8. 70. Petition of Betty and Jude, New Orleans, March 21, 1788 or 1789, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 255. 71. Laura Edwards has found that the post-Revolutionary American South underwent a similar period in which local law customs were slowly adopted into, or absorbed and superseded by, comprehensive state law (see Edwards, The People and Their Peace).

5 / Gendered Complexions 1. Amy Lewis to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 24, 1797, NTC: PTR. 2. Lewis to Gayoso, July 24, 1797. 3. See, for example, Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness, 85–86. 4. See Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR, and Nelly Price v. Thomas Green, Natchez February 26, 1783; Nelly Price v. Richard King, Natchez, April 26, 1784, NCR: OSR, Book 3, Adams County Court House, Natchez, Mississippi; Eleanor Price v. Estate of Miguel López, Natchez, February 22, 1788, NCR: OSR, Book 14, Adams County Court House. 5. Sexual exploitation of enslaved women happened frequently in slave societies. On rape and sexual exploitation, see, for example, Block, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America. On the larger issues affecting relationships of people with different complexions in slave societies, see Berry and Harris, Sexuality and Slavery. Of special interest are the chapters by Stephanie Camp (1), Trevor Burnard (2), Marisa Fuentes (3), and Bianca Premo (4). On marriages and legitimate and illegitimate unions in Louisiana, see Williams, “Private Lives and Public Orders”; Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans; and Owens, “Fantasies of Consent.” 6. Michelle McKinley argues that African-descended “litigants and their advocates strategically exploited the rhetorical power of liberty within the courts, even when

notes to chapter 5 / 253 their lived realities were decidedly unfree and unequal” (McKinley, Fractional Freedoms, 2). 7. See Natchez Census, Natchez, undated, 1784, legajo 116, AGI: PC; Natchez Census, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC; Census of the Natchez District, Natchez, January 18, 1787, legajo 200, AGI: PC; and Census of the Natchez District, Natchez, April 27, 1793, Microfilm 2528, MDAH. We do know the gender ratio for white people, however. According to census records, 690 white men lived in Natchez in 1787, whereas only 589 white women resided in the district. By 1794, the number of white men had increased to 1,546, and the number of white women to 1,282. Single white women were therefore sparsely available in Natchez (see Natchez Census 1787, legajo 116, AGI: PC; and Natchez Census 1794, legajo 31). Kimberly Hanger found gender ratios heavily tilted toward women among the free people of color in New Orleans, and its seem reasonable to suggest that Natchez did not deviate from that norm (Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 23). 8. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 98–104. 9. Territorial Census of Washington, Pickering, and Adams Counties, 1801, Microfilm 2528, MDAH. 10. Jane Landers notes several cases in Spanish Florida, and Kimberly Hanger also addresses the issue in her work (see Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 36–39; Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida, 150–53). It was not uncommon for white men in slave societies like St. Augustine or New Orleans to have sexual relations with enslaved women. If these women built lasting relationships out of the sexual exploitation by white men, they leveraged some agency to possibly receive their freedom. However, it is important to emphasize that enslaved women remained the least powerful members in a slave society and could rarely defend themselves against sexual advances. Rape was very much a factor of daily life for the enslaved. Enslaved women did their best to maintain control over their sexuality, yet ultimately, they were helpless against advances from white members of society. They did, however, have access to certain measures of birth control, including abortion, and enslaved women could successfully terminate pregnancies (Beckles, Natural Rebels, 97, 158–59; Moitt, Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 96–97; Schwartz, Birthing a Slave, 97–105, 207–11). 11. See, for example, K. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs; and Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. 12. For one example of how women used their gender and motherhood to eventually achieve freedom, see Grinberg, “Manumission, Gender, and the Law in Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” 219–34. For an excellent work on gender roles in New World slave societies, see J. Morgan, Laboring Women. 13. On the importance of families and established plantation societies, see, for example, R. Brown, African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry, 43–44. 14. Jane Landers focused specifically on enslaved women and their quest for freedom in her landmark study Black Society in Spanish Florida. She argued that “due to Spanish custom and law, and to the particular economic and political circumstances of Spanish Florida, a greater percentage of women of African descent became free in that colony than in the Anglo colonies to the north” (Landers, Black Society, 139). There is now circumstantial evidence that the proximity of Spanish Florida forced the legislature of Georgia to allow for relatively lax manumission laws in the last four

254 / notes to chapter 5 decades of the eighteenth century. Compare Watson W. Jennison, “From Subjects of the King to Citizens of the State: Race and Status in Early Georgia,” paper presented at the Fourth Biennial Symposium on Southern History “Slavery in the Colonial South” at Rice University, February 18–20, 2011; and Jennison, Cultivating Race. The same would then also have occurred in Natchez under Spanish control. For a comparison between frontier societies with similar conclusions, see Foner, “The Free People of Color in Louisiana and St. Domingue”; Genovese, “Materialism and Idealism in the History of Negro Slavery in the Americas”; Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 19. Ingersoll vehemently refutes that any of the slave codes in Louisiana offered the enslaved a better chance of freedom, yet the example of Natchez clearly shows the fluidity of Spanish law (Ingersoll, “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans, 1718–1807”). 15. Kennington, “Law, Geography, and Mobility,” 579. 16. The spelling of the name of Charles de Gran Pré varies throughout the sources between the Spanish Carlos and the French (or English) Charles, as well as his last name as Granpre or Gran Pré. I chose to use Charles de Gran Pré throughout, unless used in a direct quote. 17. Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR (Original in French). See also May Wilson McBee, The Natchez Court Records, 1767–1805: Abstracts of Early Records (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979), 11. 18. Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR. 19. Inglis, “Searching for Free People of Color in Colonial Natchez,” 97. Specifically, see Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places, 25–26, 42–44; and Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness, 85–86. 20. Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR. 21. See Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 281–87. Hall argues that many of the enslaved were imported from Africa and that numbers increased significantly after 1777. Natchez certainly absorbed a greater number of enslaved Africans than Point Coupée, yet the increase in numbers is still significant. The free population of Africans also increased while Gran Pré was in command, but it did not keep pace with the numbers of imported Africans. 22. Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR. 23. Enfranchisement, Natchez, January 17, 1782, NTC: PTR. 24. As quoted in Foner, “Free People of Color,” 411. Military personnel were an important factor in Spanish America, especially in the late eighteenth century. Cuba, for example, absorbed many military officers as settlers, after they retired. Sherry Johnson shows that the ex-military people drove settlement in Cuba and were largely responsible for the developing planter class in Cuba (see S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba). 25. The Bourbon Reforms were a set of economic and political legislation introduced by Spain throughout the eighteenth century. Intended to modernize imperial Spain, the reforms in Spanish America were designed to create a more efficient administration and to promote the economic, commercial, and fiscal development of the Spanish colonies. The reforms became policy under the Spanish Bourbon monarchs Charles III (1759–1788), and his heir, Charles IV (1788–1808). These reforms were also designed to combat British capitalism, and British settlers often viewed British-Spanish relationships through a lens of moral superiority, which frequently

notes to chapter 5 / 255 had anti-Spanish undertones (Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 25–26; S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba, 11–12). 26. See Stark, “Ties That Bind.” San Salvador, the Catholic Church in Natchez, kept somewhat detailed—but not entirely complete—records. 27. Natchez had a busy port, even if it was not accessible to oceangoing vessels. But New Orleans and its access to the Atlantic World were close and connections between Natchez and New Orleans were vital for any trade. Hence, the enslaved could establish communication networks on their own (see, especially, Scott, The Common Wind, 36–75). 28. See Book of Baptisms, Sacramental Records from the Parish of San Salvador, Natchez, Mississippi: and the Parish of the Virgin Mary of Sorrows, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1788–1818, transferred to the Archive of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi (hereafter cited as SRPSS), MDAH, original Spanish records. 29. Karen Y. Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship,” 59. 30. Stark, “Ties That Bind,” 88. 31. Stark, “Ties That Bind,” 88, 103–4. 32. Virginia’s colonial settlers showed a similar inclination as they excluded African people from the church community and denied baptized enslaved the right to freedom even as brothers in Christ (see Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia). Puritans, by the eighteenth century, also excluded African people from the body of Christ in a similar vein (see Kopelson, Faithful Bodies). Katharine Gerbner likewise argues that “anticonversion sentiment was one of the defining features of Protestant slave societies in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. While enslaved Africans in Spanish, French, and Portuguese colonial societies were regularly introduced to Catholicism and baptized, whether willingly or not, Protestant slave owners in the English, Dutch, and Danish colonies tended to view conversion as inconsistent or incompatible with slavery” (see Gerbner, Christian Slavery, 2). 33. Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship,” 60. 34. See Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 25–26; S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba; Holmes, “Irish Priests in Spanish Natchez.” 35. The experience of the Irish priests in Natchez is not an isolated one. On other Catholic missionaries in the borderlands and their respective issues on maintaining their charges and remain true to their own “standards of ecclesiastical behavior,” see Pasquier, “French Missionary Priests,” quote on 147. 36. See, for example, Bennett, Colonial Blackness; Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places; and Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida. 37. Holmes, “Irish Priests in Spanish Natchez,” 173–76. 38. Letter of Reprimand, Ysidro Quinteza, Natchez, May 9, 1796, Book of Baptisms, Parish of San Salvador, Natchez, Mississippi, 60. 39. See Herman Bennett on the importance of ecclesiastical records for marriage and race relations and Ann Twinam for the importance of baptism records (Bennett, Colonial Blackness; Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness, 151–76). 40. Protestant American churches had only started baptizing African Americans in larger numbers during the First Great Awakening, and largely only in the Baptist and Methodist denominations. For religion of the enslaved and conversion of African Americans, see, for example, Frey and Wood, Come Shouting to Zion; Stuckey, Slave Culture; and Frey, “The Visible Church.”

256 / notes to chapter 5 41. See Goetz, The Baptism of Early Virginia; and Kopelson, Faithful Bodies. 42. Baptism of Isag, November 28, 1791, Natchez, Book of Baptisms, SRPSS, 17. 43. M. Williams, “Private Lives and Public Orders,” 158–59. 44. Baptism of Pedro Bode, March 18, 1791, Natchez, Book of Baptisms, SRPSS, 17. 45. McKinley, Fractional Freedoms, 145–55, quote on 145. 46. Morrison, “Slave Mothers and White Fathers,” 34–36; Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship,” 60–61. 47. See Twinam, Public Lives, Private Secrets, 130–40. 48. Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship,” 60. 49. Baptism of Maria Josefa Tom, March 11, 1792, Natchez, Book of Baptisms, SRPSS, 20. 50. See, for example, K. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs; J. Morgan, Laboring Women. For Louisiana specifically, see Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. 51. Kennington, “Law, Geography, and Mobility,” 583. As Laura Edwards posits, the laws governing gender relations in British America, across the color line, were designed to reinforce proper gender roles, because “the law had to assert continually the power of white male household heads precisely because, in practice, that power was neither complete nor stable.” As the patriarchy was alive and well in Spanish America as well, women of color did well to avoid any possible challenge to male power in their law suits (Edwards, “Law, Domestic Violence, and the Limits of Patriarchal Authority in the Antebellum South,” 740). 52. R. Scott, “Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status.” 53. For example, the “mulatto” Henry Jones operated a construction business and even contracted with enslavers for additional enslaved workers as his assistance in 1789. But by April 1794 Jones appears to have entered a contract for debt peonage, because he appeared in a bill of sale as “bound to serve as a slave until Aug. 1801” (see McBee, Natchez Court Records, 101, 255–56). On the interaction of slavery and debt peonage in the borderlands and Spanish and Anglo-American legal interaction, see Kiser, Borderlands of Slavery. 54. In 1792, 2.672 people lived in the Spanish Natchez District (Census of the Natchez District, Natchez, April 27, 1793, Microfilm 2528, MDAH). 55. Negress Betty v. James Willing, Natchez, November 27, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 314. Willing had returned to Natchez to live in the town again under the protection of the Spanish. On Willing in Natchez, see Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 89. 56. Nelly Price v. Thomas Green, Natchez, February 26, 1783; Nelly Price v. Richard King, Natchez, April 26, 1784, NCR: OSR, Book 3. 57. Nelly Price v. John Stowers, Natchez, February 26, 1783, NCR: OSR, Book 3; Eleanor Price v. James Barfield, Natchez, October 30, 1782, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 294–95. Nelly and Eleanor were used interchangeably in the Spanish records, depending on whether or not the witness was of Anglo-American descent. 58. Eleanor Price v. Estate of Miguel López, Natchez, February 22, 1788; Estevan Miró to Gran Pré, New Orleans, June 12, 1788, NCR: OSR, Book 14. 59. Witness account, Patrick Morphy, Natchez, August 9, 1788, NCR: OSR, Book 14. On sexual violence and enslaved women, see, for example, Block, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America.

notes to chapter 5 / 257 60. One particularly enlightening work on enslaved women, violence, and the role of archival records is Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives, 46–70. 61. Nelly Price v. Richard King, Natchez, April 26, 1784, NCR: OSR, Book 6; Nelly Price v. John Stanley, Natchez, March 27, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 304. 62. Nelly Price v. Thomas Green, Natchez, February 26, 1783, Nelly Price v. John Stowers, Natchez, February 26, 1783, Nelly Price v. Jesse Standley, Natchez, March 27, 1783, NCR: OSR, Book 3; Nelly Price v. John Farquhar, September 19, 1781, Nelly Price v. James Barfield, Natchez, December 30, 1782, McBee, Natchez Court Records, 291, 294–95. 63. Nelly Pricee v. Estate of Miguel López, Natchez, September 1, 1788–February 14, 1789, NCR: OSR, Book 14. 64. Price v. López, June 13, 1789, NCR: OSR, Book 14. 65. The first two cases named only “Mulatto Lewis” as a claimant, whereas the third case named Lewis Clare as a claimant. The close proximity of the dates, however, suggest that it is the same Lewis (see Polser Shilling v. Lewis, Natchez, July 14, 1783, Thomas Yarrow v. Lewis, Natchez, 1783, and Joseph Duncan v. Lewis Clare, Natchez, December 4, 1783, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 309–15). 66. Kennington, “Law, Geography, and Mobility,” 577. 67. Throughout the court case, her name is spelled several different ways. Amee, Emme, Aime, Eme, Aimy and other variations were common. I settled on Amy. 68. On October 27, 1795, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo del Escorial, otherwise known as Pinckney’s Treaty, which finally settled the border at the thirty-first longitudinal line east of the Mississippi River. Natchez thus became part of the United States, and Spain relinquished its claim to the district on paper. In reality, however, the American surveyor Andrew Ellicott did not arrive in Natchez until the early spring of 1797, and it would take him and Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, at first governor of Natchez, later governor of Louisiana, an additional year to finally transfer the district to the Americans. For a detailed and recent analysis of the transfer from Spain to the United States, see Haynes, The Mississippi Territory. On the concept of “fractional freedoms,” see McKinley, Fractional Freedoms. 69. White women, for example, based their honor on the purity of their sexuality. Whiteness came to mean sexually pure. In contrast, blackness was associated with the stereotypical “Jezebel” representing licentiousness and “degraded sexuality.” “For a man, performing whiteness meant the performance of rights and privileges,” especially the ownership of slaves and his statesmen like behavior to both inferiors and superiors (see Gross, “Litigating Whiteness,” 157). Some women, however, were heavily involved in slavery even if it meant going against the normative gender role and definitions of womanhood at the time (see Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property, 204). Performance of complexion, generally speaking, was important in the Spanish colonies. Because determinations of complexions were not based on skin color alone, definitions remained fluid and performance of whiteness could aid in achieving a status further removed from blackness (see Martínez, Genealogical Fictions, 4–5; and Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo, 4–5). 70. Gross, “Litigating Whiteness,” 156–76. 71. Estate of Richard Carpenter, Natchez, August 7, 1788, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 289.

258 / notes to chapter 5 72. Sale, Bennet Truly to Asahel Lewis and Charles Boardman, Natchez, April 16, 1790, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 76. The large sum was paid off in three payments in 1792, 1793, and 1794, Lewis and Boardman retired their debt to Truly. 73. Exchange of slaves, Natchez September 9, 1790, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 76. Again, “Amy” was variously spelled in the court records. Mary Carpenter had received one enslaved woman named “Anny” in her husband’s will, yet the enslaved woman she gave to Lewis was called “Emma.” However, they are the same person because the Spanish officials had trouble committing Anglo-American names to paper. The similarity of those names therefore suggests that Anny, Emma, and Amy were the same captive African. 74. See Cottrol, The Long, Lingering Shadow, 35–37; Martínez, Genealogical Fictions, 135–36. 75. Will of Richard Carpenter, Natchez, July 28, 1788, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 80. One of the witnesses in a later account states that Mary Carpenter was Asahel Lewis’s sister. Therefore, we can assume that Lewis knew Amy, possibly intimately, before he acquired her (see Statement of John Williams, Natchez, September 29, 1796, NTC: PTR). 76. Bill of sale, Natchez, October 11, 1799, in Natchez Court Records: Land Deed Records (hereafter abbreviated as NCR: LDR), Book B, Adams County Court House, Natchez Mississippi. This is the only record we have of Marshal, who is not mentioned in the will of Asahel Lewis, likely proving he was not his progeny. 77. Carta de Libertad, Asahel Lewis, Natchez, undated (the Carta de Libertad was probably recorded on November 1, 1794), NTC: PTR. 78. Quote in Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives, 3. On the “production” of history, see Trouillot, Silencing the Past. 79. Will of Ezekiel DeWitt, Natchez, March 21, 1791, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 82. 80. Will of Carlos Enrique Barchelot Desubias, Natchez, November 18, 1787 and mortgage of Carlos Enrique Barchelot Desubias, December 12, 1787, NCR: OSR, Book 13. 81. Petition of Amy Lewis, Natchez, March 9, 1794, NTC: PTR. 82. The United States had long coveted the Natchez District, and in 1795 Spain agreed to relinquish Natchez to the American republic. Amy Lewis’s fight for freedom coincided with the transition of the Natchez District from the Spanish Empire to the United States, resulting in a sudden change of the legal culture that ultimately doomed her quest. The border dispute that had caused the State of Georgia to create Bourbon County and that almost caused a rebellion in Natchez was finally resolved in 1795 (James, Antebellum Natchez, 54–57; Narrett, Adventurism and Empire, 120–30). 83. McKinley, Fractional Freedoms, 178, emphasis added. 84. For example, Amy Lewis sued her former enslaver’s relatives on April 23, 1794, over a horse that she had received before his death “in recompense of her service.” Lewis was classified as “negress Amy.” Although she was categorized by her complexion, she was not identified as enslaved by the clerk. The distinction here is an obvious one. As far as the Spanish court was concerned, Amy Lewis was free, and she secured her property against any possible claims by producing witnesses who testified that Lewis had indeed bequeathed the horse to her (see Negress Amy versus the heirs of Asahel Lewis, Natchez April 23, 1794, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 49, 280).

notes to chapter 5 / 259 Other enslaved people also sued for their livestock. For example, on April 8, 1797, Mary Williams and her African captive sued a former corporal of the Spanish military over a horse belonging to the enslaved man. Mary Williams acknowledged that it was the enslaved’s property, although it was technically illegal for enslaved people to own horses, as explained earlier in the chapter. Nevertheless, Gayoso ordered his former corporal to appear before the court and to bring the horse with him. Gayoso thereby acknowledged the right of the enslaved to sue for his property. In addition, it was obvious that the plaintiff was an enslaved African, not a free person of color (see Mary Williams to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, April 8, 1797, and Order of Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, April 9, 1797, NTC: PTR; and Petition of Mary Williams, Natchez, April 8, 1797, Gayoso, reply, Natchez, April 19, 1797, NTC: PTR). In the lowcountry of antebellum Georgia, enslaved people also owned livestock at astonishing rates and used community witnesses to establish their claims through testimony (see Penningroth, “Slavery, Freedom, and Social Claims to Property among African Americans in Liberty County, Georgia”; Penningroth, The Claims of Kinfolk). 85. Petition of Amy Lewis, Natchez, March 9, 1794, NTC: PTR. 86. Negress Emma versus heirs of Asahel Lewis, Natchez, November 1, 1794, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 280. 87. Joseph Barnard to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, July 4, 1796, NTC: PTR. 88. Estate settlement, Natchez, undated (possibly 1789), in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 256. 89. Joseph Barnard to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, July 4, 1796, NTC: PTR. 90. Marshall, Amy’s first-born son, is a mystery. The documents contain no information on him, beyond his name. We do not know how old he was, who originally owned him, how he came to live with his mother, or what happened to him later. 91. Report of Charles de Gran Pré, Natchez, January 30, 1796, NTC: PTR. 92. Amy to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, August 5, 1796, NTC: PTR. 93. Order of Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, August 5, 1796, NTC: PTR. 94. Herman Bennett addresses similar problems of conceptualizing a free population of African descent in colonial Mexico: “In the nationalist context, the problem is additionally complicated by what anthropologist Liisa Malkki, building on the work of Victor Turner, defines as liminality. Malkki notes how ‘most of us see only what we expect to see, and what we suspect to see is what we are conditioned to see when we have learned the definitions and classifications of our cultures. . . . The structural ‘invisibility’ of liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified” (Bennett, Colonial Blackness, 16). 95. Purchase of Slave Nanette, Natchez, July 21, 1796, NTC: PTR. 96. Proceedings of Manuel Texada, Natchez, September 10, 1796, NTC: PTR. 97. Proceedings of Manuel Texada, Natchez, September 10, 1796, NTC: PTR. 98. Bennett, Colonial Blackness, 40–48, 50, quote on 45. In this case then, it fell to Texada to employ the terminology of these courts because, technically, “Christianity played the dominant role in controlling slaves and free people of color in the early seventeenth century.” 99. Bennett, Colonial Blackness, 33. 100. J. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood, 70, 80–82. Rothman clearly demonstrates that although it was well known that a racially mixed couple lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, their status was never that of legally married partners, nor

260 / notes to chapter 5 could they benefit in any way from their de facto common-law marriage. Other recent notable works on mixed-race families and relationships between free and enslaved include Maris-Wolf, Family Bonds; and West, Family or Freedom. 101. Morrison, “Slave Mothers and White Fathers,” 36. 102. Morrison, “Slave Mothers and White Fathers,” 34–35. Medieval Castilian law declared that the father of a child conceived out of wedlock accepted “the cost of ‘subsistence, nurturing, and education’” (see ibid., 49n26). See also Lewin, Surprise Heirs. 103. Morrison, “Slave Mothers and White Fathers,” 46. 104. For a detailed debate about alternative kinship, see Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship”; and Twinam, Public Lives, Private Secrets, 35–55, 126–57. 105. Proceedings of Manuel Texada, Natchez, September 10, 1796, NTC: PTR. 106. Proceedings of Manuel Texada, Natchez, September 10, 1796, NTC: PTR. 107. Other cases limited to property in Natchez involving English-speaking settlers were usually tried in English. 108. Testimony of Guillermo Kirkwood, Natchez, September 22, 1796; Testimony of Juana Kirkwood, Natchez, September 22, 1796, NTC: PTR. Other witnesses corroborated these facts (see Testimony of Abner Pipes, Natchez, September 22, 1796, NTC: PTR; Testimony of John Foley, Natchez, September 26, 1796; Testimony of William Barland, Natchez, September 27, 1796, NTC: PTR). 109. See Clark, Masterless Mistresses; D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 218; and Scarborough, Masters of the Big House, 66–67. Scarborough shows that there was indeed “a pronounced educational pipeline to the Northeast.” Lewis planned to create a similar opportunity for Henry. The same is also true for Cuba in the nineteenth century (see Morrison, “Creating an Alternative Kinship,” 55–80). 110. Testimony of Guillermo Kirkwood, Natchez, September 22, 1796, NTC: PTR. 111. Testimony of Guillermo Kirkwood, Natchez, September 22, 1796; Testimony of Juana Kirkwood, Natchez, September 22, 1796, NTC: PTR. Although there were numerous reports in the antebellum South of Atlantic African mistresses in cities like Charleston, South Carolina, even in urban centers an open relationship would have been somewhat scandalous. As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese has shown, the racism expressed by many southern women was “generally uglier and more meanly expressed than that of the men.” White women suspiciously watched the behavior of free or enslaved women of color and white men, only begrudgingly accepting the temptations offered by these “licentious” women as a necessary evil that came with slavery (see P. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, 405–10; and Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household, 34). 112. See D. White, Ar’n’t I a Woman? 113. See Gross, “Litigating Whiteness.” 114. Amy would later be sold for a sum of $425 (U.S.), which corresponds to roughly $7,770 (U.S.) in today’s consumer price index. See uscompare/, accessed July 25, 2011 (see Deed of sale, Natchez, October 11, 1799, NCR: LDR). 115. Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, the inventory of Asahel Lewis’s estate did not survive in the Natchez records. On illegitimate children and their rights, see Twinam, Public Lives, Private Secrets, 126–83. On the horse, see Negress Amy versus the heirs of Asahel Lewis, Natchez April 23, 1794, McBee, Natchez Court Records, 49, 280.

notes to chapter 6 / 261 116. On October 27, 1795, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo del Escorial, otherwise known as Pinckney’s Treaty, which finally settled the border at the thirty-first longitudinal line east of the Mississippi River. Natchez thus became part of the United States, and Spain relinquished its claim to the district on paper. In reality, however, the American surveyor Andrew Ellicott did not arrive in Natchez until the early spring of 1797, and it took him and Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, at first governor of Natchez, later governor of Louisiana, an additional year to finally transfer the district to the Americans. For a detailed and recent analysis of the transfer from Spain to the United State, see Haynes, The Mississippi Territory. 117. The debt Williams mentioned was probably the last payment for the sawmill Lewis operated. 118. Testimony of John Williams, Natchez, September 29, 1796, NTC: PTR. 119. Amy vs. Juan Rodriguez, Natchez, January 11, 1797, NTC: PTR. 120. Manuel Texada to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, April 8, 1797, NTC: PTR. 121. Spanish law required the support of natural children (as distinct from legitimate children). They had certain rights to inherit and could not be disinherited (Morrison, “Slave Mothers and White Fathers,” 46). 122. Holmes, Gayoso, 200. 123. Amy Lewis to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 24, 1797, NTC: PTR. 124. Amy Lewis to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 24, 1797, NTC: PTR. 125. Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom, 122–23; Block, Colonial Complexions; Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South. 126. Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation, 66, 83–84. While American whites struggled with the idea of how to include free people of color into their societies, North and South, Spanish American colonies had no such issues. For an example on issues past emancipation see in addition Gigantino, The Ragged Road to Abolition; MarisWolf, Family Bonds; J. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood. For free people of color in the Iberian colonies and how varied their status could be, see, in particular, Ann Twinam, Public Lives, Private Secrets; and Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness. 127. The next chapters will continue to highlight the cases of Atlantic Africans in the courts, but now we hear from their lawyers. On more cases of African Americans in Old South Mississippi courts, and how much success they continued to have, see Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South. 128. Bill of sale, Natchez, October 10, 1799, NCR: LDR. 129. Deed of manumission, Natchez, October 10, 1799, NCR: LDR. 130. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 200. The largest increase in the population of free people of color in New Orleans appeared from 1771 to 1777, a period of change, economic decline, and imperial uncertainty. More than two hundred people of color received their freedom in those years, and the number of free people in New Orleans continued to increase the longer the Spanish regime lasted in the city. 131. Holmes, Gayoso, 223.

6 / New Crop, New Rules of Complexion 1. Holmes, Gayoso, 33. 2. Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron developed a concept that takes into account the changing environs that define a frontier or borderland. I utilize their definition to

262 / notes to chapter 6 show that Natchez moved from a frontier to a borderland, and eventually to a bordered land. Key to their model is the missing clear definition of borders, and Indian and European nations all had some claim, but no defined borders, to Natchez (see Adelman and Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders,” 815). 3. Adelman and Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders,” 814–17. 4. Adelman and Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders,” 816. 5. Spain’s standing army in the New World was very small. Militias were thus common, and Natchez was no exception. On the Natchez company, see “Relacion de los Individuos comprendidos en la Compañía titulada Real Carlos,” undated, Natchez, legajo 41, PC: AGI. For a general idea of Spanish military practices in the region, see, for example, Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places; S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba; and Schneider, The Occupation of Havana. 6. Holmes, Gayoso. 7. On issues of loyalty of American settlers in the Spanish Empire, see Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 11–19; see also Narrett, Adventurism and Empire; and Strang, Frontiers of Science. 8. Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion, 13–54. 9. See Ellicott, The Journal of Andrew Ellicott. 10. Royal Orders from Estevan Miró to Gayoso and Charles de Gran Pré, New Orleans, April 20, 1789, as quoted in Holmes, Gayoso, 34. 11. Valdés to Miro, Aranjuez, May 14, 1789, legajo 176-B, AGI, PC, as quoted in Holmes, Gayoso, 36. 12. See Buckner, “Constructing Identities on the Frontier of Slavery,” 42–56. Gayoso attempted to create a cabildo, yet it never officially materialized. 13. The American policies often led to land speculation that drove the price for virgin soil up and by default excluded poor white families from purchasing fertile land. For a detailed discussion of this, see Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion; W. Johnson, River of Dark Dreams; Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause; A. Rothman, Slave Country; and J. Rothman, Flush Times and Fever Dreams. 14. Holmes, Gayoso, 37–38. 15. See, for example, Manuel Gayoso to Baron de Carondelet, Natchez, August 6, 1793, legajo 42, AGI: PC. Generally, the Spanish Crown claimed title to all lands; it only allowed planters or ranchers to work the land, and thus planters were usufruct over the land. In Natchez some land grants from the British period remained valid and Spain had no control over those. How land grants were otherwise handled is unknown, but it seems that a hybrid legal system developed here as well. For first quote, see Hilton, “Loyalty and Patriotism on North American Frontiers,” 11–12. For the following quotes, see Herzog, Defining Nations, 197, 11. 16. Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion, 17. 17. For an example of Jefferson’s struggle with the question of slavery, see J. Miller, The Wolf by the Ears; and Nash, The Forgotten Fifth. Nash skillfully investigates the abolitionist and pro-slavery debate in the first years of the United States Congress and highlights the ambivalent nature of U.S. slavery politics, and the divergence between North and South. For George Washington’s decade-long struggle to bring the Revolution and slavery into symbiosis, see Wiencek, An Imperfect God. For an example of how close Virginia came to abolishing slavery, see Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation.

notes to chapter 6 / 263 18. Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion, 16–19. For additional analysis of potential U.S. expansion and the question of slavery, see A. Rothman, Slave Country; and Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves. 19. Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion, 18. 20. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 281. Weber is rather optimistic and America-centered with his analysis, and Hammond is certainly correct with his interpretation of trepidation on the American side that the Spanish could in fact establish a lasting hold on Louisiana through American immigrants. 21. For example, Stephen Minor sold this land to Gran Pré for $2,000 in March 1788, but it seems that he had just purchased a part of this land from Richard Harrison for a significantly lower sum, $150. Minor thereby made a significant profit and probably knew that Governor Miró had ordered Gran Pré to buy the land for a new town (see Power of attorney from Stephen Minor to Richard Harrison, Natchez, March 17, 1788; Land sale, Natchez, March 17, 1788, in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 51; Holmes, Gayoso, 41–43; and Buckner, “Constructing Identities on the Frontier of Slavery,” 52). 22. Holmes, Gayoso, 41–43. 23. People of Cole’s Creek to Baron de Carondelet, Cole’s Creek, March 24, 1792, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 4:19–20. 24. Gayoso to the people of Cole’s Creek, Natchez, undated, in Spain in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Kinnaird, 4:20. 25. “Relación de los Individuos comprendidos en la Compañía titulada Real Carlos,” undated, Natchez, legajo 41, PC: AGI. 26. Kiser, Borderlands of Slavery, 4. 27. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 31. 28. On Virginia tobacco culture, see Breen, Tobacco Culture. 29. Spanish intendants were a product of the Bourbon Reforms. The intendant position was created in the early eighteenth century to “absorb the financial and administrative functions previously reserved to the captain-general.” Later they would become part of every provincial government, and intendants were supposed to control the administrative and economic organs of each province. In Louisiana, and across the rest of the Spanish Empire, they frequently clashed with the governors about the exact powers their mutual positions included (see Lynch, Spanish Colonial Administration, 46–50). 30. Daniel Clark et al. to Martin Navarro, New Orleans, August 20, 1787, legajo 594, AGI: PC, microfilm copy in Williams Research Center, HNOC. 31. Le Glaunec, “Slave Migrations in Spanish and Early American Louisiana,” 195–96. 32. See R. Davis, The Black Experience in Natchez, 10. 33. Antonio Valdez, Spanish government report, New Orleans, March 7, 1788, legajo 594, AGI: PC; D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 48. 34. A hogshead was a large wooden barrel that held about one thousand pounds of tobacco fully packed. 35. Abner Green, Anthony Hutchins, John Ellis, James McIntosh et al. to Martin Navarro, Natchez, undated (probably spring of 1788, since it was followed by the government report of Antonio Valdez cited earlier), legajo 594, AGI: PC. 36. Green et al. to Martin Navarro, Natchez, undated, legajo 594, AGI: PC. 37. Green et al. to Martin Navarro, Natchez, undated, legajo 594, AGI: PC.

264 / notes to chapter 6 38. Green et al. to Martin Navarro, Natchez, undated, legajo 594, AGI: PC. 39. It is important to note that the Spanish Crown was extremely lenient with its land grants, so that acquiring land rarely led a colonist into debt. As shown in earlier court cases, land only became a problem if purchased at a premium price from a fellow planter, especially if that land had been developed. Virgin land was readily and cheaply available from the Spanish Crown. 40. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 48. 41. “Political Condition of the Province of Louisiana,” by Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 5, 1792, in Louisiana under the Rule of Spain, France, and the United States, ed. Robertson, 1:286. The problem was comparable to that faced by Louisiana sugar producers a few decades later in the antebellum period. 42. On James Wilkinson and his schemes on the American frontier, see Hay, “Some Reflections on the Career of General James Wilkinson”; Linklater, An Artist in Treason; and Narrett, Adventurism and Empire. Wilkinson was a colorful character in American frontier history, polarizing his contemporaries and continuously on the edge of treason, from an American perspective. He became a close friend of Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, the governor of Natchez and later Louisiana, and eventually he would settle his family in Natchez, where they became part of the local planter class. 43. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 48–50. 44. Whitaker, The Spanish-American Frontier, 158–60. 45. Application of Benjamin Farrar, New Orleans, unknown, 1790, legajo 2545, Archivo General des Indies: Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Seville, Spain. 46. Holmes, Gayoso, 52–53. 47. “Political Condition of the Province of Louisiana,” by Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, July 5, 1792, in Louisiana under the Rule of Spain, France, and the United States, ed. Robertson, 285–87. 48. Petition of Natchez planters to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, December 21, 1792, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 139–40. 49. Plantations and enslaved labor in conjunction with staple crops such as tobacco had become a dominant force in frontier Mississippi, as this short statement by Hutchins suggests. In addition to this document, Gayoso’s constant negotiations with Miró to keep tobacco as a staple crop—as cited on the following pages—also points toward a Natchez District that already had developed into a fully developed plantation society. Additional documents support that proposition. For example, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos authored a complex and all-encompassing new order that regulated the upkeep of roads and established a public system of pens that had to be utilized to keep roaming livestock in check. On the one hand, Gayoso assisted the cattle farmers of the district, who still represented an economically powerful group, consistent with Christopher Morris’s argument. However, Gayoso also stipulated that these pens were to guard “against the natural inconvenience that attend the making of indigo.” Gayoso published these orders while settlers were experimenting with indigo during the tobacco crisis in the early spring of 1793, and roaming cattle had apparently been trampling indigo fields and destroying the colonists’ harvest. Additional information can be gleaned from the census records. Although there was no established format for the census in Natchez until the first American census, the Spanish list pounds of tobacco produced (589,920) as a category in the 1787 census, yet cattle are not listed. This changed for the 1794 census, where 3,944 horses and cattle were listed.

notes to chapter 6 / 265 Nevertheless, plantation agriculture had succeeded farming or livestock endeavors as the leading business in Natchez (see Order of the Governor, Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, February 1, 1793, NTC: PTR). For Christopher Morris’s argument, see Morris, Becoming Southern; 1787 Census of Natchez, 1794 Census of Natchez, Natchez, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC. 50. Petition of Natchez planters to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, December 21, 1792, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 139. 51. Petition of Natchez planters, to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, December 21, 1792, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 140. 52. Circular of Natchez merchants, Natchez, undated, 1792?, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 140. 53. Gayoso to Estevan Miró, Natchez, April 30, 1791; Gayoso to Estevan Miró, Natchez, June 15, 1791; Gayoso to Miró, Natchez, March 10, 1792, legajo 41, AGI: PC. 54. Moratorium on debt, Estevan Miró, New Orleans, undated, probably 1791, as quoted in Claiborne, Mississippi, 139. 55. Planters of Natchez to Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet, Natchez, December 21, 1795, legajo 43, AGI: PC. 56. Planters of Natchez to the King of Spain, Natchez, December 21, 1795, legajo 43, AGI: PC. 57. Maurice Stackpoole to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Natchez, March 11, 1796, NTC: PTR. 58. Decree by William Gillespie, Natchez, April 4, 1796, NTC: PTR. 59. Addendum to debt collection, Natchez, April 23, 1796, NTC: PTR; Commission to sell Jesse Hamilton’s property, Natchez, June 25, 1796, NTC: PTR. 60. See Claiborne, Mississippi, 140; and Louisiana Writers’ Project, Louisiana, 61. According to Jack Holmes, the tobacco boom-and-bust cycle and its effect in Natchez are comparable to that of Cuba as described by Ortiz y Fernandez in Cuban Counterpoint (Holmes, Gayoso, 99n45). 61. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone, 302. 62. Charles de Gran Pré to Baron de Carondelet, Natchez, September 23, 1795, legajo 32, AGI: PC. 63. Holmes, Gayoso, 95–101. 64. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 157. 65. The enslaved population in Natchez had increased to 2,060, according to the census of 1794 (see Natchez Census, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC). 66. See 1784 Census of Natchez, Natchez, undated, 1784, legajo 116, AGI: PC; 1787 Census of Natchez, 1794 Census of Natchez, Natchez, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC. 67. See 1784 Census of Natchez, Natchez, undated, 1784, legajo 116, AGI: PC; 1787 Census of Natchez, 1794 Census of Natchez, Natchez, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC; Holmes, Gayoso, 100n54. 68. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 51; Holmes, Gayoso, 99–100. Daniel Clark to John Barclay, February 10, 1795, in Natchez Court Records, Book 36, Adams County Court House, Natchez, Mississippi. 69. Daniel Clark to Anthony Hutchins, Natchez, August 21, as cited in Claiborne, Mississippi, 143. 70. John Barclay to governor of Natchez (Gran Pré served as temporary governor at the time), Natchez, September 21, 1795, legajo 32, AGI: PC.

266 / notes to chapter 6 71. Charles de Gran Pré to Baron de Carondelet, Natchez, September 23, 1795, legajo 32, AGI: PC. 72. Daniel Clark et al. to Spanish government, Natchez, August 24, 1795, legajo 32, AGI: PC. In a note that was apparently written during the test run—probably by Clark—and then attached to the document, one of the planters noted the time it took to clean the cotton. Astonishingly, the enslavers quite accurately timed the cleaning process, measuring time for cleaning the teeth and the overall process. Based on these figures, they then calculated the figure of one thousand pounds. Time, and management of it, had clearly arrived in the Natchez District. Unfortunately, no plantation books for the early period have survived, but the attempts of the colonists to record scientifically and analyze the production capability of the cotton gin suggest that they employed scientific methods throughout their plantation operations. The author of the note speculated that “it will clean 1000 pound per day, with two horses and three attendants.” As Mark Smith points out, “by setting events against the clock and, in fact, setting the clock itself, people could insinuate their own temporal definitions within nature’s round.” The enslavers of Natchez had finally found a mechanical solution to their most pressing problem with cotton, and through the cotton gin they could establish dominance over their crop (and nature) as well as over their human chattel (see Observation of Cotton Gin, unknown author, Natchez, 1795, legajo 32, AGI: PC). For time and slavery in the colonial South, see M. Smith, Mastered by the Clock, 12–16, quote on 14. On plantation management, specifically, see Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery. 73. Claiborne, Mississippi, 144; Holmes, Gayoso, 100–101. Dunbar also played both the Spanish and American sides in his pursuit for land and scientific opportunities, both in agriculture and in astronomy (see Strang, Frontiers of Science, 178–80). 74. Some of the cotton gins were faulty, and Bennet Truly, who constructed one for public ginning, was sued by several colonists and had to flee the district because his gin and Truly’s malpractice in handling ginned cotton destroyed several bags of cotton. He either ginned inferior cotton, with leaves mixed in, or he stored the cotton on barges, uncovered in the fall rains (see Petition of Richard Harrison, Natchez, May 28, 1796; George Cochran and others versus Bennet Truly, Natchez, May 19, 1796, May 24, 1796; William Foster versus Bennet Truly, Natchez, July 21, 1796, all in McBee, Natchez Court Records, 286). 75. William Dunbar to John Ross, Natchez, May 23, 1799, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 143. 76. William Dunbar to John Ross, Natchez, May 23, 1799, in Claiborne, Mississippi, 143. 77. Deyle, Carry Me Back, 21–22; Gudmestad, A Troublesome Commerce, 17–18. Gudmestad points out that the real boom in the internal slave trade was brought on by the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade in 1808, yet Natchez always needed enslaved laborers, and Gudmestad admits that people were always looking and capable of selling their enslaved south. Unfortunately, there are no sources allowing historians to analyze slave trade patterns for slave trade in Natchez before the 1810s. 78. On the intricacies of the treaty and the lower Mississippi Valley, see Whitaker, The Spanish-American Frontier, 201–22. The treaty involved more territory then just the Natchez District, and imperial as well as local politics in Natchez, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Georgia complicated the issue tremendously.

notes to chapter 7 / 267 79. For an exhaustive account of the transfer from Spain to the United States, see Haynes, The Mississippi Territory, 7–71. 80. The most prominent speculators were William Blount, Zachariah Cox, James White, and George Matthews, see D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 64. 81. For the Point Coupée conspiracy, see G. Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 344–74. For the slave rebellion in Haiti, see Fick, The Making of Haiti; and C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins. 82. Din, Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves, 177–86. 83. From the first day of his arrival, Ellicott met with resistance from the Spanish and often reacted in open disdain, not with the proper diplomatic courtesy (see D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 65–66). 84. Ellicott, The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 42–43. 85. Ellicott, The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 43–44. 86. See Holmes, Gayoso, 187–88; and D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 68–69. 87. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 70–72. For additional information on this aborted revolt, see Haynes, The Mississippi Territory. 88. Manuel Gayoso de Lemos to citizens of Natchez, Natchez, July 10, 1797, AGI: PC, legajo 213; and Gayoso to Inhabitants of Natchez, Natchez, June 22, 1797, in Territorial Papers, Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter abbreviated as NARA). 89. Ellicott, Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 153. 90. Ellicott, Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 153. 91. John Craig Hammond supports this thesis in Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, Expansion, 13–29.

7 / Mississippi Fever 1. Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion, 22. 2. Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, xv. 3. According to some early legal scholars, slavery was illegal in the newly formed Mississippi Territory. The territory was added under the same ordinance as the Northwest Territory, which provided “that there should be ‘neither slavery nor involuntary servitude.’” This only changed in 1802, when the first acts for an establishment of government were created. Although still based on the Northwest Ordinance, the provision recognized slavery as legal. In reality, of course, this legislation would never have been enforced (see Stone, The Early Slave Laws of Mississippi, 134). 4. On slavery and westward expansion, see, among others, Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told; Beckert and Rockman, eds., Slavery’s Capitalism; W. Johnson, River of Dark Dreams; A. Rothman, Slave Country; and J. Rothman, Flush Times and Fever Dreams. 5. Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South, 13; Waldrep, Roots of Disorder, chap. 3. 6. Wheeler, The Complexion of Race, 289. 7. Block, Colonial Complexions, 34. 8. Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation. 9. See O’Brien, Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750–1830. 10. Several books explore the nature of the westward expansion of the United States and the role the Natchez District played in it. For more detailed interpretations on

268 / notes to chapter 7 this matter, see Hammond, Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion; Haynes, The Mississippi Territory; Smith and Hilton, Nexus of Empire; Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause; and A. Rothman, Slave Country. 11. The newspapers that appeared in Natchez, especially after 1810, give a much better indication of the number of runaway slaves than do the spotty records during the Spanish period. Yet it is still likely that the numbers of runaway slaves increased as the frontier slowly moved west and the Native American nations were forced out of the region, opening up safer passages for slaves to escape to freedom. See a special edition of the Journal of Mississippi History 75, no. 2 (summer 2013), for more information on runaway slaves in the territory and state. 12. Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom, 56–57. 13. During the imperial conflicts between Great Britain and Spain over North America, the governor of Spanish Florida promised freedom to British runaway slaves from the Carolinas and Georgia, if they converted to Catholicism. This offer caused tension between the colonies, to say the very least (see Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida; and Wood, Black Majority). 14. Appointment of lawyer, between Thomas Bissett and Joseph Ray, Nelson County, Kentucky, April 5, 1800, Book A, NCR: LDR, Adams County Court House, Natchez, Mississippi. 15. Bill of sale, June 11, 1800, Natchez, Book A, NCR: LDR. 16. Bill of sale, Natchez, September 16, 1800, Book A, NCR: LDR. 17. Order of Spanish Government, Natchez, March 21, 1798, Book A, NCR: LDR. Translations by the author unless otherwise noted. 18. Edwards, The People and Their Peace; Kennington, In the Shadow of Dred Scott, 22–23. 19. Edwards, The People and Their Peace. 20. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 259–60. 21. On courtrooms and legal strategies by litigants of color and court room actors, see Gross, Double Character; and Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South. 22. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 76–77. The political strife of the early republic was also closely mirrored in Natchez, and the territorial governors experienced political opposition to their appointments immediately. Enslavers, usually Federalists, clashed with farmers, predominantly Jeffersonian Republicans. The overbearing dominance of the Natchez enslavers then forced the move of the capital from Natchez to Washington, according to Charles Sydnor (Sydnor, A Gentleman of the Old Natchez Region, 28). 23. Sydnor, A Gentleman of the Old Natchez Region, 17–20. 24. See, for example, Gudmestad, A Troublesome Commerce. 25. William Dunbar to Tunno and Price, Natchez, February 1, 1807, in Life, Letters, and Papers of William Dunbar, ed. Rowland, 351–52. Although Dunbar expressed interest in several nations, historians have long pointed out and questioned whether these requests were rather illusory. Traders in Africa had no real influence on the origins of their human chattel, or understanding of African ethnicity, and they would openly mislead their customers to sell the load. In addition, the geographic origins described by Dunbar and other enslavers often did not match the actual regions in Africa that should have corresponded with it. On the Atlantic slave trade, see, for

notes to chapter 7 / 269 example, Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas; Littlefield, Rice and Slaves; Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea; O’Malley, Final Passages; and Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery. 26. Manumission of the slave Pollidore by Daniel Clark, Natchez, December 28, 1799, and Grant of Manumission, Natchez, February 20, 1800, Book A, NCR: LDR. 27. See census records: Spanish census of 1795, Natchez, April 14, 1795, legajo 31, AGI: PC; Territorial Census of Washington, Pickering, and Adams Counties, 1801, Microfilm 2528, MDAH; Territorial Census of Mississippi Territory, 1810, Microfilm 2528, MDAH. 28. On northern abolition laws, see, especially, Gigantino, The Ragged Road to Abolition, 65–67; and Sinha, The Slave’s Cause, 65–96. 29. Manumission of Susana Dowda by Clark family, Natchez, January 1, 1800, Book A, NCR: LDR. 30. For a history of Gabriel’s Rebellion, see Egerton, Gabriel’s Rebellion. 31. Governor Winthrop Sargent, Circular Letter to Slave-holders, Grove Plantation, Mississippi Territory, November 16, 1800, in The Mississippi Territorial Archives, ed. Rowland, 311. 32. Sargent, Circular Letter to Slave-holders, Grove Plantation, Mississippi Territory, November 16, 1800, in The Mississippi Territorial Archives, ed. Rowland, 312. 33. On the slave rebellion in Haiti, see, for example, Dubois, A Colony of Citizens; Dubois, Avengers of the New World; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror; Fick, The Making of Haiti; Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World; C. L. R. James, Black Jacobins; and Scott, The Common Wind. Cuban planters were equally concerned with the importation of enslaved people from Haiti, as Matt Childs notes in his book on Cuban slave rebellions (Childs, The 1812 Aponte Rebellion, 1–119). Many of the free people of color who were first ousted from Haiti and moved to Cuba were subsequently forced out of the Spanish Empire as well and made their way to New Orleans, further adding to the tension created by the Haitian revolution (see Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 142). 34. Governor Winthrop Sargent, Address to Militia Officers, Natchez, Mississippi Territory, January 12, 1801, in The Mississippi Territorial Archives, ed. Rowland, 324. 35. Sargent Address to Militia Officers, Natchez, Mississippi Territory, January 12, 1801, in The Mississippi Territorial Archives, ed. Rowland, 325. 36. Although Gayoso had to contain a smaller number of enslaved, he also had much more pressing needs of border security. Despite all these hardships, Gayoso did not feel the need to issue any particular orders concerning the treatment of the enslaved. 37. Rowland, ed., The Mississippi Territorial Archives, 325–26. 38. Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 55–58. 39. An Act Concerning Marriages, January 17, 1803, in Bills, Series 525, Box 27182, MDAH. 40. Williams, “Private Lives and Public Orders,” 148. 41. On litigants of color and ideas of race in Louisiana, see Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom, 153–64. Louisiana’s legal history and the genesis of the state’s legal code differ from that of Natchez, of course. 42. An Act Respecting Slaves, January 29, 1805, Bills, Series 525, Box 27182, MDAH. This act was preceded by a more basic act written by Winthrop Sargent that

270 / notes to chapter 7 largely dealt with enforcing discipline among the enslaved (see Ranney, A Legal History of Mississippi, 37–39). 43. An Act Respecting Slaves, January 29, 1805, Bills, Series 525, Box 27182, MDAH. 44. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 165. 45. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 329. 46. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 530. 47. The culture of honor was exceedingly important in southern slave societies, in particular as the social system of the Old South began to emerge after the American Revolution. Legally, this had consequences for the enslaved in front of courts. While barred from testifying against white people, their voices could still spread rumors, which endangered the honor of their enslavers and could lead to legal problems when white witnesses repeated the rumors (see Gross, Double Character, 3–4, 49–51). On honor and slavery in general, see Greenberg, Honor & Slavery; and Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor. 48. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 307. 49. Welch discusses a case at length in which kidnappers of a free black man then faced charges (Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South, 43–49). 50. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 403. 51. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 378. 52. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 378–85. 53. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 385. 54. Waldrep, Roots of Disorder, 18–19. 55. Manumission of Tony by Anthony Hutchins, Natchez, June 18, 1805, Book D, NCR: LDR; Manumission of Ben by William Vousdan, Natchez, December 1, 1803, Book D, NCR: LDR. On manumissions in wills, see, for example, Wolf, “Manumission and the Two-Race System in Early National Virginia”; and Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation. 56. See Herring, “Natchez, 1795–1830,” 265–66. Herring has located these records as typescripts in the William Baskerville Hamilton Papers at Duke University. How these typescripts got there and why there are missing from the Adams County Court Record Deed Books is unknown. 57. Manumission of Clarinda, Natchez, February 7, 1807, Book D, NCR: LDR. 58. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 381. 59. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 382. On Gabriel’s Rebellion, see Egerton, Gabriel’s Rebellion. 60. In Race Relations at the Margins, Jeff Forret shows that enslavers did all they could to limit access of enslaved people to white markets, in particular the underground economy. 61. Manumission of Mary, Elizabeth, Polly, Isabelle, and George, Natchez, April 18, 1804, Book E, NCR: LDR. 62. Slave sale, Matteo Jardito to George Fitzgerald, Natchez, May 12, 1806, Book E, NCR: LDR. 63. Testament of James Fitzgerald, Natchez, June 26, 1812, in Bisland Family Papers, Lower Mississippi Valley Collection, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (hereafter abbreviated as LMV). 64. Manumission of the mother and her children Lucia, Romain, Euphasine, Maxmilian, Sylvester, Ferdinand, and Anastasie, approved by governor Robert Williams,

notes to chapter 7 / 271 Washington?, Mississippi Territory, 28 December 1805, Territorial Papers, Department of State, NARA. 65. See chapter 6. 66. Manumission of slave Aaron, Mason County, Kentucky, April 4, 1805, Book D, NCR: LDR. 67. Deed of Manumission, Davidson County, Kentucky, October 22, 1804; witnesses accounts, Davidson County, Kentucky, October 19, 1804, Book D, NCR: LDR. 68. Manumission agreement, Richmond County (Probably Augusta), Georgia, May 10, 1799, Book C, NCR: LDR. 69. See chapter 4 for various jobs of free people of color in Natchez. They worked as nurses, dock workers, seamstresses, hat makers, and midwives, in addition to carpenters, smiths, and so forth. 70. On free people of color on the Mississippi River during the age of the steamboat, see Bristol, Knights of the Razor, 44–50; and Buchanan, Black Life on the Mississippi. 71. Indenture of Romino, Natchez, February 13, 1805, Book D, NCR: LDR. 72. Former enslaved people in frontier towns frequently had to seek employment with their old owners (Burton and Smith, Colonial Natchitoches, 101). On enslaved people trying to stay close to their families and entering various degrees of involuntary labor, see, for example, Maris-Wolf, Family Bonds. 73. I could not find any record of such enslaved people ever being manumitted according to the conditions in the bill of sale. There could be several reasons for this. Their enslavers might have taken them out of Natchez and freed them elsewhere, or they might have been sold again. The law of the Mississippi Territory also constantly tightened the conditions of manumissions, and planters might have simply elected to forego the bill of sale contract in lieu of the more restrictive law in Mississippi. Again, the sources in the Natchez Court House might be lost, misplaced, or destroyed. Only over the last three decades have efforts been made to preserve effectively some of the court records, but in the two centuries previous to these efforts many sources might have been lost. Unfortunately, the record groups in Natchez are not comparable to records in Virginia or New England, for example. 74. Bill of sale, James Ward to James Moore, Mason County, Kentucky, January 28, 1800, Book A, NCR: LDR. 75. Other examples include Anna, who was purchased in 1804, as well as Spencer and William, purchased in 1806. It is not known if they were eventually freed (see Bill of sale, Natchez, August 2, 1804, Book C, NCR: LDR; Bill of sale, June 28, 1806, Harrison County, Kentucky, Book D, NCR: LDR; and Contract between Thomas Scott and Samuel Postlethwait, Natchez, June 21, 1806, Book E, NCR: LDR). William Foster was in all likelihood the brother of Thomas Foster, who bought Ibrahima, or Prince, for his plantation and whose story became famous in antebellum America (see Alford, Prince among Slaves). 76. On delayed manumission contracts, see Grivno, Gleanings of Freedom, 137–46; Whitman, The Price of Freedom, 8–61; and Wolf, Race and Liberty in the New Nation. 77. Manumission of slave Clarinda, Natchez, June 24, 1808, Book E, NCR: LDR. Galvan had just purchased Clarinda from William Cochran and had actually advertised for her as a runaway, but he enticed her to come back by promising not to punish her (see Mississippi Messenger, Joseph Galvan, Natchez, June 30, 1808).

272 / notes to chapter 7 78. Manumission of slave Clarinda rescinded, Natchez, November 24, 1808, Book E, NCR: LDR. 79. Manumission of slave Clarinda, Natchez, June 24, 1808, Book E, NCR: LDR. 80. See Adams County, State of Mississippi, Mary Ann vs. Ray Baumerman?, May 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi (hereafter abbreviated as HNF). 81. Slave Debby to Superior Court of Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi, July 20, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 82. Slave Debby to Superior Court of Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi, July 20, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 83. Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South. 84. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 260. The code stipulates that “any slave in this territory, claiming his or her freedom, shall proceed by petition, to the county or circuit court of the country, where his, or her master, or owner, shall reside: who, if the slave be in his, or her possesion, shall enter into bond, with approved security to the Governor; in a sum, to be adjudged or by the court. . . . And if out of the possession of his or her owner, or person, claiming him or her, such slave shall enter into a recognizance, with sufficient security, to be approved of by the court, to make good to his or her owner, all such costs and damages as he shall have incurred, in consequence of the application of such slave, for the recovery of his freedom, in case he eventually fail in substantiating the same.” 85. Slave Debby to Superior Court of Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi, July 20, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 86. Kennington, In the Shadow of Dred Scott, 18–19. 87. Indentured servants were not uncommon in Natchez, even in the early nineteenth century, as several runaway ads for German indentured servants published in Natchez demonstrate (see, for example, Mississippi State Gazette, Natchez, July 18, 1818, and February 13, 1819, Library of Congress [hereafter abbreviated as LOC]). 88. Testimony of James Grafton, Natchez, July 19, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 89. Questioning of James Grafton, Natchez, July 19, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 90. On the term “slavery” and its dependence on changing economic tides, see Grivno, Gleanings of Freedom. 91. Questioning of James Grafton, Natchez, July 19, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 92. Questioning of James Grafton, Natchez, July 19, 1821, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 93. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 259. 94. Jury Verdict, Natchez, May, 1823, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 95. James Steer to John Minor, Baton Rouge, February 24, 1818, Minor (William J. and Family) Papers, LMV. 96. Steer to Minor, Baton Rouge, February 24, 1818, Minor (William J. and Family) Papers, LMV. 97. Philander Smith to his mother, Natchez, April 27, 1806, Philander Smith Papers, LMV. Smith’s letter also points to Natchez settlers’ high degree of dependency on

notes to chapter 7 / 273 stability in the Atlantic World. He reminds his mother that “if Bonaparte should be successful and keep the command of the continent I think cotton will be very low.” Smith knew that the Napoleonic wars in Europe were destabilizing the cotton market, and he was well informed—as were most settlers in Natchez—about prices in Liverpool. Enslavers were in constant communication with their factors across the Atlantic, receiving British newspapers with cotton prices to keep in touch with prices of their royal crop (see Liverpool newspaper, October 4, 1810, and December 16, 1812, Evans, [Nathaniel and Family Papers], LMV). The embargo of 1807 also hurt cotton producers in Natchez, as evidenced by a letter Evans received in 1807. His contact in New York warned him not to sell his cotton at these low prices since cotton was not a perishable good. Given Natchez’s remote location and the time it took for news to travel, it is remarkable how closely the settlers were already monitoring their markets and how much attention they paid to all information concerning the markets of the Atlantic World (see Peter Ogden to Nathaniel Evans, Elizabeth Town, January 6, 1807, and Elijah Smith to Evans, New Orleans, June 12, 1808, Evans, [Nathaniel and Family] Papers, LMV). The War of 1812 did not mitigate Natchez enslavers’ fear about collapsing cotton markets. 98. On the concept of captives as social currency, see Kiser, Borderlands of Slavery, 4. 99. Peter Ogden to Nathaniel Evans, London, March 4, 1816, Evans, (Nathaniel and Family) Papers, LMV. 100. William Saul to George Tichenor, New Orleans, January 27, 1819, Natchez Trace Collection: Bank of the State of Mississippi Records (hereafter abbreviated as NTC: BMR), Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin. 101. William Saul to George Tichenor, New Orleans, November 8, 1819, NTC: BMR. 102. On the cotton boom and panic, see, for example, Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told; W. Johnson, River of Dark Dreams; and J. Rothman, Flush Times and Fever Dreams. 103. For the difference between U.S. and Spanish land grant policies, especially for a comparison between Spanish West Florida and Kentucky, see McMichael, Atlantic Loyalties, 18–28. 104. Dunbar was sued at least once over land rights. Another example is the case of Elizabeth Minor. She contested a land grant by Ballard and Garland (no first names given) that reached back to the occupancy of Spain. Minor’s lawyer argued that Spain was never legally in possession of the area north of the thirty-first degree line, and that therefore any land grant issued was void. The property was under dispute for years, and lawyers even referred to Supreme Court decisions for the new territories to resolve them. By the late 1810s and certainly by the 1820s, Natchez had ceased to yield land easily for new settlers. The established planters took the best lands, and new arrivals had to bank on marriage or costly purchase to become a planter in the district (see Minor to Ballard and Garland, Natchez, 23 March 1831, Minor Family Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin). 105. The Trist family apparently lived with Jefferson in Virginia, as evidenced by the fact that William Dunbar asked Mrs. Trist to greet the president from him in 1803. Nicholas Trist enrolled at West Point in 1818, married Virginia Jefferson Randolph in 1824, and become a major U.S. diplomat during the war with Mexico and beyond. 106. William Dunbar to Mrs. Trist, Natchez, December 9, 1802, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC.

274 / notes to chapter 7 107. Theodon Stark to unknown, unknown place, March 12, 1816, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC. 108. William Dunbar to Nicholas Trist, Natchez, February 4, 1821, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC. 109. William Dunbar to Nicholas Trist, Natchez, December 4, 1822, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC. 110. See for example: Gabriel Winten to Nicholas Trist, Natchez, December 30, 1823, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC. 111. William Dunbar to Nicholas Trist, Natchez, May 5, 1822, Nicholas Trist Papers, LOC. 112. Buckner, “Constructing Identities on the Frontier of Slavery,” 48–50. 113. For the slave trade, see Deyle, Carry Me Back; Gudmestad, A Troublesome Commerce; W. Johnson, Soul by Soul; and Michael Tadman, Speculators and Slaves. 114. D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 137. 115. Trist would be able to secure a sugar plantation in Cuba in 1833 while working as the U.S. consul on the island. 116. Patterson, Slavery and Social Death. 117. The most recent works on the West Florida revolt are McMichael, Atlantic Loyalties and W. Davis, The Rogue Republic. 118. David Holmes to Colonel Cushings, Washington, Mississippi Territory, 28 September 1810, Territorial Papers, Department of State, NARA. 119. W. Johnson, River of Dark Dreams; D. Rasmussen, American Uprising; A. Rothman, Slave Country, 106–17. 120. See A. Rothman, Slave Country, 107. For slave numbers in Natchez, see Territorial Census of Mississippi Territory, 1810, Microfilm 2528, MDAH. 121. See Holmes to Lieutenant White, Washington, 17 January 1811; Holmes to Lieutenant Serget, Washington, Mississippi Territory, 18 January 1811 Territorial Papers, Department of State, NARA. 122. David Holmes to Commander of Fort Adams, Washington, 19 July 1811, Territorial Papers, Department of State, NARA. 123. Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 56. 124. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 359–60. 125. Toulmin, The Statutes of the Mississippi Territory, 359–60. 126. Buckner, “Constructing Identities on the Frontier of Slavery,” 104–9. On the intermingling of the enslaved and poor whites, see especially Forret, Race Relations at the Margins. 127. Egerton, Gabriel’s Rebellion, 18–68. 128. On relationships between poor whites and the enslaved, and interpretations of what that entailed for the Southern elites, see Bolton, Poor Whites of the Antebellum South; Forret, Race Relations at the Margins; Grivno, Gleanings of Freedom; and Merrit, Masterless Men. 129. Adams County, Mississippi Territory vs George Duncan, Natchez, August 21, 1815, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 130. State of Mississippi, Adams County vs Daniel Herring, Natchez, September 30, 1818, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 131. State of Mississippi, Adams County vs William Brooks, Natchez, February 1818, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF.

notes to conclusion / 275 132. The court records that remain in Natchez, and the way they were ordered and stored, and then reorganized by several preservation projects, shuffled many of the sources around. Some ended up in Texas, and some might be entirely missing. It is impossible to know, unless some of them reappear as typescript in somebody’s papers or other archives. Todd Herring, for example, discovered typescripts of Natchez court records in the William Baskerville Hamilton Papers at Duke University. These records supplement the records still in Natchez, although they seem to be copied from the same books. Hamilton was a historian of Mississippi in the middle of the twentieth century, and he had access to the court records before attempts were made to preserve and store them. In the meantime, records must have disappeared. Examples of violence against people of color can be found in Adams County, Mississippi Territory vs. James Audrey, Natchez, October 1810, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF; Adams County, Mississippi Territory vs. John Adams and Ethan A. Wood, Natchez, July 20, 1817, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF; Adams County, Mississippi Territory vs. John Bell, Natchez, August 1, 1816, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF; Adams County, Mississippi Territory vs. George Mellon and Charles Holmes, Natchez, March 15, 1817, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 133. It is possible that the Amy in this case was the Amy who sued for her freedom in the late 1790s and lost her case, but it is impossible to prove. However, the way this Amy approached White and the way she demanded her payment are eerily similar to the actions of the Amy who was freed by Asahel Lewis. 134. See Adams County, Mississippi Territory, vs John White, Natchez, June 23, 1817–January 24, 1818, Superior Court Records, Adams County, HNF. 135. See Mississippi Messenger (Natchez), September 6, 1805, to June 30, 1808, and the Weekly Chronicle, January 4 1809, to November 12, 1810, both on microfilm, Cook Library, University of Southern Mississippi. Thanks to Ryan Tickle for sharing his research on runaway slave ads with me. 136. On Andrew Marshalk and the first printing presses in Mississippi, see Sydnor, “The Beginning of Printing in Mississippi.” On the other newspapers in Natchez under the Mississippi Territory, see W. Davis, A Way through the Wilderness, 183–84; and D. C. James, Antebellum Natchez, 103–4, 230–31. 137. See Journal of Mississippi History 75, no. 2 (summer 2013), for more information on runaway slaves in the territory and state. 138. Mississippi Messenger (Natchez), June 17, 1806. 139. Mississippi Messenger (Natchez), August 12, 1806. 140. Block, Colonial Complexions, 7. 141. Mississippi Messenger (Natchez), May 6, 1806. 142. Mississippi Messenger (Natchez), March 31, 1808. 143. On runaway slaves and their strategies, see, for example, Block, Colonial Complexions; Camp, “I Could Not Stay There”; Dunbar, Never Caught; Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives, 13–45; and Franklin and Schweninger, Runaway Slaves.

Conclusion 1. Hoelscher, “The White-Pillared Past,” 42, 50–51. 2. Hoelscher, “The White-Pillared Past,” 53. 3. George Weagle v. Jeremiah Bryan, Natchez, May 29, 1782, Original Spanish Court Records, Book IV, Adams County Court House, Natchez, Mississippi.

276 / notes to conclusion 4. Protocol, Death of Jacob Holmes, Natchez, December 11, 1791, in McBee, The Natchez Court Records, 147. 5. The program for the 2020 Spring Pilgrimage still does not feature the Johnson house. 6. Hoelscher, “The White-Pillared Past,” 53. 7. Holt, “Marking,” 20. 8. Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 75–77. 9. For other works, see, for example, Baptist, Creating an Old South; Burton and Smith, Colonial Natchitoches; Dupre, Transforming the Cotton Frontier; Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi, 1720–1835; and Morris, Becoming Southern. 10. Barr, “How Do You Get from Jamestown to Santa Fe?”


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Italicized page numbers refer to illustrations. abolitionism, 163–64, 190–91 Abraham (enslaved boy), 121 Abrams, Robert, 141 Act Concerning Marriages (1803), 193 Act for the Regulation and Government of Negroes and Slaves (1766), 59–65, 82–83, 193–94 Act Respecting Slaves (1805), 193–94, 197 Act Respecting Slaves (1807), 195–96 Act to Prevent the Liberation of Slaves (1805), 187–89 Airy (enslaved boy), 96 alcohol, 210–11 Alston, Elizabeth, 85–86 Alston, Henry, 85 Alston, John, 85–86, 242n47 Alston, Philip, 104 Amy (enslaved woman), 211–12 arpent, definition of, 245n103 Arze, Simon de, 138 asientos, 90 Backor, Joseph, 150 Baker (Mrs.), 120 Ballard (settler), 273n104 Bambara, Samba, 45 baptismal records, 135, 137 Barclay, John, 175–76 Barfield, James, 141 Barley (enslaved boy), 201–4

Beall, Walter, 186–87 Beck (enslaved woman), 213 Ben (enslaved man), 197 Bernard, Joseph, 146–47 Bernard, Raphael, 232n70 Bertha (enslaved woman), 91 Betty (enslaved woman), 123–24 Betty (free woman of color), 139 Bingaman, Adam, 96, 121, 170 Bisland, William, 150 Bissett, Joseph, 186 Bissett, Thomas, 186 Blommart, John, 96 Boardman, Charles, 143–44 Boardman, William, 150 Bode, Pedro, Jr., 136–37 Bode, Pedro, Sr., 136–37 Boquin, Juan, 241n28 Bougou (enslaved man), 1, 36 Bouligny, Francisco, 93–94, 100–101 Bourbon Reforms: description of, 90; and Catholic Church in Natchez, 132; and enslaved Africans, importation of, 90–91; and free trade, 115; and Spanish legal system in Natchez as hybrid, 6, 109–10, 132–33, 149 Boyce, Nicholas, 213 Boyd, Adam, 199 Bradley, John, 57 Brady, John, 134

304 / index Brenon, Patty, 138 Brocus, William, 141, 148 Brooks, William, 211 Brown, John, 121, 147 Brown, Montfort, 59 Bryan, Jeremiah, 215–16 Cadillac, sieur de (Antoine Laumet de La Mothe), 23–24, 25 Caillot, Marc-Antoine, 19–20, 40 Campbell, Anthony, 201–4 Campbell, James, 51 Campbell, John, 71, 78 Carondelet, Francisco Luis Héctor de, 165, 173–74, 179 Carpenter, Mary, 144. See also Lewis, Amy Carpenter, Richard. See Lewis, Amy Catholic Church: and baptism, 132–33; and fictive kinship networks, 128–29, 132–33, 136–39; Irish priests, use of, 133–34; and legal system, influence on, 25, 149–50 Chepart, Etienne de, 40–41, 43 Chester, Peter: on Creek Indians raids, 65–66; on defense of Natchez District, 71; on settlement of Natchez District, 66–69 Chickasaw Nation, 46–47, 53, 120–21, 185 Choctaw Nation: attack on Natchez, 44; and British alliance, 67–68, 69, 71; British depiction of, 53; and complexion, adapting views on, 120–21; and enslaved Africans, runaways and refuge, 120–21; and French alliance, 46; Natchez inhabitants’ fleeing to, 97; presence outside Natchez, 185; raids on British in Natchez, 58; treaty to cede land to U.S., 189 Choucoura (enslaved man), 41 Christianity: and baptism and conversion of African Americans, 255n32, 255n40; and blackness as curse of Ham, 236n28; as control over enslaved, 149; and enslavement, justification for, 52–54; and heathenism as hereditary, 54–56, 135–36; and Puritans, 55, 235n19, 236n28 Claiborne, J. F. H., 84 Claiborne, William C. C., 189 Clare, Lewis, 142 Clarinda (enslaved girl), 197 Clarinda (enslaved woman), 200–201

Clark, Daniel, 167, 175–76, 190–91 Clark, Jane, 197 Clarke, Joseph, 211–12 coartación: codification of, 113–14; as common occurrence, 247n14; end to under U.S., 148; introduction to Natchez, 130–31; legal undermining of, 114–15. See also manumissions Cobb, Arthur, 121 Cobb, William, 121 Cochran, George, 150 Code Napoléon, 7 Code Noir (French Empire, 1685), 23, 24–27, 228n4 Code Noir (Louisiana, 1724): complexion replaces status, 28–29; enforcement as uneven, 27; inadequacies of, 5; introduction of, 38–39; and legal pluralism, evidence of, 31; marriages, laws regarding, 28, 41–42; and Native Americans, 29, 41–42, 43; and Spanish slave code, 79–80, 111–16 Colbert, Jean-Baptiste, 22 Colbert, William, 121 Coleman (widow), 96 Cole’s Creek, 165 communication networks, 104, 113–14, 122, 148, 255n27 compadrazgo, 132–33 Compagnie de Indes. See Company of the Indies Compañía Real Carlos, 165–66 Company of the Indies, 19, 21, 27 complexion: blackness and enslavement, linked, 9–10, 51, 59–64, 222–23; as dichotomy, 11; versus race, 8–10; as social markers, 185. See also enslaved Africans; free people of color complexion, African American conceptions of, 142 complexion, British conceptions of: blackness and enslavement, linked, 54, 59–64, 117; blackness as connected to environment, 52; cultural markers, use of, 52–57, 62; and enslavement, 10; and gender, 56; mixed-race children’s status, 55–56, 137; and whiteness, 51–52, 55–57 complexion, French conception of, 26–27, 38–39. See also Code Noir (Louisiana, 1724) complexion, Native American conceptions of, 34–36, 65, 120–21

index / 305 complexion, Spanish conceptions of: blackness and enslaved Indians, 47–48; blackness not equated with enslavement, 106, 122–23, 127, 143, 151–52; and British and American conceptions, comparison, 106–8; Creole versus bozale, 144; fluidity of, 10, 151–52; limpieza de sangre, 106, 134–35; mixedrace children and legitimacy, 137; and state and Church law, 117 complexion, U.S. conceptions of: blackness equated with enslavement, 122–23, 154, 159–60, 184–86, 194, 199, 201–4, 209, 214, 218; and honor, 195; interracial marriage, white concerns about, 210–11 Concise Natural History (by Bernard Romans), 51–54 Congo, Louis, 38 Cooper, William, 121 cotton, 174–78, 206–7, 272n97; and cotton gin, 93, 158, 174–78 Council of the Indies (France), 39 Council of the Navy, 25–26 Creek Nation, 46–47, 65–66, 120–21, 185 Crozat, Antoine, 29–30. See also Company of the Indies Debby (enslaved woman), 201–4 debt, 85, 160–61, 168–69, 171–74, 205–7; and enslaved Africans as collateral, 95–103; and free women of color suing debtors, 139–42 de Gourville, Tivas, 32 Desubias, Carol Enrique Barchelot, 145 DeWitt, Ezekiel, 145 Dick (enslaved man), 119–20 Dickinson (Colonel), 79, 83 Dinah (enslaved woman), 197 Diocou (enslaved African), 41 Dorotea, Luisa, 137 Doshy (white man), 136 Dowda, Isabella, 191 Dowda, Jonathan, 191 Dowda, Jupiter, 190–91 Dowda, Nanny, 191 Dowda, Susan, 191 Duclos, Jean-Baptist Dubois, 24–26 Dueit, William, 95–96 Dunbar, William, 70, 80–83, 176–78, 207–8 Duncan, George, 211 Duncan, Joseph, 142

du Pratz, Le Page, 41; Histoire de la Louisiane, 27 Dyson, Clement, 104 Elizabeth (enslaved girl), 198 Ellicott, Andrew: and Gayoso, 162, 180; on land distribution, 181; and settlers, relationship, 161–62, 178, 179–80; on slavery’s importance in Natchez, 181; and transfer of power, 153, 257n68 Ellis, Antoine, 91 Embargo Act (1807), 206 Emelia (enslaved girl), 91 emigration force (forced immigration), 32–33 Emma (enslaved girl), 121 enslaved Africans: and British settlers, arrival with, 49–50; and cotton, 177; erasure from historic narrative, 217, 219; in French Natchez, 44–46; population increase, 30, 33, 40, 68, 115, 167, 184, 188, 190, 209–10, 214, 218, 265n65 —agency of: courts, use of, 5, 11, 107, 143 (see also legal system); and poor whites, mingling with, 210–11; and resistance, whites’ perceived risks of, 91 (see also slave insurrections, fear of); and running away, 64–66, 81, 100–101, 114, 120–21, 185–86, 212–13 —as commodity: as collateral for enslavers’ debts, 95–103, 170, 174; monetary value of, 152; as necessary for prosperity of region, 219–20; as pawn in conflict between French and British, 57–58; as primary investment, 204–7, 214; as social capital for enslavers, 206 —enslaved women: and Catholic Church and fictive kinship ties, use of, 132–33, 136–39; and kinship with enslaver, 129– 31; and motherhood, 145 (see also Lewis, Amy); offspring of, 129, 136–38; sexual exploitation of, 129, 131, 149, 151–52, 218, 253n10. See also women of color —laws restricting behavior: and alcohol, 210–11; arming of, 112; and markets and hiring out, cut off from, 197 —violence against: and separation of families, 96, 99–100; sexual exploitation of, 129, 131, 149, 151–52, 218, 253n10; white violence, victims of, 112, 194–95, 211–13

306 / index enslaved Native Americans, 26–27, 31, 33, 41, 47–48 Eslava, Miguel, 95–96 Esther (enslaved woman), 197 Etridge, Thomas, 86–87 Evans, Nathaniel, 206 Fairchild, Henry, 57 Farmer, Robert, 58–59 Farquhar, John, 141 Farrar, Benjamin, 170–71 Farrow (Dr.), 78 Fitzgerald, George, 198 Fitzgerald, James, 198 Fitzpatrick, John, 63–64 Floridablanca, 88 Forks of the Road slave market, 184, 208 Forsyth, John, 197 Fort Rosalie, 30, 40–45 Fortune (enslaved man), 213 Foster, John, 199 Franchimastabé, 71 free people of color: British laws regarding, 62–64, 82–83; census records, absence from, 128; courts, use of, 11, 107; cultural markers of whiteness, use of, 62; and employment, 139–42, 199; and freedom papers, 122–23, 199; kidnapping and enslavement of, 195; population, numbers of, 63, 116, 128, 190; as threat to racial hierarchy, 28, 60, 131. See also women of color Gabriel’s Rebellion, 191 Galathée (slave ship), 19–20 Galvan, Joseph, 201 Gálvez, Bernardo de, 78–80, 86 Garden Club, 215–17, 219 Garland (settler), 273n104 Gayoso de Lemos, Manuel: administration of district, 139; arrival in Natchez, 162–63; and coartación, 148, 156–57; departure to New Orleans, 153–57, 180; and Ellicott, 162, 180; and enslaved, property, right to, 259n84; and enslaver elite, relationship, 161, 165–66; legal system, changes to, 88; and Amy Lewis, 2, 126, 145–57; loyalty of settlers, 158, 160; and people of color, rights of, 110–11; and planter debt, 171–74; and tobacco subsidies, end of, 169–70

George (enslaved boy), 198 George, David, 47 Gibson, George, 68 Gillespie, William, 174 Gilyar (Colonel), 78 Glass, Molly, 82–83 Godoy, Manuel, 88 Grafton, Daniel, 202–4 Grafton, James, 202–4 Grand Village, 34, 37, 44 Gran Pré, Charles de: and American settlers, 86–88; and coartación, introduction to Natchez, 130–31; on cotton gin construction, 176; departure to Baton Rouge, 153; as enslaver, 130–31; and Amy Lewis, 147; and Nelly Price, 140; and settlers’ debts, 85–86, 98–102; and Spanish legal system, introduction to Natchez, 106; Spanish Town establishment of, 263n21 the Great Sun, 29, 34 Green, Thomas, 139, 141 Greenleaf, David, 177–78 Haitian Revolution, 93, 192–93 Hamilton, Jesse, 174 Hannah (enslaved woman), 197 Hannah (enslaved woman), 198 Harrison, Richard, 96, 263n21 Hazlett, William, 177–78 Herring, Danial, 211 Hetty (enslaved girl), 201–4 Histoire de la Louisiane, by Le Page du Pratz, 27 Holmes, David, 209 Holmes, Jacob, 216–17 honor, 195, 212 Hutchins (Mrs.), 84–85 Hutchins, Anthony, 84–85, 123–24, 171–72, 197 Hutchins, John, 69–70 indentured servants, 32, 201–4; and emigration force, 32–33; and whiteness, 56 indigo, 47, 174 Isabelle (enslaved girl), 198 Isag (free boy of color), 136 itendants, 167 Jack (enslaved boy), 96

index / 307 Jackson, Michael, 78 James (free person of color), 104–5 Jameson (enslaved man), 144 Jane (enslaved woman), 91 Jeannette (enslaved woman), 127, 130–31 Jefferson, Thomas, 164 Jersey Settlers, 66–67 Jett, Stephen, 101 Johnson, Isaac, 83 Johnson, William, 217 Johnston, George, 50, 61 Jones, Henry, 256n53 Jordan, Stephen, 119–20 Josefa, Maria, 138 Joseph (enslaved boy), 201–4 Josepha, Margarita, 156–57 Judah (enslaved woman), 213 Jude (enslaved woman), 123–24 Kate (enslaved woman), 100 Kentucky, 169–70 King, Prosper, 186 King, Richard, 139 Kirkwood, Guillermo (William), 151–52 Kirkwood, Juana (Jane), 151–52 Lalana, Jose, 137 Lambermo, John, 213 La Moyne de Bienville, Jean-Baptist, 26–27 land grants: British use of as enticement for settlement, 50, 67–68; contested claims to, 179, 207–8; Spanish use of to garner loyalty, 160, 162–63, 264n39 land speculation, 163, 179, 207 Law, John, 231n43. See also Company of the Indies legal system, under Spanish control: African-descended people, movement restricted, 112–13; African-descended people’s access to, 104–5, 107, 110, 116, 123–25, 127, 142, 150; Africandescended people’s access to, enslavers’ blocking of, 118; and Anglo-American system, 112, 142; and British system, comparison, 106; and Church authority, 6, 108 (see also Catholic Church); and enslaved Africans, 112, 113–15; and enslavers’ relationship with Spanish government, 110; flexibility of, 109, 110–11; and free people of color, 122–23, 127, 139–42; and illegitimate children,

150; and interracial marriage, 149–52; and language barriers, 88; and natural recognized sons, 153; and self-purchase (see coartación); and slave trade, 88–92; small farmers, disadvantaged by, 113; transition to U.S. control, 154–57; urban setting, made for, 112 legal system, under U.S. government: African-descended people’s inaccessibility of, 155–56, 211–12, 214, 218; blackness and enslavement, 154–55, 193–94; enslaved, personhood through property, use of language, 184, 187, 201–4, 214; enslaved Africans, corporal punishment, 194–95, 211–12; enslaved Africans, testimony, 194–96; and interracial marriage, 150, 193; transition to, and proximity to Spanish land, 186–87, 190–91; whiteness and freedom, 195 Lennan, Francisco, 134 Leville (enslaved man), 118–19 Lewis (free man of color), 142 Lewis, Amy: and Asahel Lewis, relationship, 144, 149; defense of, 148– 53; knowledge of court system, 145–46, 153, 154; and legal system transition from Spanish to U.S., 142, 148, 258n84; manumission challenged, 146–48, 150, 152–53; New Orleans, request for legal venue, 2, 126, 154; possible case of, 275n133; reenslavement, 126, 152, 155–57 Lewis, Asahel: and Amy Lewis, acquisition of, 143–44; and Amy Lewis, relationship, 151–53; and Henry, relationship, 144–45, 151–53; and manumission willed for Amy and Henry, 145. See also Lewis, Amy Lewis, Henry (Henrique): inheritance rights of, 153; manumission of, 144–45, 147, 156; recognized by father, 149, 150. See also Lewis, Amy Lewis, Marshall, 144, 147, 156 Liephart, Jacob, 119 liminality, definition of, 228n38, 246n4 Lintot, David, 192 Locke, John, 235n8 Loftus (British commander), 57–58, 64 London (enslaved man), 99–101 López, Mitchel (Miguel), 139–42 Luke (enslaved boy), 91

308 / index Lum, Jesse, 102 manumissions: under Code Noir, 79; enslaver resistance to, 116–17; and family ties, 191; as form of control over enslaved, 115, 155, 200; gradual manumissions, 200; and kinship networks, 148, 201–4; ownerfathers, 196–97, 198 (see also Lewis, Amy); purpose of, 60; rescinded, 200–201; restrictions on, British, 61–62; restrictions on, U.S., 184, 187–89, 191, 197, 214, 218; self-purchases, 197; under Spanish slave law, 79, 190–91; through wills, 119–20, 145, 197; as uncommon, 189–90; and value of enslaved Africans, 118–19 Margarita (enslaved woman), 136–37 Mariana (enslaved woman), 121 Mark (enslaved man), 213 Marshalk, Andrew, 213 Marxent, Gilbert Antoine de St., 80 Mary (enslaved woman), 91 Mary (enslaved woman), 121 Mary (enslaved woman), 198 Mary Ann (enslaved woman), 201 Mays, Abraham, 99, 100 McIntosh, Alexander, 70, 85 McIntosh, Anne, 91 Menar, Francisco, 119, 121 “metis,” French concern with, 25, 26 Mick (enslaved boy), 174 Minor, Elizabeth, 273n104 Minor, Estevan: and selling of enslaved, 119 Minor, John, 205 Minor, Stephen (Estevan): as enslaver elite, 165–66; as governor, 180; and land acquisition, 263n21; as lieutenant governor, 162; and selling of enslaved, 89; and slavery, protection of, 96–102, 121 Miró, Estevan: and Kentucky, 169–70; and land grants, 162–63; and legal system, enforcement of, 127; and legal system, slave laws, 111; and legal system accessible to free people of color, 140; and manumission cases, 122–23; and tobacco, 172–74 Monday (enslaved person), 197 Moore (Mr.), 192 Moore, James, 200

Moore, Robert, 197 Morel, Juan (John) Bautista, 122–23 Nancy (enslaved woman), 121 Nanette (enslaved woman), 148 Narcisse (enslaved boy), 127, 130–31 Natchez Nation: and African war chief, 37–39, 41; attack on French settlement, legacy of, 46–48; and captivity, notions of, 42; and Chickasaws, integration into, 46–47; and enslaved Africans, alliance with, 36, 41, 43–45, 46–48; and enslaved Africans, and notions of captivity, 30–33; and enslaved Africans, attack on, 1, 9, 34–36; factions within, 29, 34, 36–37; society, adoption of outsiders, 38, 42; society, structuring of, 38 Natchez Pilgrimage, 215–17 Natchez, overview of empires, 220–22 —under British control: administration of, 49, 63; cash, shortage of, 61; enslaved Africans, necessity of, 50, 57; Native American attacks on British, 57–58; and paternalism, 108; and Pensacola, economic ties to, 50; population estimates, 68; settlement of, 50, 66, 67–69; slave society, attempt, 72–73; and social control, 55; and Spanish, war with, 79–80; transition from British control, residents’ response to, 83–85; uncertainties of empire, 69–72, 77–80, 81–83 —under French control: and British empire, competition with, 37; cash crop, need for, 20, 22, 39; and complexion, concern about racial mixing offspring, 23–29; enslaved labor, need for, 32–33, 39; French, expulsion of, 45; “Frenchness,” preservation of, 27; and Natchez Nation, relationship, 31, 34–36, 40–45; and Native American– African alliance as threat to French, 38; population, numbers of, 39; resources, lack of from king, 22–23; as slave society, 21 —under Spanish control: and American encroachment, 160; and Anglo settlers, 87–88, 164, 180–81; and Caribbean, ties to, 93–94; crops, diversity of, 93–94; debt and credit,

index / 309 95–103, 168–69, 170–74; empire, weakening hold of, 177–82; enslaved Africans, demand for, 74–76, 87, 88, 93–95, 102–3, 110, 118–19, 167–69; enslavers and Spanish officials, conflict between, 87; land grants, 162–63, 264n39; language barriers, 88; plantation society, establishment of, 171, 176–77; population, 86–88, 93, 253n7, 256n54; rights of citizenship, 162; slavery, and control of district, 117–19, 122; slave society, transition to, 88–92, 93–94, 170–74; slave trade, 110, 115, 119, 167, 179; and tobacco, 74–75, 110, 118, 166–70; transition to US control, 148, 153–54, 257n68, 258n82; U.S. concern about, 162–64; women enslavers, protection of property of, 97–102 —under U.S. control: administration of, 189; as closed off to newcomers, 207–9; as slave society, 217–18; and slave trade, 189–90; and statehood, 217 Natchez War, First, 30 National Park Service, 217 Native Americans: and alcohol laws, 210; and complexion and captivity, 65, 121–22; enslavement of, 31, 33, 41, 47–48; European depiction of, 35; Natchez inhabitants’ fleeing to, 85, 95, 100–101; and runaway enslaved Africans, return of, 65; and slave holding, 121 Navarro, Martin, 167–69, 249n35 Ned (enslaved man), 89 Nenny (enslaved woman), 136 Neptuno (enslaved man), 175 New Orleans: and Cabildo, 111–14; and complexion, fluidity of, 156–57; as destination for Natchez enslaved runaways, 121–22; founding of, 21; and free people of color, 116, 118; and Natchez, connection, 225n27 newspapers, 185–86, 212–13 Northwest Ordinance, 163–64 O’Connor, John, 176, 216–17 Ogden, Amos, 66 Ogden, Peter, 206 Old South, nostalgia for, 215–17, 216; and erasure, 215–17, 219 O’Reilly, Alejandro, 80, 113 Osborne, Jane, 91

Owens, William, 100 Page, Joseph, 122–23 Panic of 1819, 206–7 paternalism: and compadrazgo, 133; and white supremacy, 196 Pénicaut, André, 23 Perier, Étienne, 40–41 Perkins, Peter, 89 Peter (enslaved man), 121 Phelps, Matthew, 70, 77 Phillis (enslaved woman), 186 Phillister (enslaved child), 198 Philly (enslaved person), 197 Phoebe (enslaved woman), 89 Pickens, John, 101 Piernas, Pedro, 85 Pinckney’s Treaty (Treaty of San Lorenzo), 7, 153, 177, 257n68; transition of rule, 161–62, 178–82 plaçage, 127 Pollidore (enslaved man), 190 Polly (enslaved girl), 198 Polly (enslaved girl), 200 Polly (enslaved girl), 201–4 Pope, Percy Smith, 180 Pounteney, William, 120 Price, Nelly, 63–64, 127, 139–42 Randolph, Virginia Jefferson, 207 Ray, Joseph, 186 Rea, Archibald, 101 Real cédula (1790), 114 Real Companía de Comercio de la Havana, 90 Rebecca (enslaved woman), 97, 99–101 Rees, Ebenezer, 156 Robert (enslaved man), 121 Robert, Joseph, 213 Rodriguez, John Joseph, 186–87 rogue colonialism, 240n18 Romans, Bernard: Concise Natural History, 51–54; Native Americans, depiction of, 53 Romeo (enslaved man), 121 Romino (free person of color), 199 royal cédula, 90 runaway advertisements, 185–86, 212–13 St. Catherine’s Creek plantation, 30, 34–36 St. Clair, Arthur, 164 Saint-Domingue, 90, 192–93

310 / index Sally (enslaved woman), 213 Samba (free person of color), 148 Sargent, Winthrop, 189, 192–93 Saul, William, 206–7 Savage, Guillermo, 134 Scott, Susanna, 197 Seminole Nation, 120–21 Shilling, Polser, 142 Siete Partidas, 109–10, 138. See also legal system, under Spanish regime “Slave Country,” 3 slave insurrections, fear of: and enslaved population numbers, 179, 192–93; slave codes as protection, 48, 196; from Gabriel’s Rebellion, 191–93; from German Coast, 209; from Haitian Revolution, 93, 192–93; from Point Coupée, 175; from poor whites’ mingling with enslaved Africans, 211; from Spanish West Florida, 209; from War of 1812, 210 slave patrols, 193, 209–10 slave trade: courthouse sales, 89, 91; and credit, use of to buy, 89, 95–103; domestic, 57, 89–90, 178, 184, 189; Forks of the Road market, 184, 208; international, 19, 184, 189; women enslavers, protection of, 91–92 Smith, David, 87 Smith, Philander, 205–6 Smith, William, 87, 96 Spanish Town, 165 Stackpoole, Maurice, 174 Standley, Jesse, 141 Stark, Theodon, 208 statehood for Mississippi, 217 Staybraker, John, 104 Steer, James, 205 Stowers, John, 141 Swayze, Samuel, 66–67 Tannenbaum thesis, 11 Terrell, Samuel, 213 Terrell, Timothy, 213 Texada, Manuel, 147–53, 155 Thompson, Matthew, 101 Tichenor, George, 206–7 tobacco: and debt, 170–74; introduction of, 82; subsidies, 110, 118, 160, 166–70

Tom (enslaved man), 138 Tom, Maria Josefa, 138 Tony (enslaved man), 197 Trahan, Renato, 156 Treaty of Fontainebleau, 49 Treaty of Paris (1763), 49–50 Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney’s Treaty), 7, 153, 177, 257n68; transition of rule, 161–62, 178–82 Trevino, Philip, 97, 142 Trist, Nicholas Philip, 207–9 tropical diseases, 241n41 Truly, Bennet, 143–44, 226n74 Tunica Indians, 57–58 Tunno and Price, 189 Turner, Edmund, 202 Unzaga, Luis de, 66 Vidal, Josef, 153 Vousdan, William, 197 Walton, John, 213 Ward, James, 200 War of 1812, 205, 206, 210 War of the Spanish Succession, 22 Weagle, George, 215–16 Welton, Patience, 99 westward expansion, 159, 160, 169–70, 183–84 White, Gregory, 134 White, Joseph, 211–12 White Apple Village, 36, 37–39, 41 Wilkerson, James, 169–70 Wilkins, Thomas, 190 Williams, David, 170 Williams, John, 152–53 Williams, Mary, 259n84 Willing, James: debts of, 139; raid, 69–71, 80–81, 123, 241n37; raid, legacy of, 76, 77–79 Willing, Thomas, 69 Willis, John, 89 women of color, 127, 128–29, 140. See also enslaved women Woods, John, 96–102 Woods, Margaret, 97–102 Wynne, John H., 59 Yarrow, Thomas, 142

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Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era by Jennifer L. Goloboy Anglo-Native Virginia: Trade, Conversion, and Indian Slavery in the Old Dominion, 1646–1722 by Kristalyn Marie Shefveland Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras by Kristen Epps In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America by Kelly M. Kennington Brothers and Friends: Kinship in Early America by Natalie R. Inman George Washington’s Washington: Visions for the National Capital in the Early American Republic by Adam Costanzo Borderless Empire: Dutch Guiana in the Atlantic World, 1750–1800 by Brian Hoonhout Complexion of Empire in Natchez: Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands by Christian Pinnen Toward Cherokee Removal: Land, Violence, and the White Man’s Chance by Adam J. Pratt