Seeking Capture, Resisting Seizure

An International Legal History of the Anglo-Brazilian Treaty for the Suppression of the Slave Trade (1826–1845)

Adriane Sanctis de Brito

Global Perspectives on Legal History 22
Frankfurt am Main: Max-Planck-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte und Rechtstheorie 2023. XII, 224 S.
Online-Ausgabe: Open Access (PDF-Download, Lizenz: Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 International)
Druckausgabe: 18,90 € (Print on Demand bei ePubli)

ISSN 2196-9752
ISBN 978-3-944773-42-1
eISBN 978-3-944773-43-8

Quotation link of the online version:

The treaties to suppress the slave trade were the subject of intense legal battles and debates in the first half of the 19th century. By delving into the legal disputes that took place within the context of the Anglo-Brazilian treaty, this book highlights the political importance of what might at first glance be perceived as little more than argumentative hurdles over the rules and proceedings regarding the search and capture of ships. Some of these legal battles were carried out in the correspondence between the Foreign Offices, sometimes between diplomatic representatives or within mixed commissions, while still others involved the process of interpretation and the resignification that took place over the course of years and involved a multiplicity of exchanges between various actors and institutions.

Britain constantly pushed to expand the legal use of force and possibilities of capture within the spaces outlined by the treaty regime. Brazil actively engaged in the legal interpretation, and in so doing created an argumentative onus that would later continue to transform British legal approaches and the very expectations about the content of the law the two parties were applying.

By constantly challenging the scope and limits of the treaty, Brazilian representatives slowed down the process of abolishing the slave trade, thus preserving the perverse practice, while at the same time protecting Brazil’s independence against the expansion of British interference. Whether reading the bilateral treaty clauses as analogous to or differently from prize law or general international law, the day-to-day interpretation forged anti-slave trade rules that kept ships, instead on enslaved people, protagonists of slave trade suppression mechanisms.

This history of the Anglo-Brazilian treaty provides more detail about the mechanisms created by international law to combat the slave trade. It also reveals the complex legal translations of state inequality, humanitarianism, violence, and the fine line between war and peace.


V           Acknowledgements

1           Introduction

             Chapter 1

11         Weaponising Treaties: The British Fight Against the Slave Trade

12         A.
             ‘Setting the navy free to do its work’ in war and in peace

12         Prize law, neutrality and the flags

15         Change in case law

21        B.
             The ways of treaty-making

21         Times for treaties

24         Multilateral conferences

27         The piracy alternative

29        C.
             A network of bilateral treaties

29         Overall production

31         The British system and variation in treaties

             Chapter 2

37         The Triple Formula’s Teeth: The Power to Visit, Capture and Adjudicate Ships

39        A.
            The right of visit (and search)

39        ‘Decoupled’ visitation

40         In the absence of a treaty

44        B.
             Spotting, visiting and capturing ships

44         The captor’s position

47         Forms and directives

56        C.
             Judging the ships in the dock

56         Forms and practice

62         Liberation and traces of prize law

65         The point of mixed commissions

             Chapter 3

71         The Brazilian Debut: Consenting to the Slave Trade Abolition

73        A.
             A colonial heritage

73         The Anglo-Portuguese regime

78         Times of transition

79        B.
             A new treaty regime

79         Independence and recognition

81         Three versions of the triple formula

84         Starting point

             Chapter 4

89         A Treaty in Motion: Between War and Peace

93        A.
             Search in visitation

93         Inspection of papers

94         Sealed papers

96        B.
             Detention for equipment

96         Equipment clause

100       Enough for good prize

106      C.
             Flags under adjudication

106      Commissions and prize experience

107      Two versions of mixed commissions

112      Form of the process

116      Jurisdiction and nationality

124      Restitution without indemnities

133      The shield of non-appeal

             Chapter 5

145      Interpreting their Way out: A Dismantled Triple Formula

148      A.
             Changing jurisdication

148      Colourable nationality returns

152      Liberation and deviation of vessels

159      Attempt to extinguish mixed commissions

163      B.
             Piracy revisited

163      Expiration of the triple formula

167      After the Aberdeen Act

175      Conclusion

179      Abbreviations

183      Sources and Bibliography

183      Archives and Printed Sources

185      Bibliography

193      Appendix

209      About the Author

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