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Public Rights and Private Commerce: A Nineteenth‐Century Atlantic Creole Itinerary

Rebecca J. Scott
Current Anthropology
Vol. 48, No. 2 (April 2007), pp. 237-256
DOI: 10.1086/510475
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/510475
Page Count: 20
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Public Rights and Private Commerce
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Abstract

Tracing the history of a family across three generations, from enslavement in eighteenth‐century West Africa through emancipation during the Haitian Revolution and subsequent resettlement in New Orleans, then France, then Belgium, can shed light on phenomena that are Atlantic in scope. A business letter written in 1899 by the cigar merchant Edouard Tinchant to General Máximo Gómez in Cuba frames an inquiry that opens out onto a family itinerary that spanned the long nineteenth century. Rosalie Vincent’s achievement of freedom in the shadow of slavery in Saint‐Domingue in 1793–1803 can be seen as linked to her grandson Edouard Tinchant’s participation as a delegate in the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1867–68. Together, the experiences of the Vincent/Tinchant family illuminate an Atlantic and Caribbean rights‐consciousness that crossed the usual boundaries of language and citizenship. Uncovering these experiences suggests the value of combining the close focus displayed in Sidney Mintz’s Worker in the Cane with the Atlantic approach of his later Sweetness and Power.

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