Thursday, June 11, 2020

Menon on Burke on the "Protection" of Trinidad Slaves

Parvathi Menon, Erik Castren Institute of International Law and Human Rights, has posted Edmund Burke and the Ambivalence of Protection for Slaves: Between Humanity and Control, which is forthcoming in the Journal of the History of International Law:
Edmund Burke (NYPL)
The language of protection came with an ambivalence that was capable of portraying the protector as the benevolent sovereign, i.e., as protecting the slaves from planter brutality (protection as humanity), but also one that allowed the sovereign to exert control over the protected to prevent resistance to authority (protection as control). In this paper, I examine the politics behind protection for slaves in Trinidad in the early 19th century to show how protection, as a legal strategy, served these different ends in the British Empire, of humanity and control alike, and was influenced by the legacy of Edmund Burke. I make two arguments in this paper: First, I argue that Burke’s trusteeship ideas, albeit widely written about as limiting imperial rule (concerning his efforts in India, largely demonstrated by the Warren Hastings trial), can also be described as a tool for imperial expansion in the early 19th century (as in the case of its redeployment in the Mandates model). To re-characterize Burke as neither radical nor conservative, but as a pragmatist who believed that one must ‘allow an evil to correct it’, I examine the underlying meaning of what became his ‘trusteeship model’ from the perspective of his plan to protect slaves. Second, I claim that if we move past the strict international-national delineation present in international law today, we can appreciate that the legal technique of protection was at the center of the exploitation of non-European peoples for much longer during the ‘Pax Britannica’.
--Dan Ernst