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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A 'Somewhat Firm Policy': The Role of the Gold Coast Judiciary in Implementing Slave Emancipation, 1874-1900
Author:Getz, Trevor R.
Periodical:Ghana Studies
Geographic terms:Ghana
Great Britain
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Abstract:For nearly two decades historical discourse surrounding the 1874 emancipation of slaves in the Gold Coast Protectorate has been dominated by a debate on the policy's impact on slavery within the region. This article introduces into the debate relatively neglected quantitative and qualitative data drawn from the Gold Coast juridical files located in the National Archives of Ghana. The information retrieved sheds new light on the administration's attitude towards and ability to enforce the emancipation laws and guidelines mandated by the metropole. The local British administration was unable and partly unwilling to carry out the task of eradicating domestic slavery. Local administrators were not agents of the British government, but actors, forced like the slaves and slave-owners whom they were charged to govern and with whom they interacted, to negotiate the most favourable outcome to conflicting policies thrust upon them by the metropolitan government. In making a conscious decision to pursue slave dealers but otherwise ignore the status quo in domestic dependency relationships, they perhaps felt that they were at least 'somewhat firm'. The juridical records of the Gold Coast for the late ninteenth century also confirm that the 1874 emancipation did not cause an immediate transformation in slaveholding within the Gold Coast. There is little evidence of slaves or their families using the courts for self-liberation. Furthermore the juridical records show that the administration exhibited almost no initiative in pursuing and prosecuting the crime of domestic slavery. Notes, ref.