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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The daemon behind the curtain: William Edwards and the theatre of liberty
Author:MacKenzie, KirstenISNI
Periodical:South African Historical Journal
Geographic terms:South Africa
The Cape
Great Britain
Subjects:colonial administration
abolition of slavery
freedom of the press
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02582470903189725
Abstract:In 1824 the Cape's Collector of Customs was accused of corrupt practices in the distribution of Prize Slaves. A key player in bringing the charges was a notary calling himself William Edwards, later exposed as an escaped convict from New South Wales. Edwards was arrested for libel, and the colony's first independent newspaper was suppressed for reporting his trial. Much of the established historiography on this incident has treated Edwards as a maverick troublemaker, a bit player in the main drama of establishing 'the liberty of the press' in South Africa. This article uses previously neglected sources to argue that the Edwards case was in fact bound up in popular conceptions of slavery, British identity and governance. In order to extricate himself, Edwards took on the performative role of a 'patriot' (as he put it) defending British abolition and attacking a corrupt alliance with local Dutch notables. His strategy was designed to tap into networks and agendas that spread well beyond the colony and (for Edwards's purposes) it almost worked. For the historian, it illuminates both the fractured nature of British national and personal identity and the importance of situating these debates in a global context. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]