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The Deliberative Voice: Politics, Speech, and Liberty

The Deliberative Voice: Politics, Speech, and Liberty

Chapter:
(p.69) Two The Deliberative Voice: Politics, Speech, and Liberty
Source:
The Freedom of Speech
Author(s):
Miles Ogborn
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226657714.003.0003

This chapter examines political speech in Barbados and Jamaica under slavery. It discusses the forms of ‘sovereignty talk’ and the modes of deliberation through which political decisions were made in two arenas that are usually dealt with separately: forms of imperial and colonial governance and conspiracies and revolts among the enslaved. For the first, official records and pamphlet literature are used to examine the relationships between sovereign proclamations, oaths of office, and the ‘deliberative voice’ of the islands’ colonial assemblies. It is demonstrated through examining a series of conflicts, including the late seventeenth-century constitutional crisis in Jamaica, that white, male, and propertied political subjects were constituted through their freedom of speech. For the second, the legal and political records of conspiracies and revolts among the enslaved are used to examine the forms of sovereign, collective, and deliberative speech involved, and how those were (mis)heard by enslavers aiming to crush such forms of resistance. It is argued that collective forms of speech could come in many forms – from those that mimicked colonial modes to ones drawing on West African idioms of sovereignty and commoning – and that deliberative speech necessitated a recognition of black speakers as political subjects.

Keywords:   politics, sovereignty, colonial assemblies, deliberation, resistance, conspiracies, slave revolts

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