Tag Archives: Trials

Two laws and one trial

Banner The Amboyna Conspiracy TrialSometimes even a history blog cannot escape from current affairs, but the opposite happens, too: a historical event comes unexpectedly into view and you keep thinking about it. A few weeks ago I encountered the project The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial (Monash University) about a famous trial in 1623 on the island Ambon, part of the Moluccas islands in the southeastern part of the vast Indonesian archipelago, close to Sulawesi, East Timor, New Guinea and Australia, thus explaining the interest of a team at an Australian university led by Adam Clulow. Among the partners for this project launched in 2016 were the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the Dutch Nationaal Archief in The Hague and the India Office Records of the British Library. The website of the project invites the users to ponder the question on which side they stand. In particular the educational aspects of this website merit attention. Here I use both Ambon and Amboina to refer to the island.

Yet another reason to write here about the Dutch East India Company is the upcoming exhibition at the Nationaal Archief in The Hague, De wereld van de VOC [The World of the VOC] that will be on display from February 24, 2017 to January 7, 2018.

A clash of emerging empires

Poster "De wereld van de VOC" - Nationaal \archief, Den Haag

The story of the trial in 1623 is seemingly simple and straightforward. The Dutch authorities on the island Ambon, officials of the Dutch East Indian Company, arrested a Japanese soldier who had behaved suspiciously. Under torture he and fellow Japanese mercenaries confessed to know about a conspiracy of the English to capture the Dutch fortress. In a span of two weeks Englishmen, too, were captured and tortured to gain confessions. Under Dutch criminal law torture was considered one of the legal means in a trial. The Early Modern maxim “Tortura est regina probationum”, torture is the queen of proves, is not mentioned at the project website. On March 9, 1623 twenty prisoners were executed by the Dutch.

The creators of the Amboyna website are quite right in seeing this trial as a focus point of history. The Dutch and the English competed for the most profitable trade in spice. In fact the name of the Moluccas in Dutch – now in Dutch Molukken – was for many years “Specerij-eilanden”, The Spice Islands. A treaty signed in 1616 seemed a rather peaceful start of Dutch relations with the inhabitants of the Moluccan Islands, but in 1621 governor Jan Pieterszoon Coen decided to invade these islands, aiming in particular at Banda, known for its nutmeg, apart from Grenada the only spot on earth where you can find large quantities of this fruit which also produces yet another spice, mace.

Treaty with Banda, 1616

From 1610 to 1619 Ambon was the central location of the Dutch overseas empire in South East Asia. Coen and his troops killed in 1621 thousands inhabitants of Banda and the surroundings islands on the pretext that they had broken the treaty by trading with other nations than the Dutch, be they English, Spanish or Portuguese. This background of ferocious and ruthless violence close to genocide did not predict a peaceful continuation of relations with the indigenous people nor with other European countries. It is indeed the very story that forever divides those applauding the Dutch energy and colonial expansion, and those who condemn the events and the whole period as an unforgivable and inhuman step in mankind’s history. A few years ago one of the episodes of the television series on the Dutch Gouden Eeuw (Golden Age) centered around the 1621 massacre at Banda (the fifth episode, Een wereldonderneming [A world enterprise]. In January 1623 Coen was succeeded as governor of the Dutch Indies by Pieter de Carpentier.

The website of The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial gives you a timeline with for each day the texts of the confessions made by the arrested suspects. Four exhibits give you a chance to deepen your knowledges about the two East India companies and the spice trade, the role of Japanese mercenaries, trials in Dutch and English law and the uses and role of torture, and the publicity about the trial. Adam Clulow wrote about the Japanese soldiers in his article ‘Unjust, cruel and barbarous proceedings : Japanese mercenaries and the Amboyna incident of 1623’. Itinerario 31 (2007) 15-34. More recently he published The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (New York, 2014), reviewed for example by Martine van Ittersum for the Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden / Low Countries Historical Review 130/4 (2015). Her main criticism is Clulow’s insufficient information about sources in Dutch and Japanese archives. When eventually news of the trial reached Europe, it sparked off a stream of publications. Just browsing the Knuttel, the famous catalogue of Dutch pamphlets shows you a substantial rise in the number of pamphlets issued in 1624 and 1625, but English pamphleteers were even more active. The website features in the “Archive” section only pamphlets in English. You will find in this section some twenty-five sources and a number of paintings and portraits.

Placcaet, Knuttel no. 3548 - image The Memory of the Netherlands

“Placcaet…”, an ordinance against the first pamphlet concerning the Amboina trial – Knuttel no. 3548 – copy Royal Library, The Hague – image: The Memory of the Netherlands

The presentation of sources for The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial should indeed alert you to what you see and read. For many documents a brief analysis of the text and impact is given, but not for all documents. Some items show just one page of a pamphlet or archival record. No pamphlet is presented here in its entirety. For documents in Dutch a partial translation is given, but no transcription. One of the pamphlets, Waerachtich verhael vande tijdinghen gecomen wt de Oost-Indien (…). Aengaende de conspiratie ontdeckt inde eylanden van Amboyna (Knuttel no. 3547), online at the portal The Memory of the Netherlands, originally printed in Gothic script (Knuttel no. 3546) was quickly translated into English as a part of the pamphlet A true relation of the unjust, cruell, and barbarous proceedings against the English at Amboyna in the East-Indies (London 1624; digital version at The Memory of the Netherlands). In its turn a Dutch translation appeared of this English reaction (Knuttel no. 3549, online version). The Amboyna project site does not mention nor contain the ordinance (plakkaat) of the Dutch General States forbidding in August 1624 the distribution of the first pamphlet because it would harm the relations between the Dutch and English East India companies [Placcaet… (The Hague 1624; Knuttel no. 3548, online version)]. Clearly this act did not work to suppress the news of the events in the East. Anyway thanks to the original contemporary translations it is substantially but not completely possible to rely on them.

The database The Early Modern Pamphlets Online for Dutch pamphlets and the German Flugschriften does still work despite an announcement about it being shut down on January 1, 2017. You can freely use this online catalogue, instead of going to the subscribers-only commercial version. The Hathi Trust Digital Library has digitized the catalogue of pamphlets held at the Dutch Royal Library [W.P.C. Knuttel (ed.), Catalogus van de pamfletten-verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke bibliotheek (9 vol., The Hague 1890-1920)], and you can use the search function of this version to search in its text.

The “citations” for the archival items and documents at the Amboina website are the titles of the items, with sometimes a very much abbreviated indication of the location and archive. For the colorful painting in the Museum Rumah Budaya in Banda Neira no indication is given when it was created. I can imagine this is exactly the question teachers or instructors want their students to solve. The image of the 1616 treaty with Banda above is marked “Contract with Banda, 3 May 1616”. Here, too, you might think it would spoil the things students have to do if I would give here more information about this source. I had expected a list with full references for all items in an appendix to the project, tucked away in the teachers’ corner. The start page of the digital project shows part of an engraving showing the torturers and their victims. In a corner of the image you can find a reference in small print giving the reference to this image from the collections of the Rijksmuseum (object no. RP-P-OB-68.279, cat. no. FMH 2328-7). The engraving was published in 1673, not nearly fifty years earlier.

Header TANAP Archives

However, when you start checking you will find several textual witnesses to this treaty, thus making it seem that the image of this treaty – or any other archival record – was taken at random among the registers and originals held at the Dutch Nationaal Archief. The TANAP portal is a great gateway to search for many aspects of the Dutch East India Company both in Dutch, British, Sri Lankan and Indonesian archives. In the combined inventories you will find at least three items with the 1616 contract. The important point is that these inventories do not provide you with digitized images, hence the usual need for good references for documents and images. I would almost leave it to you to search in the TANAP portal for the events at Ambon, but I feel rather certain one of the registers used is Nationaal Archief, inventory 1.04.2, no. 1080, because “VOC 1080” is often mentioned in the citations. Inventory 1.04.02 at the website of the Nationaal Archief contains more than 4 million scanned pages, but not for this register.

If you want mores images at your screen you can combine the riches of The Memory of the Netherlands with for example the portal Atlas of Mutual Heritage. The TANAP portal has a fine links selection, and the introduction to the history of the VOC by F.S. Gaastra is most substantial and supported by a fine bibliography. For more links you should visit the site of the VOC-Kenniscentrum. An important general source are the reports of the governors of Ambon, edited by G.J. Knaap, Memories van overgave van gouverneurs van Ambon in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw (The Hague 1987), digitized by the Huygens Instituut, and you will no doubt be interested in the digitized resolutions of the Dutch Staten Generaal from 1575-1630.

The educational purpose of the trial website is very clear in the section Your Verdict. Six major questions are fired at you to help you to come to a balanced verdict about the trial. In my view it is one thing to ask these questions, and another thing to create real full access to relevant documents. However judicious the choice of selections, however wise the suggestions for analysis, you will learn from having at your disposal images of the complete documents, transcriptions and translations, with full references to track them again, and this holds true also for paintings and portraits. This lack of exact information mars the quality of this digital collection. The team has in mind to create similar projects around two other conspiracy trials, but now it seems at some turns that some basic information has been left out to create a smooth and convincing selection. Your judgment on these matters will also depend on your preference for a working educational project which stresses the importance of independent thinking and weighing of facts and views, certainly a major and important aim, or a preference to create a showcase for doing real historical research around a historical cause célèbre.

Amidst of all things surroundings this case it is instructive to see the shocked reaction at Batavia (Jakarta), since 1619 the VOC headquarter at Java, of the superiors of Isaacq de Bruijn, the Dutch advocate-fiscal, the senior officer leading the investigation at Ambon. We have to bear in mind that the position of the various members of the VOC united in a number of kamers (chambers) in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other cities, and the Staten Generaal in The Hague was many thousand miles away. The interaction between the two circles, and even between Java and Ambon was not quick to say the least. It reminded me of a famous article by the late Cees Fasseur (1938-2016), ‘Een koloniale paradox. De Nederlandse expansie in de Indonesische archipel in het midden van de negentiende eeuw (1830-1870)’ [A colonial paradox. The Dutch expansion in the Indonesian archipelago in the mid-nineteenth century (1830-1870)], Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 92 (1979) 162-186. It is the model article in a student guide by P. de Buck for writing history papers and master theses, Zoeken en schrijven : handleiding bij het maken van een historisch werkstuk (first edition Haarlem 1982). It seems this configuration of powers and distances can be dated two centuries earlier.

Meanwhile in Holland

Is this only a Utrecht view of things? Let me at least bring you to a diary of someone from Utrecht who could in principle have had first hand knowledge. Aernout van Buchell (Buchelius) (1565-1641) from Utrecht has figured here a few times already. He was not only interested in history, but was also between 1619 and 1621 a member of the Amsterdam chamber of the Dutch East India Company as a delegate of the States of Utrecht. In 2011 Kees Smit made a transcription (PDF) of a manuscript by Van Buchell at the Nationaal Archief [1.11.01.01, Aanwinsten Eerste Afdeling, 256 (old 1882 A VI 8 2)]. It contains some drawings, including a map showing Ambon and a drawing of Fort Amboyna (f. 37v-38r). At f. 102v he wrote in May 1624: “Het jacht, dat den 4. januarii 1624 was van de stat Nieu Batavia ofte Jacatra uuyt Java geseilt, is in mayo gearriveert, brengende tijdinge dat drie schepen, wel geladen, veertien dagen ofte drie weecken, als men verhoopten, soude volgen, ende noch drie schepen bijcans toegerust lagen op de custen van Cormandel. Verhaelden meede van eene conspiratio bij eenige Engelsche ende inwoonders op Amboyna, meinende het casteel aldaer te veroveren. Maer waren gemelt, eenige gevangen, sommige gejusticeert, oeck Engelse. Waerover men seyt, dat den coninc van Groot-Britanniën qualic soude tevreden wesen, van sijne oorblasers opgeritzt. Alsofte men de quaetdoenders niet en behoorden te straffen! Ende die mosten in Engelant geremitteert worden.”

Van Buchell starts telling about the yacht arriving from Batavia on January 1624, and six more ships following within a number of weeks. From “Verhaelden” onwards he jotted down notes about the events at Ambon and his opinion, in my translation: “[They] told also about a conspiracy – note the Latin conspiratio, OV – of some Englishmen and inhabitants of Amboina who aimed at capturing the castle. But they were denounced, some captured, some judged, Englishmen too. As to this it was said the king of Great Britain would hardly be pleased, but – more likely – provoked by his advisors. As if these wrongdoers did not need to be punished! Most of them are being pardoned in England”. Alas these are is only notes about this affair, he does not mention it anymore. To me this one note is tantalizing for all the things Van Buchell does not mention, but it is in my view a superficial report showing his first impressions after hearing something about the fateful events at Ambon. He mentions Ambon sixty times in this diary.

Perhaps more telling are lines in an undated Latin poem Van Buchell wrote in his diary (f. 74r): Vidimus, Oceanus salsis quod circuit undis / Incola odoriferos ter ubi capit arbore fructus / Amboynae Batavus leges ubi condidit aequas / Fragrantes interque nuces collesque calentes / Bandanos domuit populos, gentique dolosae / Imposuit frenum Javae, regemque fateri / Compulit, aut victum se aut armis esse minorem (…). A quick translation of my hand: “We see how the Ocean goes around with salt waves where an inhabitant takes thrice a year wonderful smelling fruits from a tree, where the Batave has set equal laws for Amboina, and [where] there are perfumed nuts amidst the hot hills; he rules the peoples of Banda, and he imposed a rein on the treacherous people of Java, and he forced the king to yield, be it as conquered or smaller in arms (…)”. The combination of being sure about the qualities of you own laws and a conviction that peoples on these isles are treacherous, is potentially lethal. It is striking how often Van Buchell writes in this diary about the Protestant missionaries in the Moluccas. There is another VOC diary by Van Buchell yet to be explored [The Hague, Nationaal Archief, inventory 1.11.01.01, Aanwinsten Eerste Afdeling, no. 255 (old 1882 A VI 8 1)].

Now you might want me to leave out Van Buchell, but in fact it helped me to notice the most obvious gap of the trial website. It is rather strange to bother about the full texts, complete transcriptions and translations of documents, and to accept at face value the statements about the differences in criminal procedure in Dutch law and the common law. Instead of translating Van Buchell writing about an analysis by Hugo Grotius would be most welcome. You can consult his correspondence online at the eLaborate platform of the Huygens Instituut. However, Grotius does mention the Amboyna case in his letters only casually. In 1609 Grotius published Mare Liberum, and in 1625 De iure belli ac pacis. His Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche rechts-geleerdheid appeared only in 1631, but this book deals only with private law. Clulow mentions Grotius and the Amboina case in his 2014 study. In an earlier contribution about Grotius I provided ample information about the first editions, online versions and translations of his works. Simon van Leeuwen’s classic handbook for Roman-Dutch law, Paratitla iuris novissimi dat is een kort begrip van het Rooms-Hollands reght (..) appeared only in 1651.

While pondering the Amboina case and the project website I remembered another Utrecht view of things. My first steps in the fields of legal history were led by Marijke van de Vrugt at Utrecht, the author of a book about De criminele ordonnantie van 1570 (Zutphen 1978), a study about the ordinance for criminal procedure issued by Philips II of Spain. A few years later she contributed to the series Rechtshistorische cahiers the volume Aengaende Criminele Saken [About Criminal Matters] (Deventer 1982) about the history of criminal law, with a chapter about the 1570 ordinance, and also one about Antonius Matthaeus II (1601-1654), a famous law professor at Utrecht, author of De criminibus (first edition 1644). Van de Vrugt provided judiciously chosen relevant text fragments. She discussed in detail ch. 42 of the 1570 Criminal Ordinance and explains its fateful ambiguity due to unclear words about the exceptional use of torture. Matthaeus questioned the eagerness to use torture. Would it not be most natural to provide for both Dutch and common law more precise information when they clearly were crucial for the whole affair? Lack of space and consideration for the stamina of my readers are the practical reasons to leave out here a paragraph about the common law. Clulow mentioned in 2014 the Amboina case to compare it with a later case in Japan, and pointed for good reasons to Grotius. Alas incomplete understanding and investigating the pivotal role of legal matters for the Amboina case mars the trial website.

Some conclusions

Despite my remarks and misgivings about a number of aspect of the Amboyna digital collection I think we should salute it as a welcome addition to the materials available for educational purposes. It makes also a number of documents and images easy available for doing research about the Dutch and British East India companies. At the end of this post I wonder a bit what the input of the India Office Records has been. The absence of records from the British National Archives might cause a frown, too. Adding a full list of references for the documents, archival records and images in this digital collection would redeem a clear gap. The Amboina Conspiracy Trial makes you muse about current ideas about conspiracies and the role of one-sided or full information. It is an example of two laws clashing, Dutch civil law administered by officers of a commercial company granted sovereign powers and the common law. It is chilling to note how this example of quick action led to torture and judicial killings of people where other ways to approach the situation were open.

The Amboina trial website shows many aspects in a colourful way, but it lacks some crucial information about and attention to the very crux of the matters at stake. It would be relatively simple to provide some background about the Dutch law and the common law, instead of just a few sentences. It might seem evident to focus on the trial itself, but you will have to show even in an educational setting more of the background and relevant sources. Only for Isaacq de Bruijn, the infamous Dutch official, things seemed simple. Our world is complicated, and we had better face it. In my recent contribution about presidential libraries I mentioned the replica of the Situation Room. You will need access to all relevant information, time and wisdom to judge a situation correctly and act accordingly.

A postscript

Even this long post did lack at least something very important concerning Dutch law, the collection of ordinances and placards edited by Jacobus Anne van der Chijs, Nederlandsch-Indisch Plakaatboek 1602-1811 (17 vol., Batavia, 1885-1901), also available online completely at Sejarah Nusantara, a portal for seventeeth and eighteenth-century history created by the Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, with both browse and search functions.

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The legal world around American slavery

The advertisement for the slavery digital collection

Early October 2016 came a surprising announcement from a firm known for its licensed digital law collections which most users will visit only through on and off-campus access at university and research libraries, national libraries and law firms which can afford the costly yearly subscription rates. Although I have no intent to create here a platform to champion only the cause of Open Access I have tried to avoid writing about materials hidden beyond pay walls, because such blog posts would have a tantalizing effect on many readers. Kluwer, LexisNexis and WestLaw, to mention a few firms dealing with legal materials in many countries, and for the humanities for example Chadwyck, Gale, Adam Matthew and ProQuest have not yet figured here. However, when HeinOnline announced to create free access to its digital collection Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law I immediately registered. I present here a personal tour of this project, well aware that this are experiences after just a few weeks, not the results of someone immersed into this subject over the years. On my blog slavery has appeared a few times as a secondary subject, but until now only once as the main subject of a post, ‘Remembering slavery’, about the abolition of slavery in Suriname in 1863 and its commemoration in 2013.

Making a tour

HeinOnline certainly has done some efforts to make its new collection as inviting as possible. Paul Finkelman (Albany Law School), the general editor of Slavery in America and the World, gives in the advertisement a concise overview of its main qualities. The core of this digital collection are the statutes and reported law cases concerning slavery in America – both on the state and the federal level – and the Anglophone world. There are more than one thousand pamphlets, many books on slavery and legal commentaries dealing with slavery published in essays and articles which are sometimes very difficult to find. In an introductory essay Finkelman discusses the historiographical background. He places the history of American slavery in the context of slavery worldwide, alas a continuing story in view of human trafficking and labor conditions which amount to slavery, and thus the history of slavery is not confined from around 1450 to the late nineteenth century. The collection contains numerous items from the twentieth century, too. Among libraries contributing to the digital collection Finkelman singles out Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

The start screen of the slavery collection

Even without registering you can download the quick reference guide and the full introduction. Mentioning this you might smile like I do remembering the familiar instructions to students not to jump immediately to the matter you are searching for, but to make yourself familiar with a book by reading the preface and acknowledgements, scanning the chapters, checking for a bibliography, source references, credits for illustrations, and the presence of an index. It is seducing to jump into the ocean and go straight for your destination, but alas there is no plain sailing when studying the history of slavery. One of the assets in Hein’s digital collection are fifty monographs about slavery published by the University of North Carolina Press. Some of these books deal with the Caribbean and Latin-America, and this surely widens the dimensions of the project. The digital collection does allow you to browse all titles, periodicals and scholarly articles, and there are also a bibliographical section and a list of external links, the things users of other HeinOnline collections will expect as normal features. The meta-data of the titles selected for inclusion have been enriched with tagging about their position on slavery, the topics under discussion, the jurisdiction involved, and the document type.

For finding judicial cases the digital collection builds on Helen Tunnicliff Catterall’s Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro (5 vol., Washington, D.C. 1926-1937; reprint Shannon 1968) supplemented by state and federal cases, in particular from the United Stated Supreme Court. The statutes adduced stem not only from American states and the federal government, but also from former colonies. This sounds wonderful indeed, and I understand the lure of wanting to write as Finkelman does in his introduction that this collection “brings together, for the first time, all known legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world”.

A complete collection?

How complete is this collection? There seems to be a paradox between the second half of the title of this digital collection, History, Culture & Law, and the claim to contain all legal materials. In my view questioning the completeness should probe in two directions in particular: First, are materials included for the periods that individual states had not yet entered the Union, and secondly, do statutes and cases indeed represent “all legal materials”? The collection contains slavery statutes from fifteen states, and federal cases from 24 states. The periodicals selected for inclusion are all marked as anti-slavery. You can imagine that in periodicals in favour of slavery sometimes more moderate views appeared. In theory a periodical might even have changed camps. No one can complain about the thoughtful inclusion of the British journal The Jurist and of sets of Congressional materials.

The section with scholarly articles and other documents has nine rubrics. For articles the year 1900 has been set as a useful divider. There are sections with book reviews, British slavery, cases and “foreign” – meaning non-British – cases. Judges, laws and statutes appear in separate sections, and there is even a section on “Historical Ancient Slavery” with a nice selection of articles in law journals up to a contribution by Paul J. Du Plessis from 2014. Before you start rejoicing too much it is time to read the notice these articles are only available online to subscribers or subscribing institutions. As a bibliographical asset this section is certainly most valuable. This brings me immediately to the section marked “Bibliography”. The first thing to notice here it is rather short. Relatively much space is given to reports, individual speeches and even cases. Some monographs appear twice for no good reason. You can view the titles only in two ways, alphabetically ordered by title or author.

The digital collection scores better with the fifty monographs published by UNC Press between 1985 and 2015. The list is not long enough to merit reworking in a database. Topics have been added to titles, something to consider at the very least for an update of the bibliographical section. With just ten links the choice of external websites is ridiculously small, even though I was pleased to see a link to a French website, Le droit des traites et des esclavages (CNRS). If this has been included to ensure this HeinOnline collection has a truly global coverage it does not come from its own strengths. I can understand to some extent the fear to point to digital collections from competitors in their branch, but this does not show much confidence. It is surely the global aspect that suffers most here.

However, not everything is as appalling as it might seem in these two last paragraphs. HeinOnline merits consideration on its own basic quality, presenting legal cases in a quick and convenient way. The search possibilities to find cases according to different characteristics are great, and you can download, print, enlarge and use other view facilities at will. The feature to link directly to other cases highlighted in the text of a case is most useful. The stream of relevant cases adduced here and readily available is most impressive and deserves praise.

I enjoyed very much looking at the section with digitized printed materials from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. You do not only find for example a nice choice of pamphlets and even volumes with collections of pamphlets, with special mention for the sixteen volumes of the series Slavery, Race and the American Legal System, 1700-1872: The Pamphlet Literature, edited by Paul Finkelman (Clark, NJ, 2007), and a number of useful bibliographies. The presence of novels, biographies, poems and songs does add a substantial cultural element to the collection. Only some forty items date from before 1800. A quarter of all digitized publications in the set stem from the period 1826-1850, and more than 400 items cover the period 1851-1875. The literature can be browsed in several ways (author, title, date and subject), and you can select literature using four filters (position, document type, jurisdiction, topic) with for each filter an apt drop down list of possible choices.

Alas more has to be said. I can accept as a matter of fact the citation forms used for the federal statutes, but would it not have been sensible to supply more information about the various state statutes used for this project? I am aware of The Indigo Book, the liber pauperum version of the Blue Book, with all niceties to refer correctly to all kind of legal materials. The legal problem of slavery in the United States during the nineteenth century was to a great extent a matter of apparent and real differences between state and federal jurisdiction and legislation, and – almost more importantly – their perception. In the bibliography of this digital collection I missed Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial. Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (New York 2010). Strangely Lincoln’s speeches are missing, too. Foner is not content with just following Lincoln’s political actions, but does at many point look at legal matters in particular states and on the national level. Foner looks at some of Lincoln’s 34 cases involving black people among the more than 5,000 cases Lincoln handled as a lawyer. I had expected to find in Hein’s open access digital collection the full texts of all cases, but instead you will find only references to them in the digitized literature and the summaries or at its best excerpts given by Catterall. No doubt this information will lead you elsewhere to the complete text of the relevant cases, but the claim “all legal materials” is diminished.

Logo of The Revised Dred Scott Collection

For one of the most influential cases in American legal history it is not only possible but necessary to look at the period between the original case before a circuit court and the epochal case before the Supreme Court ten years later. The new free digital collection does of course contain the Dred Scott case [Dred Scott, Plaintiff in Error, v. John F. A. Sandford 60 U.S. 393 (1856)]. I could not help noticing in the HeinOnline version under discussion how not every reference to cases adduced in this long verdict and the opinions of the judges has been highlighted and linked. In fact I would expect also highlights for and links to for the statutes invoked or mentioned in passing. The Dred Scott case started in 1846, and there is historical documentation for the subsequent phases of the case at the state level. Washington University, St. Louis, MO, has not only created The Revised Dred Scott Case Collection, but also a digital collection for St. Louis Circuit Court Records where you can find the original Dred Scott case and documents concerning seven (!) subsequent cases at St. Louis. In its section for judicial cases HeinOnline does not give a single federal case from Missouri, nor is any link to external resources given, not even at the Library of Congress. In this case Wikipedia does a better job.

Let my plea about this digital collection not only rest on the presence or absence of cases! Among the fugitive slave laws the Fugitive Slave Act of September 18, 1850, often referred to as the Compromise of 1850, stands out. It belongs in every collection dealing with this subject. To my utter disbelief I could not trace here the text of this landmark piece of legislation. In my search for an online version the exact text I seldom saw a correct and complete reference to the original act of Congress, let alone a legal reference. Here again Wikipedia got it right, although it does not include the text of 9 Stat. 462 [Chapter 60, 31. Congress, Session 1]. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 [1 Stat. 302] and even the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 are present; the latter is the very first federal statute of Slavery in America. It might be useful to add a concordance of popular names of laws and their official names.

Cases and statutes in context

I will not completely dismiss the efforts of HeinOnline for this new collection, but I can hardly avoid making some negative statements about it. It seems this firm thought it would suffice to create a historical version of their normal case finding system with the Catterall set as its heart, enhance it with a generous amount of relevant statutes, one thousand interesting (legal) pamphlets, and a thoughtful choice of recent scholarly literature, and launch it perhaps in conjunction with the long-awaited opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Is it only a guess that HeinOnline has been blinded by its own success in making systems adapted to the needs of law schools? This new collection seems to me ideal as a tool on which law students in their first year can show some of their talents in finding legal information. However, even from a point of the development of American legal doctrine Slavery in America does not offer what it promises to do. With sometimes only incomplete cases it is impossible to determine what has been filtered out for any reason. If you believe legal history cannot exist properly without sufficient attention to legal institutions and social history, this digital collection is just a tool to be supplemented by other collections now widely available online, too, and a lot of them in open access.

As for the position of other countries you had better start inside the United States of America, by looking at the Territories, the states in North America that joined the United States between 1776 and 1861 but somehow are here undocumented, i.e. without cases and statutes. You might argue the materials from these territories are not United States legal materials, but they constitute certainly legal materials fit for inclusion. It is startling to see a collection marred by such barriers and omissions. Far more important is the fact that the subject of the place of slavery in law and society surfaced every time a new state wanted to enter the Union. Changes in political geography such as the Mason-Dixie line had immediate consequences regarding slavery, slaves and slave-owners, and former slaves. The thing that you would expect most here are the debates in Congress and in the various state senates concerning aspects of slavery. Of course I am aware this would result in a much larger digital collection, but I think this is necessary for a better understanding of statutes and cases. Hopefully such considerations will be taken into account for the massive Case Law Access Project at Harvard University.

To sum up my first impressions, HeinOnline has created an important but flawed digital collection. The 1,100 digitized publications form a great asset as do the digitized scholarly articles and periodicals. The digitized version of the Catterall set is most helpful. There are some distinct problems with the cases included and the internal references. In my view the choice of state statutes is too limited. The historical bibliography has some merits, but the list with external links is a howler. I pointed also to some real problems in creating a digital collection on this wide-ranging subject. Alas as for now you cannot find here “all legal materials” in open access. However, it does take courage and experience to bring such materials together in an easy navigable way. No doubt some of my criticisms can be easily repaired. Others should be addressed in a thorough explanation of the choices made in creating this digital collection. This will not only help law students and lawyers to benefit from this collection. On purpose I have not looked while writing this post at other reviews of Slavery in America and the World, but in fact I could only find a short announcement at the blog of the Canadian Osgoode Hall Law School Library.

Legal materials in open access

It would be wrong to create a picture of American law online as a treasure completely beyond the reach of normal people, but it certainly takes efforts to find legal materials for the United States online in open access. Creating here a full guide would take up too much space, but I can offer a kind of nutshell guide. To assess the role of commercial databases for American law you might want to look at Legal Databases: A Comparative Analysis (Center for Research Libraries). In particular the Hathi Trust Digital Library contains substantial materials in open access. Harvard Law School has a fine guide to legal materials in open access. The Legal Information Institute (Cornell University Law School) has an overview of state statutes in open access. The Jerome Hall Law Library (Indiana University) has created an online research guide for state legislative history. Sources in open access do not primarily bring you historical materials. Among the exceptions is The Supreme Court Database (Washington University), but this is primarily an indispensable search tool for decisions of the Supreme Court. The website of the American Society for Legal History has a fine links section guiding you to many aspects of US legal history. Anyway it is wise to start your online searches with the Law Library of the Library of Congress. Its web guide for U.S. States and territories is very helpful. Congress.gov is extending its coverage in the near future. Among the digital collections of the LoC you will find much that has relevance for the history of slavery, both in the section on government, law and politics, and in the African-American section. The American Memory portal of the LoC is sometimes more helpful in finding these collections.

By the way, HeinOnline is not the first firm in its branch to place some of its products in open access. LLMC Digital has created free access to The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, Maeva Marcus et alii (eds.) (8 vol., New York, 1985-2004).

Slavery is a vast subject. On my legal history portal I hesitate to dedicate a complete page to it, but I do give there at least some of the websites which should help your research. The Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal is a good starting point, as are the digital collection of the institute behind it, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition. You will not want to miss The Bibliography of Slavery and World Slaving, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. I urge you to look for relevant online exhibitions in the superb database for online exhibits created by the Smithsonian Institution. Not yet included is the impressive virtual exhibit created by the Inner Temple Library in London, British Black History and the Law, which shows the long impact of slavery and discrimination. Among the best known digital collections concerning American slavery is the Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection, Cornell University Library, but there is certainly more. If you want to check the quality of Paul Finkelman’s work in creating a set with a selection of pamphlets concerning slavery and abolition in facsimile you might want to look at some of the digitized pamphlet collections in the United States. For me it is a good thing to see that it matters indeed to look at pamphlets, too, when doing legal history. I feel happy to bring together commented links to relevant digitized pamphlet collections. If I have failed to detect things not clearly immediately transparent in Slavery in America and the World I welcome any constructive guidance to do more justice to it!

A postscript

For those who like myself would like to find the quickest way to US statutes in open access I add a link to the reinforced version of the Library of Congress’ Statutes at Large. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 can be found in the materials for the 31. Congress, but unfortunately the direct link to the relevant chapter (Ch. 60) was broken when I checked it. I am happy to report it has been quickly repaired. By the way, only after publishing this post I noticed it was Open Access Week

In the November 2016 newsletter about the collection HeinOnline points to additions and offers some guidance, in particular for the Slavery Quick Finder tool. In an image with an example the topic happens to be cases and trials based on one of the Fugitive Slave Acts. I tried to find one of these acts with this tool, but alas to no avail. The section with major statutes contains the statute of June 28, 1864 [13 Stat. 200; Chapter 166, 38 Congress, Session 1] which repeals the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850, with the year 1850 explicitly mentioned in the title, yet the 1850 document is still absent in this section. The links selection contains now sixteen links including some of the websites I mentioned here. In January 2017 the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was finally included at Slavery Online.

Tracing digitized pamphlets

This month work on new posts did not go as quickly as I had expected, but alas I did not find another subject to write about, until I suddenly found it. This week I made a few additions to the page at my own website on digital pamphlet collections, a page that I published only two months ago. In May 2013 Peter B. Hirtle of Cornell University Library kindly alerted me to the recently launched Trial Pamphlets Collection of Cornell Law Library. In 2011 I had written about pamphlets in two posts, one focusing on pamphlets, another focusing on trials. It seemed a useful effort to put my badly ordered examples of digital collections into some more permanent form.

My overview presents collections ordered by country and where possible in chronological order. For my list I have reluctantly excluded commercial projects accessible mostly only at subscribing libraries, and I try to focus on collections devoted exclusively to pamphlets, except when pamphlets form a substantial and well-defined part of larger digital libraries. Of course the large-scale subscribers’ only projects are most valuable, but you can easily spot them at the websites of many university libraries and national libraries. Any substantial addition to my overview is most welcome. At some universities access to digitized pamphlets is only possible for students and staff.

An example of a French pamphlet

An example of a French pamphlet – image Center for Research Libraries

As I added some collections to my own overview I luckily came across the French Pamphlet Project (FPP) – hosted at the University of Florida – for creating an online overview of digitized French pamphlets with the aim also of eventually creating a portal to digitized French pamphlets worldwide. At this moment you can already get access at French Pamphlets to nearly 500 digitized items. By the way, the case of France makes immediately the interplay clear between law and politics. It brings you to the role of the parlements, the provincial courts. Since 2013 the NEH supports with a one-year grant the project of CIFNAL, the branch for French collections of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) (Chicago) with both American and European participating libraries. As for now the website looks a bit empty, apart from the early version of the portal, but it is accompanied by a Facebook page which brings you to more information, in particularly on the participating libraries and the number of pamphlets in their collections. CRL has experience with both projects concerning France, for example the Bibliothèque Bleue, the cheap books series published at Troyes and elsewhere in eighteenth-century France, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean, and also with pamphlets, in particular Chinese pamphlets and pamphlets and periodicals of the French revolution of 1848.

I tried to get access to the digitized pamphlets of the Bibliothèque de Toulouse mentioned at the Facebook information page of the FFP, and specifically at Rosalis, bibliothèque numérique de Toulouse, but I failed to find the 150 pamphlets indicated by the French Pamphlet Project. Only four pamphlets is meagre indeed. In the digital library Tolosana of the Université de Toulouse I could find at least 33 digitized pamphlets. The FPP invites institutions not yet contacted to get in touch with the project team.

I will not bother you here with other difficulties in getting access to pamphlets in some of the participating institutions, but surely the lack of a search for formats at Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, is a major hindrance in tracking pamphlets. An example of a pamphlet collection easily showing its riches is the one at Harvard College Library: a simple search for “France” yielded already nearly 300 results. The University of Maryland has not yet an online searchable database for its digitized pamphlets, but apart from an online inventory of the 5500 pamphlets you can use a preset search using WorldCat to find at least a set of 500 digitized French pamphlets. The University of Florida Libraries deserve our thanks for developing a nutshell guide to the collections of the institutions cooperating in the French Pamphlet Project.

Logo of The Newberry Library, Chicago

One of the most promising collections which will eventually be accessible, too, at the FPP is the major collection of French pamphlets – well over 36,000 in all – at the Newberry Library, Chicago. The project for cataloguing and digitizing this collection started in 2009. It is accompanied by a fine blog. From January 28 to April 13, 2013 the Newberry Library held the exhibition Politics, Piety and Poison: French Political Pamphlets, 1600-1800, presenting its French pamphlets, mirrored in a splendid virtual exhibition. Among the pamphlet collections of the Newberry Library are the Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection (530 items) and also two collections with a Dutch connection, the Jansenist collection of 700 pamphlets concerning the Old-Catholic Church, and some 800 Dutch pamphlets, mainly from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

Not only the French Revolution…

The French Pamphlet Project wisely restricts itself to collections with mainly pamphlets concerning the French Revolution. It should therefore not be a surprise to find no mentioning at all of the mazarinades, a particular subgenre of French pamphlets aiming at the politics of cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661). Here I wrote about mazarinades in 2012. A team of scholars in Tokyo and Nagoya has created the website Recherches internationales sur les Mazarinades with an overview of libraries in France and worldwide with holdings containing mazarinades. After registration with the Japanese project you get access to a large number of digitized mazarinades, but it is difficult to find much digitized materials outside their project. In my post I provided a number of links to digital collections. At Gallica and at Europeana I found nearly 400 digitized mazarinades.

The vivid debates and the intense communication about law, society and politics in France recorded in the mazarinades are a wonderful resource for our knowledge of the perception of the French Ancien Régime. In my view the wealth of the mazarinades provides to some extent the background for the FPP. The mazarinades set in a way the scene and at least some of the limits of the French pamphlet genre. The very word mazarinades truly almost hides the fact that you look at pamphlets!

In the section for France on my own page for digital pamphlet collection not only pamphlets for the French revolutionary period appear. I also mention Pamphlets.fr: Le répertoire des grand pamphlets, a project with mainly pamphlets by famous French people from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and The Siege and Commune of Paris 1870-1871, a project of Northwestern University for pamphlets, newspapers and other documents concerning another particular period in French history.

Interactions between websites, blogs and social media

One of the lessons I learned in dealing with digitized pamphlets is the importance of interaction between a website and a blog or other social media. When I started collecting information about relevant digital collections in 2011 I confess to have searched sometimes a bit at random. I did not just follow the beaten paths, but I ventured outside them.

Choosing what to include and what to exclude is sometimes really difficult. This week I visited by chance a digital collection of the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online, Revolution, Rätegremien und Räterepublik in Bayern, 1918/19, a collection concerning the revolutionary period in Bavaria immediately after the First World War. Pamphlets appear in a section of this digital collection. Now is it wise to put this item in an overview of digital pamphlets, or should one present it in an overview of digital libraries? As for now I have chosen this last option and included them on my page with digital libraries, but it might be better to copy this item also to my page for digital pamphlets. This example is just one illustration of the problems in creating a useful and sensibly organized overview with a clear focus. Obviously you cannot rely on just one overview, and luckily you can often find other attempts as well, both in print as online. Let’s wish the French Pamphlet Project good luck!

The examples of the French Pamphlet Project, with both a portal site and a Facebook page, and the pamphlet project at the Newberry Library with on its main site a general introduction and guide to the online catalogs and a blog presenting interesting examples and stories from the project, show graphically some ways of combining the strengths of a website, often more static but also more durable, and the peculiar benefits of social media, the wide and quick dissemination of news for anyone interested. Speaking for myself, I am very happy to maintain a website and a blog on legal history. It is one of my hopes that visitors of the website will also look at this blog, and vice versa, because the two really depend on each other, for the benefit of the visitors.

Some postcripts

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has some 2,600 mazarinades in its holdings, one of the largest collections anywhere to be found. The library announced in 2014 at its special website Folgerpedia the full cataloguing and digital presentation of this great collection.

Digitized collections of pamphlets published during the First World War can conveniently be searched using the overview I created at my blog Digital1418. When you follow this link you will find all items tagged Pamphlets, and not just links for each collection with a short indication of contents, but also a compact description of its background and accessibility.

Gallica does indeed contain many hundreds digitized pamphlets, but it remains difficult to catch them with one general search action. In 2017 the Newberry Library could add many items to its digital collection of French pamphlets at the Internet Archive, with 30,000 items surely one of the largest projects I know about.

New light on Alfred Dreyfus in a secret dossier

On March 7, 2013 the online edition of the New York Times ran a story on the digitization of the secret dossier on the Dreyfus Affair by the historical department of the French Ministry of Defense. The documents are accompanied by full transcriptions at the website which accompanies the recent book by Pauline Peretz, Pierre Gervais and Pierre Stutin, Le dossier secret de l’affaire Dreyfus (Paris 2012). In their book they publish documents which had until now been neglected or usually presented in versions now proven to be less correct than one had reason to believe.

On the website the three authors discuss not only the trials, but they point for example also to the earliest movie about the Dreyfus affair. The site has even its own discussion forum and amounts to a portal on the Dreyfus case. Only a section with links to other websites seemed at first absent, and in my post I tried to provide information to fill this gap. In fact I mistakenly looked more at the sidebar of the website than at the main menu! A number of virtual exhibitions contain rich visual and written information on a case which for many years divided opinions in France. The Dreyfus affair became soon a focus point of political and social strife. Antisemitism played a large role, but nationalism and militarism, too, fueled the furious exchanges between dreyfusards and their opponents.

Tampering with documents

The first page of the 1894 bordereau

The 1894 bordereau – image Service Historique de la Défense, Paris

There is scarcely any need to mention here the main facts of the affair around Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), because they occupy a place of its own in European and French history. A central place in the Dreyfus affair has always been given to the bordereau from 1894, the document in which Dreyfus allegedly gave secret military information to the Germans. It was only five years later that this document was definitely unmasked as a falsification. Historians trained as medievalists, in particular professors at the École nationale des Chartes (ENC), were the first to apply a rigorous historical examination to the bordereau. Arthur Giry, Auguste Molinier and Paul Meyer were all ancient students of or professors at this famous grand établissement for the formation of archivists, palaeographers and historians, The auxiliary historical sciences, in particular palaeography, the study of old scripts, and diplomatics, the critical study of documents, are still central to the education given at the ENC.

Among the other falsifications in the dossier secret (SHD/GR 4 J 118, kept at the Centre historique des archives of the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes) is the faux Henry (cotes 365-370) from 1896. Its false nature was detected in 1898. When the court in Rennes established this as a truth army officer Henry committed suicide in his prison cell.

The Dreyfus affair and modern memory

Mass communication was one of the factors in giving the Dreyfus affair its enormous scale and impact. Newspapers and magazines covered all developments extensively. In the struggle for new readers cartoonists and photographers were engaged. The cartoon of Dreyfus as the head of Medusa has become an icon of French illustrations in the late nineteenth century. Photographs, cartoons and more sober drawings provide a living image of this cause célèbre. They are also an important element at several websites.

On my website I have created a special page for virtual exhibitions concerning legal history. The Dreyfus affair looms large among virtual exhibitions on French legal history. 1906 Dreyfus réhabilité, “1906: Dreyfus rehabilitated”, is a bilingual website of the French Ministry of Culture which functions as a portal to all kind of media concerning Dreyfus. It offers a great starting point for anyone curious about the Dreyfus affair. Savoir et Enseignement. L’affaire Dreyfus et l’École Normale Supérieure, “Knowledge and Education: The Dreyfus Affair and the École Normale Supérieure”, is a small online exhibition on the aspects of the case which touched this institute for higher education in Paris. The Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries has created a website for the Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair with more than 1,000 documents related to the impact of the affaire on French culture and society. Recently Duke University Libraries launched the virtual exhibition A Mockery of Justice: Caricature and the Dreyfus Affair with a number of cartoons, including the dragon head cartoon from the Musée des Horreurs. In its web exposition on the writer Émile Zola the Bibliothèque nationale de France does of course cover the Dreyfus affair, and the library provides additional information, too. The website Le capitaine Alfred Dreyfus à Rennes, “un reportage oublié de l’été 1899″ shows a number of rare photographs taken in Rennes during the 1899 revision trial. At L’histoire par image 1643-1945, a website with a fine selection of important images on French history, you can find some of the best known images about the affair. The Musée d’art et histoire du judaïsme in Paris has created a website around its Fonds Dreyfus. 

When looking for images it is also useful to consult the website of the Agence photographique des Musées nationaux. A first simple search indicates that you will find scores of images on the Dreyfus affair. The search engine of the French cultural portal Culture is also very helpful in finding all kind of resources. It brings you for example to images in the Joconde database for French museal collections of 23 drawings of the 1906 trial now kept at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Angers. In 1906 Dreyfus got rehabilitated. He received the Légion d’Honneur and served during the First World War. You can search online in the Leonore database of the French national archives to view the card with his honors, first the rank of chevalier in 1906, and in 1919 a promotion to officier. The 20 digitized pages constitute actually a rather complete dossier of his life and career (LH/803/61), including a physical description of Dreyfus.

Two Dutch twists

The end of the trial at Rennes

The end of the Rennes trial approaches – cartoon by V. Geldorp from the Amsterdamse Courant, September 8, 1899 – image from The Memory of the Netherlands, http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?/en/homepage

Before I start writing here about two Dutch angles on the Dreyfus affair I am happy to thank Agnes Jonker (University of Amsterdam and Archiefschool, Hogeschool van Amsterdam) for alerting me about the digitization of the dossier secret. By only pointing to the numerous websites with digitized historical newspapers it is already clear that the number of images of Dreyfus and all people who came into the picture during the long years of his trials can be easily expanded. For a Dutch twist I can mention for example a cartoon in the Amsterdamse Courant of Dreyfus’ opponents trying to tear the blindfold from Themis’s eyes. It is really interesting that not as most often Lady Justice but Themis, the muse of law, is portrayed here. Perhaps the presence of the Dutch law journal Themis – now called Rechtsgeleerd Magazijn Themis – helped the cartoonist in his choice.

To end with yet another Dutch twist, a rather large part of the dossier secret is occupied by letters which touch only the margins of the Dreyfus affair. The numbers 159 to 235 of the dossier secret are love letters by Hermance de Weede, the wife of the Dutch ambassador in Paris, to the German military attaché Schwartzkoppen. Hearing about this part of the story readers of Umberto Eco’s novel The Prague cemetery will admit that even the makers of falsifications and all those people fueling nasty sentiments in the media of the late nineteenth century would not have thought of getting these love letters into the case file of the Dreyfus affair, certainly not in view of the Parisian way of life in that age. Other love affairs are indeed present, too, in the fascinating pages of the dossier secret, but around 1900 they constituted the more combustible part of it.

A postscript

Let’s add another Dutch angle on the Dreyfus affair, one that I should have mentioned already when writing. The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam has substantial holdings on this subject, including publications from the late nineteenth century. Cartoons are not missing among the items to be found. Among the Dutch books are publications by Aaron Adolf de Pinto (1828-1907), a judge of the Hoge Raad, the Dutch Supreme Court, in particular Het proces-Dreyfus getoetst aan wet en recht (2 vol., ‘s-Gravenhage 1899). Alas the digitized copy in the Igitur Archive of Utrecht University is not published in open access.