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Free and freed Afro-descendants and political equality in Portuguese America. Change of status, slavery and Atlantic perspective 1. I propose in this article that free and freed Afro-descendants of three colonial empires of the modern era, the Spanish, the Portuguese and the French, have developed differentiated demands in different procedural steps: the ones that aimed privileges during the old or oligarchic type society, and the ones which demanded political and civil equality during the formation process of the democratic and representative type society.

I analyze this aspect from connection plans, structural regularities and recurrences that suggest that the social position of those individuals and their social group in the referred colonial empires is consequence, on the one hand, of diachronic aspects relating to slavery and, on the other hand, synchronous social processes, own to the specific temporality of the 18th and 19th Centuries, such as the transition from one to another kind of society. To do so, I use concepts drawn from sociology and anthropology, such as the social representation and the freedom-slavery continuum.

I have highlighted in recent works that the analysis of actions and mental representations of individuals and social groups of the lowest level throughout the process of transition from the old or oligarchic type society to the democratic and representative type requires approaches that incorporate concepts and notions from sociological and anthropological theories, as well as the Atlantic and long-term perspectives. Despite their flagrant diversity, the specific social representations that exist within the comprehensive social figurations of the Spanish, Portuguese and French Empires produced social positions and status change processes related to that social group that, in "the era of revolutions", allowed to claim simultaneously political equality in relation to other individuals and social groups in their respective societies.

This did not occur, however, in the case of the British Empire, whose specific social representations of the Caribbean and North America - and not their "culture" or the "racism" of individuals of the highest level - did not produce that social position in "the era of revolutions" as a result of the extremely limited access to manumission, to the hand labor market and to social functions identified with the militias.

I want to highlight two central aspects in this article that connect the experiences of free and freed Afro-descendants under the Portuguese, Spanish and French Colonial Empires, which illuminate and clarify the nature of their actions and representations considerably throughout the process of transition from old or oligarchic type society to the democratic and representative type. In the first place, I suggest that this social group expressed radically different demands in specific contexts of the old or oligarchic type society and the democratic and representative type society.

Although these demands can be seen in a connected and processual form, they show, in old-style society, the obtaining of privileges, forums, franchises and exemptions, while in the representative type society they required mostly political equality, that is, citizenship based on the enjoyment of civil and political rights common to all individuals with legal and political status of "free man".

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that, in a transitional phase, specific individuals and social groups can, at the same time, assign value and meaning to their lives as much coming from the old or oligarchic type society, or from the new social configuration of democratic and representative type in process of establishment. This, however, cannot be interpreted as "ambiguity", as if these individuals and their social group lived on a limb or in a "social and racial 'no man's land'".

David Geggus, for example, argues that the "situation" of the free and freed Afro-descendants from Saint-Domingue "was deeply ambiguous. Free color men were often accused of harboring fugitive slaves, but as they composed half of the militia and almost all rural police, they were also largely responsible for the recapture of fugitives". However, the representations they made about themselves, as well as those that the other social groups made about them, are structurally consistent concerning the social position that free and freed Afro-descendants occupied in the freedom-slavery continuum existing in the social slave representations, in which many of their individuals not only become lords of slaves, but also acquire social functions linked to repression to mocambos and quilombos, as field captains and militiamen supported by the Spanish, Portuguese and French monarchies.

Before, I propose that free and freed Afro-descendants constituted a social group marked by strong social cohesion, which is manifested clearly through the rich empirical material produced by it over the 18th and 19th Centuries. In this, they expressed their demands according to the social figurations of which they were part, as well as, and especially, marked their differences both in relation to individuals and social groups of the highest level as to the slaves.

Secondly, I propose that individuals and social groups in question were, within their respective social representations, in a specific social position and status, which, ultimately, was due to the nature of slavery. It was therefore a sociologically, and not racially determined social position, as historiography has insisted in recent years. In my view, this emphasis on explanations of racial type stems from the fact that historians do not operate, on the one hand, with concepts and notions from the general theory of slavery - which encapsulates slave societies of the ancient or modern world, were these Asian, African or Westerners - and, on the other hand, with concepts arising from sociological theory - such as the socio-dynamics of stigmatization and freedom-slavery continuum, which I believe are essential to the proposition of this analysis problem.

The stigma of collective disgrace imputed to free and freed Afro-descendants in old or oligarchic type societies through contemporary concepts like mechanical defect were the reverse of notions as honor and quality, self-applied to the oligarchical groups, were these ennobled or not.

In all relations between established social groups and outsiders marked by an enormous differential of power retention, aversion, contempt and hatred devoted by established groups to outsiders are generally directed to some peripheral aspect of these relationships so as to look away from what is central, that is, "the power differentials and the exclusion of the less powerful group of positions with greater potential to influence". Explaining the formal or informal impediments imposed to free and freed Afro-descendants in the French Caribbean, Hispanic America or Portuguese America contexts in strictly racial terms, historians have therefore underlined peripheral aspects and neglected what is central in their power relations.

So, as Afro-descendant individuals and social groups were moving away from captivity through the process of status change, approaching, thus, the status of "free" born, they were even more subject to face these impediments.

The transition of the old, oligarchic type society, to the democratic and representative type, by eliminating the political prerogatives based on honor and especially on birth, showed outsiders the nature of the social impediments which had been imposed to them for Centuries on end, creating the possibility of their social emancipation.

However, the maintenance of captivity, on the one hand, and of the racial rhetoric, on the other hand, kept them attached to peripheral aspects of their social and power relations.

Historiography has produced good monographic works on the social group constituted by the "freed" or "free men of color" from various American slave societies.

At the same time, recently, discussions and interpretations about their genesis and development in Portuguese America are founded on dynamics of color rating systems, generally perceived through the use of serial sources associated with complex methodological procedures.

As I have already suggested, I intend to resume these problems diachronically in the light of conceptual and theoretical instruments available in the general theory of slavery that allow reflections beyond the stereotypes of the American plantation societies.

The discussions about this theoretical and conceptual field help us understand adequately the fact that the social position of freedmen and their descendants in the frames of any slave society, ancient or modern, is, as I proposed earlier, sociologically determined. In fact, in all slave societies, were they Western, Asian or African, ancient or modern, the stigma of previous slavery is a central aspect in the determination of the social position of the freedmen.

That is the reason why they are rarely "perceived as an equal" in a slave society even after obtaining the political-legal status of a free man, distinguishing mark which, moreover, is inherited by their descendants. It is essential, therefore, to situate the freedmen and their descendants in the slavery-freedom continuum, and have the idea of slavery as a process in mind. As Miers and Kopytoff observe, the slaves, in the Western view, constitute a social stratum, since slavery is seen from the same prism of concepts such as "class" and "caste", that is, as a static form of "social stratification".

According to this image, "freedom" is understood as the antithesis of "slavery", and vice versa. What these authors propose, rather, is that slavery and freedom are parts of the same continuum, and not different concepts or "states" or, worse, opposites.

From the moment that the slave enters this status, changes begin to take place in their relation with their lord and with the rest of the community". Furthermore, he warns that one should distinguish the "political-legal status" of the freed from what one might call "prestige ranking", that is, the respect with which they are seen by other people of their social figuration, especially the free.

On the one hand, the acquisition of political-legal capacity, or the obtainment of political-legal status of "free man", does not imply full social acceptance, since in all slave societies, ancient and modern, regardless of "racial" type differences, the freedmen remain stigmatized by their previous link to captivity.

Thus, the prestige ranking refers to the fact that in most of the slave societies freedmen and their descendants have some sort of disqualification, which, however, tends to be reduced inter-generationally. In any case, rare are the executive and administrative roles to which they are assigned in the ancient or modern world and, as occurred in old or oligarchic style Iberian colonial societies, as well as in other slave societies of the Atlantic world, free and freed Afro-descendants were forbidden to bear arms and use certain garments or adornments.

Furthermore, in Portuguese America, special laws were recommended by the Overseas Council from on for the punishment of their crimes, 18 at the same time that free and freed Afro-descendants were prevented legally from exercising certain trades, such as goldsmith, from joining military and religious orders and entering governance and leading institutions, as the Senate Chamber of the villages, in addition to being constantly limited in the exercise of the so called "liberal arts".

The office they exercised makes it clear, therefore, how father and son had advanced in the process of changing status and in the prestige ranking within the social slave representation of Bahia, distancing themselves significantly, after a few generations, of their slave ancestors. In September , however, they were prevented from exercising these liberal arts because "the judge Chancellor of that Relation had reduced the number of solicitors" to twenty-eight individuals, excluding both Mendes de Vasconcelos, as they wrote, "on the grounds of being Brown, with great prejudice of the supplicants in the charges they lose, of which they lived".

The Mendes de Vasconcelos, moreover, were not the only ones who suffered this type of ban in Portuguese America, 21 which incurred as much for them as to the historians, as formulate Elias and Scotson, in a clear "ideological Act of avoidance". Under this perspective, we are not talking about "racial or class relations" but, more specifically, and more generally, of an established-outsiders relation marked by an enormous differential of power retention. Furthermore, these bans point to the fact that Freedmen and their descendants, and not only in slavery social representations of Portuguese America, but also of the French Caribbean and Hispanic America, as I will demonstrate later, while advancing in the process of changing status, were prevented by non-qualifications that continued for several generations, or inter-generationally.

Even within the democratic and representative type society such impediments were kept, since slavery followed its course in many of the specific social representations once linked to the comprehensive social figurations of the Colonial Empires. According to the political Constitution of the Empire of Brazil of - considered by some historians as "highly inclusive" 23 - the Freedmen were second-class citizens, since, as they pray, they had only passive citizenship, which allowed them only the enjoyment of civil rights, but not of political rights.

As I will also demonstrate later, many free Afro-descendants of Imperial Brazil expressed openly their revulsion to this constitutionally established impediment in a democratic and representative type society. They did certainly not share with the point of view of historians who regard that legal text as "highly inclusive". However, the most important to emphasize is that in all slavery formations, ancient and modern, the political-legal status of free man is not the end of the process of marginalization, but the end of a previous phase, which is slavery, it is having different stages.

Thus, the nature of the sociological stigma assigned to the freedman in slavery societies of the New World was not a result of "racial or proto-racial ideology", as some analysis propose, 24 but of its ancestor and procedural link with the slave status.

Thus, in modern slavery societies, in which social slavery relations between groups of different "colors" or "races" predominate, the "color deffect" consisted only in the form in which the socio-dynamics of the stigma against the former slave, or their descendants, assumed a visible face. In addition, to the contemporary the impediments imposed on individuals of that social group were based not on an "anachronistic racism" appropriately criticized by Ronald Raminelli, but on the "mechanical defect" associated with the exercise of dishonorable or vile trades and professions mainly executed in an intra-generational or ancestor captivity.

The social positions of free and freed Afro-descendants must also be understood synchronously within the transition process between the old or oligarchic type society to another, democratic and representative type, which will become prevalent throughout the 19th Century. I have already presented this theoretical model in other articles.

Furthermore, these diachronic and synchronic plans are not optional, but interdependent: while the first allows to connect the theme in question with many other established-outsider relations or other slavery representations in several contexts in time and space, the other shows specific social representations and their particular dynamics of social development.

Were it in Europe, were it in America, the old or oligarchic type society, deeply hierarchical and ordered, was characterized by the existence of two different social levels.

The foundation of their social distinction, according to their representation of the society in which they lived, came from the self-attribution of value to their own notions of honor and birth. There was an unstable balance of power between these levels, as well as an unstable balance of power within each of them. Thus, individuals and social groups of the highest level had their own tension fields, as well as their hierarchies, whereas the same happened at the lowest level.

The social ascension in an old type society was restricted, therefore, to each one of these levels. They ascended only within the existing hierarchy in their own level, which was distinct from the highest level, moreover, as a result of dishonor, common to all their members, from the current or ancestor, intra or inter-generational slave status.

These levels, as I have already observed, kept an unstable balance of specific power during the old regime because they were interdependent and communicated with each other. Evidently they were not the same, as is suggested, to my view inappropriately, in some historiography works about "slave resistance" 30 , because there was a huge differential in power retention between them. The highest level evidently concentrated a lot more power than the lowest level.

It can be affirmed that in the old or oligarchic type social figurations, the potential of power retention that favored the highest level was disproportionate, rigid and stable. Were it in Europe, were it in America, individuals and groups of the highest level of the old type society, whose reproduction, besides being based on modern criteria of wealth, 31 was especially placed in the older criteria, ingrained and valued of honor and birth, were sure that their social position was immutable and unquestionable.

However, the lowest level also had power, since it is not an object, a thing, but a social relation. As I suggested earlier, free and freed Afro-descendants can, in a transitional phase, assign value and meaning to their lives both coming from old or oligarchic type society, as from the new figuration of democratic and representative type in process of constitution, which engenders new relations of power, as well as a new unstable or pendulum balance between the highest and lowest social levels.

In this new structure the relation between the two levels of society changes, as there is more proximity between them and less concentrated power retention potential at the highest level.

The new unstable balance of power between the highest and lowest levels becomes more flexible, more elastic, and much more complex, since the pressure applied since the lower level becomes more continuous, stable and conscious. In this new stage, the unprecedented and growing demands for equality and for civil and political rights by groups and individuals of the lowest level, observed in all colonial empires of modern era along the transition phase processed between the last quarter of the 18th Century and the first decades of the following Century, led to the decrease in distance between those levels.

At the same time, the pressures applied since the lowest level intertwine with tensions and ruptures triggered at the highest level, whose balance of power weakens as a result of the crisis of sovereignty expressed in both comprehensive social figurations, such as the colonial empires, as in specific social representations, such as the so-called "colonies" and "metropolis".

And thanks to the reduction of the differential of power retention of the highest level, the struggles and tensions between the two levels become more open and more straightforward, since they are based on modern concepts such as political equality and citizenship, and not on old notions of honor and birth. The distances between levels decrease, which opens the possibility of creating a more horizontal and more representative structure of social relations, with individuals from the highest level speaking on behalf of the lowest level social groups, and individuals of the lowest level, having at least legal and political conditions to ascend to social functions of representation.

In later stages of the democratic and representative type society, notably in the multiparty, in particular, appears at the same time, the possibility of creating several intermediate social levels, some closer to the highest level and others closer to the lowest level, all with their own pendulum balance of power.

One may not forget, finally, that this model must include an emotional dimension, related to feelings produced mutually in the social structures of personality of individuals from both levels. Considering only the legal and political conditions, that is, the "merit, talent and virtues" of isolated individuals, is equivalent to forgetting the social representation formed by social groups of the highest and lowest levels, and the social stigmas that they use in their struggles against each other.

So, in the old or oligarchic type society, while social groups of the highest level see their higher power as a sign of higher human value, social groups of the lowest level, due to the large potential of concentrated power retention of the highest level, agree and incorporate forms of current power relations and reveal a inescapable submission to the order - whose most palpable incarnation are the own Spanish, French and Portuguese Catholic Monarchies - experiencing "affectively their inferiority of power as a sign of human inferiority".

Overcoming this emotional dimension in the democratic and representative type society presents, for the most part, significant obstacles, despite the decrease in the potential of power retention by groups and individuals of the highest level and the political-legal institutionalization of political equality between free men.

This is because, on the one hand, the emotional barriers erected by feelings of superior virtue of individuals of the highest level and, on the other hand, the sense of lower human value of group dishonor, incorporated in the self of the individuals of the lowest level, do not follow the same rhythm of the increasing limitation of the political-legal disqualification which characterized the social position of the last in the previous phase. Moreover, since within the democratic and representative type society the social tension field is more open and more horizontal, power relations and disputes for prestigious social functions, apparently processed in an impersonal and detached way as a result of existing legal landmarks, can be punctuated by eventual recurrences to "signs of strengthening" - as references to the color of the skin or the ways of speaking and behaving publicly.

Hereby, they seek to weaken opponents from the old social outsider group referring to this emotional dimension of social tensions. This argument can be illustrated by means of a newspaper from October , in which they accused Evaristo da Veiga of describing, in the context of political-party tensions, free and freed Afro-descendants as "slipper Patriots", "men of knife up their sleeve" and "people of stick and dagger".

The examples available in the Portuguese and Spanish Empires with respect to the use of "signs of strengthening" - such as skin color, for example - to disqualify applicants to prestigious social functions linked inter or intra-generationally to captivity are many and varied. This view was part of a more general doctrine. According to the "impediments, and questionings" to candidates for ecclesiastical functions in the "Minor Orders, as Sacred" contained in the First Constitutions of the Archbishopric of Bahia, of , were excluded from the exercise of those functions the ones that "are part of Hebrew, or of any other infected nation; or black or Mulatto".

As a result, says Alboym, these would be naturally "inclined to evil, lacking faith, contumacious, rebels, given to vices, incorrigible; reason why they are rightly excluded from public offices". However, it is not less remarkable that feelings of superior virtue, values and social meanings attributed to themselves by individuals and social groups of the highest level can be incorporated by individuals and social groups of the lowest level when they face each other in tensions and disputes for prestigious social functions, since, as I already argued, the lowest level also had, as the highest, its own unstable balance of power.

In January , for example, seven captains "of the third of Henriques of the garrison of the town square of Bahia" signed a petition on behalf of all the officers of that militia consisting of free and freed Afro-descendants in which they emphasized the "inviolable, and the right style of not being provided from fleet Corporal up to the rank of Captain any man who was not a natural from the land, as are all the Creole officers that compose the third of Pernambuco".

However, say the captains, "that style changes and adulterates in the third of Bahia, in notorious discomfort of the Republic and the Royal service of Your Majesty".

The indignation of the "Creole" captains, that is, born in America, referred to the fact that the Captaincy of Bahia authorities were providing "in those positions men of different nation, such as those from the Costa da Mina, infected people, lacking faith to God and your Majesty".

The socio-dynamics of the ongoing stigmatization perpetrated by "creoles" called for the widespread sense of superiority among individuals of the highest level, while accusing Africans from Costa da Mina to be closer to the slaves in the freedom-slavery continuum than to their specific social position. According to the "creoles", Africans were "largely capital enemies of the white, against whom each day fulminate insurgencies and they can easily, with exercise of weapons, do some rising in people, accompanied by black captives and fugitives".

The concern of the "creole" captains was to avoid "harmful errors and consequently a great note in the Regiment of Supplicants who with zeal and faithfulness serve Your Majesty".

Their social positions from the point of view of slavery were relatively similar, since all were free or freed, although, of course, the "Creoles" were in a more advanced stage of the process of change of status than Africans, or closer to freedom than to slavery.


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