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The Colonial System Unveiled$
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Baron de Vastey

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781380314

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781380314.001.0001

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date: 20 October 2017

(1814–2014) Reading the Protean Text

(1814–2014) Reading the Protean Text

Chapter:
(p.63) III (1814–2014) Reading the Protean Text
Source:
The Colonial System Unveiled
Author(s):

Baron de Vastey

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781380314.003.0005

Building on the prefatory materials, this tripartite Introduction provides an extensive account of Vastey’s importance as a writer. It begins with a discussion of the last years of Vastey’s life, when he had become a prominent spokesperson (or scribe) not just for the Christophean regime but for the abolitionist cause in the Anglo-American world; this first section of the Introduction analyzes Vastey’s epistolary relations with the English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson and, more broadly, investigates ideological tensions that were constitutive of the transatlantic public sphere. The second section doubles back from the end of Vastey’s life to the year in which The Colonial System Unveiled was published, 1814, and provides an archivally-based contextualization of the book, situating it (historically) in relation to French attempts to recapture the lost colony of Saint-Domingue after the fall of Napoleon, and (ideologically) in relation to Vastey’s critique of the “colonial system,” an idea first put forward by Victor Malouet, the new French colonial minister who in 1814 was put in charge of plans to conquer Haiti. The final section argues for the need to read Colonial System not just for its groundbreaking anticolonial content, but for the formal innovations of this elusive (or protean) text.

Keywords:   Baron de Vastey, Henry Christophe, Thomas Clarkson, abolitionism, transatlantic public sphere, Napoleon Bonaparte, Victor Malouet, Saint-Domingue

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