New World Slavery and the Natural Rights Debate
David Michael Jamison
This article looks at the Enlightenment debate on natural rights as it developed in the Caribbean during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, particularly in the Dutch colonies comprising modern-day Surinam and Guyana. This area was one of chronic slave rebellion, and over the span of this study its enslaved devised complex strategies to acquire freedom. Building on prior scholarship exploring the evolving motivation behind Caribbean slave rebellion before and after the Haitian Revolution, my article reveals that the communication networks formed both amongst the enslaved as well as between them and sympathetic whites served as the furnace for the forging of a new multicultural and subaltern class solidarity in the Caribbean. Members of this class largely rejected the nationalist propaganda of the colonial powers and found commonality in a willingness to fight against tyranny and political oppression of all kinds.