V. S. Naipaul’s book A Way in the World (1994) is perhaps most strikingly about obsession—about historical figures obsessed by an idea: dreams of new worlds, the fulfillment of large schemes, and the universal failure of such visions. In his long chapter “In the Gulf of Desolation: An Unwritten Story,” Naipaul imagines the wasted year that the Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco Miranda spent on the island of Trinidad in 1806, marooned after an abortive insurrection across the gulf on the mainland. Nine years before Miranda’s arrival in Port of Spain, Trinidad was part of the Spanish empire, but now it is British. The island is dominated by plantations: “no place for a metropolitan man like Miranda,” writes Naipaul.
And yet his work turns on the often hidden or forgotten exchanges between metropolitan spaces of empire and subjugated spaces of colonization. At Port of Spain, Miranda is met by General Thomas Hislop, the British governor. “Hislop is a man of jangled nerves,” Naipaul tells readers. And for good reason. The brutal repression of incipient slave revolt—”the hangings and the mutilations”—has raised legal questions back in London. Much of the chapter centers on imagined conversations between Miranda and Hislop. Hislop is deeply troubled by uncertainties, by the shaky foundations of Britain’s Trinidad regime and his responsibility for actions, inhumane and possibly illegal, taken to maintain order. Most particularly, he is anxious about the investigation of General Thomas Picton, the island’s first British governor, and by Picton’s conviction in the court of King’s Bench. “Strange,” Hislop observes, “that all the bigger charges of hanging and theft should have been thrown out, and this case of petty theft should have brought Picton down. Signing the order that the very respectable magistrate brought him for the torture of the young mulatto girl.”
In fact, this glancing reference to an anonymous “young mulatto girl” marks a return, a reworking of themes and characters that Naipaul introduced twenty-five years earlier in The Loss of El Dorado: A History (1969). As he notes, his earlier book “is made up of two forgotten stories,” two moments when his native Trinidad “was touched by ‘history'” or was brought within European historical consciousness. The first story marks the final chapter in the search for El Dorado with Sir Walter Raleigh’s return to Trinidad in 1617; the second is that of Louisa Calderon, the young mulatto girl whose torture brought Governor Picton to trial and whose case became a cause célèbre. Calderon now appears at the fringes of British history, given a walk-on part in histories of Trinidad. Picton is generally remembered not as a colonial governor but for his role in the Peninsular Campaign and as the highest-ranking officer killed at the Battle of Waterloo; his portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and his heroic death is commemorated by a statue erected in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
In his Nobel Prize lecture for 2001, Naipaul describes growing up without a sense of his own family’s historical past: “All children, I suppose, come into the world like that, not knowing who they are. But for the French child, say, that knowledge is waiting. That knowledge will be all around them … In Trinidad, bright boy though I was, I was surrounded by areas of darkness.” Those “areas of darkness … became my subjects,” writes Naipaul, and that darkness sent him “to the documents in the British Museum and elsewhere, to get the true feel of the history of the colony.” The “postcolonial” moment has been one of recovery, as well as one for redrawing boundaries and identities. The blurring of cultural and spatial boundaries has led historians, as well as novelists and other writers, to rethink our own work, sending us back to the archives to get “the true feel,” or at least a new sense, of history. As Antoinette Burton explains, “the imperial turn” “is not a turn toward empire so much as a critical return to the connections between metropole and colony, race and nation,” signaling both the “inadequacy” and the “indispensability” of the nation.
Thus on returning to the case of Picton and the cause of Calderon, we are confronted with new historical questions and concerns. Indeed, those of us who work on early-nineteenth-century British political trials have probably brushed past Picton’s case countless times, ignoring legal proceedings that fill almost an entire volume of State Trials. In my own case, reading A Way in the World and then teaching it to undergraduates occasioned a trip to the archives, initially to read the trial text. Whatever separates the novelist and the historian, we share the storyteller’s craft. But as historians, our purpose goes beyond retelling, or speaking through the documents themselves. We are after the conditions of the story’s telling, its fashioning, circulation, and entangling with other stories and texts; we want to learn how the story worked more deeply on contemporary sensibilities. And if its absence from Britain’s historical narrative is emblematic of the recording of that history, the brief sensation created by Picton’s trial also reveals pertinent truths. In current debates over how aware or oblivious ordinary British people were about their empire, it is worth remarking on the recurrent scandal of empire as a critical way in which empire returned “home.” Although distorting in its overwrought emphasis on the singularity of abuse, colonial scandal could unsettle distinctions thought to set Britain off from less civilized spaces, underscoring the disjunction between a national self-image of humane governance and the realities of colonial rule. As such, Calderon’s cause represents but one episode in the long and occasional history of colonial sensation, one fragmentary vision of inhumanity. The case, and its broader context, reminds us (if we need reminding) of the violence of empire and of the asymmetrical ordering of exchanges between metropole and colony. Simultaneously, this particular “exchange” underscores the uncertainties of British rule in the Caribbean and metropolitan anxieties about the exercise of that rule. Publicity produced by Picton’s trial for torturing Louisa Calderon exhibited colonial injustice for a domestic public shielded from the casual, day-to-day violence of empire. If, as Partha Chatterjee observes, metropolitan power was founded on “a rule of colonial difference,” the rule of difference often proved unstable; the separation between “home” and “away,” and the hierarchy of categories on which difference was based, refused to hold firm. The sensation surrounding Picton’s rule illuminates most forcefully the discordant tangling of cultural idioms, juxtaposing conflicting versions of law, rights, and authority that challenged the maintenance and full recovery of critical markers of difference.
Three background points need to be made. First, the West Indies were of crucial financial and military importance to Britain and France. The scale of economic commitment was staggering. The West Indies dominated British long-distance trade; an eighth of all British seamen were involved in this trade. It followed that the Caribbean was an endemic and deadly zone of war and plunder. Second, not only were the West Indies the biggest depository of British and French investment overseas, they were also the most vulnerable. A small number of whites—the Privy Council in 1789 reported 50,000 in all the British islands—lived alongside more than 10,000 free men and women of color and nearly a half-million slaves. This vulnerability was exacerbated by war and revolution; the French Revolution’s universalist message of liberté combined with indigenous forces of resistance among slaves, free people of color, and creole Europeans as rebellion swept the Caribbean. Third, Trinidad was something of a special case. The island’s plantation economy and the large-scale importation of African slaves were very recent, connected predominantly with newly arrived sugar planters who moved from neighboring French islands following the cédula of 1783, which reversed Spain’s policy of exclusion and opened the island to foreign settlement. Previously a Spanish backwater, Trinidad overnight became an open frontier. Between 1784 and 1797, the slave population rose from just under 2,500 to just over 10,000. There was also a relatively large population of free persons of color (4,476), who outnumbered whites. The British seized Trinidad in 1797, but only after the Peace of Amiens (1802) was it ceded to Britain. For the British government, Trinidad held strategic military importance, and it also offered the prospect of opening trade with the Spanish main. For British abolitionists, in retreat following the Haitian and French revolutions, Trinidad posed a crucial test for halting the spread of slavery.
In 1797, following the conquest of the island, General Ralph Abercromby placed Colonel Picton in charge of Trinidad along with a relatively small military force; he was appointed governor in September 1801 and promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Picton and his subordinates operated within the context of a lawless frontier thrown into further confusion by war, revolution, and the uncertain fate of the island. Among the uncertainties loomed the question of what constitutional or legal guarantees pertained to inhabitants in a territory newly seized by British forces. On his assumption of power, Picton was advised by Christóbal de Robles, a large-scale planter with long experience, that the circumstances of the conquest had “virtually combined in you the whole power of the government,” leaving him unshackled “by forms or modes of prosecution.” Picton took this advice to heart, later citing it in defense of his conduct. This was the background against which he was eventually brought to trial.
Two days after the funeral of William Pitt, on February 24, 1806, Picton’s case came before Chief Justice Lord Ellenborough and a special jury in the court of King’s Bench. Picton was indicted for a misdemeanor, “in causing the Torture to be inflicted upon Luisa Calderon, a free Mulata,” in 1801. The case had first appeared before King’s Bench two years earlier, in 1804, but had been sent on mandamus to Port of Spain for further information. However, the case has a complicated history; the trial was itself a residue of a larger cause, one element in a multilayered legal proceeding. The case behind the case—the real case, as it were—involved twenty-nine counts of death “unlawfully inflicted,” brought under a Henrician statute (33 H VIII, c. 23) designed to try persons for either treason or murder committed outside the realm. In November 1803, Picton had been taken into state custody in order to face charges set before the Privy Council. Calderon’s case was quickly separated from the principal charges of murder and was directly brought to King’s Bench for trial. Among other crimes that remained under investigation, Picton was accused of having burned alive, decapitated, and brutally executed slaves suspected of practicing the black arts, necromancy, and casting spells, results of the so-called “poisoning” commission appointed by Picton around the same time that Calderon was arrested. Most serious, at least for the privy councillors, was the charge that he had hanged without court-martial a young artillery soldier, Hugh Gallagher, accused of having raped and robbed a free woman of color. Pursued under three different administrations, the case in Privy Council dragged on from December 1803 to January 1807, when Picton was finally released from all charges and from his enormous bail of £40,000.
Picton’s case was, in fact, part of a wider conflict over the future of British colonial rule in the Caribbean. A fellow colonial administrator, Colonel William Fullarton, initiated the proceedings against Picton. In summer 1802, the administration of Henry Addington had removed Picton as governor of Trinidad and replaced him with a three-man commission headed by Fullarton, with Picton retained as second commissioner and Commodore Samuel Hood appointed as third commissioner. Fullarton and Picton soon clashed bitterly over matters of colonial administration, policy, and personal style. Picton was a strong proponent of developing Trinidad’s plantation economy; his own speculations in land and slaves amounted to a small fortune. In this he was out of step with British government plans for Trinidad. Lord Hobart, secretary for war and the colonies, who was connected to Fullarton through former service in India, turned to the colonel as an agent of reform. Fullarton’s concept of imperial responsibility had been forged at an earlier moment of imperial crisis; he had served as a military commander during the Second Mysore War, as an opponent of Warren Hastings and a friend of Edmund Burke. Whereas Picton was a Welshman who had begun his military career at age thirteen, Fullarton was a product of the Scottish Enlightenment. Following his studies at Edinburgh University, he served as secretary to the British embassy in Paris; at age twenty-six, he entered Parliament; and as a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh, he authored works on agricultural improvement in Scotland and military reform in India. The conflict between Picton and Fullarton, and among their supporters, produced a minor pamphlet war, along with a series of libel cases. Although Privy Council’s hearings were held in camera, Fullarton ensured that documents presented at Whitehall found their way into print. The chaos of the Caribbean, and rivalries born there, spread to the imperial core.
This returns us to King’s Bench. On the day of the trial, the court was reported to have been “extremely crowded, among whom were a number of ladies”; the proceedings lasted from 9 a.m. to just after 7 p.m. The trial was notable for several reasons. First, since Picton was never brought to court on the more serious charges, the trial acquired significance as the occasion for bringing him to justice, opening the broader issues of the case to full public review. As noted in the press, the case against Picton was “one of the most important to our national character and honour which has occurred for a vast number of years.” Second, Picton was found guilty, although he was never sentenced. Third, the importance of the case was signaled by the role of William Garrow, a barrister renowned for his courtroom skills, who led the prosecution. The prosecution was officially brought and financed by the government, although Fullarton worked behind the scenes, securing witnesses from Trinidad. Fourth, the case raised questions about whether Spanish or British law pertained following the British conquest of Trinidad. And if, indeed, Spanish law was appropriate, did the legal code sanction torture, and under what specific conditions? Finally, the case posed intriguing questions about relations of gender, sexuality, race, and the uncertainties of colonial rule.
So what was the case against Picton? Garrow opened by expressing his outrage that Picton, in his role as “representative of our sovereign, and governor of one of our colonial dependencies,” and thus “bound to protect his fellow-subjects … has disgraced the country to which he was born.” “British character” had been “stained” by the infliction of the cruelties of torture. Garrow maintained that after the British conquest, Spanish laws were to be continued, but these laws were “most cruelly perverted to gratify the savage tyrannical disposition to oppress his Majesty’s subjects.” Against Picton’s perversion of British character, Garrow carefully introduced the character of Louisa Calderon. At the tender age of ten or eleven, she had been “seduced” by Pedro Ruiz “to live with him as his mistress.” Garrow explained to the court that although such conduct “may to us in this country appear singular … yet in that hot climate where the puberty of females is much accelerated, it is common for them to become mothers frequently at the age of twelve; at that early period they either marry, or enter into a state of concubinage.” While living with Ruiz, Calderon “was engaged in an intrigue” with one Pedro Gonzalez. She provided Gonzalez access to Ruiz’s house, allowing him to rob Ruiz of a substantial amount of cash. Both Gonzalez and Calderon were taken into custody. Under questioning, she refused to implicate Gonzalez in the robbery, and at the request of the interrogating alcalde or magistrate, Saint Hilaire Begorrat, Picton personally signed the infamous order, “Inflict the torture upon Luisa Calderon.” She was first brought to the room of torture, and shown two or three female slaves who “were to undergo the same severities, on a charge of sorcery and witchcraft.” “Here then,” Garrow continued, “we behold a British governor for the first time introducing torture into a British settlement, as a punishment for sorcery and witchcraft, and as a means of extorting [a] confession from a person under accusation.” Despite this demonstration, Calderon persisted in declaring her innocence, at which point the punishment was applied. The mode of torture was “piqueting.” The victim was tied by one wrist to a scaffold, her other wrist was tied to her ankle, and she was then lowered by means of a pulley onto a wooden spike, the full weight of her body resting on her naked foot. (See Figure 1.) The punishment lasted for fifty-three to fifty-four minutes, timed by Begorrat’s watch. According to Garrow, this was done “not from any fear that she might suffer too much, but because there was some notion of a supposed law, that the torture could not be inflicted for more than an hour.” Calderon confessed, but her confession was deemed incomplete: she gave up Gonzalez but claimed not to know where the money was hidden. The next day the torture was repeated for twenty-four minutes.
Figure 1: Louisa Calderon on the piquet. From The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon (London, 1806). Courtesy Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.
“Piqueting” was a British military punishment, but Garrow claimed that it would be a libel upon the military punishment to call the torture inflicted on Calderon by the same name; rather, the practice should be designated “Pictoning,” “that it may be described by the most horrid name by which it can be known, and be shunned as a disgrace to human nature.” Against such barbarous practice stood the real character of British law and history. Garrow skillfully played on the image of the common law’s superiority over Continental systems of justice. What was Picton’s rightful duty? Garrow answered that it was to have “impressed upon the minds of the people of this new colony, a conviction of the perfect security they would acquire, of the abundant advantages they would derive from the mild, benign, and equitable spirit of British jurisprudence.” He cited Blackstone’s Commentaries to show that judicial torture—the administration of physical pain to elicit proof of a criminal act—was unknown to English law. Garrow promised to present the victim of Picton’s cruelty to the jury.
Louisa, now aged around sixteen, was the star witness. In a typical newspaper report, the Sun found that “Her appearance was extremely interesting, and her countenance, which was that of a Mulatto, extremely pre-possessing and agreeable.” Other reports added that she was “dressed in white, with a turban tied on in the costume of the country. Her person was slender and graceful.” Her testimony required two interpreters, one for Spanish and one for “the Creole corruptions.” Garrow took her through the details of the case. She was unable to say in what year, 1799 or 1800, she went to live with Ruiz, replying that she was “not used to distinguish the years in this way.” She described her arrest and the circumstances of her torture. She was told that if she did not confess who had taken Ruiz’s money, “the hangman Ludovigo was to put his hand upon me.” She named the men present at her torture, including Begorrat, who interrogated her; Jean Baptiste Vallot, the jailkeeper, and “his negro hangman,” who administered the torture; and two lesser officials. Asked to give an account of her torture, “she accompanied her explanation by placing herself in the attitude she so described,” demonstrating how she was bound by the wrist to the pulley (“the left-hand, raising her”), with her right hand tied to her left ankle and her right foot lowered onto the spike. Garrow next showed her “a drawing in water colours … representing in striking manner her situation with the executioner and his attendants during the application of the torture.” She confirmed that it was an accurate representation. Turning to Ellenborough, Garrow remarked that he wished his lordship’s position could have allowed him to see “the involuntary expression of the sensations of the witness upon looking at the drawing.” However, Ellenborough strongly objected to “exhibiting drawings of this nature before the jury.” He allowed it to be shown only with the consent of Robert Dallas, the lead defense counsel, instructing the jury that “nobody wishes that any improper impression should be made by the drawing.” Calderon told the court that she had twice fainted on the piquet: “I was totally insensible.” Vallot had applied vinegar to her nostrils to revive her. Suffering from excruciating pain in her side and wrist and from a badly swollen foot, she was placed in irons (the “grillos”) in a crouching position between sessions. She remained imprisoned for eight months without a trial, only to be released just before Fullarton’s arrival and his discovery of the inhumane prison conditions. At the conclusion of her testimony, she exhibited the permanent marks of her torture in the form of “a seam or callus formed on both wrists.”
After presenting two witnesses from Port of Spain, Raphael Chando (an alguaçil or constable) and Juan Montes (a military assistant to British engineers surveying the island), to confirm the details of Calderon’s account of her torture and imprisonment, Garrow concluded the prosecution’s presentation of evidence. Dallas opened the defense by noting that the case was not merely “novel and extraordinary,” but of the greatest importance to Picton and the public at large. In judging Picton’s conduct, Dallas argued, the jury must contemplate the difference between Britain and the West Indies. Britain was a country whose law had truly been called “the perfection of reason,” characterized by “mildness and humanity”; the West Indies were remote, “in a distant clime and in a different circumstance,” where “a system diametrically opposite” to that of Britain might prove “absolutely necessary.” Louisa was re-described as “living as a domestic in the house of Ruiz and living in a state of prostitution with him,” while “indulging herself in a criminal intercourse” with Gonzalez. Dallas reminded the court that even according to the “mild and merciful law of this country,” she would have met her end on the gallows; “for … if a domestic servant becomes a party to a robbery of this description … the law is invariably suffered to take its course, and the crime is expiated by an ignominious death.”
The facts were not in dispute: Picton had introduced the piquet to Trinidad—first to the barracks yard to discipline soldiers, and two years later to the prison chamber to torture slaves—and he had ordered Calderon’s torture. Dallas stressed, however, that Begorrat had asked Picton to sign the order only after all other means had been resorted to. As it was established that Spanish law was to be continued under British rule, Picton’s case rested on proving that Spanish law sanctioned judicial torture, and that in applying this law he had acted without malice. Dallas pressed the distinction between Britain and Trinidad: “You, gentlemen, well know, that no two systems of jurisprudence can be more opposite, than the law of our West Indian colonies and that of the mother country.” He offered the following example: Suppose that a gentleman who had held magisterial authority for many years on the island of St. Vincent returned to England and was taken into custody on charges brought by a witness who appeared in court “horribly maimed and disfigured with his nose slit and his right hand amputated,” and testified that his injuries had been inflicted by the defendant as punishment for his having resisted a constable “who was taking him to be flogged for having lifted his hand against some cruel task-master.” Suppose that instead of being maimed, the person had been publicly executed, Dallas continued. “Would not every Briton, possessing feelings and principles founded upon the law of his country, hearing that a punishment of death had been inflicted upon a man for raising his hand against a constable, instantly and emphatically exclaim, ‘The man who hath done this thing shall surely die!'” But when the defendant pointed to the law in St. Vincent, stating that a slave who resisted a constable was liable to the death penalty, the judge would immediately direct an acquittal. “What is this?” Dallas asked. “Not the law of Spain, but the law of an English colony, and which was passed in that colony, upon a petition to his majesty at home.”
At issue was the Spanish law as it was to be administered in Trinidad; a British court was required to interpret Spanish legal practice. Dallas described the island as a site of social chaos, explaining that it had become a receptacle for every description of undesirable and dangerous refugee from other islands. Picton was “no civilian”; a rough man of war, he had been entrusted with maintaining order amid colonial chaos. As for the form of torture itself, Dallas sought to counter the image of inhumane practice, and Garrow’s “theatrical exhibition” of this practice. The mode of punishment inflicted on Calderon was exactly as described in “any Dictionary of Arts and Sciences” under the term “piquet.” Dallas noted, “in this land of liberty which is proverbial for the humanity of its laws, the punishment of the piquet prevails; upon whom is it inflicted? upon those brave men who shed their best blood, and risk their lives in the service and for the defence of their country.” Moreover, Spain was notorious for its repertory of torture; set beside forms of Spanish cruelty, the piquet was a “slight” punishment. The challenge was to settle the precise terms of Spanish law pertaining to judicial torture in the West Indies. It proved difficult to shake the prosecution’s evidence that until Picton’s arrival, no judicial torture had been practiced in Trinidad. A key witness for the defense was Archibald Gloster, Trinidad’s attorney general. He was reduced to a figure of ridicule as it became clear, under Garrow’s cross-examination, that he knew little about Spanish law; he even conceded his inability to read Spanish without the aid of a dictionary. The coup de grace was administered by Pedro de Vargas, who was called in rebuttal. A lawyer born in South America who had lived throughout the Spanish West Indies, he testified that he knew of no law that sanctioned torture.
The case boiled down to a single point: Did the Spanish law sanction judicial torture in Trinidad? Ellenborough rejected the defense’s argument that the prosecution must show that Picton acted with malice. As Garrow maintained in his summation, Picton should have known better. He might not be a lawyer, but “he was an Englishman and governor of a British settlement” who should have asked himself what law, English or Spanish, “could justify him in making this unhappy creature his victim.” It remained for the jury to do their duty as Britons to “protect those, who by the prowess of the British arms have become your fellow-subjects; and you will show the poorest individual in the territories of England has the opportunity of bringing his oppressor, however high his rank, to answer for his misconduct before a court of justice.” The jury quickly returned a verdict of guilty, but this was hardly the end of the story. Dallas immediately moved for a new trial. A case that had begun with Calderon’s torture in 1801; that had first appeared in King’s Bench in 1804, when it was sent on mandamus to Port of Spain; and that had returned to King’s Bench in 1806, was retried two years later, resulting in a perplexing special verdict: it found torture to be legal in Trinidad at the cession of the island to Britain, and Picton not to have been influenced by malice against Calderon “independent of the illegality of the act” as based on British law. But the case refused to come entirely to rest, as legal argument on the special verdict continued through the summer of 1810. In Hilary term 1812, the court ordered the defendant’s recognizances respited until further order; the case was left unresolved. Picton was never sentenced on the verdict, although the suit had cost him £7,000.
Where does this leave us? What kind of cause was Louisa Calderon? At one level, Picton’s case and the scandal surrounding his regime in Trinidad were indicative of intense personal rivalries. Indeed, personal vendettas pursued within a gentlemanly elite provided a common source for revealing colonial wrongdoing. Yet important issues were at stake. Among other things, the case illustrated the difficulty of maintaining a clear separation between metropolitan and colonial codes of justice, between zones of law and violence. Louisa’s cause played subversively with settled fictions of British identity. Her own in-betweenness ramified this subversion of categories. What was her legal status; was she to be accorded the rights of a British subject? The case raised troubling questions. If British national character was defined in contradistinction to other European nations as well as to those less civilized parts of the world available for colonial conquest, how did such views square with Picton’s torture of Calderon? What did it say about England’s constitutional superiority in the universe of nations if a British governor rather than the Spanish brought judicial torture to Trinidad?
Part of the dilemma of Picton’s defense was that while stressing the geographical, legal, and moral distance separating England from Trinidad, Dallas unwittingly drew Trinidad closer to “home.” In order to counter accusations of Picton’s inhumanity, Dallas compared the relative mildness of Calderon’s torture and imprisonment to the certain death that she and Gonzalez would have faced in London for the same crime. In addition, there was nothing unusual or foreign about her torture; piqueting was a standard punishment meted out to brave British soldiers. This line of reasoning, meant to mitigate Picton’s actions, had the troubling effect of demonstrating the severity of Britain’s own civil and martial law. Nor did the shocking example from St. Vincent of the poor man with his slit nose and amputated hand present Britain as a benign colonial power; indeed, British slave laws were generally harsher than those of either Spain or France. The trial rehearsed many of the general anxieties of critics of British colonialism in the West Indies. Louisa was not a slave, but she was a woman of color who, according to her sympathizers, had been forced into child prostitution. In contrast to this view, Picton and his friends were outraged by portrayals of Calderon as an innocent victim of suffering. Picton protested that a “specious” appeal had been made to the “humanity of the public, in favour of a common Mulatto prostitute, of the vilest class and most corrupt morals,” who had formed “a criminal connection with a Sambo, or Negro,” whom she introduced into the household of her partner, “an industrious tradesman,” “to pollute his bed” and rob him of his life savings.
Rivalry between two men was played out around the figure of a woman of color; her racialized sexuality went to the heart of colonial sensation. In the role of either prostitute or victim of pain, Calderon’s body became a site of contention, generating many of the terms of the case. In turn, the atrocities against slaves in Trinidad were condensed and displaced onto the spectacle of Calderon’s martyred body. By a function of proximity, her torture worked to remind the British public of the horrors of colonial slavery. “Sensation,” particularly the portrayal of intense or excited feelings, was crucial to producing humanitarian sympathy, a collective concern for distant others. As a commercialized genre, “sensation” came into its own in the Victorian period, but sensation as a politics of feelings had a long prehistory, one closely linked to colonial rule, helping to identify those subjects worthy of being regarded as human. It obviously shared overlapping meanings with the cult of sensibility, sentimentalism, humanitarianism, romantic notions of sympathy, and the aesthetics of the sublime. Particularly important was the way in which Louisa “spoke” to the court. Although she gave formal testimony through interpreters, the spectacle of torture, the untranslatable, imagined measure of pain and human suffering, was perhaps more important to the jury than anything she said. As Elaine Scarry has movingly demonstrated, the pain of torture is “language-destroying.” In effect, at trial and through the publication of trial texts, the prosecution sought to recover the “voice” of pain through presence, the bodily presence of Louisa Calderon. Garrow had her reenact her torture, and then re-engage her feelings when shown the drawing of the torture scene, generating her “involuntary” expression of “sensations.” By having her perform her torture and by providing visual representation to the court, the inexpressible was given extralinguistic expression; the unshareable was shared. As spectacle, Louisa communicated directly to the court: her gestures required no translators. The spectacle of pain and violence testified to Picton’s barbarity.
In fact, Garrow’s presentation of the drawing to the jury was among the most controversial aspects of the proceedings. Dallas had allowed it against Ellenborough’s better judgment. It is worth pausing to note the court’s unease about the visual production of sensations, particularly given that spectacle and performance were hardly absent from British legal culture. The requirement that criminal defendants conduct their own cases, which prevailed until the eighteenth century, was partially rooted in the belief that truth was revealed by a defendant’s demeanor. We must presume that Ellenborough’s displeasure derived from the way in which sensation was being appropriated and produced in court—perhaps from a regard for the convention that attorneys exercise restraint in prosecuting criminal charges. He may also have been distressed by how the culture of the street circulated in and out of King’s Bench. Picton had returned to London in October 1803 to find himself vilified in the street and in the public press as “the blood-stained Governor of Trinidad.” Before the case came to trial, “coloured drawings were paraded through the streets, calling forth the public commiseration, by exhibiting the ‘picture of the girl, pulley, spike, and the grillos.'” The most complete version of the trial, Crosby’s, reproduced the actual drawing that Garrow presented in court. (See Figure 1.) The Anti-Jacobin Review decried this reproduction “as a contempt of court,” in light of Ellenborough’s expressed hope that it not be shown outdoors. “Nor can we forbear noticing, the inflammatory and malignant placards which disgrace the walls of this metropolis, announcing the shop where this trial is to be sold.”
One of Picton’s vehement supporters, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Alured Draper, told readers that he had rushed his own Address to the British Public into print in order to counter the effect created by the widespread circulation in London of the drawing of Louisa that had “so irritated and prejudiced the temper and opinions of the larger part of the community, the middling and lower classes, and has been turned to such vulgar and dishonorable purposes by the enemies of Colonel Picton.” Moreover, the placards exhibiting her innocence and the cruelty of her torture were circulating outside the metropolis, having been “exported in wagon loads in octavos, duodecimos, and quartos cut down, in pamphlets, all at reduced prices, to wholesale and retail dealers in the country.” Draper wondered sarcastically “at the wonderful art and dexterity” with which Garrow played the court, springing the drawing on his audience: “The effect was so sudden, so unexpected, so electric, so full of all necessary qualities to call forth surprise, astonishment, and ‘delightful horror,’ that Burke himself, if he were alive, would have gone to school again, and taken a lecture from him to add to the next edition of his ‘Sublime and Beautiful.'”
Draper’s catalogue of terms—”sudden,” “unexpected,” “electric,” “surprise,” “astonishment,” “delightful horror,” “Sublime and Beautiful”—directs us to the Gothic. In the complaints of Picton and his defenders, a concern can be seen about how, as well as for whom, sensations were being produced. Calderon’s cause was suspect because of its production of emotional excess, permitting intense feelings to overwhelm the intellect. According to its critics, this was precisely what was wrong with the Gothic mode. This summoning of emotional excess contrasted with the balance required by the culture of polite sensibility, which by the 1790s had itself become increasingly suspect as effeminate and foreign. As Gary Kelly writes, the Gothic romance “was not so much a coherent and authentic genre as an ensemble of themes and formal elements which could be taken over and adapted in whole or part.” The politics of Gothic representation are best viewed as neither inherently conservative nor revolutionary. Nonetheless, the period of the 1790s and the first decade of the nineteenth century witnessed a craze for the Gothic, evidenced by the number of novels published and plays staged—a craze that can be related to the instability and momentous changes of these years. The success of Gothic drama as mass art depended on spectacular stage effects, on new techniques of lighting, mood music, and a particular style of acting. Louisa and her story were spectacular in design and effect. Poised between “high” and “low” culture, dealing often with confrontations between the high and the low, the Gothic possessed subversive potential; it was a contested genre or “domain.”
Calderon’s story was framed by familiar conventions of Gothic romance. Gothic elements were freely adapted to her case. Newspaper reports and trial texts appealed to Gothic sensibility. “While the unfortunate object of the defendant’s barbarity was giving her evidence,” the Edinburgh Advertiser commented, “an unmoistened eye was not to be seen, and in particular when the drawing was shewn to her, which gave a representation of her sufferings, she shrunk from it with a look of horror which excited the most lively sensations.” Similar embellishments are found throughout the press reports. As if to signal her innocence and virtue, Louisa appears “genteelly dressed in white”; in several illustrations of the torture scene, her complexion appears “white.” The villainous Picton wears black: “Governor Picton walked the Hall of the Four Courts, during the whole of the trial. He is a tall man, of very sallow complexion, apparently about fifty years of age, and was dressed in black.” The description was generic. Compare it to the introduction of Schedoni on the first page of Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1796), where the evil monk is described as pacing “behind the pillars” of a portico. “There is something too extraordinary in the appearance of this man … He was of a tall thin figure, bending forward from the shoulders; of a sallow complexion, and harsh features.” As the tyrannical governor of a former Spanish island still ruled by Spanish law, Picton translated into the persona of the Latin villain so prevalent in Gothic fiction. The Gothic villain was an “alien,” a displaced representative of what Englishness was not.
The prison of Port of Spain, with its piquet, irons, and slaves chained on hard boards, constituted a classic Gothic space of darkness and horror, transporting contemporaries to a remote place ruled by an equally distant past. Fullarton arrived in Trinidad and uncovered the guilty secrets of Picton’s dungeon. His visit to the prison first alerted him to the horror of Picton’s inquisition; within a month of landing, he wrote to the Colonial Office about “the Reign of Terror” that prevailed. In a file marked “Full Account of All Crimes and Punishments,” which was compiled on Fullarton’s order, we first encounter a description of Calderon’s punishment: “She was taken off the piquet almost lifeless so that Vallot threw vinegar on her Face and poured wine down her Throat in order to bring her to herself. She was so young at the time that she had not breasts [in the margin is written ‘no avia pechos’] but cannot tell by years how old she is.” She was imprisoned for eight months, held without trial on Picton’s authority, “sometimes loaded with three pairs of Fetters”; she could no longer work “and sometimes cannot lift her hands to her head.” The colonial archive was colored by Gothic hues. Here Louisa Calderon joined other figures in a landscape of suffering. Along with slave women accused of practicing witchcraft, necromancy, and the black art of poisoning by charms, she was imprisoned and tortured for her confession; like the common soldiers punished for infractions of military discipline, she was hoisted onto the scaffold and lowered onto the piquet’s spike.
This material formed part of the charges brought against Picton to Privy Council, some of which was subsequently published by Fullarton. Reproduced here were the horrors of the commission empowered to deal with the mysterious deaths of slaves on various large plantations. Thisbe, “the property of Mr. Begorat” [sic], was conducted before the tribunal and condemned as a sorceress. She was hanged, “her head cut off, and her body burnt … the hangman carried her head into the prison, where it remained until the following day, when the hangman, in the company of the deponent and a black prisoner, carried it to Diego Martin [the site of Begorrat’s plantation], where it was exposed on the high road, fixed upon a pole.” Thisbe was just one of the dozen or so slaves who were executed on Picton’s authority. For the privy councillors, the execution of slaves appeared to be among the least troubling aspects of Picton’s regime. Nonetheless, Louisa’s cause, touching so closely on the brutal execution of these slaves, presented a colonial regime of punishment to a public possessed of metropolitan sensibilities. For Foucault’s genealogy, the period of the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century was pivotal to the emergence of modern penal practice: “a few decades saw the disappearance of the tortured, dismembered, amputated body … The body as the major target of penal repression disappeared.” Yet in slave societies established by Europeans, Foucault’s “gloomy festival of punishment,” rather than dying out, flourished with added force. As Vincent Brown shows, rituals of spectacular terror—the gruesome deaths, mutilations, defiling and exhibiting of dead bodies—aimed “to give governing authority a sacred, even supernatural dimension,” allowing “the plantocracy’s power to reach into the spiritual imaginations of slaves.” Yet such practices could not be safely contained, but came to haunt metropolitan as well as colonial consciousness.
At the heart of much Gothic fantasy, we find the female body—tortured, imprisoned, cloistered, caught in a “labyrinth of darkness,” prey to the villain’s lust. Humanitarian discourse shared in this fascination with the tortured female body. And as Karen Halttunen argues, the sympathetic identification of viewers and readers with the body in pain might engage what she terms “the pornography of violence.” The guilty pleasure derived from others’ pain was “humanitarianism’s dark side.” In the case of Louisa Calderon, humanitarian sympathy was produced through a troubling fascination with her sexuality and pain. Her case played on a fascination with the forbiddenness of colonial difference. As feminist scholars have demonstrated, European discourses on sexuality cannot be charted without reference to a “racially erotic counterpoint.” As a mulatto woman, Louisa was a “creature of contradiction.” While noted for their beauty, mulatto women signified a breaking down of racial and sexual boundaries; they were often viewed in European travel writing as temptresses, distinguished by their lasciviousness, arrogance, and unwillingness to work, and thus threatening to the domestic virtue of British womanhood. Within Caribbean society, the sexual economy of what Doris Garraway terms “colonial libertinage” not only underwrote the exploitative power of European creole elites, but also projected “the burden of culpability and punishment” for interracial intimacy and desire onto slave women and free women of color. Gothic romance itself derives power from “anxieties about boundaries,” particularly boundaries of the female self usually rooted in the fear of physical violation. Placed on display for European eyes and appetites, Calderon moved along an imagined boundary between disgust and attraction. She was a victim of torture, but she was also an object of sexual exchange. Her mother had arranged for her to be taken into Ruiz’s household as his mistress. In turn, metropolitan publishers accompanied editions of Picton’s trial with illustrations of her torture in order to boost sales.
The frontispiece of one version of the trial, published by P. F. McCallum, is of particular interest, as it portrays Calderon with her breast exposed, dangling in balletic posture from the scaffold. (See Figure 2.) Readers are invited to view her suffering beauty, allowed to delight in her chaste sexuality. This rendering employs odd symbolic elements: the watch timing the torture and the rope around the neck of the black hangman. Moved outside prison walls, the scene feels more pastoral than Gothic. Louisa’s figure is aestheticized; classically draped, “white,” and beautiful, she wears a cap of liberty, symbol of revolutionary allegiance. The drawing clearly draws on contemporary representations of “Liberty,” linking the erotic female body to the body politic. It also perhaps draws on compositional elements of William Blake’s illustration “Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave,” produced for John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796), an image that became part of the anti-slavery movement’s visual vocabulary. (See Figure 3.) In both illustrations, the gaze of those present is directed away from the victim, as if they would be compromised by viewing her suffering. But the female slave is more exposed; nearly naked, she is a starker figure of innocent suffering. Yet both illustrations trade on a sexual frisson, inviting a voyeuristic gaze coming close to the pornographic.
Figure 2: Louisa Calderon’s torture aestheticized. From [P. F. McCallum], Trial of Thomas Picton … Late Governor of the Island of Trinidad for Torturing Louisa Calderon (London, 1806). Reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Figure 3: William Blake’s illustration of the torture of a female slave. From John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 2 vols. (London, 1796), vol. 1. Reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
The paradox of Louisa’s story was that it brought the spectacle of the tortured colonial body “home,” only to risk reinstalling the imaginative distance between metropole and colony. While Gothic representational modes were undoubtedly effective in terms of their familiarity and popular appeal, by representing the inhumanities of colonial rule in such terms, they produced an emotional distance. For the Gothic traded on the unreality of its own terror, transforming fear into a pleasant emotion by keeping it at a safe distance. Similarly, the erotic fascination produced by the illustration for McCallum’s text also served to distance the suffering subject and to compromise the viewer’s sympathy with her pain.
Something needs to be said about Pierre Franc McCallum, as it was through him that Calderon’s cause touched on that of plebeian radicalism. McCallum operated as a self-styled man of letters and scandalmonger on the fringes of metropolitan radicalism. Following in the footsteps of radical pressmen such as Charles Pigott, he profited from exposing aristocratic corruption. By his own account, he went abroad at a young age, traveling to the four corners of the globe before landing at Saint Domingue during the great slave insurrection. Here he claimed to have befriended Toussaint Louverture. McCallum’s arrival at Port of Spain in February 1803 coincided with Fullarton’s. A fellow Scot, he staunchly supported Fullarton; indeed, Picton accused him of working as a spy in Fullarton’s employ. It did not take long for McCallum to get himself into trouble at Port of Spain, making cause with local British radicals agitating for constitutional rights. Picton had him arrested, imprisoned, and eventually expelled from the island. His book Travels in Trinidad, published upon his return to Britain, was the most comprehensive indictment of Picton’s regime. As a victim of Picton’s oppression, he assumed the persona of a freeborn Briton-turned-martyr. The Anti-Jacobin Review denounced the book as an irresponsible Jacobin “performance,” particularly given that the “impious jargon” of the French declaration of “The Rights of Man and Citizen” had reached the Caribbean.
More than this, the author had a nose for scandal, particularly for sexual scandal. Seen as the incarnation of imperial acquisitiveness and license, the Caribbean offered a rich field of inquiry for a writer such as McCallum. He maintained that the unlimited license afforded by the West Indies caused Europeans to abandon Christian morality “in the riot betwixt Lust and Mammon.” In a passage echoing scores of other works on the West Indies, he described how the newly arrived European’s first object was to find himself a mistress: “After pleasing his taste, he bargains for her, in the same manner you would for a colt in Smithfield … He supports this wretched companion of his solicitude in all her extravagance … free from the trammels of all moral restraint, he is at once launched into the labyrinth of guilty fascination.” Moreover, the lures of sexual pleasure were not something from which Picton was immune. For McCallum’s portrayal of Picton brought together politics and sexual scandal, linking private corruption to public tyranny. After indulging many prostitutes, Picton took up with Rosette Smith, a mulatto half his age, whom he persuaded to leave her husband and children “to become Lady Governess.” Picton awarded her the fuel contract for the garrison, and the profits from this perk “enabled Smith to bribe almost all the kept ladies in the colony to reveal the secrets of their paramours … Those who unguardedly insinuated their disapprobation, or animadverted on his [Picton’s] tyrannical conduct became the objects of his vindictive rage.” Plenty of evidence exists to corroborate McCallum’s picture of Rosette (“the aspera & horrenda virago of government-house”) and the deep hostilities she engendered, particularly among British inhabitants of Trinidad. Thus the British merchant Thomas Smith wrote Lord Hobart, explaining how the dispensation of justice on the island “is influenced by the caprice or inequity of a mulattress of the lowest order, whom His Excellency has thought proper to associate with.” Picton had stepped across an accepted racial boundary. While it was not unusual for a colonial administrator to take a free woman of color as his mistress, or “housekeeper,” giving power to such a woman was another matter. Moreover, what was condoned in the Caribbean might stir anxieties in Britain about the fragility of English character and civilization, including fears of the mixing of races.
Then, as now, sexual information was a powerful weapon. For McCallum, the lurid exposure of the exploits of his social betters was a way to pull back the curtain on aristocratic corruption, to call elite hypocrisy to the court of opinion. Print culture was an equalizer of sorts. The politics of scandal enabled otherwise powerless figures to ruin elite reputations. McCallum was a man on the make; he was also a serious political writer, after his own fashion. Of course, he had himself been subject to Picton’s despotic regime. He identified with Calderon as a fellow victim of tyranny; he was present at Picton’s trial to record her case. More problematically, he may have seen her as a citizen, or at least as a British subject denied the boasted rights of freeborn Britons. The title page of Crosby’s edition of the trial echoed Garrow’s claim, describing Louisa Calderon as “One of His Britannic Majesty’s Subjects.” (See Figure 4.) Whatever McCallum’s views, the uncertain properties of citizen or subject were present in the politics of Calderon’s cause. Slave, free woman of color, colonial subject, impressed British seaman, British soldier subject to the lash, Lancashire weaver, the weaver’s wife: in the age of revolution, what separated the subject from the citizen, the slave from the freeborn Englishman?
Figure 4: Title Page from B. Crosby’s edition of The Trial of Governor T. Picton (London, 1806). General Research Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
The question is not merely rhetorical. As P. J. Marshall asks more generally, was “British subject in any respects a uniform category?” Under what circumstances “were British subjects who did not live in Britain to be regarded as ‘Britons’? In particular, how far did the powerfully emotive concept of the ‘rights of Englishmen’ apply outside England?” Such questions were posed with particular force in the colonial Caribbean, where slave insurgents in both Saint Domingue and Guadeloupe voiced claims for citizenship in republican terms. Recruiting black regiments in the British Caribbean inescapably raised the prospect of freedom for slaves serving in these regiments, and questions about the legal status and rights pertaining to such service. Furthermore, in Trinidad, part of the resistance to extending British law and establishing an elected colonial assembly arose from apprehensions about the reaction of free persons of color, mainly French, and believed to be imbued with revolutionary principles, who would protest exclusion from full colonial citizenship. And what, then, about the piquet itself, an instrument of military punishment, moved from barrack yard to prison, and used to extract confessions from slave women and other prisoners? British sensibilities were troubled by soldiers’ being treated in the same manner as slaves and criminals. Radicals campaigned against the brutality of corporal punishment, framing their arguments in terms of the status of soldiers as citizens and “freeborn” Britons. Thus by a chain of association might Calderon’s cause, too, come within the reach of citizenship.
Robert Darnton discerns a shift in cultural history toward what he terms “incident analysis.” As with much work done in this key, one faces the question of historical significance. Clearly, it is not by virtue of this incident’s typicality, but rather through its remarkable density that key issues were opened and cultural fault lines exposed. As the story of Calderon’s torture circulated through the colonial archive, London streets, the courtroom, trial narratives, newspaper reports, journals, books, and pamphlets, it picked up cultural energy produced in terms of humanitarian sentiment, Gothic horror, pornographic fascination, and scandal. The story’s fashioning was critical to its popularity, as well as ultimately to its political limitations. The story had movement, not just in terms of its expressive modes, but geographically and socially; it resisted containment and thus challenged distinctions on which both colonial and domestic authority relied. Calderon herself embodied the breakdown of various categories of difference. Just as the principal case against Picton moved outside the discursive space of Privy Council’s Whitehall chambers, colonial codes of conduct and authority were brought “home,” to be tested against metropolitan understanding. The “incident” highlights the circuits connecting metropolitan society to its colonial periphery, and the historical difficulty in maintaining a separation between these domains. Indeed, it may prompt us to ask what it means to regard the West Indies as a periphery, encouraging an alternative conceptualization, as Alan Lester proposes, of a metropolitan-imperial network of linked sites across which “colonial discourses were made and remade.” By the early nineteenth century, Britain’s imperial and domestic regimes had become more authoritarian, hierarchical, and militarized. Nonetheless, recurrent unease about abridgments of the responsibilities of imperial rule and the attendant rights of colonial subjects surfaced sporadically. The scandal of empire returned as a repressed awareness, disrupting the taken-for-grantedness of empire.
Scandals are by their nature difficult to sustain as politics, although the broader issues concerning the exercise of colonial authority remained troubling. Unless linked to wider programs of reform, scandals tend to fade from public awareness. Thus the scandal of “Old Corruption,” popular radicalism’s critique of the aristocracy’s parasitic drain on taxpayers and the state, had staying power, incorporated as a cornerstone of radical ideology. In fact, in 1809 the radical pressmen John Bone and William Hone republished evidence brought before Privy Council, originally published by Fullarton, in an effort to discredit a wider system of elite corruption and to counter Picton’s recent military reappointment. But the scandal had run its course. Despite its powerful reverberations, the sensational mode had distinct limitations. Scandals place reputations at risk; they reveal transgressions of social and political boundaries, serving to re-sanction legitimating norms. Bringing the former governor to the bar had the effect of embodying colonial injustice in the person of one man, displacing the “fabric of colonial anxiety” onto an instance of extraordinary personal misrule, and thus allowing the reconstitution of imperial authority. In Trinidad, Picton’s troubles served as a warning to General Hislop, his successor, whose regime exercised greater circumspection. Britain’s government refused, however, to grant the colony a legislative assembly or to extend full British legal and constitutional guarantees to its inhabitants.
The main characters moved on. Picton’s rehabilitation was signaled in June 1807 when Lord Castlereagh presented the former governor to the king at court. Wellington, short of good field commanders, recruited Picton for the Peninsular Campaign on the basis of Miranda’s recommendation. Yet the Calderon case followed him. At the war’s end, Picton was denied an expected elevation to a peerage, in part because of the taint of Trinidad. Fullarton fared less well. With the Privy Council’s decision in January 1807 that there were no grounds for the case against Picton, Fullarton’s crusade lost any remaining impetus. He died in 1808, under circumstances some thought mysterious, leaving his wife, Marianne Hamilton Fullarton, to defend her husband’s reputation in a successful libel suit against Colonel Draper. Even admirers felt that the “excess of his zeal” in the Picton affair “formed a subject of regret.” As for McCallum, Picton’s rehabilitation put him onto the scent of the Duke of York, drawing out the connections between royal and military corruption and favor. Around 1809, he became deeply involved in the period’s most celebrated sex scandal, as ghostwriter for Mary Ann Clarke, the Duke of York’s former mistress, who was accused of selling army commissions. Just before his death in 1810, McCallum published Le Livre Rouge; or, A New and Extraordinary Red-Book, a direct precursor to John Wade’s better-known Black Book, the fullest documentation of “Old Corruption.”
And what about Louisa Calderon? There is more we would like to know about her. Dining at the lord provost’s house in Ayr, John Downie, a gentleman from Trinidad, observed in a letter, “mark my astonishment when I was told that, along with Colonel Fullarton, there had arrived with his lady a ‘Mademoiselle Luise Calderon,’ whom the Colonel and Mrs. Fullarton paraded about with them in their carriage, introducing her wherever they went as the ‘blessed innocent’ who was the devoted victim of Colonel Picton’s tyranny.” Gloster commented similarly that the “injured innocent” was being introduced by Mrs. Fullarton to “select female friends in Scotland!” He added, “It must be particularly gratifying to Mr. Fullarton, that his virtuous young lady has insured a continuance of her fair race, by producing an heir to all her virtues, while under his philanthropic protection.” In June 1808, she again gave testimony before King’s Bench at Picton’s new trial. The St. James Chronicle reported, “she seemed to be much grown, and greatly improved in her knowledge of English, which she spoke with fluency and propriety.” We find a request in the Colonial Office records from Fullarton’s lawyer that she be granted a passport to return to Trinidad. She may be the same woman as the “Luisa Canderón” recorded in the baptismal records of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain as having given birth in 1810 to an illegitimate child. Could this be the belated baptism of the child alluded to by Gloster? A footnote in E. L. Joseph’s History of Trinidad, published in 1838, states simply that Louisa Calderon “died here [Port of Spain], in poverty, on 25th June, 1825.”
How are we to regard Louisa Calderon? She left no narrative. As a colonial subject, she was the victim of powerful men, certainly. She became an object of both metropolitan empathy and scorn, as well as achieving minor celebrity in London and Scotland. Her courtroom performance suggests a young woman of considerable poise and self-possession. Perhaps we also can see her as an agent maneuvering within the restricted boundaries accorded to a poor woman of color. Most surely, she had entered the cosmopolitan world of transatlantic cultural exchange, brokering a range of fantasies, fears, and perhaps opportunities. Naipaul has recently commented that he thought writing nonfiction “gave one a chance to explore the world, the other world, the world that one didn’t know fully.” In Louisa Calderon’s case, the silence of the archive frustrates our desire to know or give full narrative shape to her life; her broken story speaks to a deeper sense of loss that has moved many Caribbean writers to turn from the historical to the literary in an effort to recover the suppressed voices of their past.
Earlier versions of this article were presented at the University of Houston, the Huntington Library, the University of Melbourne, Rice University, York University (UK), Vanderbilt University, and Warwick University. I benefited from the comments and questions of participants on these occasions. The Newberry Library Fellows’ Seminar provided an ideal setting in which to share my work, and I am indebted to Betsy Erkkila, Leon Fink, and Alfred Young for their advice and encouragement during my year in residence. Special thanks to John Beattie, Jay Clayton, Colin Dayan, Philippa Levine, Sarah Pearsall, James Vernon, Dror Wahrman, and Kathleen Wilson for their insightful reading and critique of an earlier draft of this article, as well as to the AHR’s anonymous readers for their generous and most helpful reports. Finally, I am grateful to Robert Schneider for his sound editorial advice. The research for and writing of this article were supported by the American Philosophical Society, by Vanderbilt University, and by a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship awarded by the Newberry Library.
James Epstein is Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he has taught since 1986. He is the author most recently of In Practice: Studies in the Language and Culture of Popular Politics in Modern Britain (2003). Currently he is working on the history of Britain and Trinidad in the age of revolution.
1 V. S. Naipaul, A Way in the World (1994; repr., London, 1995), 239–240.
2 Ibid., 249, 287.
3 V. S. Naipaul, The Loss of El Dorado: A History (1969; repr., London, 1973), 13–14, 17.
4 Louisa Calderon (I have used the English spelling throughout, except in quotations, where spellings are as in the original) is mentioned in standard works on Trinidad. See E. L. Joseph, History of Trinidad (Trinidad, 1838), 210, 222; Lionel Mordaunt Fraser, History of Trinidad, 2 vols. (Port of Spain, 1891, 1896), 1: chaps. 15–17; Bridget Brereton, A History of Modern Trinidad, 1783–1962 (Port of Spain, 1981), 40. Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Beyond, Boundaries: The Intellectual Tradition of Trinidad and Tobago in the Nineteenth Century (Wellesley, Mass., 2003), 11–21, considers Calderon’s story within Trinidad’s literary tradition.
5 H. B. Robinson, Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, 2 vols. (London, 1835); Robert Havard, Wellington’s Welsh General: A Life of Sir Thomas Picton (London, 1996). The best account of his role in Trinidad is James Millette, Society and Politics in Colonial Trinidad (Port of Spain, 1981), pt. 2. The National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago features a small case and panel dedicated to Picton, noting, “His reign is usually described as one of terror,” and also displaying a copy of his trial opened to the frontispiece featuring an illustration of Calderon’s torture.
6 V. S. Naipaul, “Two Worlds,” The Nobel Foundation, http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2001/naipaul-lecture, reprinted in V. S. Naipaul, Literary Occasions: Essays, ed. Pankaj Mishra (New York, 2003), 190–191. Naipaul is himself a difficult writer to place. A Trinidadian of Indian descent, living and writing in England, he is an outsider whose work quickly entered the “English” literary canon. His historical position is also one that straddles the eras of late colonialism and decolonization. See, in particular, Sara Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India (Chicago, 1992), chap. 7, “Naipaul’s Arrival.”
7 Antoinette Burton, “Introduction: On the Inadequacy and Indispensability of the Nation,” in Burton, ed., After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation (Durham, N.C., 2003), 2. Also see Kathleen Wilson, “Introduction,” in Wilson, The Island Race: Englishness, Empire and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (London, 2003), and “Introduction: Histories, Empires, Modernities,” in Wilson, ed., A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840 (Cambridge, 2004); Gyan Prakash, “Introduction: After Colonialism,” in Prakash, ed., After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements (Princeton, N.J., 1995).
8 Naipaul explains that in The Loss of El Dorado his narrative is “structured mainly from documents … Dialogue occurs as dialogue in the sources.” Joan Dayan, “Gothic Naipaul,” Transition 59 (1993): 158–170, comments on how Naipaul “reproduces the very mixtures found in his historical sources.”
9 Cf. Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, Calif., 1987); John Brewer, A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 2004). Also see Karen Halttunen, “Cultural History and the Challenge of Narrativity,” in Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt, eds., Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture (Berkeley, Calif., 1999), 165–181; and Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism (Chicago, 2000), chap. 1, for thoughts on what might separate the literary text and interpretation from what they term “ethnographic realism.”
10 Bernard Porter, “Empire, What Empire? Or, Why 80\% of Early and Mid-Victorians Were Deliberately Kept in Ignorance of It,” Victorian Studies 46, no. 2 (2004): 256–263; Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford, 2004). Cf. Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose, “Introduction: Being at Home with the Empire,” in Hall and Rose, eds., At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge, 2006), 1–31.
11 For the most sustained and important of colonial scandals, see Nicholas B. Dirks, The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), on the trial of Warren Hastings and its long-term consequences for reshaping British rule in India.
12 On the inherent violence of colonial rule, see, for example, Christopher Tomlins, “Law’s Wilderness: The Discourse of English Colonizing, the Violence of Intrusion, and the Failures of American History,” in John Smolenski and Thomas J. Humphrey, eds., New World Orders: Violence, Sanction, and Authority in the Colonial Americas (Philadelphia, 2005), 21–46; and Richard Price, “Dialogical Encounters in a Space of Death,” ibid., 47–65.
13 On this theme, see Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper, “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda,” in Stoler and Cooper, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, Calif., 1997), 1–56. Cf. Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600–1850 (London, 2002).
14 See Anupama Rao and Steven Pierce, “Discipline and the Other Body: Humanitarianism, Violence, and Colonial Exception,” in Pierce and Rao, eds., Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism (Durham, N.C., 2006), particularly 19–23; Richard Price, “One Big Thing: Britain, Its Empire, and Their Imperial Culture,” Journal of British Studies 45, no. 3 (2006): 602–627, particularly 622, 626–627.
15 Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies (Princeton, N.J., 1993), 10.
16 This paragraph draws on Michael Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and Seapower: The British Expeditions to the West Indies and War against Revolutionary France (Oxford, 1987), chap. 1. Also see Duffy, “War, Revolution and Crisis in the British Empire,” in Mark Philp, ed., The French Revolution and British Popular Politics (Cambridge, 1991), 118–145.
17 Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of British Colonies in the West Indies, 5 vols. (London, 1819), 2: 287–289, estimated the costs of establishing a sugar plantation at no less than £30,000, which thus far outstripped those of setting up a Lancashire cotton factory.
18 William Young, The West-India Common-Place Book: Compiled from Parliamentary Official Documents … (London, 1807), 85, for the number of seamen; Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole, British Economic Growth, 1688–1959: Trends and Structure (Cambridge, 1962), Table 22, 87; Jacob M. Price, “The Imperial Economy,” in P. J. Marshall, ed., The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 2: The Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1998), 81, 101.
19 Young, West-India Common-Place Book, 218–223; Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and Seapower, 106–114, chap. 14; David Patrick Geggus, “The Cost of Pitt’s Caribbean Campaigns, 1793–1798,” Historical Journal 26, no. 3 (1983): 699–706; Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793–1798 (Oxford, 1982), chap. 13. Half the British soldiers in the Caribbean in the 1790s died (mainly from disease)—a total of more than 45,000.
20House of Commons Sessional Papers, cited in Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and Seapower, 18. Cf. J. R. Ward, “The British West Indies in the Age of Abolition, 1748–1815,” in Marshall, The Eighteenth Century, 432–433. By 1810, the number of slaves totaled around 750,000.
21 See Robin Blackburn, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776–1848 (London, 1988), particularly chaps. 5 and 6; Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2004); Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 2004); C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2nd ed. (New York, 1963); Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies (Ithaca, N.Y., 1982), particularly pt. 4; David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus, eds., A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington, Ind., 1997); Geggus, ed., The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (Columbia, S.C., 2001).
22 Fraser, History of Trinidad, 1: 288–289; Millette, Society and Politics, 15–19. For Trinidad’s high proportion of African-born slaves, see B. W. Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834 (Baltimore, Md., 1984), 122–127.
23 See Parliamentary History of England, 36 vols. (London, 1820), 36: May 2, 1802, cols. 864–866, for George Canning’s speech. He estimated that one million new slaves would be required in order for Trinidad to be cleared and cultivated to the same level as Jamaica. Also see James Stephen, The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies … to which are subjoined Sketches of a Plan for Settling the Vacant Lands of Trinidada (London, 1802), 151–197; Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760–1810 (London, 1975), 332–342; David Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York, 1987), 5, 10–11.
24 Robinson, Memoirs, 2: 54–57.
25 Picton was charged under 42 G III, c. 58, the Criminal Justice Act, which modified the earlier Act 11 &12 Wm 3, c.12, providing that any person in His Majesty’s service abroad who commits an offense in exercise of his official duties may be tried in England. Picton was the first colonial official tried under the revised and seldom-used statute. See Kenneth Roberts-Wray, Commonwealth and Colonial Law (New York, 1966), 312–313.
26 A writ of mandamus is an order, most often pertaining to an infringement of a public right or duty, directing an inferior court to do something beyond the ordinary course of legal action.
27The Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols. (London, 1797), 3: 340.
28 In such cases, the Privy Council acted solely as an investigative body, with power to inquire into offenses against the government and to commit offenders for trial in some other court of law. See William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vols. (1765–1769; repr., Chicago, 1979), 1: 228–232.
29 Three other soldiers involved (all Irishmen, and none of whom survived to give evidence) did face court-martial proceedings. National Archive, Public Records Office, Kew [hereafter PRO], Privy Council [hereafter PC] 1/3557, bundle 1, “Proceedings of a Garrison Court Martial,” May 29, 1797. To understand the danger of Picton’s situation, we must note the case of Joseph Wall, the former governor of the West African slave-trading base of Goree. Found guilty at King’s Bench the previous year under the same sixteenth-century statute for having flogged a soldier to death without a court-martial, Wall was executed in the yard at Newgate Prison before an estimated 60,000 spectators.
30 The Privy Council proceedings left a huge cache of documents at PRO, PC 1/3557.
31 British Library, Add. Mss. 36,870, Picton’s letter book, Picton to Henry Dundas (secretary for war), May 14, 1799, and July 30, 1799; PRO, War Office, 1/92, Picton to Hobart, June 28, 1801, fol. 248. For his speculations, see the correspondence between Picton and General Frederick Maitland, National Army Museum, London, Maitland Papers, microfilm copy, December 25 and 26, 1801, January 11, 1802, February 29, 1802. Picton claimed that his investments were worth between £80,000 and £100,000.
32 Following his return from India, he had joined Burke in dramatic pursuit of Warren Hastings and his associates. See Parliamentary History 27: May 9, 1788, cols. 465–485, for Fullarton’s impassioned call for impeaching Sir Elijah Impey, former chief justice of the Supreme Court at Calcutta.
33 See Michael Fry’s entry for Fullarton in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 61 vols. (Oxford, 2004), 21: 134–136; William Fullarton, A View of the English Interests in India; and an account of the military operations in the Southern Part of the Peninsula during the campaigns of 1782, 1783, and 1784 (London, 1787); Fullarton, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Ayr, with Observations of the Means for Its Improvement (Edinburgh, 1793); Fullarton, A Letter Addressed to the Right Hon. Lord Carrington, President of the Board of Agriculture (London, 1801).
34 See William Fullarton, A Statement, Letters, and Documents, Respecting the Affairs of Trinidad (London, 1804).
35 As well as full press coverage, we have at least four contemporary accounts of the trial published as pamphlets. I have generally relied on the version of the trial published in William Cobbett and T. B. Howell, eds., A Complete Collection of State Trials, 30 vols. (1816–1822), 30: “Proceedings before the King’s Bench, in the Case of Thomas Picton, Esq…. 1804–1812,” cols. 226–960. I have supplemented my account at several points with details from other trial accounts. State Trials relies heavily on the most complete contemporary trial text, The Trial of Governor T. Picton, for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon, published by B. Crosby (London, 1806). See PRO, PC 1/4188, letter from Lewis Flanagan, October 28, 1820, and PC 1/4210, George Chetwynd to James Buller, November 17, 1821, requesting government documents for the editors of State Trials. In addition to various pamphlet editions and press coverage of the trial, there is a pamphlet edition of the mandamus proceedings at Port of Spain in 1805, and manuscript records pertaining to these proceedings in PRO, King’s Bench 33/10/1.
36 [P. F. McCallum], Trial of Thomas Picton … Late Governor of the Island of Trinidad for Torturing Louisa Calderon, in the Court of King’s Bench, Westminster-Hall, before Lord Ellenborough, and a Special Jury, on Monday, Feb. 24, 1806, Taken in Short-hand by Pierre F. McCallum, Esq. (London, 1806), 31; Edinburgh Advertiser, February 26, 1806, 133. Most newspaper reports note the importance of the trial. See Times, February 25, 1806, 3–4; Morning Chronicle, February 25, 1806, 3; St. James Chronicle, February 25–27, 1806, 2; Courier, February 25 and 26, 1806, 3, 4; Annual Register, 1806, 375–383.
37Daily Advertiser and Oracle, December 26, 1803, 2.
38 Garrow took over the case from Thomas Erskine when Erskine was appointed lord chancellor. For Garrow, see J. M. Beattie, “Scales of Justice: Defense Counsel and the English Criminal Trial in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Law and History Review 9, no. 2 (1991): 221–267, particularly 236–247.
39 [McCallum], Trial of Picton … Late Governor, 14.
40 According to Picton, Ruiz was robbed of his life savings in the amount of £500. William Fullarton, A Refutation of the Pamphlet which Colonel Picton lately Addressed to Lord Hobart (London, 1805), 27, refers to Ruiz as “an agent of Colonel Picton’s.”
41 Begorrat, whose family came to Trinidad from Martinique, was among the island’s largest and most influential planters; he also played a prominent role in the “trial” of slaves accused of poisoning.
42State Trials, 30: cols. 451–454.
43 Ibid., cols. 453–456; Blackstone, Commentaries, 4: 320–321. See more generally John H. Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof: Europe and England in the Ancien Régime (Chicago, 1977).
44Sun, February 25, 1806, 3; Morning Chronicle, February 25, 1806, 3, describes her as “genteelly dressed in white”; Inhuman Torture!! Fairburn Edition of the Trial of Thomas Picton … for Torturing Louisa Calderon in the Island of Trinidad (n.p., n.d., but probably London, 1806), 8; William Jackson, New and Complete Newgate Calendar; or, Malefactor’s University Register, 8 vols. (London, 1818), 7: 313.
45State Trials, 30: cols. 456–460, for Calderon’s testimony.
46Trial of Governor T. Picton, 13.
47 Ibid., 15–16.
48 [McCallum], Trial of Picton … Late Governor, 20.
49Trial of Governor T. Picton, 18, 21.
50State Trials, 30: cols. 467–470.
51 Ibid., cols. 467–475.
52Trial of Governor T. Picton, 46.
53 Francis Grose, Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the English Army from the Conquest to the Present, 2 vols. (London, 1801), 2: 107, describes the “picket” as a form of corporal punishment used chiefly by the cavalry and artillery, where the delinquent’s bare heel rested on a stump “with its end cut to a round and blunt point.” The pain “soon became intolerable”; the practice was largely in disuse because it “lamed and ruptured many soldiers.”
54State Trials, 30: cols. 476–482. Cf., for example, John Marchant et al., Review of the Bloody Tribunal; or, The Horrid Cruelties of the Inquisition, as Practised in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the East and West Indies (Perth, 1770). On the origins of the “black legend,” see J. N. Hillgarth, The Mirror of Spain, 1500–1700: The Formation of a Myth (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2000), chap. 8; William S. Maltby, The Black Legend in England (Durham, N.C., 1971). Cf. Gabriel B. Paquette, “The Image of Imperial Spain in British Political Thought, 1750–1800,” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81, no. 2 (2004): 187–214, which suggests a softening of anti-Spanish attitudes in response to Spanish imperial reforms of the later eighteenth century.
55State Trials, 30: cols. 509–514. Gloster had previously been attorney general of St. Vincent.
56 Ibid., cols. 516–528.
57 The issue of a special verdict was a distinct possibility to which Garrow initially assented. Ellenborough ruled that if the jury found that no law existed sanctioning torture, then they must return a general verdict of guilty; if they found that such a law did exist, then there could be a special verdict based on how far Picton conformed to that law. As the second trial reversed the findings of the first, showing that Spanish law did indeed sanction torture, it opened the way to delivering a special verdict in the case.
58State Trials, 30: cols. 528–536.
59 The jury in the second trial remained perplexed on a number of key legal points, deferring to the advice of the court. While the point remained to be argued at length during the high court judges’ subsequent deliberations on the special verdict, in his summation to the jury in the second trial, Ellenborough cited clear precedent to demonstrate that the crown had no authority to continue torture as a mode of interrogation or punishment in a conquered colony, as being inconsistent with fundamental principles of the British constitution and law. State Trials, 30: col. 865.
60 For the proceedings in King’s Bench for a new trial, see State Trials, 30: cols. 539–806; for the second trial and for argument on the special verdict, ibid., cols. 806–960; also In the King’s Bench, the King against Picton, Mr. Dallas’s Speech on the Motion for a New Trial in the Case of Louisa Calderon (London, 1808). According to a note in State Trials, 30: cols. 955–956, it was thought that “had the opinion of the Court been delivered, judgement would have been given against general Picton; but that upon a consideration of the merits, it would have been followed by a punishment so slight, and so little commensurate with the magnitude of the questions embraced by the case, as to have reflected but little credit upon the prosecution.”
61 Robinson, Memoirs, 1: 228.
62 See, more generally, Eliga H. Gould, “Zones of Law, Zones of Violence: The Legal Geography of the British Atlantic, circa 1772,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 60, no. 3 (2003): 471–510.
63 Gonzalez was imprisoned, fined, and then banished from Trinidad.
64 See E. V. Goveia, The West Indian Slave Laws of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1970), particularly 19–35; also see Diana Paton, “Punishment, Crime, and the Bodies of Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica,” Journal of Social History 34, no. 4 (2001): 923–954.
65 Much evidence had been produced during the investigation at Port of Spain to determine her exact age when she was tortured, since under Spanish law no person under fourteen could be made subject to the “question.” The mandamus proceedings appear in State Trials, 30: cols. 231–450; also see Thomas Picton, Evidence Taken at Port of Spain … in the Case of Luisa Calderon … with a Letter Addressed to Sir Samuel Hood … by Col. Thomas Picton (London, 1806).
66 Picton, Evidence Taken at Port of Spain, vi. The Anti-Jacobin Review 30 (July 1808): 273 complained that contemporary “philanthropy” could allow the custom of sati, while taking up the cause of “a Mulatto prostitute and a convicted felon.”
67 The literature here is large, but see, in particular, G. J. Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Chicago, 1992); Julie Ellison, Cato’s Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion (Chicago, 1999); Lynn Festa, Sentimental Figures of Empire in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France (Baltimore, Md., 2006), particularly 1–13; Felicity Nussbaum, The Limits of the Human: Fictions of Anomaly, Race, and Gender in the Long Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 2003); Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights (New York, 2007), chaps. 1 and 2. The meaning of the word “sensation” was in flux by the early nineteenth century, shifting from notions of sensory perception to violent emotions that might overwhelm persons and engulf communities. See James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (Chicago, 2000), 11–13. For the historical importance of “sensationalism” and its early history, see Joy Wiltenburg, “True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism,” American Historical Review 109, no. 5 (December 2004): 1377–1404.
68 Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York, 1985), 4–5, 35. Also see Kathleen Canning, “The Body as Method? Reflections on the Place of the Body in Gender History,” Gender & History 11, no. 3 (1999): 499–513.
69State Trials, 30: cols. 468–469, 480–481; Trial of Governor T. Picton, 34, 51. Nonetheless, in his opening address, Dallas expressed his surprise at the altogether novel practice of introducing prints and “acting” to support a criminal charge, for “even with minds determined on impartiality,” such exhibitions “occasioned sensations unfavourable” to the defendant.
70 On this point, see Douglas Hay, “Property, Authority and the Criminal Law,” in Hay et al., Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, 1975), 26–31.
71 Beattie, “Scales of Justice”; John H. Langbein, “The Criminal Trial before Lawyers,” University of Chicago Law Review 45, no. 2 (1978): 263–316. Interestingly, in the impeachment trial of Lord Melville before the House of Lords, Samuel Whitbread pressed the importance of a witness’s demeanor, citing Calderon as his example, noting “the sudden pain and shrug of horror upon seeing the representation” of her torture, “as proof more strong than words” of the truth of her story. The Trial, by Impeachment, of Henry Lord Viscount Melville, for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, before the House of Peers (Edinburgh, 1806), 291; State Trials, 29: cols. 1428–1429.
72 I am indebted to John Beattie for bringing this to my attention, as well as for his help on other legal questions. See Allyson N. May, The Bar and the Old Bailey, 1750–1850 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2003), 99–105. However, this convention was less firm in prosecutions for misdemeanors; in addition, Picton was represented by expert counsel.
73 Robinson, Memoirs, 139–142.
74Anti-Jacobin Review 23 (April 1806): 428. Also see the letter from “Valerius” (Gloster), ibid., 24: Appendix, 508.
75 Edward Alured Draper, An Address to the British Public, on the Case of Brigadier-General Picton … (London, 1806), ix, 159. For the extensive national market in cheaper prints, see Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III (New Haven, Conn., 1996), 19–21. Draper acted as military secretary to Lieutenant-General William Grinfield, commander of armed forces in the West Indies in 1803.
76 Draper, Address, xi–xii.
77 On the “crisis” of sensibility, see Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility, chap. 7; John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1997), 121.
78 Gary Kelly, English Fiction of the Romantic Period, 1789–1830 (London, 1987), 49.
79 See Robert Miles, “The 1790s: the Effulgence of Gothic,” in Jerrold E. Hogle, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge, 2002), 41–62; Jeffrey N. Cox, “English Gothic Theatre,” ibid., 126; Paula R. Backscheider, Spectacular Politics: Theatrical Power and Mass Culture in Early Modern England (Baltimore, Md., 1993), pt. 3; David Worrall, “The Political Culture of Gothic Drama,” in David Punter, ed., A Companion to the Gothic (London, 2000), 94–106; Ronald Paulson, “Gothic Fiction and the French Revolution,” English Literary History 48, no. 3 (1981): 532–554; Frances A. Chiu, “‘Dark and Dangerous Designs’: Tales of Oppression, Dispossession, and Repossession, 1770–1800,” Romanticism on the Net, no. 28 (November 2002), http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2002/v/n28/007205ar.html.
80 James Watt, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764–1832 (Cambridge, 1999), 6.
81Edinburgh Advertiser, February 28, 1806, 133. The Sun, February 25, 1806, 3, reported that in order “to make this terror [of torture] irresistible, they brought a negroe to practice upon to shew her what she was to expect.”
82The Trial of Governor Picton, for having maliciously and with a view to oppress Louisa Calderon … (London, 1806), 17.
83 Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (1796; repr., London, 2000), 5.
84 See Cannon Schmitt, Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (Philadelphia, 1997), especially the introduction and chap. 1.
85 As Naipaul writes, it became “a place of myth, to be constructed by each man in his imagination. No plan exists of the jail.” Naipaul, The Loss of El Dorado, 274.
86 PRO, Colonial Office [hereafter CO] 295/4, Fullarton to Sullivan, February 19, 1803, fol. 37.
87 On his first visit to the prison at Port of Spain, the executioner presented Fullarton with his bill of accounts, listing all punishments carried out at St. Joseph; PRO, CO 295/5.
88 PRO, CO 295/5, dated March 20, 1803, fols. 72–73, testimony of Louisa Calderon.
89 On poisonings, and the relationship between Obeah and slave resistance, see Craton, Testing the Chains, particularly 122–123, 258–259; Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville, Tenn., 1990), 63–72.
90 William Fullarton, Substance of the Evidence Delivered before the Lords of His Majesty’s Honourable Privy Council, in the Case of Governor Picton (Edinburgh, 1807), 64–65, evidence of Joseph Murier, superintendent of imprisoned slaves; PRO, CO 298/1, fols. 122–132. On the poisoning commission, also see Pierre F. M’Callum, Travels in Trinidad … in a Series of Letters Addressed to a Member of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain (Liverpool, 1805), 192–201.
91 This is apparent from the very full records of Privy Council hearings, PRO, PC 1/3557. Of course, there was nothing singular about such punishments for slaves.
92 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York, 1979), 8. Cf. Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (London, 2000), 228–230; Diana Paton, No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780–1870 (Durham, N.C., 2004), 10–13. Also see Randall McGowan, “The Body and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England,” Journal of Modern History 59, no. 4 (1987): 651–679; Gregory Thomas Smith, “The State and the Culture of Violence in London, 1760–1840” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1999), chap. 7.
93 Vincent Brown, “Spiritual Terror and Sacred Authority in Jamaican Slave Society,” Slavery and Abolition 24, no. 1 (2003): 24–53, quotation from 27; Craton, Testing the Chains, 100.
94 Karen Halttunen, “Humanitarianism and the Pornography of Pain in Anglo-American Culture,” American Historical Review 100, no. 2 (April 1995): 303–334. Also see Marcus Wood, Slavery, Empathy, and Pornography (Oxford, 2002); Mary A. Favret, “Flogging: The Anti-Slavery Movement Writes Pornography,” in Anne Janowitz, ed., Romanticism and Gender (Cambridge, 1998), 19–43.
95 See Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca, N.Y., 1977), 60–61. Foucault notes the simultaneous appearance of Marquis de Sade and “the tales of terror,” drawing attention to “these languages which are constantly drawn out of themselves by the overwhelming, the unspeakable,” making “themselves as transparent as possible at this limit of language.” In this coupling of Sade’s pornography and the Gothic, we also glimpse a connection to stories of colonial adventure and horror, to a “limit of language,” something unspeakable. Cf. Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), 212–219, linking Sade to the Black Code, importing “the plantation into the metropole.”
96 Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, N.C., 1995), 5–7; Stoler, “Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Gender and Morality in the Making of Race,” in Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley, Calif., 2002), 41–78; Wilson, The Island Race Philippa Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire (New York, 2003); Levine, “Sexuality, Gender, and Empire,” in Levine, ed., Gender and Empire (Oxford, 2004), 134–155; Felicity A. Nussbaum, Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (Baltimore, Md., 1995).
97 The phrase is taken from H. L. Malchow, Gothic Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Stanford, Calif., 1996), 186–188. Also see Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, 219–237; Sarah M. S. Pearsall, “‘The Late Flagrant Instance of Depravity in my Family’: The Story of an Anglo-Jamaican Cuckold,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 60, no. 3 (2003): 570–571.
98 See, for example, Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776, ed. Evangeline Walker Andrews (New Haven, Conn., 1921), 112–113. Cf. Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British West Indies, 2 vols. (London, 1793), 2: 23, contrasting their “fidelity and attachment to their keepers” to the “profligacy” of European prostitutes. For visual representations, see Beth Fowkes Tobin, Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth-Century British Painting (Durham, N.C., 1999), chap. 5; Kay Dian Kriz, “Marketing Mulatresses in the Painting and Prints of Agostino Brunias,” in Felicity A. Nussbaum, ed., The Global Eighteenth Century (Baltimore, Md., 2003), 195–210. For the experience of free women of color more generally, see the essays in David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, eds., Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas (Urbana, Ill., 2004).
99 Doris Garraway, The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the Early French Caribbean (Durham, N.C., 2005), xiii–xiv. As Garraway explains, her study points to “the role of desire and sexuality alongside violence in shaping Creole society”; ibid., 1–2.
100 Eugenia C. DeLamotte, Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of Nineteenth-Century Gothic (New York, 1990), 13–14, 23, and chap. 5 more generally.
101 See n. 36 for the full title (copy in Huntington Library, San Marino, California). Ever the entrepreneur, McCallum had two editions of his text published. The more expensive edition sold for one shilling, sixpence; a cheaper version sold for sixpence, without the illustration, but with a more graphic title: The Trial of Thomas Picton … for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon, by Suspending Her by the Wrist to the Ceiling, Without Any Resting Place, Except a Sharp Spike for Her Toe … (copy in Library Company of Philadelphia).
102 On this theme, see Lynn Hunt, ed., Eroticism and the Body Politic (Baltimore, Md.. 1991).
103 See the discussion of Blake’s illustration in Wood, Blind Memory, 236–237, on which I draw. The print for McCallum’s trial text was etched by J. Swains, about whom I have been unable to find out anything more.
104 Cf. Saidiya V. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 1997), 20.
105 See Nicholas Rogers, “Pigott’s Private Eye: Radicalism and Sexual Scandal in Eighteenth-Century England,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association/Revue de la Société Historique Canadienne, new series, 4 (1993): 247–263; Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795–1840 (Cambridge, 1988).
106 P. F. M’Callum, The Rival Queens; or, Which Is the Darling? Containing the Secret History of the Origins of the Late Investigation: In Answer to Mrs. Clarke’s ‘Rival Princes’ (London, 1810), 1–5. For more on McCallum, see my essay “The Radical Underworld Goes Colonial: P. F. McCallum’s Travels in Trinidad,” in Michael T. Davis and Paul Pickering, eds., Unrespectable Radicals? Popular Politics in the Age of Reform (London, forthcoming).
107 M’Callum, Travels, 244–251; PRO, CO 295/5, “Examination of P. McCallum,” April 12, 1803, fols. 152–153.
108 Also see [John Sanderson], A Political Account of the Island of Trinidad, from its conquest … in the year 1797 to the present time … by a Gentleman of the Island (London, 1807).
109Anti-Jacobin Review 22 (December 1805): 394–401; this was the first in a series of articles attacking McCallum.
110 Wilson, The Island Race, 130.
111 M’Callum, Travels, 73. Cf. Hilary McD. Beckles, Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society (Kingston, 1999), chap. 2.
112 M’Callum, Travels, 146.
113 County Records Office, Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Aylesbury, Hobart Papers, D/MH M93, Smith to Lord Hobart, Trinidad, September 1, 1802. Also see PRO, CO 295/4, petition of Rebecca Griffith and Grace Lilburn, March 1803, fol. 159.
114 Ann Laura Stoler comments, “Concubinage reinforced the hierarchies on which colonial societies were based and made those distinctions more problematic at the same time”; Carnal Knowledge, 50. Also see Levine, “Sexuality, Gender, and Empire,” in Levine, Gender and Empire, 138–139. It is impressive just how many British military officers and administrators fathered “coloured” children as recorded in “Register of Baptisms in the Island of Trinidad,” volume for 1801–1841, Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Port of Spain.
115 See, more generally, Anna Clark, Scandal: The Sexual Politics of the British Constitution (Princeton, N.J., 2004), particularly chap. 1.
116 See Cudjoe’s discussion of Travels in Trinidad in Beyond Boundaries, 43–49.
117 Thus the title page of the cheaper edition identifies McCallum as having been “a Prisoner in the same Cell, where the unfortunate Lady was Tortured.”
118 Cf. The Trial of Governor Picton, for having maliciously and with a view to oppress Louisa Calderon, one of His Majesty’s Subjects … by inflicting THE TORTURE ON HER … (London, n.d., ca. 1806). This edition of the trial sold for sixpence, as did Fairburn’s (see n. 44 above), both of which were probably linked to radical pressmen and booksellers.
119 P. J. Marshall, “Britain and the World in the Eighteenth Century: IV, The Turning Outwards of Britain,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, 11 (2001): 3. Also see Jack P. Greene, “Liberty, Slavery, and the Transformation of British Identity in the Eighteenth-Century West Indies,” Slavery and Abolition 21, no. 1 (2000): 1–31; Sudipta Sen, “Imperial Subjects on Trial: On the Legal Identity of Britons in Late Eighteenth-Century India,” Journal of British Studies 45, no. 3 (2006): 532–555.
120 Dubois, Colony of Citizens, 4–6, and pt. 2.
121 Roger Norman Buckley, Slaves in Red Coats: The British West India Regiments, 1795–1815 (New Haven, Conn., 1979); Dubois, Colony of Citizens, 224–225. For West Indian planters’ fears about enlisting and arming slaves during the War of American Independence, see Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia, 2000), 174–181; Philip D. Morgan and Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, “Arming Slaves in the American Revolution,” in Christopher Leslie Brown and Philip D. Morgan, eds., Arming Slaves from Classical Time to the Modern Age (New Haven, Conn., 2006), 180–208.
122 See, for example, PRO, CO 295/10, fols. 26–28, for Picton’s case against the introduction of trial by jury and an elective assembly; also see CO 298/5, Liverpool to Hislop, November 27, 1810. For the politics of Trinidad’s free persons of color, see Carl C. Campbell, Cedulants and Capitulants: The Politics of the Coloured Opposition in the Slave Society of Trinidad, 1783–1838 (Port of Spain, 1992); Dayo Nicole Mitchell, “The Ambiguous Distinctions of Descent: Free Persons of Color and the Construction of Citizenship in Trinidad and Dominica, 1800–1838” (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 2005), particularly 99–114.
123 Colley, Captives, 328–330; E. E. Steiner, “Separating the Soldier from the Citizen: Ideology and Criticism of Corporal Punishment in the British Armies, 1790–1815,” Social History 8, no. 1 (1983): 19–35.
124 Robert Darnton, “It Happened One Night,” New York Review of Books, June 24, 2004, 60–64. It is not entirely clear how “incident analysis” differs here from “micro-history.” Also see his earlier essay “The Symbolic Element in History,” Journal of Modern History 58, no. 1 (1986): 218–234, as well as Gallagher and Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism, chap. 2.
125 Alan Lester, Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth Century South Africa and Britain (London, 2001), 5–7, as well as David Lambert and Lester, “Introduction: Imperial Spaces, Imperial Subjects,” in Lambert and Lester, eds., Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2006), 1–31; and Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke, 2002), for mapping the colonial world in terms of a web of interconnected points or centers.
126 C. A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (London, 1989), 7–15; Kathleen Wilson, The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 1715–1785 (Cambridge, 1995), 274–275; P. J. Marshall, “Empire and Authority in the Later Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 15, no. 1 (1987): 105–121.
127 For the continuing influence of this critique, see W. D. Rubinstein, “The End of ‘Old Corruption’ in Britain, 1780–1860,” Past and Present 101 (November 1983): 55–86; Philip Harling, “Rethinking ‘Old Corruption,'” Past and Present  (May 1995): 127–158; Harling, The Waning of “Old Corruption”: The Politics of Economical Reform in Britain, 1779–1846 (Oxford, 1996), 91–104, 143–150.
128Substance of the Evidence Delivered before the Lords of his Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, in the Case of Governor Picton (London, 1809), “For Bone and Hone.” The advertisement for the publication notes that despite Picton’s appointment to “a distinguished command,” he is still liable to be called before King’s Bench to receive judgment “for inflicting TORTURE on a female British subject.”
129 Cf. Kirsten McKenzie, Scandal in the Colonies: Sydney and Cape Town, 1820–1850 (Melbourne, 2004), 8–11.
130 The phrase is borrowed from Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India, 55; also see Dirks, The Scandal of Empire, 29–32.
131Times, May 29, 1807, 2, and June 16, 1807, 3; Morning Chronicle, June 17, 1807, 2; National Army Museum, Maitland Papers, Picton to Maitland, May 21, 1807. At Port of Spain, his friends celebrated with a dinner commemorating his “acquittal”; Times, June 9, 1807, 3.
132 Robinson, Memoirs, 2: 399–400; Havard, Wellington’s Welsh General, chaps. 3–5.
133Times, May 3, 1814; Havard, Wellington’s Welsh General, 224–226. Also see William Gratton, Adventures of the Connaught Rangers, from 1808 to 1814, 2 vols. (London, 1847), 1: 16, for soldiers’ strong dislike of Picton on his taking command of the third division in 1809 in Portugal, due to his torturing of Calderon; and Anonymous, Letters from Flushing Containing an Account of the Expedition to Walcheren, Beveland, and the Mouth of the Scheldt (London, 1809), 173.
134 PRO, PC 1/35775, bundle 10, January 5, 1807, for Privy Council decision, and January 10, 1807, for the king’s approval.
135Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1808, 181; Annual Register, 1808, “Chronicle,” 147–148; National Army Museum, London, Maitland Papers, Picton to Maitland, February 19, 1808; “The Pictonian Prosecution,” Anti-Jacobin Review 30 (May 1808): 97; Marianne Hamilton Fullarton, Proceedings on the Several Motions for Judgment, in the Case, the King versus Draper, on the Prosecution of the Hon. Mrs. H. Fullarton for a Libel against the late Col. Fullarton, of Fullarton (Brentford, n.d., ca. 1810).
136The Historical and the Posthumous Memoirs of Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, 1772–1784, ed. Henry Wheatley, 5 vols. (London, 1884), 5: 73.
137 McCallum, The Rival Queens, 35. For a detailed account of the Mary Ann Clarke affair, see Peter Spence, Birth of Romantic Radicalism: War, Popular Politics and English Radical Reformation, 1800–1815 (Aldershot, 1996), chap. 6; Clark, Scandal, chap. 7; Philip Harling, “The Duke of York Affair (1809) and the Complexities of War-Time Patriotism,” Historical Journal 39, no. 4 (1996): 963–984.
138 Pierre Franc McCallum, Le Livre Rouge; or, A New and Extraordinary Red-Book; Containing a List of Pensions in England, Scotland and Ireland … Designed as a Companion to the Court Kalendar (London, 1810). The volume went through at least six editions in its first year, staying in print in various guises until Wade brought out The Black Book in 1821.
139 Draper, Address, 184; Robinson, Memoirs, 177–178; Anti-Jacobin Review 25 (October 1806): 201.
140 Archibald Gloster, A Letter to the Right Honourable the Earl of Buckinghamshire … respecting Affairs in Trinidad in 1803, and in answer to William Fullarton, Esq. (London, 1807), 23–24. Also see “The Pictonian Prosecution,” 100–102, denouncing Mrs. Fullarton for having “very much degraded yourself” by associating with “a mulatto prostitute,” and claiming that the reputed father of Calderon’s child was known to her.
141St. James Chronicle, June 11–14, 1808, 2; Sun, June 13, 1808, 3.
142 PRO, CO 295/20, James Pasmore to Castlereagh, July 15, 1808, fols. 134–136.
143 I would like to thank the officials of the Cathedral for kindly allowing me to see these records.
144 Joseph, History of Trinidad, 210.
145 Rachel Donadio, “The Irascible Prophet: V. S. Naipaul at Home,” New York Times Book Review, August 7, 2005, 8.
146 See Édouard Glissant’s reflections “The Quarrel with History” and “History and Literature,” in Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, trans. and with an introduction by J. Michael Dash (Charlottesville, Va., 1989), 61–87. For their part, historians have creatively read colonial archives “against the grain.” See Ranajit Guha’s classic essay “Chandra’s Death,” in Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies V (Delhi, 1987), 135–165; also see, for example, Durba Ghosh, “Decoding the Nameless: Gender, Subjectivity, and Historical Methodologies in Reading the Archives of Colonial India,” in Wilson, A New Imperial History, 297–316.