Personhood, legal judgment and sovereignty at the Cape, 1793–1810

Authored by: Jennifer Hardes , Patrick McLane , George Pavlich

The Routledge Handbook of International Crime and Justice Studies

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415781787
eBook ISBN: 9780203837146
Adobe ISBN: 9781136868504


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Members of the Cape Court of Justice circa 1795 held to a particular conception of justice. For them, society was a hierarchy of different types of people, at different stages of refinement. As such, law – especially law directed to crime – had to be applied differentially in order to take account of the purported classes of person that comprised social hierarchies. As such, the so-called ‘Distinction of Persons’ was a basic element of calculations made to ‘ascertain’ the ‘atrocity’ of specific crimes and to compute appropriate punishments (Theal 1897, vol. 1: 298ff). The members of the Court of Justice’s emphasis on categories of persons is readily reflected through an extraordinary exchange of letters between the commander of the occupying British forces, General Craig, and members of the Court of Justice regarding the Court’s use of torture, which will be discussed below.

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