Slavery Throughout History Essay

559 words - 2 pages

The issue of slavery has been touched upon often in the course ofhistory. The institution of slavery was addressed by Frenchintellectuals during the Enlightenment. Later, during the FrenchRevolution, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights ofMan, which declared the equality of all men. Issues were raisedconcerning the application of this statement to the French colonies inthe West Indies, which used slaves to work the land. As they haddifferent interests in mind, the philosophes, slave owners, and politicalleaders took opposing views on the interpretation of universal equality.Many of the philosophes, the leaders of the Enlightenment, wereagainst slavery. They held that all people had a natural dignity thatshould be recognized. Voltaire, an 18th century philosophe, pointed outthat hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificing their lives just sothe Europeans could quell their new taste for sugar, tea and cocoa. Asimilar view was taken by Rousseau, who stated that he could not bear towatch his fellow human beings be changed to beasts for the service ofothers. Religion entered into the equation when Diderot, author of theEncyclopedia, brought up the fact that the Christian religion wasfundamentally opposed to Black slavery but employed it anyway in order towork the plantations that financed their countries. All in all, thoseinfluenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment, equality, liberty, theright to dignity, tended to oppose the idea of slavery.Differing from the philosophes, the political leaders andproperty owners tended to see slavery as an element that supported theeconomy. These people believed that if slavery and the slave trade wereto be abolished, the French would lose their colonies, commerce wouldcollapse and...

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