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The Abolition Of Slavery In France

1547 words - 7 pages

No one in France thought that helping the Americans gain freedom from Great Britain would lead to an all-out revolution of their own. Similarly to other revolutions that were sweeping the Atlantic region at this time, the French Revolution was largely based on the newly minted ideas of natural law and natural rights. While France dealt with their problems at home, people began to question slavery in French controlled colonies such as Saint Domingue, present day Haiti. The majority of French philosophes, the general name given to supporters of the Enlightenment, denounced slavery and urged for its termination. Others were not so sure how to approach this issue however, fearing what it ...view middle of the document...

And all our efforts…we will see blood flowing, our lands invaded…our homes burnt.” He is referencing that the rich whites, poor whites, and wealthy blacks need to stick together in order to prevent a slave revolt. As it turns out, slaves in Saint Domingue did revolt which lead to the formation of present day Haiti.
After several days of talk, the National Assembly suspended deliberations having agreed to seventeen articles outlining natural rights (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789). While these articles came a long way in protecting individual rights regarding religion, property, detainment, etc., they did not directly address the issue of slavery or what rights people of color had, if any. Abbé Baptiste Henri Grégoire, a strong supporter of black rights tried to talk on their behalf at the National Assembly and also published a pamphlet. In this pamphlet, Grégoire states that, “The people of color being equal in everything to the whites, one will surely not ask if they should be active in legislation and send deputies to the National Assembly.”
In yet another address to the National Assembly, the Society of the Friends of Blacks expressed their desire to end the slave trade while also warning of a slave revolt which occurred later in Saint Domingue in 1791. The name of the society suggests that they would oppose slavery but this is not the case. The Society of the Friends of Blacks thought it was not the correct time to free the current enslaved people, rather they just called for the end of the slave trade. “We ask only that one cease butchering thousands of blacks regularly every year in order to take hundreds of captives…we demand in word the abolition of the slave trade…” They point that if slaves gained freedom it “would not only be a fatal operation for the colonies; it would even be a deadly gift for the blacks, in the state of abjection and incompetence to which cupidity has reduced them.” Going along with this idea, document 26 titled “The Abolition of Negro Slavery or Means for Ameliorating Their Lot,” provides a plan to free slaves after a set number of years. “I propose making Negro slavery like the condition of soldiers by providing an enlistment for a definite time at the end of which freedom would be restored to them” (Chez Froullé, 1789). The document goes into detail of how both stopping the slave trade and doing away with slavery at the same time would “jolt commerce too violently.” The idea proposed would break slaves into groups based on age. After a set number of years, ten years was mentioned in this document, that group would be freed. This would continue until all of the slaves were freed. Additionally, the idea of compensation payment was proposed for their time enslaved. Overall, most felt ill about slavery, but they felt that it had become a necessary evil to keep money coming in from colonies.
Antoine Pierre Barnave, a lawyer, spoke for the Colonial Committee and explained the...

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