The issue of slavery has been a major point of debate in the history of man. The rights of African slaves during the Enlightenment and the French Revolution created controversies arose over the issue of slavery.
People living in France during the Enlightenment and revolutionary times had debated that slavery was needed in order for France to avoid an economic shock, slavery should end, slaves needed rights, and slaves were better off being slaves than free.
Men hadargued that slavery was needed in order for France to stay afloat. A delegate from Bordeuax had stated in a speech in the National Assembly that “the abolition of slavery and the slave trade would mean the loss of our colonies…the colonies bring in an annual income of more than 200 million livres.” (Doc 10) Being a delegate, he would most likely try to do his best to persuade the National Assembly for the people he is representing. On the same issue, Antoine Barnavem, a french orator, also reports to the National Assembly’s Committee on the Colonies that “France has reached this level of prosperity thanks to our colonies.” Barnave also states that if the colonies would someday gain independence, France would have to prepare a backup plan to “lose them without an economic shock and without a disturbance to our political existence.” (Doc 14) War also seemed to affect the number of slaves brought by French ships, shown by a bar graph that stated the number of slaves delivered had gone up by eight times as much in a time period of less than 100 years (Doc 11).
On the other side, others had stated that slaves had rights like any other man, and that slavery should be abolished. Louis de Jaucourt, being a philosophe, uses the views of many others to state that slaves should be treated like regular humans. He states that “we can not take away fro ma person that natural dignity which is liberty.” (Doc 1) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosophe like Jaucourt, dislikes slavery, debating that “seeing one-fourth of my fellow humans changed into beasts for the service of others, I have grieved to be a human.” (Doc 3)
Jacques Necker likewise states that slaves “have been made a barbaric object of trade.” (Doc 8) Count Mirabeau believed that slaves deserved their rights, saying that “I demand to know how the twenty White people here from the colonies can be said to represent the people of color from whom they have received no authority.” (Doc 9) Maximilien Robespierre, a major radical, also shares the view of these men, believing that slaves should be free men no matter what cost and that he does not share any interest of the colonies, whether they help France stay up or not. (Doc 15) Voltaire had commented that slaves are what satiate the needs of luxuries from the folk of France, “things unknown to our ancestors.” Finally, Olympe de Gouges stated that the color of one’s skin should not differentiate the two. “Why destroy nature’s work?”
The remaining folk had tried to debate that slaves are better off than living back in their homeland. A delegate from the Owners of Property in the French Colonies of America Residing in Bordeaux had stated that the French have saved the slaves from the cruelest slavery and had stationed them “under a kind of humane government where they live without fear for tomorrow.” (Doc 13) The assumption that slaves would think this with the feedback they’ve given makes for an uneducated point. Guillaume Raynal agrees with the delegates statement, commentating that the colonies that the slaves are working on have a climate that “White people are incapable of working in”, and that “to make the best of this precious soil, it has been necessary to find a particular species of laborers.” (Doc 6)
The slaves are simply being seen as tools for the fields, controlled by the government. Louis de Jaucourt stated that “masters who acquired new slaves were obligated by law them instructed in the Catholic faith.” In return, this had convinced Louis XIII to “authorize this horrid commerce in human flesh.” This practice was only used to simply boost the number of Catholics in the world. DDenis Diderot, a philosophe, asks “Why did the Christian powers not consider that their religion was fundamentally opposed to black slavery?” He answers this in saying that the nations that condone slavery “needed slaves for their colonies, plantations, and mines.” The unfortunate blending of slavery and a nation’s economy creates an unstable situation of morals and brutality.
Courtney from Study Moose
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