Enlightenment and the Frech Revolution

There were many
views of the issue of slavery during the Enlightenment and the
French Revolution, and the resolution of slavery affected
economics, politics, and social order. The slave trade
triangle between Europe, west Africa, and the Indies has a
great affect on European economics during this time. The
only way for this elaborate trade triangle to work is if there
were black Africans available for export to the Indies as
slaves. If they were not available, then the landowners in the
new world weren\'t able to produce the sugar, coffee, and
tobacco for export to Europe, and the circuit broken. These
African slaves were convenient, according to Guillaume
Raynal (document 6), because they were thought to be more
comfortable working in the hot conditions of the Indies,
because they had originally come from a very hot climate in
Africa. In order to make the best use of the land, more
efficient workers would be needed, and hence the slaves.
The issue of slavery has extensive impacts on French politics
during the Enlightenment and the revolution. Many colonists
and landowners were confused over the appliance of The
Declaration of Rights of Man to slaves and blacks
(document 13). If it did apply to them then slavery would be
abolished, which (according to document 10) would cause
the colonies to loose commerce, essentially destroying them
because French colonists had only profits from their trade to
live on. Those who were against slavery (documents 9, 15)
used The Declaration of Rights of Man as their main source,
in that it declared equal rights to all men, not just to white
men. Slavery affected European society also in many ways.
Generally, in terms of European society, most people were
against slavery, on the grounds that African slaves were
people too, and they deserved the same basic rights
declared in The Declaration of the Rights of Man. Most
suggested the question of why blacks only were enslaved,
sighting that skin color made no difference in the person
(document 7). Others, like Voltaire, said that the luxuries
that Europe now enjoyed, like sugar, cocoa, coffee, and
tobacco, were not really sufficient to gratify the enslavement
of thousands of slaves, especially since society had survived
without these luxuries for centuries before. These documents
paint a clear picture of the effects of slavery during the
Enlightenment and during the French Revolution. Politically
and economically slavery was defended based upon the fact
that the slave trade was an essential part in the continuum of
the trade triangle. Socially, on the other hand, Europe was
generally in protest of slavery, because the luxuries they got
out of it did not gratify innocent Africans being enslaved.

Category: History