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French Revolution And The Emancipation Of Slaves

1487 words - 6 pages

The Making of the Modern World

The events of the French Revolution and the emancipation of slaves in Saint Domingue cannot be looked at as isolated events in history. As a matter of fact these events need to be studied in conjunction with one another, as the emancipation of slaves was a direct product of the French Revolution and the creation of the Declaration of Rights. It is not to say that the emancipation of slaves wasn’t inevitable, but rather the Declaration acted as a catalyst to promote the equality of all men regardless of race, religion, and social status. Similar to many other historical events, the Declaration promoted a new way of viewing one’s purpose and rights within ...view middle of the document...

Just as the Jews were free before Hitler and the Aboriginal peoples were free before the European settlers, the colored people of St. Domingue were free before the colonists. The installment of the Declaration was not a new concept to natives of St. Domingue, “having once been free, the slaves did not need the backing of the natural rights philosophy to convince them that they should be free again”. For the most part the Declaration was widely accepted among the people of France and the French colonists. The colonists adopted the Declaration, altered it, and used it in ways that would benefit them. After the colonists accepted the declaration it was nearly impossible to stop the notions that came with it. Unsupplied with the mention of race or color, the Declaration clearly states that men are born free and equal in rights, therefore the Declaration reinstalled a notion of freedom that the colonists wouldn’t be able to take away from the slaves. Perhaps the reason the emancipation of slaves in St. Domingue was so successful was because the slaves knew that the Declaration was a document that governed France, and at the end of the day they were a French colony and they deserved to enjoy the same rights. The validity of the Declaration was proved by fact that it was uncontested, the slaves knew this and knew that they were worthy of the same rights.
Throughout history, and present in today societies there are examples of groups of people who have conflicting ideas and opinions that eventually lead to the break down of the social order of that society; religion is often the cause of these divisions. The Protestant Reformation is a great example of two religions trying to coexist with each other in the same place, ultimately resulting in war and devastation across Europe. History has taught us that civil unrest and internal conflicts in a country or a colony will lead to change. This theory can also be applied to the success of the Declaration in St. Domingue. The colony of St. Domingue was constructed by combining two vastly different cultural climates, in a sense “both whites and the slaves were […] alien visitors from another society”. Trying to mix the two cultures, under the control of French colonists was like trying to mix oil and water: frustrating and impossible. Natives of St. Domingue were immersed in an African culture bringing aspects of Catholicism and Voodoo to everyday practices, were as French colonists were a product of eighteenth century French ideas. The diversity between these two groups of people only added to the conflicting interests and goals each group of people had. The colonists knew that they needed slaves in order to continue the production within in the colony, and without them the colony may be destroyed; however the slaves knew that regardless of their color they were deserving of the same rights as any other French man. These conflicting ideas disturbed the peace of the colony, thus weakening the power of the...

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