Caribbean Project: The Republican Origins of Anti-Racism

French West Indies

I’m still reading Laurent DuBois’s A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 about the French Revolution in Guadeloupe. This book is gradually turning me into a raging royalist.

Here’s a taste of what you are missing:

“One of the central figures in French abolitionism was the marquis de Condorcet, who, in 1781, published Réflexions sur l’esclavage des nègres under the pseudonym M. Schwatz. In 1788, the newly founded Société des amis des noirs issued a revised edition of the work. Condorcet’s writing influenced the abolitionist thinking of the Revolution and the Republicans’ vision of slave emancipation. His opening Epître dédicatoire aux nègres esclaves” lamented that the slaves, whom he had always considered his brothers and his equals, would never read the work. Just as Sonthonax would do over a decade later, Condorcet asserted the superiority of the slaves to the violent and decadent colons: “If you were to search for a man in the American islands, you would not find him among the whites.” Like Montesquieu before him, Condorcet systematically and satirically undermined pro-slavery arguments. “The reasoning of the politicians who believe that the slavery of the nègres is necessary reduces itself to this: Whites are miserly, drunken, and sordid, so the blacks must be enslaved.”

Condorcet’s work emerged from a broader of and an attack on slavery made by the Physiocrats, who developed their thoughts in dialogue with parallel currents in North America and had a broad impact on French intellectual life in the 1760s and 1770s. In a 1756 work entitled L’Ami des hommes; ou, Traité de la population, the marquis de Mirabeau (father of the comte de Mirabeau) anticipated many of the critiques of slavery that would become standard among Physiocrats, arguing that slavery undermined the creation of a productive population of laborers. In his Ephémerides du citoyen which in 1767 became the Physiocrats’ official organ, this argument was developed more fully by authors such as Pierre-Samuel Dupont de Nemours and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot. Slavery, the Physiocrats argued (drawing in part on the ideas of Benjamin Franklin), was fundamentally inefficient because slaves had no incentive to work for their masters, and coercion and violence became the only means to assure continued labor. Some Physiocrats suggested that, rather than enslave Africans and bring them to the Caribbean to grow certain crops, with all the violence and waste this entailed, the French should find ways to cultivate these crops in Africa itself. The Abbé Nicholas Bauleau, founder of the Ephémerides du citoyen, wrote in the journal in 1766 that the best way to settle the colony of Louisiana would be to purchase slaves in Africa (as well as Asia), “not in order to keep them in their chains and crush them with forced labor,” but rather “to transform them into free men, industrious cultivators, true citizens of Louisiana.” He envisioned multicultural villages, created by placing European families alongside Africans and Native Americans, spreading across a thriving colony.”

Condorcet’s arguments about slavery were part of his broader theorization on creating citizens fit for a new republic. Other thinkers had previously suggested that slave vices were the result of slavery rather than innate nature, but for Condorcet that theory pointed to his more general vision of the way oppressive institutions created vices that only political equality could undo. His arguments about the human equality of the enslaved were very similar to those arguments he presented regarding the rights of women in a July 1790 speech, wherein he suggested that the very reasons for excluding women from the enjoyment of rights in fact resulted from their exclusion: any perceived inferiority on the part of women would quickly disappear once they were given equality.”

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10 Comments

  1. Surely the men who wrote this nonsense had very little exposure to actual Negroes whether enslaved in colonies or as free men in Africa itself? The Negro has rarely been a productive member of society outside of slavery or a racial caste system. There are exceptions of course but these are exceptions.

  2. When Pruitt Igoe was desegregated the very viability of public housing projects collapsed in St Louis. White flight exploded and such.

    When Charles Jencks famously stated that modernity died in 1973 when the towers were destroyed, what he really meant was that utopian visions of multiracial paradise died. Except he couldn’t say that in polite company and expect to keep his career.

  3. We’ve forgotten just how radical the French Revolution was at the time: abolition, negro citizenship, integration, it was all there at the height of the Jacobin madness. All of this has been tried before.

  4. Clyde Wilson and other pro-Southern writers often referred to Yankees as Jacobins.

    Both the slaughter in Haiti and The War of Northern Aggression could only have happened in the wake of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Such things were completely inconceivable prior to the French Revolution.

    Of course, these slaughters were inspired directly and indirectly by the slaughter in the Vendee and the Reign of Terror. They continued into the twentieth century with the Armenian genocide, the Holomodor, and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

    White and Confederate,
    “Surely the men who wrote this nonsense had very little exposure to actual Negroes whether enslaved in colonies or as free men in Africa itself? The Negro has rarely been a productive member of society outside of slavery or a racial caste system.”

    No one had any idea of the consequences of emancipation. It was the product of abstract universalist notions completely detached from any observable reality. Such is the nature of the utopian vision of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” It is a completely artificial and unnatural fabrication, like its other products, feminism and gay marriage, for example.

    Belief in “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” is an act of faith. Like Communism, it is a contrived substitute for religion that has become a religion of its own. Such “religions” require extreme amounts of bloodshed in the end.

    Deo Vindice

  5. “No one had any idea of the consequences of emancipation. It was the product of abstract universalist notions completely detached from any observable reality.”

    Great point! In a sane society, well prior to any major social engineering, there would be research performed, studies conducted, and test models run using smaller populations.
    As far as I know, this has never been done, even though our very civilization hangs in the balance, the future of our very children.

    Faith is a very dangerous thing outside of what is required for healthy devotion to God. Diversity, Multi-culturalism and equality are a collective religion that demands 100% faith from it’s followers without offering a shred of evidence.

  6. Before integrating the military would it have not been wise to form some all black units (ships, air squadrons, battalions, etc) and compare and contrast?

    Before integrating schools would it not have been wise to integrate one then compare to a non-integrated black and non-integrated white school to see if it was truly the way to go?

    Before allowing women on all submarines would it not have been smart to allow them to have one all to themselves to see the results?

    The simple fact is that the do-gooders all know exactly what such experiments would have produced and therefore, never considered them.

  7. “In a sane society, well prior to any major social engineering, there would be research performed, studies conducted, and test models run using smaller populations.”

    Rationalist fallacy alert. That just ain’t how the world works. If you can provide just one example of a social system set up on a rational basis like that, I’ll be more than happy to eat an extra large supersized helping of crow.

    Nations are organic entities, or they are not nations at all, including our own bedraggled “proposition nation,” which is really an imperial congeries of disparate nation states. Human beings are fundamentally irrational creatures.

    You are right, Wayne, in the liberal/progressive mind ideology trumps the facts every time. Most unscientifically, they refuse to consider contradictory facts and run away from the disagreeable truth as fast as they can. They will punish anyone who dares to raise a question with the utmost severity.

    “Before integrating the military would it have not been wise to form some all black units (ships, air squadrons, battalions, etc) and compare and contrast?”

    You mean like comparing the whites who won the battle of Midway in June 1942 with this:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/cover-up-of-townsville-mutiny-black-gis-turned-on-officers/story-e6frg8yo-1226268277783

    Deo Vindice

  8. HW says: This book is gradually turning me into a raging royalist.

    Welcome to the club. You’re not going to adopt another persona and head down a completely different side road for a couple of years, again, are ya?

    Just teasing with ya.

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