been touched upon often in the course of history. The
institution of slavery was addressed by French intellectuals
during the Enlightenment. Later, during the French
Revolution, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of
the Rights of Man, which declared the equality of all men.
Issues were raised concerning the application of this
statement to the French colonies in the West Indies, which
used slaves to work the land. As they had different interests
in mind, the philosophes, slave owners, and political leaders
took opposing views on the interpretation of universal
equality. Many of the philosophes, the leaders of the
Enlightenment, were against slavery. They held that all
people had a natural dignity that should be recognized.
Voltaire, an 18th century philosophe, pointed out that
hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificing their lives
just so the Europeans could quell their new taste for sugar,
tea and cocoa. A similar view was taken by Rousseau, who
stated that he could not bear to watch his fellow human
beings be changed to beasts for the service of others.
Religion entered into the equation when Diderot, author of
the Encyclopedia, brought up the fact that the Christian
religion was fundamentally opposed to Black slavery but
employed it anyway in order to work the plantations that
financed their countries. All in all, those influenced by the
ideals of the Enlightenment, equality, liberty, the right to
dignity, tended to oppose the idea of slavery. Differing from
the philosophes, the political leaders and property owners
tended to see slavery as an element that supported the
economy. These people believed that if slavery and the slave
trade were to be abolished, the French would lose their
colonies, commerce would collapse and as a result the
merchant marine, agriculture and the arts would decline....