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(en) France, UCL AL #318 - Haitian Revolution: In Paris, parliamentarians run behind events (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 25 Sep 2021 08:47:20 +0300

It took four to six months for the news to cross the Atlantic. And that the evolution of the balance of power in Santo Domingo has repercussions on the debates in the Assembly. The reverse was less true ... ---- In May 1789, the Estates General opened the era of parliamentary arenas in France. The powerful colonial lobby was contested there by an anti-slavery minority ... Until the slave insurrection settled the debate. ---- The pro-slavery lobby. Within it, two sensibilities, separated by a trade dispute: on the one hand the first deputies of Santo Domingo, white settlers demanding more power in the definition of customs rules ; on the other hand the Massiac hotel club, representing shipowners, port traders and owners residing in France, opposing this "autonomism". The Massiac club, more powerful, more informed, could count on influential deputies like Barnave and Lameth, and on an ideologue very familiar with the realities of Domingo: Moreau de Saint-Méry. After the abolition of slavery in 1794, the club was banned and its members prosecuted.

Antiracists and abolitionists. Some deputies were members of the Society of Black Friends, founded in 1788: Brissot, Mirabeau, Abbé Grégoire, Lafayette, Condorcet... They relied on the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789 to claim the civil rights of Blacks and Mulattoes free. They also argued for a ban on trafficking, which they believed would lead to the gradual extinction of slavery. This last idea, which passed for advanced in 1789-1790, was to be completely overcome as soon as the slave revolt raised the question of immediate "general freedom".

Procrastination. Until the turn of 1792, the majority of deputies listened to each other, without a definitive opinion, alternating advances and setbacks. Thus, in May 1791 they voted civic equality for the free Mulattoes of the second generation ; in September they revoked the decree. The slave insurrection changed everything. It was necessary to close the ranks of the free, by granting civic equality to the free of color: this was the law of April 4, 1792.

After the civic equality law of April 4, 1792, deputies of color were elected to the National Assembly.
Drawing by Jean-Baptiste Lesueur / Carnavalet museum
Abolition. In August 1793, cornered, the republican authorities in Santo Domingo proclaimed "general freedom", in the hope of rallying the mass of enslaved Africans. Six months later, in Paris, the Convention, dumbfounded, listened to the three new deputies from Santo Domingo - a White (Dufay), a Mulâtre (Mills) and a Black (Belley) -, freshly disembarked, recount the course that had taken the events in the colony. The deputies then voted, unanimously and to acclamation, the abolition of slavery in all the French colonies. It was February 4, 1794, in one of those moments of euphoria of which the Convention had the secret, mixing nobility of ideals and well-understood interests: "It is today that the English is dead. " , Congratulated Danton.

Republican playing cards, celebrating the abolition of slavery in 1794.
"Equality of color", "equality of rank". BNF
Suites. Thanks to a royalist resurgence, the colonial lobby was reconstituted in the parliamentary assemblies of the Directory (1795-1799) around Villaret-Joyeuse and Vaublanc who, in May 1797, uttered a violently racist and pro-slavery diatribe. In front of them stood the multicolored group of deputies from the colonies, including Belley, General Laveaux, Sonthonax and Mentor, Dessalines' future aide-de-camp.

Reaction. Bonaparte's coup d'état at the end of 1799 put an end to parliamentarism. The legislative body, whose deputies were selected by the government, was only a registration chamber. In spite of this, on May 20, 1802, there were still 63 deputies out of 274 to vote against the reestablishment of slavery.

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

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