Word Count: 401There 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.