Caribbean History: Account for the emancipation of slaves in any one Caribbean territory. Territory choosen: French

Essay by speechless February 2004

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Subject: Caribbean History

Assignment: Account for the emancipation of slaves in any one Caribbean territory.

Territory choosen: French

Emancipation in the French West Indies (F.W.I) was administered in 1848 based upon the argument that slavery was inhumane. The discovery, emphasized in Victor Schoelcher's report, caused dissatisfaction among the public, which in turn placed pressure on the government. It is perhaps rather interesting that the humanitarians had in the French West Indies a stronger role in emancipating the slaves as in comparison to other territories.

Even before Victor Schoelcher's trip to the French colonies of Guadalupe, Martinique and French Guiana, the French had shown within their slave laws (Code Noir) that their attitude towards slaves was very different from their European counterparts. From as far back as 1685 the slave laws demonstrated a belief in humanity. Slaves were treated to some degree like free and non-white persons as far as religion was concern.

They were baptized and instructed as Catholics, were to observe Sundays and religious holidays, were to be married, and if baptized, to be buried in holy ground. E.V. Goveia notes, "The concubinage of free men with slaves were penalized, except in those cases where the irregular union was converted into marriage."(E.V. Goveia, "The West Indian slave laws of the 18th century" p:39) Also, slaves were not to be tortured and a master who had killed his slave was considered a criminal and tried as such.

Slave Conditions in both the 18th and 19th century however, did not meet the requirements of the Code Noir, even with its revision in the later half of the century. A colonist, Pierre Regis Dessalles admitted that many of the laws were largely ignored, especially the laws specifying marriage of slaves and food and clothing. The problem was planters mainly kept...