Pétion de Villeneuve
Discours sur la traite des noirs
Desenne, Bailly, Regnault, Brunet
Abolition Campaigns
Anti-Slavery International, 'Recovered Histories' collection. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. British Library. Biblioteca Nacional de España.
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Speech Slave Trade Abolition French National Assembly Amis Noirs Reports British Parliament Carra Observations
Pétion de Villeneuve, revolutionary leader and member of the Amis des Noirs, proposed this speech calling for the abolition of the slave trade to the French National Assembly in April 1790. He based his argument on "the most certain facts and incontestable figures" (1) taken from travel narratives and the eye-witness reports. Pétion defends the abolitionist movements from accusations of hypocrisy. He describes philanthropists like Clarkson as "the real heroes that a free constitution produces" (7), and praises the trading and manufacturing towns in Britain that petitioned, against their own interests, in favour of abolition. He uses a number of European sources to recount the capture, transportation and sale of the enslaved, such as Falconbridge, Clarkson, Frossard, and a Swedish eye witness to the trade in Africa. Although he argues that the humanitarian argument should be enough to condemn the slave trade, Pétion also offers some practical arguments against it, including crew mortality and bankruptcy rates of those financing the trade. He calls for a thorough parliamentary enquiry into the subject in France.
The abolitionist seal with the kneeling slave and the slogan "Ne suis-je pas ton frère?" (Am I not your brother?) is printed on the title page. The pamphlet also includes 'Observations de M. Carra, sur l’abolition de la traite des Noirs’ (72-80). Like Pétion, Carra calls for a parliamentary commission to enquire into the slave trade and the welfare of slaves in the French colonies.