Alexis de
L'Emancipation des esclaves
Le Siècle
Abolition Campaigns
Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Kongelige Bibliotek, Danmark. Biblioteca Nacional de España. British Library.
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Emancipation Slaves France Colonies Caribbean Article Abolitionism Slavery
These six articles were published in the journal Le Siècle, between 23rd October and 15th December 1843. In them, de Tocqueville examines the unprecedented rise of abolitionism in European politics since the 1780s and the prospect of ending slavery, following Britain's example. He argued that France would need to abolish slavery in order to retain her colonies, and goes on to examine the commercial and strategic value of the colonies, concluding pragmatically that abolition would be worth the initial trouble in the long term. De Tocqueville also claims national ownership of the concepts of liberty and equality, suggesting that by abolishing slavery the British had usurped France's position as leading European defenders of modernity and progress, becoming 'more French than the French' (275). Over the course of six articles, de Tocqueville looks at how Britain abolished slavery, the successes and failures of emancipation, and the lessons that France should learn.
In Alexis de Tocqueville, Œuvres complètes, vol.9 (Paris: Michel Lévy frères, 1864-66), 265-98. De Tocqueville was also the author of a commissioned report on slavery in France's colonies: 'Rapport fait à la chambre des députés, au nom de la commission chargée d’examiner la proposition de M. de Tracy, relative aux esclaves des colonies (23 juillet 1839)', Œuvres complètes, vol.9, 227-64. This report was discussed at a committee meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in January 1840 (Rhodes House Library, Oxford). See also Seymour Drescher, 'La réforme sans la révolution: l'abolitionnisme selon Tocqueville', in O. Pétré-Grenouilleau, Abolir l'esclavage: Un réformisme à l'épreuve (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes,2008), 41-55.