Term of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Jeffrey D. Burson

Committee Member 1

Christina D. Abreu

Committee Member 2

Robert K. Batchelor


Issues affecting France’s colonies came to the fore through critiques of social, political, and economic matters during the Late Enlightenment and French Revolutionary era of the late 1780s and early 1790s. Of all the questions France faced during this period, the colonial issues of slavery’s abolition and civil equality for the free people of color in the French Caribbean were among the most contentious. These two matters are most often characterized in the historiography of French abolitionism as separate issues. However, while the analysis of works by Condorcet and Grégoire on slavery and civil equality for the free people of color demonstrates that the works are related in their attacks on the colonial system’s racial hierarchy, the refutations of the defenders of slavery made a connection between abolitionism and the rights of the free people of color explicit. Examined in this study are the various discourses that took place from 1788-1791 between the writings of Condorcet and Grégoire and the rebuttals of the defenders of slavery. Of equal importance, the legislative debates in the National Assembly in 1791 between Grégoire and members of the Club Massiac, a group of slaveholders represented by deputies such as Malouet and Moreau de Saint-Méry, are also scrutinized. This study underscores how the issues of civil equality for the free people of color and the abolition of slavery became linked in the minds of those who believed that the preservation of France’s Caribbean colonial system hinged on maintenance of the racial hierarchy.

Research Data and Supplementary Material