EMANCIPATION IN THE FRENCH CARIBBEAN
Slavery was first abolished by the French Revolutionary Government in 1790 but Napoleon restored it in 1803. In 1818, the French Government decided to abolish slavery but this was not put in effect til 1830. At the same time an amelioration plan was adopted but it was heavily resisted by the French planters (plantocracy).
Anti slavery movements in France began to emerge. One of these groups was 'The Society for the Abolition of slavery' which was formed by Victor Schoelcher a French humanitarian. The French West India Interest (organisation for planters) opposed the Society.
In 1838, the first emancipation bill was overturned by the French West India Interest. The Society sent a petition for immediate emancipation to the government. In 1848, all slaves in the French Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Croix, St Bartholomew, Tortuga, Haiti and French Guina) were freed based on Schoelcher's emancipation proposals. Slave owners were comoensated with 126 million francs. There was no apprenticeship system set up in the French colonies.
In A Colony of Citizens, Laurent Dubois has given us a fascinating account of the revolution in Guadeloupe. The history of the abortive abolition of slavery in Guadeloupe has attracted some attention in French scholarly circles, thanks to the recently passed 2002 bicentennial of the re-imposition of slavery there. To the extent that students of Latin America in the English-speaking world have noticed the revolutions in the French West Indies at all, the tendency has been to pay attention to the striking example of Saint-Domingue and assume that conditions in other colonies paralleled those found in the "pearl of the Antilles."
Laurent Dubois's work provides needed contrast to our easy over-generalization. For Guadeloupe was not Saint-Domingue. First, of course, the outcome was different--Saint-Domingue's slaves became Haiti's citizens, peasant...