From the founding of the black law to the abolition of slavery, centuries of barbarism

Mr. / Nice / Faiza bin Mohammed

This Tuesday, May 10, marks in France the “National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade, Slavery and Its Abolition” by the Toubira Law, adopted in 2001.

This very important legislative text, endorsed by Jacques Chirac, in particular in his first Article, recognizes, “that the transatlantic slave trade as well as the slave trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and slavery on the other, are committed by those in the fifteenth century, in the Americas and the region The Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe, constitutes a crime against humanity against the African, American Indian, Malagasy and Indian populations.

If today’s festivities are organized, everywhere in France, by the authorities to commemorate the end of slavery, the duty of memory remains necessary in order to pass on to the younger generations the historical elements that gave rise to this barbarism, and this is what allowed France to do so. Put an end to it.

Slavery and the Slave Trade: Centuries of Violence

Slavery, which has been practiced by many societies for centuries, can take two aspects: domestic and commercial.

Thus those who engaged in such practices reduced other human beings to slavery by making them servants, but also by commercial use which allowed them to create market wealth intended to enrich themselves.

The slave trade takes a completely different side. It is “the kidnapping and trafficking of blacks out of Africa, followed by their deportation to destinations where these men, women and children are converted into slavery” as the Monument to the Abolition of Slavery on De Nantes notes on its online portal.

This same source indicates that there were three types of slave trade: the inland African slave trade that “provided servants, porters, and agricultural workers,” and the Islamic slave trade that took place from the seventh to the twentieth centuries “towards Arabia and Arabia. The trans-Saharan slave trade destined for to North Africa and the Middle East”, and the transatlantic slave trade organized by Europeans bound for America in particular.

If the number of victims of the internal African slave trade is not determined with certainty, the Islamic slave trade and the Atlantic slave trade would result in as many as 12 million victims each.

In France, the black law is an indelible trace of racism at its peak

In June 2020, France was the scene of several demonstrations against police violence. Activists who regularly denounce these practices point out that historically this violence has targeted non-white, and therefore immigrant populations.

In their demands, many of them demanded the removal of several statues representing French political figures, and that the statue of Colbert, adjacent to the National Assembly, be placed in front of them.

And with good reason, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Louis XIV, is the author of the “Black Law” of 1685, which makes slaves in particular, “moving beings”, through Article 44 of it.

“The fugitive slave who shall be on the run for a month, starting from the day his master denounced him before justice, shall have his ears cut off, and he shall be marked with the sign of fleur de lis on his shoulder; Liz on the other shoulder; and the third time, he will be punished with death “so that section 38 of this law legalizes black on white, and corporal punishment of slaves.

– 1848: Abolition of slavery

“The first abolition of slavery by France dates back to February 4, 1794. For the first time in history, the National Congress proclaimed the abolition of slavery, nearly four years after the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Rights of Man. Citizen,” but this,” applied in all colonies French, with the exception of Bourbon Island and Mascarene, was abolished in 1802, ”, notes the National Assembly, in an article devoted to events.

The final abolition decree, issued on April 27, 1848, stated that “Slavery is an assault on human dignity. […] By destroying the free will of man, it abolishes the natural principle of right and duty; […] It is a flagrant violation of the republican creed: liberty, equality, fraternity.”

The text formally forbids “any corporal punishment, any sale to persons not free” and states that “the land of France frees any slave it touches”.

Note that “the principal instigator of this action, Victor Schulcher, was elected representative of the people in Guadeloupe and Martinique.”

“By choosing Martinique, he brought to the National Constituent Assembly Louise Matthew, his fellow-candidate in Guadeloupe, a former slave and printmaker of a printing house in Pointe-a-Pitre, thirty-one years old, of whom Henry Wallon was his deputy.” , also notes the Bourbon Palace on his website.

– Memories and soothing gestures

Since the Tobira law making slavery a crime against humanity, May 10 marks Remembrance Day.

In 2021, President Emmanuel Macron was widely criticized for the way he celebrated events.

He attended the solemn celebration in the Luxembourg Gardens, and the head of state did not talk about it.

“Silence can be solemn. However, it is still clear that the President of the Republic has not found anything to say about more than two centuries of French history,” said Christiane Toubira, who attended the celebration and was quoted by France TV.

The former Keeper of the Seals remarked: “Five days ago, he was doing the scales with Napoleon Bonaparte. So, we have the right to have the fascination we want, that is, even when we have a cult of heroes, it is an era that is not lacking in heroic personalities.”

However, in his speech on May 10, 2019, he denounced the “atrocity of slavery” before saluting the “honor of resistance” against trafficking and the “happiness of emancipation.”

“It is a French story. A world history,” he declared, before promising “a monument in the heart of Paris, a museum with enhanced influence” that should see the light of day in the Tuileries Garden.

At the same time with this issue of slavery, it is important to note that Emmanuel Macron has multiplied, over the past three years, memorial gestures, especially directed at Algeria to come to terms with its past.

However, he was very clear on the question of monuments and statues of figures associated with slavery.

None of it will be “undone” and “not erased” from the history of France.

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