What is the Abolition of Slavery in French Revolution?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The National Convention in France passed a bill Abolition of Slavery in the French Revolution on 4 February 1794. However, Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul, repealed the law in 1802 as it had no natural effect. The British prompted European countries to forbid the slave trade, also known as people’s trade and shipping, in 1815. The slave trade continued prudently in Portugal, Spain, and France.

Abolition of Slavery in the French Revolution

The triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa, and the Americas began in the 17th century to address the labor shortage on plantations. From the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes, French merchants traveled to the coast of Africa, where they received enslaved people from regional chiefs.

  • Enslaved people were branded, chained, and bundled into ships for a three-month journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
  • They were bought by the planters there. Thus the slave trade in France has a long history.
  • Slavery in France received minimal criticism throughout the 18th century.
  • The National Assembly held lengthy discussions about whether human rights should be given to all French people, including the colonies.
  • However, it refrained from doing so due to concerns of a backlash from businesses whose livelihoods depended on the slave trade.
  • In 1794, the Convention passed legislation that abolished slavery in all French overseas holdings.
  • However, this trend did not last long.
  • Napoleon reinstated slavery in 1804 after a ten-year absence, and it was finally outlawed in French territories in 1848.

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