Slavery During The Enlightenment

1929 Words 8 Pages
During a time when the ideas of freedom and natural rights were emphasized, justice was truly not universally applied. This time occurred during the Age of Enlightenment when people were reimagining their previously held ideas with new ideas that felt more humane for society. These new ideas supposedly would shape their actions and culture, but they would be scarcely used in society. The irony of these “enlightened” ideas clearly showed itself through the practice of slavery. At the time of pre- Enlightenment, slavery widely existed. Slavery became something that was widely opposed because of the Enlightenment, but actions were not carried out extensively against it. The ideas of the Enlightenment created strong new beliefs towards the inhumanity …show more content…
Modern views hold that slavery is a despicable act of mankind and has been detested unlike during the Enlightenment when slavery was considered necessary. The main group of people taken advantage of as slaves were Africans. Estimates show around twelve million slaves were taken into labor and forced into strenuous labor. Africans were unfairly taken advantage of because they were sometimes taken on false premises. These people thought they were going to be taught how to become civilized people and learn Christianity. Eventually they learned that they had been tricked into something more severe (Schaps). Slavery previously had been an ancient tradition until the Portuguese began to use captured Africans as slaves in the New World (“Abolitionism”). One man named Jacques-Henri Bernardin De Saint-Pierre proclaimed the reason for slavery was due to the growing European markets for coffee and sugar (Warman 79). This led to the emergence of slaves as the backbone of European society. Without slaves white men had to work, but with slaves they lived comfortable lives. This caused the next time generation of slave owners to not know how to work and they would be fully reliant on slaves. They would know cruelty more than they knew how to work (Warman 81). Lucy Mayblin points out in her article “Never Look Back: Political Thought and the Abolition of Slavery” the following about slavery. “What right do we derive from any human institution, or any divine ordinance to tear …show more content…
Such examples of slave resistance were found in the Saint Domingue slave revolution in the Caribbean. In this revolution slaves fought for Enlightenment ideas such as liberty. The revolution caused reforms to be made in favor of slaves in 1791. King Louis XIV enacted the Code Noir to benefit slaves (Warman 79). The king was helpful to improve conditions for slaves through new laws. Some of the laws were removing the use of whips and three days off of working per week. Another law proclaimed that if a slave was killed by their master then the master would be considered a murderer. Something else that improved conditions for slaves was that they were allowed to have a garden and could receive food from their boss, but this was very unlikely. These rules seemed to be beneficial for slaves, but they were ineffective because they were not enforced. Slaves could not do anything about this in the Caribbean because they were shunned by the courts. These reforms caused the eventual abolition of slavery in the Caribbean in 1793 (Dubois 11-13). Unlike most slave owners, some owners improved the lives of their slaves. They did this through teaching them particular jobs that required a certain skill making them more valuable workers. This skill was then passed through a slave’s family and would become their job. Also, because this skill was passed down through a family it helped to

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