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One of the good bits of the French Revolution

August 4th was one of the good anniversary dates of the French Revolution, argues our own Paul Marks. Here is his comment from a year ago, explaining why.

6 comments to One of the good bits of the French Revolution

  • Kevin

    The Jacobins abolished slavery in 1794, the beginning of the end of slavery among European nations. Moves towards legal equality for women began with the French revolution. From a libertartian point of view the French Revolution deserves two cheers.

  • Ostralion

    The reason that French and American patriots argue so much and don’t get on is because each wants their country’s Revolution to be the seminal event of the modern world.
    They would both be wrong.
    Can anyone give a definitive date for the Industrial revolution, which was embraced whole-heartedly by Britain? This would be the true start of the age of Emancipation!

  • Ostralion

    If there is no fixed date for the Industrial Revolution, why not use August !st? In 1833, the British Empire liberated slaves everywhere in the Empire, and have not repealed that law, unlike the French, who found that they wanted slaves to run their plantations in what is now Haiti. Napoleon brought slavery back, as I recall.
    If we can find a date for when the Anti-slavery Society formed, that might be a better date to celebrate Liberty.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    Constitution of the State of Vermont 09 Jul 1793:

    … therefore no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.

    Vermont Constitution

    Also: Act Against Slavery, 1793


  • mike

    Good shout Ostralion, I wouldn’t put a fixed date on it though.

  • Paul Marks

    There were many efforts to rule slavery illegal in England and Wales (Scotland has a different legal system), but there were still a handful of imported slaves till Lord Mansfield’s judgement of 1774 (Dr Johnson, and other unkind people, implied that fear that an anti slavery policy would be applied in the American colonies was one reason for the War of Independence – that and a fear of a pro Indian policy concerning land).

    Of course America had its own anti slavery movement, and right from the start.

    For example Roger Williams (the 17th century founder of Rhode Island) was anti slavery. Even Georgia (“Gone With The Wind” and all that) was founded in 1732 by a man, James Oglethope who tried to exclude slavery.

    And, of course, Judge Sewall’s “Selling Joseph” was published in 1700 – yes I know that Sewall was the judge at the Selam witch trials (although it was not just a question of being right on slavery, Sewall was the only judge to ever stand up and confess that he believed he had been wrong and that the accused were innocent of witchcraft – he was not under pressue to do that, in fact most of the colony wanted to sweep everything under the carpet and pretend it had never happened).

    In Pennsylvannia slavery(what little there was) was broken in 1780 (a problem for Dr Johnson’s argumenet) and in New York a few years later.

    John Adams stated that he had never owned a slave even when slavery was considered legal in Mass (“considered” as Adams, like Salmon P. Chase the best part of a century later, held that “slavery” was in fact a series of common law offences).

    As for the Jacobins:

    They considered EVERYONE a slave of the state (black, white, green – it made no difference to them).

    They were no more “antislavery” (in the Libertarian sense) than the Spartans they so admired – the Spartans also opposed the notion that anyone could own a slave individually. The helots were owned collectivelly – or rather the legal fiction was maintained that the state of Sparta was at war with them (the war was formally proclaimed every year) – so they could be maltreated (indeed even murdered) by Spartans without right of appeal to the law courts.

    There were no individual rights AGAINST the community (“the people” – this meaning the Jacobin clubs of course) to the Jacabins – so “two cheers”, no.