The issue of slavery has been touched upon often in the course of
history. The institution of slavery was addressed by French
intellectuals during the Enlightenment. Later, during the French
Revolution, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of
Man, which declared the equality of all men. Issues were raised
concerning the application of this statement to the French colonies in
the West Indies, which used slaves to work the land. As they had
different interests in mind, the philosophes, slave owners, and political
leaders took opposing views on the interpretation of universal equality.
Many of the philosophes, the leaders of the Enlightenment, were
against slavery. They held that all people had a natural dignity that
should be recognized. Voltaire, an 18th century philosophe, pointed out
that hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificing their lives just so
the Europeans could quell their new taste for sugar, te...