Vincent Oge calls for the abolition of slavery in the colonies (1790)


In 1790 Vincent Oge, a wealthy mulatto [half-breed] from Saint-Domingue [Haiti], was in Paris. Oge addressed a committee of the National Assembly on the abolition of slavery:


“Sirs, this word ‘freedom’ that one cannot pronounce without enthusiasm, this word that carries with it the idea of happiness, is this not because it seems to want to make us forget the evils that we have suffered for so many centuries? This freedom, the greatest, the first of goods, is it made for all men, I believe. Should it be given to all men? I believe so again. But how should it be rendered? What should be the timing and the conditions?

Here is for us, sirs, the greatest, the most important of all questions. It interests America, Africa, France, all Europe and it is principally this question that has determined me, Sirs, to ask you to hear me out.

If we do not take the most prompt and efficacious measures; if firmness, courage, and constancy do not animate all of us; if we do not quickly bring together all our intelligence, all our means, and all our efforts; if we fall asleep for an instant on the edge of the abyss, we will tremble upon awakening! We will see blood flowing, our lands invaded, the objects of our industry ravaged, our homes burnt. We will see our neighbours, our friends, our wives, our children with their throats cut and their bodies mutilated; the slave will raise the standard of revolt, and the islands will be but a vast and baleful conflagration; commerce will be ruined, France will receive a mortal wound, and a multitude of honest citizens will be impoverished and ruined; we will lose everything.

But sirs, there is still time to prevent the disaster. I have perhaps presumed too much from my feeble understanding, but I have ideas that can be useful. If the [Saint-Domingue] assembly wishes to admit me, if it desires it, if it wants to empower me to draw up and submit to it my plan, I will do it with pleasure, even with gratitude. Perhaps I could contribute and help ward off the storm that rumbles over our heads.”