Thermidor, slavery, and the affaire des colonies

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The Thermidorian Convention repealed most of the radical social legislation passed prior to the overthrow of Robespierre, especially if it involved challenges to the right of property. Surprisingly, however, the Thermidorians maintained the Montagnard Convention's decision to abolish slavery and grant citizenship rights to the black populations of the French Caribbean colonies. "It is the one act of justice that tyranny had you pass," the conservative spokesman François Antoine Boissy d'Anglas told his colleagues. The Thermidorians thus inaugurated a tradition of republican imperialism that would continue until the mid-twentieth century. The Thermidorians' support of abolitionism was partly pragmatic-by the end of 1794 France's chances of defending the colonies of Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe against the British depended on armies of former slaves-but it also reflected the fact that many of the Thermidorians had sympathized with Brissot's campaign against racial hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
Number of pages22
JournalFrench Historical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by Society for French Historical Studies.


  • Abolition
  • Constitution of the Year III
  • Slavery
  • Thermidorians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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