Marquis de Condorcet
The Marquis de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet to Lafayette, Basel, February 24, 1785:

I have just learned that you have honored my reflections on Negro slavery with your attention ...

No one on our continent has helped more than you, Monsieur le Marquis, to break those chains with which Europe endowed America.  Perhaps the glory of overthrowing the slavery that we have imposed on the unfortunate Africans is also demanded of you.  You would be, then, the liberator of two of the four parts of the world ...

Allow me, Monsieur le Marquis, to offer you my limited understanding.  In my Réflexions I told governments that did not listen to me what justice demanded of them, and I have thought it necessary to limit myself to that.  But I have looked into the same subject in other respects, and if you deign to occupy yourself with the noble undertaking, you will find me always at your command.

As one of France’s great Enlightenment philosophers, the Marquis de Condorcet was very much opposed to slavery.  The book referred to is his Réflexions sur l’esclavage des negres (Neufchâtel, 1781), which had been written to refute a justification of slavery published in Paris the year before.  Condorcet’s work systematically challenged all justifications for slavery, including the argument that it was necessary for the continued viability of colonial economies.

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