Olympe de Gouges was very vocal in her attacks on slavery. What about Manon Roland and Sophie de Grouchy? There is, unfortunately, very little to say.
Manon Roland, when she first began to work out her republican views in writing adopted a similar view:in an essay written in 1777 for the Academy of Besançon, Roland writes that no republic is perfect if it allows slavery, whether Helots in Sparta, or anywhere in the world where women are in (metaphorical) chains, ‘the rust of barbarity covers their proud masters and ruins them together. The poisoned breath of despotism destroys virtue in the bud’ [Roland 1864: 337]. But in her case, she does not even touch on the question of the men and women working as slaves in the French colonies. What makes France despotic, she says, is the existence of a king, and for France to become a republic all that needs happen is for the king to be removed from a position where he dominate the people of France. As a close friend and correspondent of Brissot, it is unlikely that she was unaware of the abolitionist movement, and it seems strange that she chose not to write about it, even in correspondence with Brissot. Perhaps her close involvement with her husband’s political career, and in particular his work at the ministry of the interior meant that her focus had to be elsewhere.
In Sophie de Grouchy’s case the absence of any writings of hers on slavery is probably just a function of the very small numbers of her writings we know of and have access to. We have strong reasons to believe, however, that she often worked with her husband, and Condorcet did write on slavery, twice. The first text was written before he knew Grouchy, in 1781, and published in Neufchatel under the pseudonym Joachim Schwartz. However, the text was reprinted in 1822 in an edition by Sophie de Grouchy, preceeded by Condorcet’s last work, the Sketch of Human Progress. It’s very likely that Grouchy had worked on the Sketch with Condorcet, and that she edited it, and made significant changes to the manuscript after his death. Indeed, a later editor, Arago, decided to discard her edition because it was not close enough to the manuscript Condorcet had left. So the fact that Sophie decided to print the work on slavery in the same edition as the work she’d helped write is significant: this is something she could stand by.
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