Decree of the National Convention of 4 February 1794, Abolishing Slavery in all the Colonies

News traveled slowly from the colonies back to France, and the first word of the emancipations in Saint Domingue aroused suspicion if not outright hostility in the National Convention. Many of the original members of the Society of the Friends of Blacks, such as Lafayette, Brissot, and Condorcet, had either fled the country or gone to their deaths at the guillotine for opposing the faction now dominant in the National Convention, led by Robespierre. Three delegates—a free black, a white, and a mulatto—from Saint Domingue explained the situation to the National Convention on 4 February 1794. Their report provoked spontaneous enthusiasm, and the deputies promptly voted to abolish slavery in all the colonies. Their decree helped win over the rebellious slaves to the side of the French against the British and Spanish.


The National Convention declares the abolition of Negro slavery in all the colonies; in consequence it decrees that all men, without distinction of color, residing in the colonies are French citizens and will enjoy all the rights assured by the constitution.

It asks the Committee of Public Safety to make a report as soon as possible on the measures that should be taken to assure the execution of the present decree.

Source: The materials listed below appeared originally in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Lynn Hunt (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996), 115–116.