Museum and the man
Victor Schoelcher Museum
Every day since we’ve been here we have said “shall we go today”, finally we did visit the museum at midday to find a sticker on the door - closed until 14:00, so after a mooch around the town we finally got in.
The history of the museumstarts in London on the 30th September 1883: Victor Schoelcher, aged 79 was living in Chelsea surrounded by his books and the objects he had brought back from his voyages. He wrote to the President of the General Council of Guadeloupe Guillot “I have the honour to offer to Guadeloupe a collection of sculptures which I have been collecting little by little for many years”. It is this collection which is on exhibit for the princely sum of 2 Euros entry, inaugurated on the 21st of July 1887. The museum was renovated in 1998 for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the colonies.
Victor Schoelcher was born in Paris on the 22nd of July 1804into an Alsatian family of Fessenheim, whose trade was the manufacture of fine porcelain. He was sent to the Americas from 1829-30 by the family's commercial house, he visited Mexico, Cuba, and the southern United States. In 1829, he attended for the first time, the sale of prisoners and visited some of the slave plantations. That voyage produced several studies of American slave society which appeared in the Revue de Paris ("Letters from Mexico", "The Blacks"). This began a long career as an abolitionist writer. A series of articles followed between 1833 and 1847: De esclavage des noirs et de la législation coloniale (1833), Abolition de l'ésclavage: examen critique du préjugé contre la couleur des Africains et des sang-mêlés (1840), Des colonies françaises: Abolition immédiate de l'esclavage (1842), Colonies étrangères et Haïti: résultats de l'émancipation anglaise (1842-43), Histoire de l'esclavage pendant des deux dernières années (1847).
Slaves grinding the juice out of a sugar cane. A strange but apparently fashionable thing to collect was death masks of actual "celebrities". From left to right top, then bottom rows: Charles XII, Oliver Cromwell, Dante Allighiere (a poet), Henri de Saint-Simon, Cardinal Mazarin, Mirabeau (a French revolutionary), Asitelphie de Cuisine (a writer), Sir Isaac Newton, and two unnamed. Some figurines. A mixed bag???
Neck chain, ankle chain, model of a slave ship, with cut away sections showing 'slave stowage'.
Slaves working the sugar fields, real slaves and a diagram of a slave ship.
His writings between 1841 and 1848 focused on the advantages from the abolition of slavery, drawn from a long comparative analysis of the results of emancipation in the British colonies (1834-38), the often pointed and precise denunciation of the "anti-social enormities of colonists", and the elaboration of a project of social, economic, and political reorganization of the colonies after the juridical suppression of the slavery system. Advocating the rationalization of sugar production by the construction of large central factories, establishment of credit agencies in the colonies, a movement of concentration of land parallel with the constitution of a category of part-time agricultural workers, Schoelcher recommend finally a recourse to immigration of European farmers to the colonies. Engaged since his youth in the republican movement, a free mason, member of the society "Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera", Schoelcher was a regular contributor to La Réforme.
An actual page from a slave manifest, showing name, age and sex, a couple of plates representing the plight of slaves and a bust of a female slave in ropes.
Artists impressions and old photos of real slaves. The last is of Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, English abolitionists.
Napoleon III. Slaves including an elderly lady called Marie-Claire and lastly Marc Victor's dad.
The first European abolitionist to visit Haiti after independence, he alone recognized and markedly influenced all three phases of the abolitionist process in the French Caribbean colonies: the pre-abolitionist period, the juridical abolition, and long post-slavery period. His actions in 1848 as under Secretary of State for colonies in the Provisional Government - this function named by François Aragoto, his presidency of the commission for the abolition of slavery and the preparation, under his direction of the French decree abolishing slavery of the 27th of April 1848, which made slaves "newly freed" and "new citizens" and gave birth to a republican political movement in Guadeloupe and Martinique, "Schoelcherism". The "Schoelcherist" tendency, especially strong in Guadeloupe, received a majority of votes in legislative elections between 1848 and 1850 and after 1871. Closely tied to local free masons, the Schoelcherist current sustained the appearance of a republican press in the French colonies during 1849.
Copies of newspaper articles about the struggle for the abolition of slavery
Schoelcher was the foremost French specialist on the Caribbean in general and on colonial questions in the 19th century. Exceptionally well informed by his political functions and by his membership on all the commissions which the Ministry of Marine and Colonies formed between 1848 and 1851 and after 1871, he fashioned a network of correspondents throughout the entire Caribbean, Great Britain, and the United States. In the National Assembly, Schoelcher sat on the extreme left. In 1849 he wrote his electors in La Vérité aux ouvriers et aux cultivateurs de la Martinique, "Above all one is never pardoned for being called a 'montagnard,' a socialist. . . . (That is not) because I am one but rather I was a socialist that they so label me." Schoelcher analyzed no less minutely the political effervescence experienced in the French Caribbean colonies. He published notably Le procès de Marie-Galante in 1850.
Opposed to the coup d'état of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte of December 2, 1851, Schoelcher went into exile in Belgium and London until 1870, refusing the amnesty of 1859. This period generated a friendship with Victor Hugo. He published a Histoire des crimes du 2 décembre in 1852, Le gouvernement du 2 décembre in 1853, Dangers to England of the alliance with the men of the Coup d'Etat in 1854, and a Vie de Handel in 1857. The manuscript of Massacres dans Paris which he wrote in London only appeared in 1872 in Paris.
More statistics including import of flour etc.
Schoelcher and "schloelcherism" created in 1848 a myth, the myth of slavery, saviour of the colonial population bound in servitude, defender of civil rights which recognized the decree of abolition of 1848. The myth of colonial assimilation, the principle of the inheritance of 1789, European colonists and colonial administrators have judged dangerously "revolutionary" since that period. The carrier of profound contradictions, the myth has been narrowly associated with the ambiguities of the French republican movement's attitude toward colonial questions. Victor Schoelcher died in 1893 after having written on colonial developments during two-thirds of the 19th century and protesting against the clandestine slave trade and survivals of slavery. He published a collection of his articles entitled Polémique coloniale in 1882-86 and a Vie de Tousaint Louverture, his last work, in 1889.
Victor died in Houilles, France on Christmas Day 1893. First buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Schoelcher's remains were transferred on the 20th of May 1949 to the Pantheon. At the same time, Felix Eboue's ashes were also transferred (the first black Governor General mentioned in the Pointe-a-Pitre-Pitre blog). In homage to his fight against slavery, the commune of Case-Navire (Martinique) took the name of Schoelcher on 1888. The commune of Fessenheim have made his family's house into the Victor Schoelcher museum.
ALL IN ALL a good man who not only fought against slavery but offered alternatives so productivity was maintained.