Citizen Soldiers: Emancipation and Military Service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean

TitleCitizen Soldiers: Emancipation and Military Service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDubois, Laurent
EditorBrown, Christopher Leslie, and Philip D. Morgan
Book TitleArming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age
Pagination233 - 254
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT
Abstract

Arming slaves as soldiers is a counterintuitive idea. Yet throughout history, in many varied societies, slaveholders have entrusted slaves with the use of deadly force. The book Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age is the first to survey the practice broadly across space and time, encompassing the cultures of classical Greece, the early Islamic kingdoms of the Near East, West and East Africa, the British and French Caribbean, the United States, and Latin America.To facilitate cross-cultural comparisons, each chapter addresses four crucial issues: the social and cultural facts regarding the arming of slaves, the experience of slave soldiers, the ideological origins and consequences of equipping enslaved peoples for battle, and the impact of the practice on the status of slaves and slavery itself. What emerges from the book is a new historical understanding: the arming of slaves is neither uncommon nor paradoxical but is instead both predictable and explicable. The chapter, Citizen Soldiers: Emancipation and Military Service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean written by Laurent Dubois is contained in the book. During the 1790s, a global conflict erupted between France and Britain. Taking advantage of the conflicts within the French colonies, the British achieved one victory after another. They invaded Saint Domingue in September 1793 and soon overran Guadeloupe and Martinique. The decree of emancipation passed by the National Convention in Paris in February 1794 transformed the conflict into a war over the existence of slavery itself. This chapter examines the mobilization of armies of citizen-soldiers during the French Revolution and how military service provided many men with unprecedented opportunities for social mobility based on merit rather than background. It looks at the recruitment of free coloreds and ex-slaves into the armies of the Republic and its impact on social structure and politics, as well as the French military campaign against three British colonies in the Eastern Caribbean: St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent. Finally, the chapter discusses the coexistence between military service in the army and military service of the sailors who manned the republican corsairs.

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191733471

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