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The skin color is (always) regarded as the most visible indication of the breed. Moreover, the conqueror always feels, in every place, an innate feeling of his superiority over the conqueror. “And over the centuries, the white nations were always conquerors: the
The practice of slavery then followed, as an inevitable consequence. However,
XVIth century, Ronsard launches “a cry of pity” in favor of these non-white races. But it was above all the philosophers of the eighteenth century who dared to open the struggle against these ready-made ideas.
In his “Philosophical and Political History of Establishments and Trade of Europeans in the Two Indies” (a dozen editions from 1774 to 1784), Abbe Raynal contributed largely to new views. It combines very closely the economic advantages with the moral motives. Above all, he considered colonial work to be “a pooling of the resources of mankind”.
“He (this great event of the discovery of the two Indies) has procured for some empires vast domains which have given to the founding states brilliance, power, and wealth. But what has it not cost them to show, to govern, or to defend these distant possessions? When these colonies have attained the degree of culture, light, and population which suits them, will they not detach themselves from a country which had founded its splendor over their prosperity? What will be the epoch of this revolution? It is not known, But it must be done. “
Speaking of Madagascar, Abbe Raynal begins with the diversity of his population, which proves “that they did not all emerge from a common stock”. Addressing his political organization, he points out that the Great Island is divided into “several tribes”, very localized, independent of one another and governed according to their customs.
“A chief sometimes elective, sometimes hereditary, and sometimes usurping, enjoys a considerable degree of authority. However, it can only undertake the war by the admission of the principal members of the State, or support it only with the contributions and voluntary efforts of its peoples … “
Abbe Raynal then spoke of their temperament. “Few nations bear pain and unpleasant events with as much patience as the Madcasse. The very sight of death, of which education has not accustomed them to dread the consequences, does not trouble them. “
And to explain: “It is perhaps a consolation for them to have the certainty that they will not be forgotten when they have ceased to exist. Respect for the ancestors is carried further … It is common to see men of all ages going to weep over the tombs of their fathers and asking them for advice in the most interesting actions of life. “
He is also their advocate because the Malagasy are accused (“calumniated”) of being a “ferocious nation”, on a small number of isolated acts “of passion and rage”. This is false because, according to the author, they are “naturally” sociable, lively and cheerful, welcoming travelers “treated like brothers” who penetrate inland, help them in their needs. Even on the coasts where distrust is generally greater, navigators seldom undergo aggression.
“Twenty-four Arab families, who formerly had usurped the empire in the province of Anosy, enjoyed it for a long time without any trouble, and lost it in 1771, without being driven out, massacred, or oppressed. Finally, the language of these islanders lends itself easily to the expression of the most tender sentiments; And it is a very favorable prejudice of the
Gentleness of their morals, of their sociability … “
Abbe Raynal also envisages the possibilities offered by the island to France and proposes a program that she will have to carry out. “It is by the sweet way of persuasion, by the advantages of our police, by the enjoyments of our industry, by the superiority of our genius, that we must bring the whole island to an end equally useful to both nations . “
He already spoke of legislation adapted to manners, character and climate, as well as a gradual change.