Le discours d’un pasteur abolitionniste en son siècle : La cause des esclaves nègres (1789) de Benjamin-Sigismond Frossard

La cause des esclaves nègres (« The cause of negro slaves », 1789), written by the pastor Benjamin-Sigismond Frossard (1754-1830), is one of the very first great abolitionist works of the eighteenth century written in French. Nevertheless, to date its text as such has only received scant attention. As the present article shows, a rhetorical analysis of the work is revelatory of two different levels of reading. The first, superficial level of reading shows how the discourse of a pastor is now informed by arguments drawn from the field of political economy. Yet Frossard does not just summarise what the—primarily British—abolitionists have to say. Reading between the lines, a second level can be discerned that brings the reader closer to Frossard’s thinking. Here one discovers the primarily moral and religious sources of an engagement in abolitionism that was based on a reading of the gospels. For Frossard, where Justice and Utility meet, the latter is clearly dependent on the former—urging one, moreover, to a greater mobilisation for social and civil ‘regeneration.’ It was not as a man of the Enlightenment that Frossard engaged in his abolitionist work, but rather as a Christian, seeing in the ‘spirit’ of the eighteenth century a work of divine providence.