Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Schoelcher, Victor

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SCHOELCHER, Victor (shel'-ker), French statesman, b. in Paris, 21 July, 1804; d. there, 26 Dec., 1893. He was the son of a merchant, studied at the College Louis le Grand, became a journalist, opposing the government of Louis Philippe and making a reputation as a pamphleteer. After 1826 he devoted himself almost exclusively to advocacy of the abolition of slavery throughout the world, contributing a part of his large fortune to establish and promote societies for the benefit of the negro race. In 1829-'31 he made a journey to the United States, Mexico, and Cuba to study slavery, in 1840-'2 he visited for the same purpose the West Indies, and in 1845-7 Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and the west coast of Africa. On 3 March, 1848, he was appointed under-secretary of the navy, and caused a decree to be issued by the provisional government which acknowledged the principle of the enfranchisement of the slaves through the French possessions. As president of a commission, Schoelcher prepared and wrote the decree of 27 April, 1848, which enfranchised the slaves forever. He was elected to the legislative assembly in 1848 and 1849 for Martinique, and introduced a bill for the abolition of the death-penalty, which was to be discussed on the day on which Prince Napoleon made his coup d'état. After 2 Dec. he emigrated to London, and, refusing to take advantage of the amnesties of 1856 and 1869, returned to France only after the declaration of war with Prussia in 1870. Organizing a legion of artillery, he took part in the defence of Paris, and in 1871 he was returned to the national assembly for Martinique. In 1875 he was elected senator for life. His works include “De l'esclavage des noirs et de la législation coloniale” (Paris, 1833); “Abolition de l'esclavage” (1840); “Les colonies françaises de l'Amérique” (1842); “Les colonies étrangères dans l'Amérique et Hayti” (2 vols., 1843); “Histoire de l'esclavage pendant les deux dernières années” (2 vols., 1847); “La verité aux ouvriers et cultivateurs de la Martinique” (1850); “Protestation des citoyens français negres et mulatres contre des accusations calomnieuses” (1851); “Le procès de la colonie de Marie-Galante” (1851); and “La grande conspiration du pillage et du meurtre à la Martinique” (1875).