Can it ever be legitimate to deprive the human species of its most sacred rights only for the sake of greed, vanity or one’s own passions? It cannot… Let the colonies be destroyed rather than result in so much misery!

A lecture after reading-aloud workshops :

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the motto of the Republic at the time of Revolutions in France and Haiti.

For us not to forget history, the power of words
By Florence Gauthier, historienne*, Université Paris 7-Denis Diderot.



Words, notions, concepts and their practice have a history that is unavoidably full of contradictions. The word equality still conveys both enthusiasm and fright. It has recently been subjected to various attempts to find substitutes: equity, solidarity, equal opportunity, all pointing to a move away from politics. Let us go back to the motto of the republic of natural rights, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the motto of France when it was free, from 1789 to 1794, of Haiti when it was independent, from 1789 to 1804. Motherland of New World Africans and of their descendants. Those three words, now often only a neglected inscription on the walls and pediments of public institutions, carry a political statement that brings together the right to resist oppression, whether for individuals, peoples or indeed humankind. Their heartbeat still resonates…

During the lecture historical texts [Jaucourt, Diderot, Voltaire, Toussaint Louverture, Bonaparte] were read by pupils at Lycée Georges Leygues and by adult participants in the workshop Nous sommes la Ville [We are the City] proposed by the Company.

Florence Gauthier’s recent publications include

  • Triomphe et mort de la révolution des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, 1789-1795-1802, (1992) rééd. Paris, Syllepse, 2014.
  • With Yannick Bosc et Sophie Wahnich, Robespierre, Pour le bonheur et pour la liberté. Discours, textes choisis, introduits et annotés, Paris, La Fabrique, 2004.
  • L’édition de Robespierre, Œuvres, t. XI, Paris, Société des Etudes Robespierristes, 2007.
  • L’Aristocratie de l’épiderme. Le combat de la Société des Citoyens de couleur, 1789-1791, Paris, CNRS, 2007.