A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-18
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Canada maintained a practice of slavery that forced people of Aboriginal and African descent to endure captivity and servitude. Many people at that time saw slavery as a natural social condition for certain peoples. However, there appear to be few records explicitly documenting that other people were, like us, opposed to slavery.
It is important to appreciate why it is not easy to find or interpret evidence about citizens in New France who opposed slavery. Since people who opposed slavery were in a minority, they may have been reluctant to talk openly about their beliefs. In addition, it may be difficult for us in the present to understand the historical reasons why people objected to slavery. We reject slavery because of the injustice and inequality involved in legally “owning” another person and taking away their basic human rights and freedoms. But the equality of all human beings was not always accepted; those living in earlier times may have had reasons for opposing slavery that differ from ours.
Can we find evidence in the historical documents on the Angélique website that establishes that some people in New France objected to slavery? If so, can we determine whether their reasons were the same or different from our reasons for rejecting slavery?
In this MysteryQuest, you will take on the role of a person living in eighteenth century New France who is against slavery. However, your opinions are in the minority and you fear that raising such issues in public may cause trouble for you. Instead, you will write a letter to your family explaining why you are against slavery and why they should free the slaves they have in their house.
First, you will read about life in New France. You will also learn to make inferences from the evidence you find here about the thinking of people in New France who opposed slavery. Finally, you will construct a dialogue between yourself — the conscientious objector — and your family, explaining why you are against slavery.