Museum, house end castle of Lamartine in Mâcon, Milly and Saint-Point (Saône et Loire)

“You will have paid to retain in irons, in oppression, in immorality, in cohabitation, in the deprivation of all that constitutes humanity, three hundred thousand slaves! More that it would have cost you to call an entire race of men to freedom, voluntary work, family, religion, civilization and virtue! This, gentlemen, is the inevitable effect of these eternal postponements of principles which, by perpetuating evil in the present, ruin the conscience of peoples, ruin morals, ruin the treasure and make the remedy more impossible in the future”
Speech made in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 April 1835

The Lamartine castle in Saint-Point

The arrival of Louis-Philippe in 1830 marked the renewal of the French abolitionist movement, marked in 1834 by the creation of the French Society for the Abolition of Slavery under the leadership of Alphonse de Lamartine, who led the political struggle in the Chamber. Appointed President of the Provisional Government of the Second French Republic after the revolution of February 1848, he appointed Arago as Minister of the colonies who called on Victor Schœlcher to draft the decree on the definitive abolition of slavery, which Lamartine and all the ministers signed and promulgated on 27 April 1848, giving freedom to more than 250,000 slaves in the French colonies.

Alphonse de Lamartine, born in Mâcon on 21 October 1790 and died in Paris on 28 February 1869, was a poet, novelist, playwright and prose writer at the same time as a French politician who participated in the Revolution of February 1848 and proclaimed the Second Republic. He is one of the great figures of the romanticism in France.

He spent his childhood in South Burgundy, in Milly, which nourished his poetic inspiration, and trained at the college in Lyon and Belley before returning in the Mâconnais where he led a life of idle and seductive young man. He travelled to Italy and held an ephemeral military position with Louis XVIII. In October 1816, during a cure in Aix-les-Bains, the meeting with a young married woman, Julie Charles, marked a turning point in the poet’s life, but their passionate love story turned to tragedy when Julie died in December 1817. Alphonse de Lamartine then wrote the poems of Méditations, the collection of which was published in 1820 and was a dazzling success. That same year, he married Marianne-Elisa Birch, a young English woman, and served as secretary of the embassy in Italy before resigning in 1830. During this period, he published other poetic works before being elected to the Académie française in 1829.

Portrait of Alphonse de Lamartine (1791-1869)

In 1830, he decided to enter politics by joining to the July monarchy but failed to win the deputation. He left for the East where he visited Greece, Lebanon and the holy places of the Christianity, recounted in Voyage en Orient and marked by the tragedy of the death of his daughter Julia. In 1833, Lamartine was elected deputy and remained so until 1851: he moved from royalism to republicanism and made remarkable speeches.

He then fully engaged in the fight for the abolition of slavery. President of the French Society for the Abolition of Slavery created in 1834, he led a fight in parliament giving important speeches in favour of abolition. At the same time, he paid tribute to Toussaint Louverture in a play to be performed in 1850. As President of the Conseil général de la Saône-et-Loire, he mobilized the latter in the fight for abolition.

He played an important role during the 1848 Revolution, proclaiming the Republic, and served for three months as head of the provisional government. It was he who signed the famous decree of 27 April 1848, written by Schœlcher, which promulgated the definitive abolition of slavery in the French colonies.

Scene and proclamation of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies in 1848

He withdrew from the politics after his heavy defeat, obtaining only 0.26% of the votes in the presidential election that brought Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte to power on 20 December 1848. He was heavily in debt, selling Milly in 1860 and writing food works and numerous historical compilations. He died in 1869 and rests in the family vault at the communal cemetery, along the wall of the park of the Château de Saint-Point where he has lived and which he has transformed since 1820.