It was at Montauban that de Félice first expressed his opposition to
slavery, though it is probable his interest in the abolitionist movement
would have started at Bolbec, due to its proximity to the slave-port of Le
Havre. As one of the few influential men in France willing to actually put
words into action, he was immediately recognised by the British anti-slavery
society as a useful contact.
In 1844, Joseph John Gurney, a wealthy English banker, Quaker minister, and
abolitionist (his sister Elizabeth Fry is depicted on the current British £5
banknote) employed the services of the Courtois brothers to make contact
At their meeting with de Félice, they requested that he write “immediatist”
pamphlets and become the British anti-slavery society’s agent for the
abolition of slavery in France. Félice agreed on the need in France for an
active campaigner to “speak, write, agitate opinion, press the men in power,
hold assemblies and provoke petitions”. Unfortunately he was obliged to
decline the offer to act on a full-time basis due to his heavy teaching
duties at the Faculty.
To try and sway de Félice into devoting more of his time, in autumn 1845 the
British society sent their secretary, John Scoble to visit and
hold another meeting. Scoble stayed nine days in Montauban, and Guillaume
eventually pledged to devote more of his time to the cause. They discussed
in detail emancipationism, and de Félice promised to “prepare a pamphlet
forthwith, after which to organise committees on that principle…”
A few months later, in 1846, de Felice published the agreed work, entitled
“Émancipation immédiate et complète des esclaves: appel aux abolitionists”. It requested petitions to be signed
against slavery, especially by women, and was distributed across the
country. The results in 1847 were 11,000
signatures from both Catholics and Protestants (including 86 Pastors)
being handed to the Assemblée Nationale. Following this, slavery was
abolished in 1848.
Now an incredibly valuable and rare
text, it is quoted in practically all academic
works on (French) abolitionism.