The Victor Schœlcher Banknotes
and the Artistry of Robert Poughéon
Robert Poughéon designed several banknotes that qualify as candidates for the most beautiful French Banknotes ever produced. These notes feature Victor Schœlcher, the French abolitionist of the 19th century, and were engraved by Jules Piel, Renaud, and André Marliat.
The French Antilles banknote was first issued in 1964, and shows Schoelcher against a backdrop of island scenery on the face, and ships of his period and of current usage on the back. The French Antilles, consisting of French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe, shared common banknotes during this period, and their coats of arms are also displayed on the back of the note.
The note from Reunion was first issued in 1965, and then overprinted in 1967 with the devaluation of the French Franc. It shows a similar portrait of Schoelcher, but this time holding a document titled "Abolition de L'Esclavage" (abolition of slavery), and an open shackle. It has a wonderful local family scene on the back.
Victor Schœlcher (22 July 1804, Paris - 25 December 1893, Houilles) was a French abolitionist writer in the 1800s and the main spokesman for a group from Paris who worked for the abolition of slavery, and formed an abolition society in 1834. He worked especially hard for the abolition of slavery on the Caribbean islands.1
Schœlcher was born in Paris from an Alsatian family of Fessenheim. He was sent to visit America for business from 1829-1830. While in America he visited Mexico, Cuba and some of the southern states of the U.S. While on this trip Schœlcher learned a lot about slavery and began his career as an abolitionist writer.
He was responsible for the publication of many articles regarding slavery between 1833 and 1847 in which he focused on positive aspects of abolishing slavery. Schœlcher was also intent on social, economic, and political changes being made in the Caribbean colonies. He thought that the production of sugar should continue in the colonies but large central factories should be constructed rather than using slave labor.
After Haiti gained independence Schœlcher was the first European abolitionist to visit the country and had a large influence on the abolitionist movements in all of the French Caribbean islands. He became the president of the commission for the abolition of slavery and on April 27, 1848 the French government decreed that slavery was abolished in all of its colonies.
Schœlcher was the most well informed Frenchman on the Caribbean colonies and after 1871 developed a group of correspondents between the Caribbean, Great Britain and the United States. He continued to express his political ideas and on December 2, 1851 went into exile in Belgium and London until 1870 after disagreeing with Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte's coup d'etat. Schœlcher was elected senator for life in 1875.
Schœlcher published his last writings in 1889. After fighting for and writing for the abolition of slavery and French colonialism in the Caribbean for a large portion of the 1800's Schœlcher died in 1893.
First buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Schœlcher's remains were transferred on May 20, 1949 to the Panthéon. In the same time, Félix Éboué's ashes were also transferred.
In homage to his fight against slavery, the commune of Case-Navire (Martinique) took the name of Schœlcher on 1888.
Eugène Robert Poughéon was a French book illustrator as well as a designer of banknotes in the French community. His watercolor style is recognizable across his work. A sample of his banknotes is shown below.
- Victor Schœlcher biography courtesy of Wikipedia