The 1848 revolution marked a turning of the page the West African region of Senegal, site of France's only substantial foothold on the African continent at that point. Two events were of particular importance in this regard. The first was the decree of April 27, 1848 whereby the provisional government abolished slavery in France's colonies, including Senegal. The newly-freed slaves in Senegal automatically became French citizens, a privilege extended by a law of 1834 to free inhabitants of French settlements in the region (the "Quatre Communes" of St. Louis, Gorée, Rufisque, and Dakar). The second crucial event was the decree of March 2, 1848 instituting universal manhood suffrage, which gave the male population of French Senegal, including the newly-freed slaves , the right to vote in French national elections. The almost entirely African and mulatto electorate (whites accounted for only about one percent of the colony's population) took part in the national elections of November 1848 and chose the first man of color ever to sit in the French parliament. Though the future course of electoral politics in the colony was far from smooth, the extension of male suffrage to the Quatre Communes in 1848 would give Senegal a great edge in political sophistication over France's other African colonies in the twentieth century.
Although French traders had been active in West Africa since the fourteenth century, the first permanent settlement in the region was established only in 1659 at Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River. In 1848 the French presence in the region was still confined to a few enclaves: the island of Gorée off Cape Verde, a longtime entrepot in the slave trade to the Antilles; Saint-Louis, the colony's administrative and commercial center;a handful of precariously-held trading posts on the lower Senegal River; and the Casamance region between British Gambia and Portuguese Guinea (Dakar, the future metropolis of French West Africa, was little more...
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