Haiti’s 1804 Original Declaration Of Independence Found

The document is untitled “Liberty Or Death” and it is the original document written in French by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of the leaders of Haiti’s revolution with Toussaint Louverture (2 ND photograph). The extraordinary discovery was made by Julia Gaffield, a 26-year old student from Duke University. Gaffield found the only known printed copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence from France. The document is dated January 1 ST, 1804.

Julia Gaffield was researching Haiti’s history and looking for the document with no success in the United States, until she eventually found the eight page pamphlet archived in London. Haiti’s revolutionary leaders were said to have ordered copies to be printed and sent abroad, but until Gaffield discovered the document, the only copies known were hand written not printed version.

Commenting on the find, Oliver Morley, from the British National Archives, said:

“It is incredible that the long search for this important document should finally end at the National Archives. This declaration, sent to the British government by Haiti’s first independent leaders, is of great historical importance to both Haiti and the British people, and provides unique insights into the first successful slave rebellion of modern times”.

The emotional and very well written document is an indictment of the French “barbarian rule” of the island, and a call to arms to reject the colonial order.

“Everything revives the memories of the cruelties of this barbarian people; our laws, our manners, our cities, everything still bears the stamp of the French. Indeed! There are still Frenchmen in our island, and yet you believe yourself free and independent of that Republic, which, it is true, has fought all nations, but which has never defeated those who wished to be free,” wrote Jean-Jacques Dessalines in 1804.

Anti-slavery trade plaque issued by Josiah Wedgewood in 1791- "Am I Not A Man And A Brother?"

To read the complete document of the Declaration of Independence click here.


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