On May 7, 1807, three months after Christophe issued a new constitution for the northern side of Haiti, the first issue of the country’s new newspaper would appear under the title of La Gazette Officielle d’Hayti.
This second issue of La Gazette Officielle announces that the price of subscription is twelve gourdes per year or alternatively one and a half gourdes per month. Importantly, this issue contains an address of Henry Christophe to the people of Hayti, dated 2 November 1806, in which he ostensibly explains why he refused to submit to the authority of the National Assembly, for which he served as provisory president after the assassination of Dessalines.
This third issue of La Gazette Officielle contains the first part of an important abolitionist statement entitled, “Commerce des esclaves.” The author of this unsigned article describes the bill under consideration in Great Britain regarding the abolition of the international slave trade in that country, referring to the trafficking of human beings as the “most revolting and dishonorable system in any epoch of the civilized world.”
This issue continues with reports from the debates over the abolition of the slave trade taking place in England. The article recites the testimony of one British parliamentarian who alludes to the familiar fear that the Haitian Revolution might spread to “adjacent islands.” The issue finishes with an address to the Haitian people by the Catholic priest, Father Corneille Brelle, Préfet apostolique de l’Etat d’Haïti.
This issue is mostly devoted to international news, and more specifically, France’s war with Russia. The end of issue number six also contains the prices of the most popular commodities in the country, such as coffee, sugar, cocoa, cotton, indigo, and more.
The first article of this issue is entitled, “Conclusion on the advantages of Russia in its war with France,” and contains a list of wounded high ranking officials of the French army to make its point that Russia will be the victor. Importantly, the Gazette now also reports on the comings and goings of ships, and a list of items they transport.
This issue contains more news from Russia and also reports on the progress of the proposed ban on the abolition of the slave trade in England. News of President Henry Christophe’s return to Cap rounds out the periodical.
Contains a lengthy excerpt from the Courrier d’Angleterre about the present situation of Napoléon Bonaparte. An article entitled, “Quelques Réflexions sur le prétendu Sénat du Port-au-Prince” declares to be illegal this legislative body of the southern republic of Haiti, led by Pétion.
In this issue, we find a continuation of several topics first addressed in previously published articles of the newspaper, namely, criticism of the “so-called Senate of Port-au-Prince.” An article near the end, briefly details the new labor system that would be implemented more formally with Henry Christophe’s 1812 Code Henry. The new law, dated 29 June 1807, states that “in order to improve the prospects of farmers,” the Haitian state will be compensating them for their crops at a rate “superior to that of the market.”
In this issue, Pétion and his army are accused of lying to the public about their confiscation of Marie-Claire Heureuse Dessalines’, the former Emperor’s wife, “house and money.” The report also decries as false claims coming out of Port-au-Prince, which suggested that Vernet and Magny, two important members of Chrstophe’s government and army, had defected to the southern republic of Haiti.
This issue contains the first of a series of poetic jokes and puns in a section called, “Varieties.” The particular joke that appears in this issue is directed at the Senate of Port-au-Prince and finishes by likening this political body to an “ass.” Subsequent issues of the Gazette will publish anagrams, acrostics, airs or songs, and other forms of poetry popular in the early nineteenth century.
In continuing its coverage of the growing division between the north and south in Haiti, this issue of the Gazette claims that all of Rigaud’s former followers have aligned themselves with Pétion under the spurious designation of “frères de poil,” which is to say, brothers with the same skin color.
The final article in this issue commemorates the July 15th “fête” of Henry Christophe, “his Excellence, the President and Generalissimo of the forces of the Earth and the Sea.” The author of this article, Juste Hugonin, refers to Christophe as “the Hero of Haiti” and he finishes by proclaiming, “Vive Henry!….his “fête” will henceforth be our own, his conduct the lesson of the people, and his reign the pledge of our happiness.”
This issue gives a sense of the northern Haitian government’s growing interest in world affairs (and ostensibly that of the Haitian people as well), as there is news from and/or about the United States, England, France, Germany, and Russia. The final article contains a letter to the Haitian people from Henry Christophe, having been transcribed by Rouanez, jeune, listed as the Secretary of State.
This issue opens with a proclamation issued by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson describes at length how a U.S. frigate was illegally attacked by a British fleet, leading to a horrendous loss of American life and many more injuries. The U.S. president finishes the narrative description of these events and their consequences by declaring that henceforth any British ships “now in the seaports or rivers of the United States” must leave immediately and without delay. Jefferson also interdicts any U.S. citizens to make contact with British ship captains and/or their mates, unless for the express purposes of rendering them outside of U.S. borders.
In this issue we see both the Haitian government and the Haitian people celebrating the August 25th birthday of Henry Chistophe’s wife, Queen Marie-Louise Coidavid. The first article describes the celebration itself, which took place in Cap-Haïtien, the second, purportedly written by an ordinary citizen, refers to the queen as the “august wife” of Christophe, “friend of humanity” who passes her days by “soothing the wounds of the unfortunate.” An acrostic poem, spelling Louise, rounds out the articles devoted to the queen’s birthday.
While this issue continues to provide news from (and criticisms of) the southern Republic of Haiti, it also describes a “foreign ship” captured in Haitian waters, and finishes with a quatrain written by an inhabitant of Cap-Haïtien and dedicated to the birth of Henry Christophe’s “youngest son.”
Containing one of numerous addresses to the Haitian people warning them against the “seductions” of the “so-called Senate” at Port-aux-Crimes (Port-au-Prince), the issue ends with an epigram called, “Le Diable Corps,” which spells out the words “SÉNAT.” The very first words of the first verse gives some idea of the tenor of the rest of the poem, “Satan, firebrand of hell….”
This issue contains the first excerpt of the emigré royalist Jean-Gabriel Peltier’s London-based L’Ambigu, ou Variétés politiques et littéraires to be published in La Gazette Officielle. Peltier’s journal was designed to refute the propaganda of pro-Bonaparte French newspapers and magazines and particularly that of Le Moniteur et le Journal de l’Empire. Eventually, Peltier would become an extremely vital component of President Henry Christophe’s efforts to obtain from England formal diplomatic recognition of Haitian independence.
When the French Cardinal, Jean-Sifrein Maury (1746-1847), returned to France from exile in 1806, he soon found himself once again inducted into the Institute of France. Despite their extreme and justified anger towards Napoleon Bonaparte, the Haitian government of the north appears to have been very interested in Cardinal Maury’s defenses of the Catholic Church, for which he had risked his life during the French Revolution. This issue contains the first of three articles devoted to reporting on the Cardinal’s speeches in France.