The primary article of this issue reveals to a large extent the northern government of Haiti’s attitude toward Christophe’s antecedents, Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Praising the former by noting that Louverture had “virtues, genius, and a talent for governing,” but simultaneously seemingly explaining the former general’s deadly fate, Vastey writes that Louverture failed because he lacked the necessary experience that Haitians of the Christophe era had acquired in the course of their dealings with the duplicity of the French. As for Dessalines, he is praised as well for being the one to proclaim and make into a reality Haitan independence. However, Vastey also infers that Dessalines may have been a more than competent solider, but that his governing skills were lacking, which led to governmental demoralization under his rule. A list of all the foreign ships arriving and leaving Haiti, which appears at the end of the issue, continues to demonstrate the northern state’s robust involvement in international trade.
One element readers may immediately notice here is the absence of an issue number, making it difficult for us to know precisely where this issue fits within the larger context of the publication of the newspaper in 1816. Nevertheless, the opening article discusses a ship from England that has recently made port in Haiti carrying, among other people, Prince Saunders, the noted black abolitionist. There is also mention of Christophe’s desire to set up the Haitian school system using the Lancaster method, thereby introducing British education and “the English language to Haiti.” A subsequent article praises the King’s Code Henry by claiming that it eliminated to the “very last vestige” all remaining remnants of the colonial code of rule. The result is that Haitians are now different “men” and a different “people” than they were in 1789 or even immediately after independence. The construction of the Citadel as a monument to Haitian independence is also proclaimed. The issue finishes with a reprint of a long passage from Vastey’s Reflexions sur une lettre de Mazeres (1816), which describes the cruelty of the French colonists. Notably, Vastey briefly recalls the tale of Sanite Belair, the “brave heroine,” who was cruelly executed by the French along with her husband, the Haitian revolutionary, Charles Belair.
The first article in this issue details the infamous episode of the Sidney Crispin, a U.S. merchant ship from New York under the captainship of Elesha Kenn, which entered Haitian waters on 17 October 1816. According to the article, and Vastey’s later account of these events in his Essai sur les causes… (1819), the Crispin along with its crew, brought a letter from two French warships hovering off the coast of Cap-Henry to the Count of Marmelade. The letter evidently sought to open negotiations with Christophe. However, because the letter did not recognize the sovereignty of Christophe, addressing him as General Christophe rather than King Christophe, the Count naturally refused to transmit the letter. In the article, the “dishonorable” actions of these merchants is conflated with that of the US government when we learn that Christophe “was astonished that Americans who had been trading with Haiti for so many years, and who enjoy the protection of the government, and who, like us, had been brought to liberty and independence, could have burdened themselves with a commission that was as dishonorable as it was disturbing for men who belong to a nation that is friends with Haiti.” The article also notes that Louis XVIII, following the footsteps of Malouet, sought to name additional commissioners to “Saint-Domingue,” which is what the French, according to the editor, “obstinately continue to call Hayti.” The article finishes by re-printing some passages from Vastey’s 1815 Le Cri de la conscience.
In the course of describing the customary celebrations that take place in January every year, this issue details the “fête” of the 14th year of Haitian independence. Readers will not fail to note the way in which La Gazette continues to document both the French government’s desires and continued attempts to re-conquer their former colony through various forms of “negotiation.” Despite, or rather because of the French cabinet’s attempts to negotiate with Haiti on colonial rather than sovereign terms, the editor reports that “from the South to the North, from the East to the West, one sole and only cry can be heard once again in light of the new insults of the French: Liberty, Independence, or death, war to the French, and all their allies!” There is also a very strong argument made here to change the language of the francophone country so that “we will finally have succeeded in undermining French power in Haiti by striking at its source.” The measures taken to install the Chambre Royale d’Instruction Publique are also detailed, and the article notes that artists and teachers from abroad will be favored.
One crucial point that issue number 2 of the year 1817 reveals is how irregular publication of the Gazette had become, as this second issue comes in June, while issue number one had been published in January, a full 6 months earlier. One reason for this may have been the sudden change of printer. For, we also observe that P. Roux is no longer listed at the end of the issue, as he had been in every other issue of the Gazette Officielle, the Gazette Royale, and all previously published versions of the Almanach Royal. The publication is now attributed merely to the “Imprimerie Royale.” The absence of news for half a year may be the reason why this number is chalk full of interesting articles, which include details about the spread of yellow fever in Guadeloupe, a discussion of the abbé Grégoire being attacked for his abolitionism in France, as well as reprints of letters from Thomas Clarkson and Grégoire himself. An additional article, importantly, reports that Pétion had elected himself president for life of the southern republic of Haiti, a situation that Baron de Vastey would later write about in depth in his 1819 Essai sur les causes de la révolution et des guerres civiles d’Hayti.
The opening article, drawn from a Jamaican newspaper, describes a conspiracy, by several members of the Royal Guard at Versailles, to assassinate a French count and two dukes, with the further aim of eliminating the Royal Family. We learn that the attempt was discovered, however, and that several arrests were made. Along with additional news from Paris, Jamaica, Madrid, and London, the kingdom of the north was given a report that a large powder magazine of Pétion’s had exploded in Port-au-Prince, killing two hundred people and destroying many houses. There is also brief mention of the king’s annual fête, as well as a lengthy description of the funeral held in light of the death of Christophe’s nephew, Prince Jean. The issue finishes by printing the last of an edict of the king concerning the “Mode of Sale and Disposal of the Kingdom’s State Property.”
This issue begins with further descriptions of the funeral services held for Christophe’s nephew, Prince Jean, Duke of Port-Margot, “the Grand Artisan of the King, Grand Admiral and Grand Marshal of Hayti, Grand Cross of the Royal and Military Order of St. Henry, blood prince [prince du sang], nephew of the king, born October 17, 1780; died on July 4th, 1817, and deposited in the vault of the Dignitaries of the Royal and Parish Church of Sans-Souci, on the 23rd of the same month.” Evidently, the duke’s body was on display in the cathedral where it was piously mourned by the people of the capital and the marines alike. Trade statistics given at the end demonstrate robust imports and exports out of Cap-Henry (71 ships carrying “17,084,000 thousand pounds sugar and coffee”) with a promise in the next issue to provide the trade statistics from the port at Gonaïves.
Today’s issue is the ninth to appear in 1817, meaning that there were three additional issues published between October 10th and August 14th (whose issue is dated number 5). This number details the infamous Septimus Tayler episode, whereby the government of Christophe refused to negotiate with this US agent, sent by President John Quincy Adams, because Tayler did not recognize Christophe as a sovereign ruler, on the one hand; and on the other hand, because the documents in Tayler’s possession meant to open negotiations about some cargo Christophe had seized from US merchants back in 1812, referred to Hayti as Saint-Domingue, and Cap-Henry as Cap-Français. This issue also details how Haitians freed a ship of captive Africans destined for slavery elsewhere in the Americas, gleefully reporting the Haitian military’s capture of the ship and the government’s subsequent release of 145 of “our unfortunate brothers, victims of greed and the odious traffic in human flesh.” A much less celebratory article describes the death in Paris of Christophe’s son, Ferdinand. This account of young Ferdinand’s death adds a detail that is not in Baron de Vastey’s rendition of these events published in his Réflexions poltiiques (1817). Here we learn that Christophe’s son had been allegedly poisoned in Paris on the orders of the French government. This issue finishes with a poem by Juste Chanlatte, the Comte de Rosiers, and a printing of the customary trade statistics.
This entire issue (save the list of prices for commodities at the very end) is taken up with a general funeral elegy given by the “very reverend-father, Jean de Dieu,” the “chaplain of the queen.” The occasion for the sermon was to commemorate the “Defenders of the Country” and included recounting the crimes of the French colonists with some choice words and descriptions: “All my regrets and all my tears, are reserved for these unfortunate victims that the French have destroyed with their tortures and torments; some were devoured by hungry dogs, others were consumed and burned to ashes by the horrible torment of fire; a great number perished in the abyss of the sea! O cruelty for which one can never find a suitable epithet! It seems to me that I can even hear from the center of this catafalque; from this accusing tomb, a terrible voice that shouts: Haitians, avenge our blood, avenge the death of your brothers.” Yet after these strong words, the reverend pulls back and urges Haitians to forgive the French in imitation of Jesus Christ, admonishing himself for his earlier words by claiming that his “zeal had taken him too far.”
This entire issue consists of a chart designed to list the sale of plantations that were bid upon from December 26th to February 28th. King Christophe had set up an elaborate, but relatively straight-forward, purchase, payment, taxation, and revenue-sharing system for the former French colonial plantations that had been previously confiscated by the state. This system would allow the properties to be purchased without the purchaser having the funds upfront because of the revenue-sharing payment system and the taxes that would be levied. The nineteenth-century Haitian historian Thomas Madiou explains in precise detail how purchase, repayment, and taxation worked in volume V of his eight-volume, Histoire d’Haïti. The Grand Conseil d’Etat, which Christophe had charged with regulating this system, consisted of the Duke of Port-de-Paix, the Comte de la Taste, the Comte de Saint-Louis, and Baron de Vastey. The report of this council explained that the purpose of selling to the Haitian people on a broad scale these confiscated properties belonging to the kingdom (as illustrated by these charts) was because, “Your Majesty, in his paternal solicitude, wants for every Haytian, indiscriminately, the poor as well as the rich, to have the ability to become the owner of the lands of our former oppressors.”
The opening article here describes a celebration held for the seventh anniversary of the founding of the Haitian monarchy, described as a “constitutional monarchy,” on 26 Mars 1811. The usual speeches and toasts were offered to the king on this occasion, including the following by one of the dignitaries: “After having erred under different kinds of governments, enlightened by a cruel experience, the Haytian people have given great proof of their wisdom and prudence, by throwing themselves into the arms of a hereditary monarchy, which alone could save them and retrieve them from the state of unrest and disorder in which anarchy had plunged them.” A letter from the editor subsequently praises the advancements made at the hospital in Cap-Henry, which we learn has recently instituted a chair of medicine and anatomy, and at the newly created Academy of Belles-Lettres, where young students from the capital are being instructed in science. The end of the editor’s letter gives some glimpse of what the Haitian historian Thomas Madiou has referred to as “forced labor” in Christophe’s kingdom: “All the idle people in the towns and villages have been rounded up and sent to the countryside to engage in the work of farming.” The issue finishes with the customary list of ships entering and leaving the port of Cap-Henry, as well as a chart containing the prices of commodities.
At the outset of this issue, we learn that its publication had been interrupted for some time by the illness of its editor, Baron de Vastey. Vastey’s may have been a protracted malady, in fact, since an article from the Liverpool Mercury, dated April 3, 1818 acknowledges that “the indisposition of Baron de Vastey” was responsible for “preventing his attending to public affairs.” Nevertheless, while Vastey evidently recovered, the entire rest of this issue is announced as being devoted to eulogizing Monseigneur, le Prince Noël, le duc de Port-de-Paix, the brother-in-law of King Christophe. The duke, “who always served his country,” was evidently the person appointed to be the guardian of the Citadelle, but he died when a clap of thunder struck the edifice on the 25th of August 1818, causing a fire to ignite.
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