Haiti's Declaration of Independence Found in London

A Duke university graduate student unearthed the document from the British National Archives.

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A Duke graduate student makes the find of a lifetime. Buried among the British archives, Julia Gaffield has found what is believed to be the only existing Haitian independence document of government issue.

The eight-page pamphlet, now visible online, gives scholars new insights into a period with few primary sources. But for Haitian intellectuals, the discovery has taken on even broader significance.

That the document would be found in February, just weeks after the earthquake that killed so many; that its authenticity would be confirmed in time for the donor conference that could define Haiti’s future — some see providence at work.

“It’s a strange thing in the period of the earthquake we find the first document that made the state,” said Patrick Tardieu, an archivist at the Library of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit in Port-au-Prince. “People were searching for this for a very long time.”