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Haiti's Founding Document Discovered

A 26-year-old student has uncovered a long sought-after piece of Haiti's history.

Duke University in the United States says the graduate student, Julia Gaffield, found what is believed to be the only known printed copy of Haiti's Declaration of Independence while she was researching Haiti at the British National Archives in London.

Haiti declared independence from France on January 1, 1804, and revolutionary leaders ordered copies of the declaration to be printed and sent abroad. But until now, the only copies thought to have survived were handwritten versions.

Gaffield was researching Haiti's early history when she found a letter from a former British governor of Jamaica, saying a copy of the declaration not more than one hour off the press was enclosed. When she could not find the declaration, she traveled to London to continue her search.

She said the official, printed eight-page pamphlet was at the archives for some time, but apparently had been overlooked.

Although Duke University issued the formal announcement Thursday, Gaffield made the discovery in February, shortly after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake.

A noted Haitian archivist with one of Haiti's oldest libraries, Patrick Tardieu, says the discovery of a printed copy of Haiti's Declaration of Independence is very important for both scholars and the people of Haiti.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.