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King Henry of Haiti

Amid the instability of post-revolutionary Haiti, torn between Britain and France, Henry Christophe rose from lowly roots to become its ruler. Paul Clammer remembers his vital role in shaping a new kingdom.

Charted territory: French map of Haiti, 1789William Wilberforce wrote to his fellow abolitionist Zachary Macaulay on January 7th, 1815 about a letter he had received unexpectedly. It weighed 85 ounces, so Wilberforce was relieved that the post office had waived the due postage of nearly £38 in favour of a more modest seven shillings. 

The letter was from Haiti, once the French colony of Saint Domingue, but then marking a decade of independence after its successful slave revolution. The country had been split in two by civil war soon after gaining its freedom, with the north declaring itself a kingdom. Wilberforce’s correspondent was its secretary of state and bore the title of Duc de Limonade. He was writing on behalf of his king, Henry Christophe, who wanted to open a dialogue of mutual support with the abolitionists.

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