First Empire of Haiti

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Empire of Haiti

Empire d'Haïti
Anpi an Ayiti
Flag of Haiti
Motto: Liberté ou la Mort! (French)
"Liberty or Death!"
The Empire of Haiti in the south of Hispaniola
The Empire of Haiti in the south of Hispaniola
Common languagesFrench
Haitian Creole
Roman Catholic
GovernmentElective monarchy
• 1804–1806
Jacques I
Historical era19th century
January 1, 1804
• Proclamation of Jean-Jacques Dessalines as Emperor Jacques I
September 22, 1804
• Assassination of Emperor Jacques I
October 17, 1806
CurrencyHaitian livre
ISO 3166 codeHT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
State of Haiti
Republic of Haiti (1806–1820)
Today part of Haiti

The First Empire of Haiti,[1] officially known as the Empire of Haiti[2][3] (French: Empire d'Haïti,[4] Haitian Creole: Anpi an Ayiti),[5] was an elective monarchy in North America. Haiti was controlled by France before declaring independence on January 1, 1804. The Governor-General of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, created the empire on September 22, 1804. After being proclaimed emperor by the Generals of the Haitian Revolution Army, he held his coronation ceremony on October 6 and took the name Jacques I. The constitution of May 20, 1805, set out the way the empire was to be governed, with the country split into six military divisions. The general of each division corresponded directly with the emperor or the general in chief appointed by the emperor. The constitution also set out the succession to the throne, with the crown being elective and the reigning emperor having the power to appoint his successor. The constitution also banned white people, with the exception of naturalised Germans and Poles, from owning property inside the empire.[6]

Jacques I was assassinated on October 17, 1806.[7] Two members of his administration, Alexandre Pétion and Henri Christophe, then assumed power, which led to a split in the country - with Pétion leading the southern Republic of Haiti and Christophe leading the northern State of Haiti (later Kingdom of Haiti).[8] Some 43 years later, on August 26, 1849, President Faustin Soulouque re-established an Empire in Haiti that lasted until January 15, 1859.[9]


Fearing the return of the French to the island, Dessalines built forts.

Jean Jacques Dessalines (Jacques Ier), First emperor of Haiti

On October 8, 1804, he is crowned Emperor under the name of Jacques I of Haiti, in Cap-Haïtien under the title: His Majesty Jacques I, Emperor.

At the end of February 1805, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and his troops left in two directions: one part towards the north (Dajabón-Santiago-La Vega-Saint Domingue) commanded by Henri Christophe, and another towards the south (Hinche-San Juan de la Maguana-Azua-Baní-Saint-Domingue) commanded by Dessalines himself.

On February 25, 1805, Dessalines at the head of 30,000 men captured Santiago. On the southern road, the Haitian emperor realizes that the inhabitants of San Juan de la Maguana and Baní evacuated their city to protect themselves, so he considers that the indigenous population does not deserve his clemency. On March 6, while approaching the capital, he ordered to set fire to the city of San Carlos on the outskirts of Santo Domingo and to begin the siege of the city. On March 25, Dessalines ordered the total extermination of the population under his control. These populations are then deported to the large cities of Haiti where they are killed in public places by being crushed (by horses or beasts of burden) and quartered.

Three days later, three frigates and two French brigantines arrived in Santo Domingo. Dessalines abandons the siege of Santo Domingo and retreats to Haiti. In April 1805, Dessalines, Christophe and their troops razed Santiago, Moca, La Vega, Azua, San Juan de la Maguana, Baní, among others, and massacred the inhabitants who had not fled to the Central Cordillera. Approximately 10,000 people were thus killed. These massacres laid the foundation for two centuries of animosity between the two countries.

The French kept the eastern part until the Spanish victory at Palo Hincado on November 7, 1808 and the surrender of Santo Domingo on July 9, 1809; the Spanish emerged victorious thanks to assistance from the British.

At the same time, Dessalines officialized the French language, even though the vast majority of the population spoke only Creole.

It confiscates the settlers' lands and gives the best to its officers. In order to revive the economy, he decrees forced labor for farmers with a regulation harder than that of Toussaint. The people took up arms again against this dictatorship.

It was in Marchand, on October 16, 1806, that Dessalines learned of the revolt. Unaware that Christophe had been proclaimed head of the insurrection, he wrote to him to be ready to enter the countryside. To General Pétion, who was also in the conspiracy, he gave the order to march on Les Cayes at the head of the troops of the Second Western Division.

On October 17, 1806, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was assassinated in Pont-Rouge, north of Port-au-Prince, by his collaborators, Alexandre Pétion, Jean-Pierre Boyer, André Rigaud and Bruno Blanchet.

After Dessalines' assassination, the country split in two under the authority of his former generals: Henri Christophe, elected president with limited powers, tried to impose himself, but clashed with Alexandre Pétion, who defended the capital Port-au-Prince. Christophe returned to Cap-Haïtien, in the north, where he became president for life. In the south, the senate elected Pétion as president of the Republic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Augustan Society Omnibus. The Society. 1986.
  2. ^ "Haiti: 1805 Constitution". Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  3. ^ Stieber, Chelsea (2020-08-18). Haiti's Paper War: Post-Independence Writing, Civil War, and the Making of the Republic, 1804-1954. NYU Press. ISBN 978-1-4798-0215-9.
  4. ^ Aux hommes impartiaux, sur les attaques dont l'empire d'Haiti et les Haitiens ont été l'objet. [Signed: "Un Haïtien.] (in French). Charpentier. 1850.
  5. ^ Laroche, Maximilien (1996). Hier, analphabètes: aujourd'hui, autodidactes : demain, lettrés (in French). GRELCA, Université Laval. ISBN 978-2-9802405-5-3.
  6. ^ "Haiti: 1805 Constitution". Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  7. ^ "Jean-Jacques Dessalines - Death, Facts & Life - Biography". Retrieved 2020-10-22.
  8. ^ "King's Collections : Online Exhibitions : A divided Haiti". Retrieved 2020-10-22.
  9. ^ Baur, John E. (1949). "Faustin Soulouque, Emperor of Haiti His Character and His Reign". The Americas. 6 (2): 131–166. doi:10.2307/978436. ISSN 0003-1615. JSTOR 978436.