Letter, 1913

Letter signed by King Henry I of Haiti at Sans-Souci Palace

Letter signed by King Henry of Haiti requesting a receipt from his goldsmith for gold used for commissioned works, 1813.
Letter signed by King Henry of Haiti requesting a receipt from his goldsmith for gold used for commissioned works, 1813.
Letter signed by King Henry of Haiti requesting a receipt from his goldsmith for gold used for commissioned works, 1813.
Arms on letter signed by King Henry I of Haiti at Sans-Souci Palace
Letter signed by King Henry I of Haiti at Sans-Souci Palace
Backlit Letter signed by King Henry I of Haiti at Sans-Souci Palace

Description

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Dated 25 March 1813, this correspondence on royal letterhead signed by King Henry I of Haiti at Sans-Souci Palace is addressed to the Baron de Petit, the King’s central treasurer situated in Cap-Henry. King Henry requests the Baron de Petit — a member of the King’s Privy Council and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance & Interior — to secure a receipt from Mr. Rigaud, the King’s goldsmith, of one pound and two ounces for the delivery of 18 ounces of gold used to manufacture commissioned works. Mr. Rigaud was the director of the Sans-Souci Mint, one of three established in the kingdom to mint gold and silver coins. When folded, the third page becomes the cover, bearing the address of the Baron de Petit, while the second page appears to be a receipt signed by Rigaud on 01 April 1813 in Cap-Henry. Red wax residue from a seal is visible at either end of the paper. 

 

The armorial achievement of the Kingdom of Haiti is prominently displayed on the letterhead. King Henry’s arms, adopted in 1811, consist of a dark-blue shield strewn with golden stars and charged with a phoenix rising from its ashes, with the phrase “JE RENAIS DE MES CENDRES” (I will rise from my ashes) written on a ribbon inside the shield. 

 

There were three versions of the arms, varying in complexity. The simplest was the lesser arms, which topped the King’s shield with a Royal Crown and encircled it with the collar of the Order of St. Henry, whereas two crowned lions supported the greater arms, the most complex. The arms in our document are the medial arms, in which the lesser arms are surrounded by a trophy of flags, cannon, and piles of cannonballs, with the motto “DIEU MA CAUSE ET MON ÉPÉE” (GOD MY CAUSE AND MY SWORD) on a listel. After 1814, usage of the medial arms greatly diminished throughout the kingdom. Towards the end of King Henry’s reign, the stars were removed from the shield. 

 

Pierre Roux, a French resident in Cap-Henry who remained in Haiti after the revolution, was the first official royal printer. He had earlier served the French authorities but managed to keep his business running throughout the revolution and even published Haiti’s 1804 Declaration of Independence. It was Roux’s press that printed our document, which is rather crude in quality. Four years after he signed our letter, King Henry established the Imprimerie Royale at his newly built palace of Sans-Souci under the direction of a Haitian printer known simply as Sieur Buon. The output of the royal presses, now operating within the palace compound, dramatically increased in quality and produced numerous publications which circulated extensively throughout the Atlantic world, functioning as both persuasive texts and potent instruments for shaping public opinion beyond Haitian shores.

Medium & Techniques

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Ink on laid paper, watermarked “…L & Co” 

Measurements

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When folded: 7.75" w x 9.65" h 

People involved

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Provenance

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Acquired from Charles Pedorson (Clarksville, TX)