Haitian Constitutions 1790-1860

Dessalines's 1805 constitution, original at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia

Dessalines’s 1805 constitution, original at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia

Laurent Dubois (@soccerpolitics), Michel Acacia, and I edited a publication on Haitian constitutions that was part of a series called The Rise of Modern Constitutionalism, 1776-1849. What is awesome about this project, is that all of the Haitian (and Dominguan) constitutions and amendments between 1790 and 1860 are available on their website! You can see images of the originals that are held in diverse archives around the Atlantic. What is not so awesome about the website is that our introduction (in English and French) is not available online. You might be able to get it through ILL, the title is Documents constitutionnels d’Haïti 1790-1860, edited by Laurent Dubois, Julia Gaffield, Michel Acacia ; in cooperation with Matthias Schneider.

The number of constitutions issued by different Haitian governments in the first decades of independence is really interesting. One of my first research projects on Haiti was a study of Haitian constitutions that analyzed these legal documents in terms of their implications for nation building in Haiti, drawing on Benedict Anderson’s famous “imagined community.” This study was published in the Journal of Social History in 2007.

Louverture's 1801 constitution, original at the Boston Athenæum

Louverture’s 1801 constitution, original at the Boston Athenæum

The website also has constitutions from about fifty other countries – a great resources for historians at all levels!

About Julia Gaffield, PhD

Assistant Professor of History, Georgia State University
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One Response to Haitian Constitutions 1790-1860

  1. Vernet Larose says:

    It’s very difficult to acknowledge Constitutionalism in Haiti. It still remains a challenge to normalize politics in this country. Constitutionalism is a concept. And from Max Weber, to rationalize the politics is far away. It explains why the transition is twisted !

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