Prominently placed on the title page of Louis-Félix Boisrond-Tonnerre’s memoir is the following phrase: “An 1er de l’indépendance” (the first year of independence). The phrase is the first publication date to appear. It is only on the last line that the reader finds 1804, a helpful reference for those less familiar with Haiti’s independence chronology.
Until recently, scholars relied upon a later edition of the memoir edited by Haitian historian Joseph Saint-Rémy that did not include the Haitian dating system of years of independence. Literary scholar Jean Jonassaint, who located the 1804 text in the Harvard University Library, notes that Boisrond-Tonnerre’s date placed the narrative within the revolutionary and official discourses of the era. Boisrond-Tonnerre was a secretary for Haiti’s first head of state, the former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Months earlier, he composed Haiti’s founding document, the declaration of independence, which also included this new dating system.