"Christophe, the British Philanthropists, and Education"
The text below is an excerpt from a letter written by King Henry Christophe on 5 February 1816 to the British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. The letter was later published in Henry Christophe and Thomas Clarkson: A Correspondence (1952) by Earl Leslie Griggs and Clifford H. Prator. In the excerpt below, Christophe asks Clarkson and another British philanthropist, William Wilberforce, to provide Haiti with instructors. Also, Christophe mentions how he relies on Prince Saunders, an African-American teacher, to deliver his letters to England.
For a long while my intention, my dearest ambition, has been to secure for the nation which has confided to me its destiny the benefit of public instruction. Pétion’s revolt, his betrayal of the Haitian people, and the civil dissension he created among us, arrested the impetus I wish to give to education, that first duty of sovereigns. I am completely devoted to this project. The edifices necessary for the institutions of public instruction in the cities and in the country are under construction. I am awaiting the professors and craftsmen I requested, who will take upon themselves the training of our youth. I intend to accord them every encouragement, protection, and tolerance in the exercise of their religions, along with whatever advantages may be just and reasonable. So if god blesses my handiwork, and grants me sufficient time, I hope that the inhabitants of Haiti, overcoming the shameful prejudice which has too long weighed upon them, will soon astonish the world by their knowledge…
I felt it necessary to ask Mr. Prince Saunders to return to England, in order that he might bring back with him the teachers I requested Mr. [William] Wilberforce to procure for me, and who are to instruct our youth according to the approved English educational system. I have entrusted Mr. Saunders with the delivery of the various letters which I am addressing to our friends, and with our public papers, because I have been informed that certain letters written to us, and some sent by us, along with our papers, have been intercepted by French ex-colonists in London, Jamaica, and St. Thomas.
Upon delivering to you my letter, Mr. Sanders has been asked to express to you as well as to our friends, my warm and sincere thanks for all the efforts you have made, the zeal you have shown for the triumph of the cause of the Africans and of their descendants. The gratitude which I feel toward you, and toward our good and virtuous defenders, will never be effaced from my heart, and I shall ever seize all occasions to give you proof of it.