April 2017

Dangerous Neighbors: Making the Haitian Revolution in Early America

By James Alexander Dun '92

Dangerous Neighbors cover

“With this fine book, James Alexander Dun joins a burgeoning and important scholarship reassessing the long-ignored impact of the Haitian Revolution on early America. Based on monumental research, it offers the most comprehensive account we have of Philadelphia's newspaper coverage and indeed of a broad spectrum of public opinion on the Haitian Revolution as it unfolded. The result shows us not silence but cacophony: a striking portrait of a rich, multifaceted, and contested range of debate. Dangerous Neighbors will make a lasting contribution to the field.” — François Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins University

Dangerous Neighbors shows how the Haitian Revolution permeated early American print culture and had a profound impact on the young nation's domestic politics. Focusing on Philadelphia as both a representative and an influential vantage point, it follows contemporary American reactions to the events through which the French colony of Saint Domingue was destroyed and the independent nation of Haiti emerged. Philadelphians made sense of the news from Saint Domingue with local and national political developments in mind and with the French Revolution and British abolition debates ringing in their ears. In witnessing a French colony experience a revolution of African slaves, they made the colony serve as powerful and persuasive evidence in domestic discussions over the meaning of citizenship, equality of rights, and the fate of slavery.