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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines Charles Brockden Brown’s relationship to the abolitionist politics of his time, as well as his representation of African Americans. It begins by examining factors in Brown’s thinking about slavery, notably his Quaker background and the immediate influence of his friends’ abolitionist activities. Brown’s Memoirs of Stephen Calvert is interpreted as a critique of the division between Northern and Southern forms of slaveholding and a statement of the impossibility of effecting a geographical containment of slavery. The doubling of African American and white characters in Arthur Mervyn and Ormond is read as undermining the visual codes of race and as reflecting on racial mixing during a period when Haitian emigrants were resettling in Philadelphia. Brown’s 1803 pamphlet on French Louisiana is seen as an ambiguous reflection on the agency of slaves and a warning about the intractable problem that slavery posed for the early republic.

Keywords: Charles Brockden Brown, abolitionism, Haitian Revolution, manumission, Mason-Dixon Line, physiognomy, Quakerism, slavery

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