As disease spread, the national government was slow to react. Soon, citizens donned protective masks and the authorities ordered quarantines. The streets emptied. Doubters questioned the science and disobeyed. The year: 1793. The place: young America from Baltimore to Boston but especially in Philadelphia, the nation’s largest city and seat of the federal government. For 3 long months yellow fever, carried by mosquitoes let loose from a ship from Africa, ravaged the eastern seaboard The federal government abandoned the city and scattered, leaving a dangerous leadership gap. By the end of the pandemic, ten percent of Philadelphians had died.
American Plague offers the definitive telling of this long-forgotten crisis, capturing the wave of fear that swept across the fledgling republic, and the numerous unintended but far-reaching consequences it would have on the development of the United States and the Atlantic slave trade. It is an intriguing tale of fear and human nature, a tragic lesson of how prejudice toward blacks was so easily stoked, an examination of the primitive state of medicine and vulnerability to disease in the eighteenth century, and a story of the struggle to govern in the face of crisis. With eerie similarities to the Covid pandemic, historian Robert P. Watson tells the story of a young nation teetering on the brink of chaos.
Robert P. Watson is the author of many books on American politics and history including, most recently, Escape! The Story of the Confederacy's Infamous Libby Prison and the Civil War's Largest Jail Break (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021),George Washington’s Final Battle: The Epic Struggle to Build a Capital City and Nation (Georgetown University Press, 2021), The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution (Da Capo Press, 2017, and The Nazi Titanic: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II (Da Capo Press, 2016), which is currently being made into a motion picture. He resides in Boca Raton, Florida.