Affairs of Honor by Professor Joanne B. Freeman
National Politics in the New Republic

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Synopsis

In this extraordinary book, Joanne Freeman offers a major reassessment of political culture in the early years of the American republic. By exploring both the public actions and private papers of key figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton, Freeman reveals an alien and profoundly unstable political world grounded on the code of honour. In the absence of a party system and with few examples to guide America's experiment in republican governance, the rituals and rhetoric of honour provided ground rules for political combat. Gossip, print warfare, and duelling were tools used to jostle for status and form alliances in an otherwise unstructured political realm. These political weapons were all deployed in the tumultuous presidential election of 1800 - an event that nearly toppled the new republic. By illuminating this culture of honour, Freeman offers new understandings of some of the most perplexing events of early American history, including the notorious duel between Burr and Hamilton.
A major reconsideration of early American politics, Affairs of Honor offers a profoundly human look at the anxieties and political realities of leaders struggling to define themselves and their role in the new nation.
 

About Professor Joanne B. Freeman

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Joanne B. Freeman is assistant professor of history at Yale University. She recently appeared in the PBS American Experience documentary "The Duel", exploring the fatal 1804 clash between Burr and Hamilton.
 
Published August 11, 2001 by Yale University Press. 400 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Crafts, Hobbies & Home. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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“There was an emotional logic to [early politicians’] actions and reactions that is apparent only in the context of their time,” Freeman notes, adding, “Of course, logical decisions can be bad decisions.” Among the many she chronicles are the vicious wars Thomas Jefferson waged in print on his ma...

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Publishers Weekly

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This study illuminates the founders, but it also promises to reshape the way historians think about politics, which in their time, contends Freeman (an assistant professor of history at Yale), was girded by the notion of honor—"reputation with a moral dimension and an elite cast."

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BellaOnline

If you are looking for a book that dives into early American political history from a different viewpoint than you get with most books, then you might be interested in Joanne B.

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Project MUSE

The first chapter establishes the centrality of personal reputation in the conduct of politics, arguing that instead of taking place in a "bubble of ideology," "the national political game" focused on "[o]btaining, maintaining, and attacking reputations" (59).

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