Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

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9780300097559: Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

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 honor. In the absence of a party system and with few examples to guide America’s experiment in republican governance, the rituals and rhetoric of honor provided ground rules for political combat. Gossip, print warfare, and dueling 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 honor, 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.

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Review:

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Modern American politics may often resemble a demented circus, but thus it has always been. So writes historian Joanne Freeman in this vigorous account of America's first national leaders, those entrusted with creating a nation unlike any other on Earth, one "egalitarian, democratic, representative, straightforward, and virtuous in spirit, public-minded in practice." The reality was less noble than all that; as Freeman writes, the first postrevolutionary Congress, convened in the spring of 1789, was marked by regional and private rivalries, mudslinging, acrimony, favor-seeking, and backroom bargaining, all of which produced far more discord than unity. In that climate, as John Adams and George Washington would often complain, these early politicians were more interested in "their interests, careers, reputations, and pocketbooks" than in matters of the public good. Yet, Freeman suggests, it could scarcely have been otherwise; an "emotional logic" governed the governors, involving a shared code of honor that drew no lines between the personal with the political, so that any disagreement over policy was liable to turn into a duel or campaign of slander; a day-to-day style of conduct in which panic, paranoia, and shrill accusations were the norm; a fortress mentality in which anyone who was not a sworn friend was a sworn enemy.

Amazingly, it sometimes seems, they made a nation. Freeman's well-crafted study makes a useful corrective to the view that contemporary politics represents a freefall from some golden age, and it adds much to our understanding of America's past. --Gregory McNamee

From the Back Cover:

"Admirable and entertaining." -Bill Kauffman, Wall Street Journal

"The book [provides] a read nearly as lively and idiosyncratic as the Founding Fathers themselves." -Scott Bernard Nelson, Boston Globe

"A landmark book." -Pauline Maier, Washington Post Book World

"The book's virtues are mighty ones. Looking at Hamilton, Burr, and Jefferson through the lens of honor brings a logic to their actions that most histories have heretofore lacked." -New York Times

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 honor. In the absence of a party system and with few examples to guide America s experiment in republican governance, the rituals and rhetoric of honor provided ground rules for political combat. Gossip, print warfare, and dueling 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 honor, 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. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780300097559

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 honor. In the absence of a party system and with few examples to guide America s experiment in republican governance, the rituals and rhetoric of honor provided ground rules for political combat. Gossip, print warfare, and dueling 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 honor, 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780300097559

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. 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 honor. In the absence of a party system and with few examples to guide America s experiment in republican governance, the rituals and rhetoric of honor provided ground rules for political combat. Gossip, print warfare, and dueling 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 honor, 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. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780300097559

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