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Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  253 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
This volume presents a major reassessment of the tumultuous culture of politics on the national stage during America's earliest years, when Jefferson, Burr, Hamilton, and other national leaders struggled to define themselves and their role in the new nation. Joanne Freeman shows how the rituals and rhetoric of honour provided ground rules for political combat; how gossip, ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 11th 2002 by Yale University Press (first published August 11th 2001)
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Allison
Aug 30, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it
I still need to organize my notes on this book, but, having just finished Affairs of Honor, I feel that, despite some occassional repetitiveness, this book was fascinating. It had never occurred to me to think of the early days of American politics as being fraught with the etiquette of honor, but reading this, it seems fairly natural. The different chapters in this book all discuss a different form of honor and focus on one figure. Rather than feeling disjointed because of this, however, Freema ...more
Billy
Apr 30, 2008 Billy rated it liked it
Shelves: 19th-century-u-s
In Affairs of Honor, Yale University historian Joanne B. Freeman argues that the 1790s not only brought the dawn of a new nation, but also an entirely new culture of national politics. To Freeman, politics did not become personal with the rights revolution of the 1960s, but instead had been apparent in political debates, gossip and dueling since the incipient days of the new republic. Her argument stands against the often accepted assumption that politics in the new republic were well defined an ...more
Brent McCulley
Dec 05, 2013 Brent McCulley rated it liked it
Shelves: history
What Freeman offers in "Affairs of Honor" is a comprehensive study of the personal culture of America's earliest years as a nation. This text is unlike anything we've ever seen before, largely digging into personal diaries from American colonial times, showing a new perspective that goes beyond the 'show' and the 'facade.'

When we study history, it's easy to fall into that very mindset, wherein we forget that the people we are studying were real human beings, with families, friends, and children
...more
Shelley
Oct 25, 2013 Shelley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This is a fascinating look at the early republic from almost a purely emotional point of view--specifically, the culture of honor that was intrinsic to gentlemen at the time (but which is pretty damned foreign to most people now). I now know the nuances involved in caning, spitting, and dueling, although I have little cause to use them in my daily life.

I stumbled onto this while researching something else, but I'm glad I did. For one, it's engaging, and although I'm over the Revolution of 1800
...more
Chelsea
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

My pick for the 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge's category "A book you should have read in school but didn't" was pretty much the only book that I could remember not reading for a class, Affairs of Honor. This is a book about the Founding Fathers' generation politicking and how politics was tied up with personal honor, all of it building up to the election of 1800. While the concept is interesting, and it did reveal a few things I didn't
...more
Fran Becker
Aug 13, 2015 Fran Becker rated it really liked it
The best thing about this book, which reads like a gifted student's dissertation, revamped for publication, is the comfort it gives while explaining the role of honor in the earliest years of the founding of the United States. Why did I find it so comforting? Because there is really nothing new under the sun. The rancorous arguments between representatives from the left and the right, the maneuvering and jockeying for positions in Washington, the maneuvering to sway votes, and the undermining of ...more
Craig Shier
Apr 02, 2011 Craig Shier rated it really liked it
The centerpiece of this book is the Hamilton-Burr Duel of 1804, but the thesis is this duel was only a dramatic manifestation of a political culture based on personal reputation and honor in early America. Freeman states that the culture of honor “is a key that unlocks countless mysteries of the period, rationalizing the seemingly irrational, justifying the seemingly petty and perverse, and recasting our understanding of America’s founding.”

In the period immediately after the ratification of the
...more
Jonathan
An excellent (and highly readable) study of political culture in the Early Republic. Freeman argues that eighteenth-America gentlemen lived in a social world defined by personal honor. The political behavior of the elite reflected this fact; politicians were keenly sensitive at all times to threats to their own reputations or to those of others, and they obeyed an elaborate unwritten code in their relations with each other. In the new republic, public life offered a chance for many gentlemen to ...more
Jennifer
Mar 04, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent book detailing the code of conduct that politicians followed in the early days of the US republic. A stirring, lively account. Also sheds light on dueling practices and dispels some of the romanticized fluff surrounding duels that persists to this day.
Rebecca
Dec 26, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
The author examines the political sphere in the early republic, mostly in the 1790s and early 1800s, through the lens of the culture of honor. By looking at the actions of men like Burr, Jefferson, Hamilton and Adams through the code of honor, their actions become more logical than if seen through a modern perspective. The central point of the book seems to emphasize the importance of seeing these men in their historical context to make sense of their actions. The author looks specifically at a ...more
Craig
Interesting narrative of the culture of politics from Adams & Jefferson to Burr & Hamilton. Different chapters on such political main issues as honor, gossip, the art of writing, and ultimately duels show how American politics was handled in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Using some of the writings of lesser-known figures of the time period (William MacLay and William Plumer) as well as the better-known events such as the Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton duel and 1800 electio ...more
Sherlindreah
Feb 09, 2015 Sherlindreah rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
too much of a bore because far too many repetitions
I don't know if it is really reassuring to see that at the very beginning of a republic, politicians were just as horrrible as they are now...I don't see much honor in all these pages
Marie
Nov 05, 2008 Marie rated it it was ok
This book will appeal only to people interested in the political history of the early republic. The author argues that politics in the nation's early years reflected personal alliances that could be frayed easily. Individual reputation, or honor, was the most important attribute for a successful politician, which meant that opponents focused on the personal attack (through publications, gossip, and violence) as a way of defeating a rival. Politicians who were under attack resorted to the same me ...more
John
Mar 12, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Explores the concept of honor in the early republic and how aristocratic traditions combined with democratic impulses created a unique political system.
Wm
A great example of why understanding culture and context (and not ignoring certain troves of documentary evidence) is important with history (and political history, especially). And yet it doesn't overreach. No annoying psychologizing. Most importantly Freeman resists the urge to over dramatize and sex up the Hamilton-Burr duel. Those looking for scandal and drama related to Hamilton-Burr should look elsewhere. Those looking to understand it -- to understand why it isn't just some weird, flaring ...more
Meghan
Oct 26, 2008 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my junior seminar, and I must say this is one of the best non-fiction history books I have read. My professor said that this is one of the most perfect books he has used in the classroom. Yes, it's about politics, but the politics and the circumstances of the new Republic are fascinating--as are the interactions of the founding fathers. It is their relationships to each other and to their political views that drive the narrative. The writing is wonderful, it reads almost like fic ...more
Peggy
Apr 18, 2016 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Third textbook for class....a TON of reading! Yowza.
Rebecca
Apr 15, 2016 Rebecca rated it liked it
Freeman's book is a great example of political/cultural history. While, Freeman never explictly mentions gender and masculinity, her analysis does seem to suggest that she sees them'as an useful category for historical analysis'. For historians it is also a great reminder that primary sources should be examined very critically for personal biases.
Hannah
Dec 31, 2010 Hannah rated it liked it
Shelves: school
A more interesting way to read about history, but i'd still probably never have read it if it wasn't for a school assignment.
Oliver Bateman
Feb 27, 2013 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing
Utterly brilliant. Some of the conclusions are undoubtedly overstated, but this is primary source analysis at its finest.
Airlia Gustafson
Jul 24, 2012 Airlia Gustafson rated it really liked it
I came across her through Yale's Online Courses. I loved watching/listening to her lectures on the American Revolution.
Bruce
Mar 07, 2009 Bruce rated it really liked it
Notes the importance of honor and esteem felt by the founders and how it affected their actions.
Mateen Khokhar
Jan 20, 2011 Mateen Khokhar rated it liked it
dry, but provided a good insight into early american politics.
Erin
Jun 11, 2014 Erin rated it liked it
Amazing review of early U.S. history
Kay
Apr 02, 2016 Kay marked it as to-read
Shelves: available-mcpl
Available MCPL
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