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Affairs of Honor - Freeman, Joanne B. - Yale University Press
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Affairs of Honor

National Politics in the New Republic

  • Joanne B. Freeman
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Out of Print.


Winner of the Best Book Award in the field for 2001, sponsored by the Society for Historians of the Early American 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.

Joanne B. Freeman is 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. She is also the editor of Alexander Hamilton: Writings, published by the Library of America.

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