Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic / Freeman, Professor Joanne B.

Book Cover Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
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/ Freeman, Professor Joanne B.
Publisher: Yale University Press
Availability:In Stock.
Sales Rank: 430671
ISBN-10: 0300097557
ISBN-13: 9780300097559

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
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