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American HonorThe Creation of the Nation's Ideals during the Revolutionary Era$
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Craig Bruce Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638836

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638836.001.0001

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Maintaining Moral Superiority

Maintaining Moral Superiority

How Ethics Defined the Early War Years

Chapter:
(p.98) Chapter Four Maintaining Moral Superiority
Source:
American Honor
Author(s):

Craig Bruce Smith

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638836.003.0005

This section analyzes the early years of the Revolution, including the ethics of the war and Americans’ attention to maintaining moral superiority. It shows that the patriots wanted to win, but win well. They wanted the new country to succeed, but not at the cost of honor or virtue. Thus, this chapter shows attempts to discourage the old European notions of honor that still existed in favor of the democratized version. It shows how ethical ideals played a role in all aspects of military establishment from battlefield tactics, to the treatment of prisoners, to the recruitment of soldiers. It also presents an expansion of honor and a broadening of ethics as part of a wider social revolution that included those of different genders, races, and classes as equal participants and claimants to honor. It looks at martial and civil policies that enforced conduct and recognized women’s and African Americans’ contributions. All people could claim their share of honor and virtue through proper conduct, duty to the nation, and, above all, ethical behavior.

Keywords:   Continental Army, “Gentlemen Soldiers”, Military texts, Officers, African Americans, Female Patriots, George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams

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