The Democratization of Honor and Virtue in the New Republic
From the aftermath of Yorktown through the rise of political parties in the early republic, this chapter shows that legislation and policy (from the Treaty of Paris to the Constitution to attempts at abolitionism) were based on these new concepts of honor and virtue. It also shows the institutionalizing of egalitarian honor in schools, organizations (like the Society of the Cincinnati), occupations, and politics. It charts the development of business ethics in the form of professional honor for lawyers, doctors, and even job applicants. Most importantly, this chapter engages the new conceptions of honor that developed during the early republic, including the rise to prominence of Franklin’s ascending honor (which in part was adapted into the notion of republican womanhood) and Thomas Jefferson’s version that made honor entirely internal and akin to modern ethics. The chapter examines how these new ideals impacted all classes of society including women and African Americans. While most citizens agreed that honor and virtue were defining elements, they differed greatly on how these concepts related to governance, policy (especially the French Revolution), and society. Contestations over the interpretation of national and personal honor would in turn spark in-fighting, dissention, and revival belief systems, highlighted by the development of political parties.
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