American Honor

The Creation of the Nation's Ideals during the Revolutionary Era

By Craig Bruce Smith

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6158-2
    Published: August 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3884-3
    Published: March 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5393-6
    Published: March 2018

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The American Revolution was not only a revolution for liberty and freedom, it was also a revolution of ethics, reshaping what colonial Americans understood as “honor” and “virtue.” As Craig Bruce Smith demonstrates, these concepts were crucial aspects of Revolutionary Americans’ ideological break from Europe and shared by all ranks of society. Focusing his study primarily on prominent Americans who came of age before and during the Revolution—notably John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington—Smith shows how a colonial ethical transformation caused and became inseparable from the American Revolution, creating an ethical ideology that still remains.

By also interweaving individuals and groups that have historically been excluded from the discussion of honor—such as female thinkers, women patriots, slaves, and free African Americans—Smith makes a broad and significant argument about how the Revolutionary era witnessed a fundamental shift in ethical ideas. This thoughtful work sheds new light on a forgotten cause of the Revolution and on the ideological foundation of the United States.

About the Author

Craig Bruce Smith is assistant professor of military history at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.
For more information about Craig Bruce Smith, visit the Author Page.


"Smith has succeeded in writing an important book that revolutionary historians and anyone interested in the place of ethics in public life should read."--Mark Boonshoft, The Junto

“A highly original work that deals gracefully with difficult and often amorphous terms and that succeeds in reinvigorating debates on honor culture, inching us closer to a more holistic understanding of the American Revolution.”--Journal of Southern History

"An engaging and scholarly exploration of the way honor and virtue motivated the colonists who created the American republic."--The New Criterion

“Readers will appreciate Smith’s insights into the formation of American national ideals. He scaled a mountain of archival research. . . . [and] writes with fluidity and power, forging his disparate materials into a cohesive shape while retaining a great deal of rich detail.”--American Historical Review

“Smith’s clearly written and exhaustively researched American Honor traces the evolution of “the ethical ideology of early America” from the middle of the eighteenth century through the early 1800s. . . . An interesting and important book.”--Journal of North Carolina Association of Historians

“In this conceptually daring and analytically original overview of the entire Revolutionary age, Smith explores the genesis of American political and ethical traditions and sheds important light on some of the oldest and most familiar themes in early American history.”—Jason Opal, McGill University

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