J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Craig Bruce Smith on American Honor, 3-5 Oct.

This week Craig Bruce Smith will speak at multiple sites around Boston about his new book, American Honor: The Creation of the Nation's Ideals During the Revolutionary Era.

The publisher’s description the book says:
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. 
Smith earned his doctorate at Brandeis and is now a professor at William Woods University in Missouri.

His talks in the region will start with what looks like a basic book talk and then branch into more specialized presentations.

3 October, 6:00 P.M. (reception starts at 5:30)
“American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals during the Revolutionary Era”
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston
$10 admission; free to members, fellows, and E.B.T. cardholders; register here.

4 October, 1:00 P.M.
“Honor and Ethics: The Foundation of George Washington’s Leadership”
Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, 60 Turner Street, Waltham
Open to Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members.

Smith’s next project focuses on Washington.

4 October, 7:00 P.M.
“Riots, Boycotts, and Resistance: Honor, Boston, and the Coming of the American Revolution”
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, Boston
$10 admission; more information here.
By far the most generally accepted method of resistance was through non-violent boycotts of British goods; these boycotts united American men and women in a common cause. However, more extreme elements in society, largely led by the Boston-based Sons of Liberty, exacerbated this movement by using violence against Crown officials and sympathizers to seek retribution. These dual visions of reclaiming honor became a point of contention among the American founders, from Samuel Adams to John Adams, and marked a considerable ideological and ethical struggle for the budding Revolutionary movement.
5 October, 7:00 P.M.
“‘Open Violation of Honor’: Concord, Lexington, and the Ethics of the Revolutionary War”
Wright Tavern, Concord Museum
Free but registration required here.
Smith will explore how the eruption of gunfire during the Battles of Lexington and Concord affirmed to the American patriots (in the words of Mercy Otis Warren) that the United Kingdom was “lost to that honour and compassionate dignity which had long been the boast of Britons.” To Americans, Concord’s “shot heard ‘round the world” and the resulting war were moral responses to Britain’s “open violation of honor.” In just over a year, the echoes of April 19, 1775 culminated in the Declaration of Independence and its pledge of “sacred honor.”
Books will no doubt be available at each event.

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