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

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3883-6
    Published: April 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3884-3
    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 history at William Woods University.
For more information about Craig Bruce Smith, visit the Author Page.


"Fresh perspectives and an author’s willingness to take on orthodoxy are the hallmarks of books worth reading. Craig Bruce Smith provides these attributes in his new volume that conveys the story of the American Revolution through an ethical lens. Focusing not on the battles, he offers a new causation theory for the armed rebellion and why changes in ethical thinking created a common cause for the rebels, which was instrumental in the success of the Revolution.”--Eugene Procknow

"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

“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

"Craig Bruce Smith unfolds a new dimension of the American Revolution with this engaging investigation of honor, virtue, and ethics. His study brings us to a closer and deeper understanding of what the signers of the Declaration of Independence meant when they mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."—David L. Preston, author of Braddock's Defeat

"In American Honor, Craig Bruce Smith deftly explores the values shared and promoted by the founders to secure republican government. Learned and insightful, this fine book freshly illuminates our national origins."—Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions

American Honor views the American Revolution through a new lens.  By exploring honor as a concrete ideal rather than an abstract concept, it reveals the evolving sense of moral purpose that framed the nation's founding.  An important read for anyone who wants a full understanding of the bonds of principle that joined revolutionary Americans in shared cause."--Joanne B. Freeman,Yale University