Taming Passion for the Public Good
Policing Sex in the Early Republic
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
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Let me begin by acknowledging my gratitude to Jessica Whittemore, who was my research assistant and intellectual guide through the nineteenth-century world of American prostitution, brothels, and courts. I also want to thank Nick Buccola for a key conversation that forced me to clarify major issues in the manuscript. Finally, I would...
1. In the Shadow of Patriarchal Authority
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This book tells the story of how American leaders were able to conserve, legitimize, and perpetuate patriarchal authority over the sex lives of the first few generations of Americans to reside in a newly emergent liberal society. America’s early elites rejected the rule of English kings and transformed the nation into a liberal society of rights-bearing citizens who consented to limited...
2. Resilient Patriarchal Authority
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By what authority did civic leaders and public officials police sex in the early Republic? They believed their historical and intellectual forbears bequeathed to them patriarchal authority under God. Sir Robert Filmer claimed that God delegated authority to the first father, Adam, as well as to “succeeding patriarchs [who] had, by right of fatherhood, royal authority...
3. The Need to Police Sex
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On the eve of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin published a satire that instructed the British on how to humble their American vassals. The British had to reduce the growth of the American population, which could be accomplished by castrating all American males. He outlined the logistics: “Let a company of sow-gelders, consisting...
4. Policing Impassioned Men
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How did the nation’s early leaders go about policing sex? Their strategies were gender based. They perceived the American male primarily as a creature of passion who, under some circumstances, would do nearly anything to satisfy sexual desire. The American male would not and did not naturally fit into the newly emerging middle class and its clean sex...
5. Policing Women’s Sex Lives
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Thomas Jefferson proposed different approaches for policing men’s and women’s passion and sexual behavior. He assigned to both high-status males and the state ultimate responsibility for governing males, preventing their misconduct, and punishing manifestations of it. Men wielded patriarchal authority over other men. By contrast, he relied primarily on heads...
6. Policing Prostitution
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Public officials in the early Republic had the unquestionable authority to police prostitution. Generally, they could count on parental, political, and judicial support for their efforts to arrest prostitutes and to shutdown brothels, and they expected the concurrence of neighbors, ministers, and reformers for crusades against public licentiousness and...
7. The Patriarchal Core of Liberalism
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Patriarchal authority is the core of liberalism. Governing elites lay claim to broad discretionary powers to do whatever they think necessary to contribute to public welfare, regardless of supportive or adverse public opinion. Their discretionary decision-making enables them to limit people’s liberty, to restrain public passion, and to ensure social...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013