In early 1802, an enraged Luther Martin put pen to paper in order to expose the true character of a new enemy, Richard Raynal Keene. He intended to publish for all to read—at least all in his hometown of Baltimore and its environs—the story of how a trusted fellow gentleman had turned against Martin and revealed himself to be a "monster." He entitled the eventually five-part work Modern Gratitude. Martin, the attorney general of Maryland, and many other politically minded men had regularly turned to newspapers and pamphlets to wage paper duels in the court of public opinion over who had acted honorably or not in political matters. But this occasion was different and highly unusual. The paper duel that Martin started with Keene emerged not out of a political quarrel that had turned personal, but out of a private, family event: the elopement of Martin's young daughter Eleonora with the older Keene, a young lawyer who had studied under Martin. Of course, daughters had long married against fathers' wishes, but, over this romance, the men in this family chose to fight it out through public declarations. Martin and Keene made the exceptional decision of choosing print and public opinion to lay open and battle over this intimate and private problem in order to regain their masculine honor. They made the personal political at a time of growing tensions over and fears about the nature and extent of cultural change in the new nation. The distinct context of the post-Revolutionary elite shaped how this particular romantic debacle unfolded.


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pp. 27-56
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