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Joanne Freeman on
the importance of reputation

Joanne Freeman Q: What qualified one for leadership?

A: Well, when you think about the fact that, unlike today, in that period you couldn't just run and say, I'm a federalist, vote for me. Didn't mean anything and you might be a little ashamed of being a federalist, because parties were not a positive thing. It means you're out for a party and not for the public. So, what are you being elected to office on? Well it's your reputation. It's your character. It's who you are. And those are really concrete possessions to any gentleman. But to a politician of this period, they're not only all that he is as a man, but they thus become his career as well. And protecting your reputation becomes not just a personal matter, but a professional matter. It becomes all important. Everything's wrapped up in what your reputation is among your peers. And thus you're thinking all the time about the impact of everything that you're doing and saying on everybody else. Again, it, it makes it a really volatile environment.

Q: What did it mean if your reputation was damaged?

A: If someone successfully attacked your character and you didn't defend yourself, not only would it be that you're gonna have social problems among your peers, but it really might ultimately cast you out of the small circle of elite who are holding positions of power. You might be considered a lesser man.

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