Kann 2013 Passion

Title Information

Author: Mark E. Kann

Title: Taming Passion for the Public Good

Subtitle: Policing Sex in the Early Republic

Place: New York and London

Publisher: New York University Press

Year: 2013

Pages: 248pp.

ISBN-13: 9780814770191 (cloth) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780814764671 (ebook) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780814759462 (ebook) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 18th Century, 19th Century | U.S. History

Full Text

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Additional Information


  Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  1 In the Shadow of Patriarchal Authority (p. 1)
  2 Resilient Patriarchal Authoriy (p. 23)
  3 The Need to Police Sex (p. 49)
  4 Policing Impassioned Men (p. 77)
  5 Policing Women's Sex Lives (p. 103)
  6 Policing Prostitution (p. 129)
  7 The Patriarchal Core of Liberalism (p. 161)
  Notes (p. 183)
  Bibliography (p. 213)
  Index (p. 229)
  About the Author (p. 237)


»The American Revolution was fought in the name of liberty. In popular imagination, the Revolution stands for the triumph of populism and the death of patriarchal elites. But this is not the case, argues Mark E. Kann. Rather, in the aftermath of the Revolution, America developed a society and system of laws that kept patriarchal authority alive and well—especially when it came to the sex lives of citizens.
In Taming Passion for the Public Good, Kann contends that that despite the rhetoric of classical liberalism, the founding generation did not trust ordinary citizens with extensive liberty. Through the policing of sex, elites sought to maintain control of individuals' private lives, ensuring that citizens would be productive, moral, and orderly in the new nation. New American elites applauded traditional marriages in which men were the public face of the family and women managed the home. They frowned on interracial and interclass sexual unions. They saw masturbation as evidence of a lack of self-control over one’s passions, and they considered prostitution the result of aggressive female sexuality. Both were punishable offenses.
By seeking to police sex, elites were able to keep alive what Kann calls a “resilient patriarchy.” Under the guise of paternalism, they were able simultaneously to retain social control while espousing liberal principles, with the goal of ultimately molding the country into the new American ideal: a moral and orderly citizenry that voluntarily did what was best for the public good.« [Source: New York University Press]


Cleves, Rachel H. Journal of the Early Republic 34(1) (Spring 2014): 150-153. – Full Text: Project MUSE [Restricted Access]

Hemphill, Katie. Common-place 13(4-5) (September 2013). – Full Text: Common-place [Free Access]

Pleck, Elizabeth H. Law and History Review 31(4) (November 2013): 889-892. – Full Text: Cambridge Journals [Restricted Access]

Added: February 15, 2014 | Last updated: February 15, 2014