Manly Honors

MANLY HONOR: Part 1 - What is Honor?

Introducing a new Column "Manly Honor"

By Brother Brett McKay, Lodge Veritas #556, Norman Oklahoma

Part I - What Is Honor?

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Across cultures and time, honor and manliness have been inextricably tied together. In many cases, they were synonymous. Honor lost was manhood lost. Because honor was such a central aspect of a man's masculine identity, men would go to great lengths to win honor and prevent its loss.

If we take even a cursory look at history, honor pops up over and over again as a central theme in literature and life. The epic poems of Homer are primarily about honor and man's quest to achieve and maintain it. If you read Shakespeare's plays with a close eye, you'll find that honor and manhood take center stage as reoccurring themes. During the 17th and all the way into the early 20th century, upperclass men in Europe and the United States regularly engaged in duels on "fields of honor" to defend their manhood. When signing the Declaration of Independence, the American Founding Fathers "mutually pledged to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

But what exactly is honor?

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MANLY HONOR: Part 3

The Victorian Era and the Development of the Stoic-Christian Code of Honor

By Brother Brett McKay

Lodge Veritas #556, Norman Oklahoma

NEW VOLUME 3

The topic of honor in the Victorian period is the most complex part of a complex evolution, as it involves a myriad of influences and factors.

Understanding the Class System in England

At the start of the Victorian era (1830s-1900), English society was highly stratified and hierarchical, and the population fell into three main classes. The idea of classes is hard for us to fully grasp from our modern viewpoint. We often think of them as having to do entirely with income level, and while that was certainly a factor, it also depended on values, education, occupation, family connections and history, birth, as well as your manners, speech, and clothing.

At the top of the heap was the landed aristocracy (meaning land ownership was part of their noble privilege). This "peerage" held titles of nobility and largely descended from the warrior nobility of the Middle Ages who had successfully battled for fiefdoms and then defended those territories from would-be usurpers. They owned land, but rented it to others to work. Right below the peerage was the gentry. Because of the system of primogeniture, only the first born sons inherited a title. Younger sons belonged to the gentry, and though they lacked a title, they were still considered nobility, and true "gentlemen." Whether titled or not, one of the defining qualities of the upper class was that they did not have to work, nor taint themselves with the commonness of trade to earn a living; their income came wholly from owning and renting out land.

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MANLY HONOR: Part 4

The Gentlemen and the Roughs:

The Collision of Two Honor Codes

in the American North

By Brother Brett McKay

Lodge Veritas #556, Norman Oklahoma

NEW VOLUME 4

The Gentlemen and the Roughs:

The Collision of Two Honor Codes in the American North

In our last post, I said that Northern and Southern honorwould be covered in one article, and that future posts would be shorter. Neither turned out to be true. Well, this one is a little shorter, but we're giving Northern and Southern honortheir own posts - there's just too much interesting stuff to cover. And as all my projections have been wrong thus far, I will refrain from making any more moving forward. Just come along for the ride!

An exploration of honor in the American North during the 19th century offers a fascinating framework from which to build on and expand many of the concepts we discussed in our post on Victorian England's Stoic-Christian honorcode, while also digging into the tensions that emerged as a result of its creation - tensions that are still with us today. So if you haven't read that post yet, I recommend doing so before jumping into this one.

The Stoic-Christian Honor Code in the American North

The Middle and Upper Classes: The Honor of Gentlemen

The North experienced many of the same economic, geographic, and social changes - the rise of industrialization, increased mobility and urbanization, the spread of evangelical Christianity (which took the form of the Second Great Awakening in the US) - that had shaped Victorian England. So this region of the country unsurprisingly experienced a very similar shift in their ideal of honor. Because of the unique nature of the American landscape, the various component parts which made up the new Stoic-Christian honor code in the North were emphasized and de-emphasized in different ways than they were across the pond.

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MANLY HONOR: Part 5

Honor in the American South

By Brother Brett McKay

Lodge Veritas #556, Norman Oklahoma

NEW VOLUME 5

Manly Honor Part V: Honor in the American South

Welcome back to our series on manly honor. Today we tackle Southern honor in the 19th century. Now, be prepared: this is and will be the longest post in the series by far. The complexity of traditional honor and its various cultural manifestations cannot possibly be underestimated, nor can the difficulty in distilling these complexities into an accessible, coherent narrative. We have done our best with that task so far, and here as well; however, understanding Southern honor requires a more in-depth exploration. We could have just sketched out the very basics, but truly grasping those basics necessitates an understanding of the framework which underlies them. Also, as we shall see, because the South's culture of honor still influences that region today, it's a good subject to become knowledgeable about if you want to understand the country. Plus, it's just really interesting!

We didn't set out to do it, but I'm proud of the fact that this series has turned into a resource unlike any other that is out there. I don't imagine there's a huge audience among blog readers for 7,000-word posts about Southern honor, but those who are interested in the subject will hopefully really dig it, and anyone who girds up his loins and reads the whole thing will be rewarded.

Southern Honor: An Introduction

In our last post about the history of honor, we took a look at how honor manifested itself in the American North around the time of the Civil War. Yet when most folks think about honor in the States, both then and now, what first comes to mind is invariably the South.

There's a reason for that. While honor in the North evolved during the 19th century away from the ideals of primal honor and towards a private, personal quality synonymous with "integrity," the South held onto the tenets of traditional honor for a much longer period of time.

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