Customer Reviews for

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

So How Did It All Turn Out?

Silly Question,you say, but in Joseph Ellis's capable hands, we come to understand that the great American experiment in democracy was very much in doubt for several years after the U.S.Constitution was ratified. Ellis is endlessly fascinating as he displays the early d...
Silly Question,you say, but in Joseph Ellis's capable hands, we come to understand that the great American experiment in democracy was very much in doubt for several years after the U.S.Constitution was ratified. Ellis is endlessly fascinating as he displays the early days of our Republic and the brilliant, flawed, dedicated, wise, sometimes simply wrong political leaders. Yet, they held it all together in the end. They didn't lose the dream of freedom that had urged so many men to risk everything, even their lives, for a chance to live that dream..

If, like me, your understanding of American history is little more than that fast trip through high school history, this is delicious reading. Ellis is a seductive story teller who brings the Americon icons like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson to life with all their splendor and warts showing. Somehow, you think more highly of them and their accomplishments, often against staggering odds, because they were not perfect, but simply men who carried a shared vision that meant everything to them.

I recommend you not miss this chance to know them well.

posted by MarjorieMorningstar on April 15, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

WORST AP United States History Assignment EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, this book was my summer reading project. This snooze fest of a book literally made me cry of boredom. In my opinion, Joseph Ellis' first draft of the novel was written in a way NORMAL Americans could understand...THEN Mr. Ellis decided to go back to his original d...
Okay, this book was my summer reading project. This snooze fest of a book literally made me cry of boredom. In my opinion, Joseph Ellis' first draft of the novel was written in a way NORMAL Americans could understand...THEN Mr. Ellis decided to go back to his original draft and then added every insignificant FLUFF word he could think of. If this book was giving as a punishment it is pretty much guarantied the punished individual would never misbehave again. I hate this book and only read it because it was required for my class, and I have absolutely no idea why a sane person would read this novel for pleasure.

posted by 4435989 on August 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2003

    Visiting Old Friends

    Opening the book with the shots fired between Hamilton and Burr in 1804, Joseph Ellis sets the tone of turmoil and passion that existed between the shapers of the new United States of America. Some of this is familiar ground: the Burr/Hamilton rivalry; moving the nation's capitol from NYC to DC; the almost revered presence of George Washington no matter what the situation, etc. But some things had a very new spin on our perceptions of early America--I don't know if Mr. Ellis is the first to rename the 'Founding Fathers' to 'Founding Brothers', with the sibling squabbling it implies,' but it certainly fits. Also the nagging issue of slavery and how the determined efforts to avoid confronting it would consequently bring the country to Civil War decades later, is a dark theme running throughout. Still, this is an accomplished book that I would recommend to anyone interested in this period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2003

    enlightening

    For the novice in American history, this book provides insight into the creation of our constitution and why the Civil War was inevitable. Our Founders are shown to be human, flawed and, except for one of our most revered, dedicated to their principals. I'll never ignore the pictures on our currency again. Happy Birthday George!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2002

    Great Book!!

    The great Founding Fathers of our nation struggled through their time over many issues with debates. Politicians in the late 1790s believed intensely what they spoke. They admit to hating each other and despising everything another stood for. They battled each other in newspapers and pamphlets, in town halls, and held convictions strong enough to duel to the death to defend their positions. The group is today called the Founding Fathers, but their allegiances and rivalries make them the passionate, combative group of Founding Brothers. Joseph J. Ellis wrote the Pulitzer Prize Winning Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Ellis attended school at the College of William and Mary and Yale University. Ellis also wrote American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, and three other books about the early stages of New England. Ellis decided to write this book after rereading Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey. He wanted to write a good-sized book about a "massive historical subject" (p ix.) After searching through copious amounts of material, Ellis then chose to write about the Founding Fathers and the birth of the American nation. Founding Brothers tells the story about the fraternity of the Founding Fathers during beginning of new republic in America. There were eight prominent leaders in the early republic- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John and Abigail Adams. John corresponded with Abigail, from Philadelphia, about the subjects of Congress. He constantly asked for her advice, especially during his presidency when his Brothers abandoned him. The book describes six in-depth, significant events that helped shape the new republic. The six episodes are about Hamilton and Burr's deadly duel; Jefferson's secret dinner party for Madison and Hamilton to discuss the bargain where Hamilton would influence the passing of the permanent capital to be placed on the Potomac River while Madison would help pass Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's disruptive petition to Congress for an end of slavery; Washington's Farewell Address to the nation after his eight year term as the first president; Adams' term as Washington's successor and his scheme to pass the presidency onto his son; and Jefferson and Adam's friendship until their last days. There are four major themes shown throughout the book. The first is the well-balanced personalities and ideas of the men. Each man had a different background and therefore different ideas about how the government should work. Second, they were a brotherhood. They ate together, went to the same meetings, discussed politics with one another, and ran against each other for office positions. They knew the personal details of each other's lives. Third, they were able to stop the threatening debate on slavery from taking over the political agenda. Slavery was a problem that could have uprooted the government and separated the states forever. Fourth, they all knew that they were setting the American stage for the future. "No one present at the start new how it would turn out in the end" (5.) The eight men knew their lives would end up in history books and acted on their `best¿ behavior as thought being watched by future Americans. The Brothers corresponded with each other, near the ends of their lives, for posterity and made decisions according to how they felt about the future of the nation. The thesis of the book is not exceptionally clear. The idea is actually not much of a thesis at all but rather a narrative set-up for the rest of the story. In the preface, Ellis asks the question "How, then, did they do it?" (16) (it referring to keeping the new republic strong.) The six stories that follow the preface are examples of how the Brothers worked to keep the nation strong. One major point of Ellis' is that Americans now see the chaotic 1790s as the "foreordain

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2003

    BEST REVOLUTIONARY GENERATION BOOK EVER WRITTEN

    This book by Joseph Ellis was the best read of I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with. I have read many books on this subject and not many authors have been able to capture such a complicated time in our History as this author. I am hoping he releases more books in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2003

    Required reading

    I don't understand why this book isn't required reading for high school students. The ideas put forth might help our society care a bit more about our miraculous, yet very human experiment. The beauty of this book is how well Dr. Ellis explains each premise. My college-aged son gave the book for me to read, for which I'll be forever grateful. One of those books you hate to finish. I will be reading more of Dr. Ellis' titles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    History Lives

    Ellis does a splendid job of drawing out the individual characters and their interaction in the context of the political and social uncertainties of the post revolutionary period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2002

    Fascinating stuff

    I thought this book was great. It tells the story of the challenges faced by the infant American Republic through six defining events or storylines. The in-depth look at the Burr-Hamilton duel and the rediscovered friendship of Adams and Jefferson at the end of their lives are both fascinating. However, the middle four storylines are even more intriguing and central to the future of the republic: The Jefferson-Hamilton-Madison 'deal' involving residency and Hamilton's financial plan; Washington's retirement and final address to the Nation; Adams' term as president and growing rivalry with Jefferson; and most of all the issue of slavery in the new republic, an issue in which a resolution was deftly avoided for fears that it was explosive enough to shatter the Union (which it eventually did 70 years later). Benson Bobrick's 'Angel in the Whirlwind' is a great look at the Revolutionary War and it's causes, and this book perfectly continues the story; namely, what challenges would the revolutionary generation face after the war was won, to make the 'great experiment' in Democracy work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2002

    We Were Vulnerable

    The author's tactic of weaving his story around six episodes provides an entertaining experience for the reader. Ellis gives much emphasis to the flaws and failures of his heroes. The result is a balanced portrait of the formative period of the Republic and a greater appreciation for its vulnerability at that time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2002

    THe greatest look behind history's decision on the united states of america

    This was an excellent look on how the nations early leaders made their decisions on what is now the most important events of America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2002

    Meet the Founding Fathers...

    This book was superb. Joseph Ellis made the stodgy old statues of the Revolutionary generation come alive, not through overused facts or dry personal information, but through six unique and little-discussed (outside historical circles) stories and events. The slow buildup of personal information and characteristics of the Founding Fathers embedded in important but often-overlooked or misinterpreted historical events was perfect, and caused me to feel like I personally knew Adams, Jefferson, Madison, adn the rest, and helped immensely in my understanding of the political maneuverings of the period. It was NOT a difficult read AT ALL, and I am a 16 YR OLD JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL, so it obviously DOESN't require a college degree... I found it fascinating, and I DO still have a life. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Revolutionary period, or in learning about the beginnings of American government in an entertaining manner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2001

    About FOUNDING BROTHERS

    Perhaps one of the best books about the early years of our nation. The author presents the lives of a group of men, perhaps the greatest generation of political minds in our history, and shows how the future of our country was decided. Like very few books about the Revolution, the author brings the issue to slavery as past of the reasons behind the many rivalries that existed among them. Unlike other reviewers, I DID NOT FIND THE BOOK HARD TO READ (I AM STILL IN COLLEGE). A great book from start to finish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    Wonderful insight into our founding Fathers

    As a Historian and high school history teacher this book gives great insight into the generation that founded our country. The author gives us backround to friendships and fueds that bonded our nation politic and lets us enter the heads of our founding fathers both in a positive and negitave light. the author writes not in a technical jargon or uses vocabulary that is comman to only history professors but writes for the comman man to read , enjoy and learn

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2001

    Great book from a man repeating history

    Ellis' work is phenomenal in this delightful volume. The depth and personal intrigue brought out is stark--and the style is thorough while not being too dense. Acutually a rather brief work most could read in two weeks... and one that avid readers of history will devour in a few sittings. The brevity masks his ability to bring out such amazing color in the life of so many seen in black and white... Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, etc, they are kind of faces that adorn the currency of our culture and the halls of our 'republican King' Fhite House. Ellis has made these familiar faces to become familiar personalities for us today. In a strange twist, Ellis seems to have missed one of the greatest lessons a study of history affords us--not repeating history where it leads to failure. Joe Ellis, it is recently revealed... has been 'padding' his resume with heroic stories from his past in which he is the solitary hero. I hope that he has limited his fictional stories to such things as his Vietnam experience (whilst teaching at West Point he couldn't have been in battle in southeast asia) or amazing touchdowns he scored on a HS football team he was never on! The book 'Founding Brothers' was such an astonishing achievement, it would break my heart to know that Ellis' own personal tendancy to make up his own history seeped into his ability to convey actual history of others to us today. A great book I would recommend to every patroit, and most people. My judgement on the author is witheld... and will be separated, and hopefully not tainting, such a great work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2001

    A Great Read and Highly Recommended

    The anthology of stories were readable and topical. The understanding of the Burr - Hamilton duel and the origin of the nation's capital on the Potomoc River were intriguing stories. Of course if you want to understand the story on how slavery was treated and how the subject was muted for better or worse, this may be a good place to start. Although the author repeats himself in certain chapters, it does serve to remind us of where he is going and what he is explaining. What the book should do for readers is to make them read other books of this period not only about Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Burr, and Madison but also events like the Lousiana Purchase and the hot election of 1800 with Adams and Jefferson. In general, Adams and Franklin come off better , while Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison have chinks in their character. Burr is the new Benedict Arnold, while no one messed with Washington and really how could you. The final story of the Adams and Jefferson demonstrated the greatest division of opinion of the destiny of America and the great resurrection of a friendship. A neat cover will help me keep coming back to read this book again.

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    Posted November 26, 2010

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    Posted August 1, 2010

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    Posted May 19, 2011

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    Posted October 25, 2009

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    Posted December 26, 2008

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