Founding Brothers : The Revolutionary Generation

Founding Brothers : The Revolutionary Generation

3.7 183
by Joseph J. Ellis
     
 

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An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic -- John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation's history, the greatest statesmen of their generation -- and perhaps of any --

Overview

An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic -- John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation's history, the greatest statesmen of their generation -- and perhaps of any -- came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton's deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison's secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's petition to end the "peculiar institution" of slavery -- his last public act -- and Madison's efforts to quash it; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams's difficult term as Washington's successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson's renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.

In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America's only truly indispensable figure.

Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional, but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics -- then and now -- and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
Ellis holds the Ford Foundation Chair in American History at Mount Holyoke College and is the author of American Sphinx (1997), a National Book Award-winning study of Thomas Jefferson. His new book contains six chapters on unconnected events in the formation of the American republic, featuring Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington as principal characters. Ellis is deeply steeped in the literature, and his style is crisp and full of subtle ironies. He brings fresh insights into such well-worn topics as the Hamilton-Burr duel and Jefferson's feelings about slavery. If there is a central theme that runs through the chapters, it concerns the fragility of the early years of the republic. Ellis calls the 1790s one long shouting match between those, like Hamilton, who championed the power of the central government and those, like Jefferson, who defended the rights of states and individuals. The question of slavery was so explosive that most Founding Fathers avoided discussing it at all. Ellis clearly admires the irascible John Adams. Perhaps surprisingly from the author of American Sphinx, however, the Founding Father who comes off least well here is Jefferson himself. Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/00.]--T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Benson Bobrick
A splendid book -- humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit. Even those familiar with 'the Revolutionary generation' will [find much] to captivate and enlarge their understanding of our nation's fledgling years.
New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutan
... as the historian Joseph J. Ellis points out in his compelling new book, the achievement of the American Revolution was considerably more improbable at the time....a lively and illuminating, if somewhat arbitrary book that leaves the reader with a visceral sense of a formative era in American life.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An accomplished historian and biographer seeks nothing less than to frame the Framers, bringing into clear focus the personalities and human dynamic that shaped and defined the early republic.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780571212170
Publisher:
Gardners Books
Publication date:
02/04/2002

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Founding Brothers 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 181 reviews.
MarjorieMorningstar More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ellis is more than capable to deliver excellent material and this great work is no different. If history puts you to sleep, go back to watching "The Kardashians" an perhaps a book of 'it' will make better summer reading! As far as my personal regard, Ellis' book is insightful, well researched and passionate yet stylistically calm and accesible...excellent for those who enjoy reading history for pleasure.
stormie_pe More than 1 year ago
Founding Brothers was an interesting read. The overall point of the book was to humanize these men who are looked up to like gods today. The best thing was the ideological struggle among these men who stood together for independence but gradually became adversaries as the dust settled. Anyone who thinks that the so-called partisan politics or attack ads of today are a new phenomenon needs to read this book. Each chapter details a few events of a founders life that illustrate some point in the continuing struggle to define what America is. Founding Brothers is a quick but informative read.
4bb More than 1 year ago
Taking a significant moment in each of the lives of John Adams, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Ellis develops a fascinating discussion of what led up to that moment and its influence on and importance to American history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ellis's book is very knowledgeable and many of the topics he brought up throughout the book were interesting and made me contemplative. It is very well written and it's far more detailed on parts of the revolution than the normal textbook would be. However, unless you're a complete lover for history / American history, it may either fry your brain or put you to sleep (one or the other)!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This most fascinating book on the Revolutionary Generation in the Age of Enlightenment views these men as they viewed each other, as brothers, in the context of their time. Mr. Ellis engineers a revision of past perception to make these men reliant, devoted, curios, needing, all too human "brothers" who, through reliance on each other build the Nation we know today. With particular focus on sets of competitive relationships, Mr. Ellis makes the past "current" in a way I've never experienced in any other history.
Fast-One More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful view of the founders of our country. It goes beyond the history books and looks at several of our country's founders influences and actions. A little slow to start, but well worth the effort.
KrisAnne Hall More than 1 year ago
Sparked my new found love for our founders and our great nation. Worth buying & sharing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joseph Ellis displays a masterpeice in this book, as he unveils the true reasons and meaning behind seven of the most beloved men in out nation's history attempt to gain independence for a land in turmoil and strife. I loved how Ellis allows the reader to get down to a personal level that shows how these men really were, and what they went through to obtain and conquer their goal of freedom. This book didn't mask or give false ideas that the American revolution was inevitable, but instead demonstrates the crucial moments and fragile line these men crossed during the most important decade in our nation's history. These six crucial moments included the Secret Dinner where the nation's capital was changed to Washingtion, D.C. in exchange for support on Hamilton's financial plan called 'Assumption' where the national government would collectively take over state debts, Washington's Farewell Address which warned Americans about the future of the country, John Adams and his wife's strong marriage, Benjamin Franklin's idea to end slavery that was stopped by James Madison, Burr-Hamilton's Duel which established Hamilton as a martyr for the Federalists, and finally John Adams and Thomas Jefferson once friendship that turned into a bitter rivalry as they disagreed on many critical principles of the government. These events opened my eyes to the fact that it wasn't easy and there were times where they wanted to quit, but these men never gave up and compromised for the common good of the United States. Ellis showed me how hard it was for these men, and the twists and turns they constantly faced over the fragile nation they were trying to build. Thank you Joseph Ellis for writing this masterpiece that is a vital book for everyone to read, as it uncovers the true reality and struggle in American poltics, and the persistence of our Founding Fathers to give us a land of freedom that did not come at an easy price.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book brilliantly displays the intricate thoughts and motivations of seven of our country's most highly thought of, influential men. I found it incredibly interesting to discover the mind processes of the men that had arguably the most impact on our nation's government. I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid and capturing details of the dual between Hamilton and Burr. Arguements such as that are commonly discussed in high school text books, yet never brought to life like as in this book. Another part I enjoyed learning more about was the relationship between John Adams and his wife. They loved each other but also had a political partnership his wife definitely spoke her mind on prominent issues in governement. I've always wondered why slavery was kept around so long in America's history and this book helped me to understand more about the subject. In general the founding fathers did not even want slavery to be allowed, but because of the pressing importance of union throughout the states, they disregarded the differences in opinions to keep from any splitting off of opposing states. There was an endless amount of vital issues in that important decade of America's history, and reading about them from the perspective of the men most involved brought all the details to life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Had a really hard time staying awake through this one. Would have stopped by the second page if I didn't have to read it for summer work. Ellis has some good points to make, but most of them are so skewed by big words and tangents, it's a long, hard slog. There's a sentence in The Silence where there are at least seven words that are either really long or completely baffling or both. Is that really necessary? We know you're probably pretty intelligent, Mr. Ellis, we don't need to have you inform us all the time.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worst book I have ever read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and enjoyed it. Writing style is a little hard to get used to, but I got used to it. This book is pretty short and it covers 6 major events that shaped the revolutionary period. It is a good way for someone to get their feet wet in a biography written like a novel covering this period. I am reading George Washington: His Excellency next. This will be a year of biographies for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great insight into the relationships between our founding fathers.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a wonderful book that gives you a peek into the world of the founding fathers of our country. I found it INCREDIBLY entertaining and informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author brings these historical figures to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago