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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary…

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2001)

by Joseph J. Ellis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,392481,119 (3.93)96
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    themulhern: Compare and contrast the party politics of the late 1700s and early 1800s with the party politics of today. Is it really that much worse today? Josep Ellis says that it is, but his "The Founding Brothers" describes some very cynical party maneuvers and some deep philosophical divides. Maybe those founding brothers did it with a bit more grace, and that's the only difference.… (more)
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    Burr by Gore Vidal (themulhern)
    themulhern: This is a fictional account of Aaron Burr's career told mostly via his fictionalized reminiscences. He also appears, now a very old man, with a legal practice in New York. Vidal's take on the founding brothers seemed deeply caustic to me when I read this book many years ago. The same events crop up in both books, since Aaron Burr was an officer in the Revolutionary Army and then a prominent politician through the early 1800s.… (more)
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Very accessible scholarship as a work of popular history. Ellis should be commended for his ability to frame political issues in a way that reads smoothly yet maintains a strong hold on the intellectual argument he is pursuing. I believe that the six major topics he chose were successful on two fronts: 1) portraying something meaningful about the revolution; 2) portraying something meaningful about the mentality of the founding brothers - Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison. An interesting and worthwhile read. ( )
  Alidawn | Jan 29, 2016 |
One of my very favorite popular-history books, and I think one of the main reasons for the resurgent interest in revolutionary/federalist era American history.

Ellis did a fantastic lecture series for Barnes and Noble about this era which I have as well. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Jan 19, 2016 |
Founding Brothers is the Pulitzer Prize-winning United States history book written by Joseph J. Ellis.
The book brings to life the personalities of seven men who helped shape the beginning of this country and reveals them as the imperfect but determined people that they were. Those men are George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin (although he makes very brief appearances), James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr.
Specifically, Founding Brothers looks at the period of time shortly after 1776 (concentrating on the 1790’s) when they continued their struggle to find agreement on just what the Declaration of Independence meant in terms of going forward with their experimental government. Examples of details included are: the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the love-hate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and the influence that Abigail Adams had on her husband.
For someone not steeped in knowledge of U.S. history, I found the mention of things such as certain treaties, without immediate explanation of their detail, to be a bit confusing.
The last chapter is the one I enjoyed the most. It concerns the rekindling of the relationship between Jefferson and Adams after they both had retired from public service. Since neither had an agenda anymore, they were freer to speak their minds. They left us with many wonderful letters between them.
Anyone interested in how people cope with compromise in order to further their beliefs will benefit from reading this book. ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Set in the formative post-Revolutionary years of the early American republic, this short collection of historical vignettes strikes a perfect balance between anecdote and analysis. Ellis' prose is erudite but accessible, his arguments detailed but clear. The reader is left with an abiding sense of the discord and uncertainty of the American political landscape of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the uniqueness of the republican experiment, and the indispensable role of the intimate "band of brothers" that set the experiment in motion.
  ashtron | Jul 9, 2015 |
Very interesting overview of seven of the men who helped create the United States: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton,, Franklin & Burr. Each section (chapter) is treated like a separate vignette. Much to learn about the personalities of these guys & what drove them. I learned a lot! ( )
  mfdavis | May 20, 2015 |
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No event in American history which was so improbable at the time has seemed so inevitable in retrospect as the American Revolution.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705244, Paperback)

In retrospect, it seems as if the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it? In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis reveals that many of those truths we hold to be self-evident were actually fiercely contested in the early days of the republic.

Ellis focuses on six crucial moments in the life of the new nation, including a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation's capital was determined--in exchange for support of Hamilton's financial plan; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing scholars today) over the meaning of the Revolution. In a fascinating chapter on the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at the end of their lives, Ellis points out the fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution most dear. Throughout the text, Ellis explains the personal, face-to-face nature of early American politics--and notes that the members of the revolutionary generation were conscious of the fact that they were establishing precedents on which future generations would rely.

In Founding Brothers, Ellis (whose American Sphinx won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1997) has written an elegant and engaging narrative, sure to become a classic. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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 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.… (more)

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