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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2001)

by Joseph J. Ellis

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6,748771,369 (3.93)129
An analysis of the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.
  1. 50
    Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (StarryNightElf)
  2. 30
    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Other Writings by Benjamin Franklin (Hedgepeth)
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    Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood (wildbill)
  4. 31
    The American Revolution: A History by Gordon S. Wood (kkunker)
  5. 20
    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)
  6. 20
    It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas E. Mann (themulhern)
    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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    Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America by Jack Rakove (Othemts)
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    Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis (StarryNightElf)
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» See also 129 mentions

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(2000)Read this again (originally read audio book version). Collection of essays dealing with the founding fathers who Ellis calls Founding Brothers. Concentrates on certain stories or themes: Burr-Hamilton duel, Slavery, Washington's farewell address, the beginning of parties and Adams-Jefferson.Amazon.com review: 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.
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
(2000)(audio)Very good history of the years immediately following the Revolutionary War and the 6 men Ellis feels are the pillars of the new country. A good companion to his George Washington bio I just read a week ago.
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
Pulitzer Prize
" In this landmark work of history, the Nationsl Book Award-winning author of American Sphinx explores how of group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals --Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison==confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.."
  iwb | May 18, 2023 |
An excellent overview of the essential questions and conflicts surrounding the 1790s. Ellis, at the beginning, states his intended purpose, which is to convince the reader that the 1790s was one of the most important parts of American History, and he achieves his goal quite well.

The strict organization breaks down a little as the book progresses, but I think that part of Ellis's point is that the time defies any neat retroactive categorizations, so I'm inclined to give it a pass.

Some folks complain about the difficulty of Ellis's language. I had no problems with it, honestly. It's clear who his influences are (the people of the Revolutionary era), and his writing follows that style more than the quick, punchy style common today. I find it a virtue more than a flaw, though there are a few "darlings" that could have used an edit.

Overall, I found it a great jumping-off point into further studies, and I think the awards the book has gained are well-deserved. ( )
  Synopsis2486 | May 15, 2023 |
Before reading this book, my internal snapshot of what the founders of the U.S.A. did was a fuzzy but stable picture. Most of these images came from what I was taught in school and my trips to places like Mount Vernon and Monticello. I had inklings that my picture was neither accurate nor complete. But reading this book made many fuzzy sections much clearer.

Part of growing up is learning that things are seldom straightforward. People are complicated; therefore, the situations they find themselves in are anything but tidy. I have never encountered a book that makes that fact as evident as this one does.

Historian Joseph J. Ellis writes not as much about the founders themselves as about the situations that developed our national mythos. Starting with the infamous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Ellis examined what happened and why it happened. He presents past interactions that led to this deadly confrontation and the character traits (and flaws) of both men. Finally, he speculates on the outcome of the duel for the nation and posterity.

From this dramatic start, he moves on to the complicated arguments over the Constitution and whether the federal government or the states should be more powerful. The economic interests of the south, especially in Virginia, had an outsized influence on the outcome, which resulted in some issues remaining unsolved. He covers crucial issues ranging from slavery, George Washington’s legacy as President, and the battle between the Republicans like Madison and Jefferson (who generally favored individual independence and states’ rights) and the Federalists like Washington and Adams, who saw the need for a strong national government and a united effort.

I was surprised to find myself pleasantly swept up in the questions Ellis explores. He made it possible to grasp the issues with minimal effort. I tip my hat to him as a historian and a writer. My eyes tend to cross when learning about politics, government, and law, but he did a masterful job of making it understandable and interesting. If you want to increase your understanding of the revolutionary period, I’d pick another book to start learning. It would be an excellent choice once you have a grip on the events and the issues at stake. ( )
  Library_Lin | Jan 16, 2023 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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An analysis of the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

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Book divided into section: 1- the duel between Hamilton and Burr, 2- the dinner where the location of the capital is chosen, 3- the overriding conservation about slavery, 4- Washington's long farewell in all its manifestations, 5- the celebration of establishing an independent entity, 6 - friendship of Adams and Jefferson through rough patches and till the end
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