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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation Kindle Edition

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Length: 304 pages Word Wise: Enabled

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade
"George Washington's Secret Six" by Don Yaeger
The story of a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring, which infiltrated New York and helped save the American Revolution. Learn more | See author page

Editorial Reviews 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.

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

From Library Journal

Having considered Thomas Jefferson in his National Book Award winner, American Sphinx, Ellis expands his horizons to include Jefferson's "brothers," e.g., Washington, Madison, and Burr.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1336 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375705244
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 16, 2003)
  • Publication Date: December 16, 2003
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBJF32
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,971 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Joseph J. Ellis is Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke and author of the National Book Award-winning American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Founding Brothers, and The Passionate Sage (Norton).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 130 people found the following review helpful By J. Lindner on December 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis offers an excellent portrayal of the primary players of post-revolutionary America. The book is extremely readable which makes it appealing to a wide range of readers, yet provides the serious scholar with insightful historical analysis. Ellis establishes his thesis and develops it throughout the book, though , arguably, some chapters are more successful than others.
The book is by design not chronological, but does include detailed analysis of each founding father. Yet the book is not patriotic flag waving. Ellis' style is reminiscent of the consensus historians of the 1950s but with a modern approach. His portrayal shows the founding fathers separated by personalities and differences of opinion, but with the unique ability to set ambitions aside (more or less) to accomplish the nation's business. For instance, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were both Federalists yet they hated one another, Ben Franklin drew criticism for anti-slavery beliefs, Thomas Jefferson ceased correspondence with George Washington (forever) and Adams (for fifteen years), James Madison and Hamilton divided the government, and Aaron Burr eventually killed Hamilton. But with the exception of this final example all were able to deal with these differences for the good of the country. Ellis illustrates his chapters with masterful synthesis.
There are times when Ellis' theory appears to wander, as with the case of slavery and the official "silence" that governed the subject. In this case the problem did not go away but instead exploded seventy years later in civil war. He also meanders throughout the chapter on Jefferson and Adams to the point that reading becomes tedious, but his overall effort is not adversely impacted.
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247 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Wolf on November 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Joe Ellis is well known for his biography of Jefferson (it won the National Book Award). This book, his most recent, will only elevate his reputation.
In a series of historical vignettes, the reader learns about (among other things) the famous but mysterious duel between Hamilton and Burr, the awkward problem of slavery in the 1790s, the collaboration between Madison and Jefferson, George Washington's farewell and the famous relationship between John Adams (who is underappreciated according to Ellis) and Jefferson.
Every vignette reads like a short story. The facts are riveting, the writing (as usual) is lucid, succint and sufficiently surprising. And the historical era of the 1790s can't fail to interest us all.
There's absolutely no reason why this should not be the next book you buy. Get it for Christmas and give it as a gift to someone else. Where else will you learn, with such intelligence and historical insight, how majestic Washington was, how human Adams was, how strange Jefferson's personality was, and how conniving all the politicians were in the salad days of our country?
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170 of 179 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Joseph J. Ellis has now made a habit of writing interesting books about the American Revolution and its aftermath. In his latest effort, Founding Brothers, Ellis concentrates on six incidents involving seven of our foremost American patriots. The topics (or chapters) range from slavery and the national debt to the location of the national capital and the disasterous administration of John Adams.
While my favorite chapter deals with the dinner involving Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison. In which the federal government assumed the national debt from the states, for the relocating of the federal government, on the Potomac River. Jefferson and Madison also made sure that, unlike Great Britain or France, the national capital would not be the financial center of the country.
Among the other informative points that Ellis brings up was that Hamilton was the only prominent American casualty of the ideological differences stemming from the decades after the American Revolution. The growing unpopularity of Washington's second administration with other prominent Virginians which culminated with his Farewell Address was also interesting.
Founding Brothers is an exceptionally easy and quick book to read. Ellis repeatedly informs us what the world was like in the 1790's, when there was little historical precedence for a republican style of government or a biracial society.
There were many labrythine agreements made between the founding brothers and Ellis' research is highly commendable in attempting to sort it all out. For anyone interested in the years that followed the ratification of the Constitution and the beginnings of our present day government, this book is a must.
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107 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Mark Edward Bachmann on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem, and probably the most focussed piece of historical writing I've ever read. Professor Ellis tells us in his two-page introduction that his objective was to write a "modest-sized account of a massive historical subject", implicitly ragging on his professional colleagues who seem inclined more often towards just the opposite. In just 248 pages he takes on the thirty or so years following ratification of the U.S. Constitution, portraying this period as the most politically treacherous in our nation's history. He focuses primarily on the roles of six protagonists: Jefferson, John Adams, Madison, Washington, Hamilton, and Franklin. Aaron Burr appears too, but as a tragic foil to Hamilton more than as a significant player in his own right. Professor Ellis's technique, odd but effective, is to build six short chapters around various interactions among these key figures, arranging them artfully like a series of inter-connected short stories. Each chapter elucidates a key dimension in the political dynamics of the period, and the emotional impact of the book by the end is like that of a powerful piece of fiction, even though the author's adherence to the factual record is scrupulous. What emerges is a picture of the revolutionary nation facing the kind of crisis that undermines most revolutions as personal ambitions and conflicting agendas give rise to new tyranny or ongoing civil war. At one level, these were a group of jealous and bickering men with diverging views on the direction of the republican government they were laboring to craft. Yet in the end it is these very contradictions which allowed the improbable project to suceed, bringing in the diverse political threads necessary to bind the new nation.Read more ›
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