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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 17, 2000
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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
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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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.Read more ›
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?
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good book about the people who founded our country and set it on the proper course.Published 1 month ago by steven k
Very good overview of Adams etc from a new perspective. Very readable b. so well written but the style means you have to read thoughtfully. Bought one for each of my kids.. Read morePublished 1 month ago by magmag