- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Feb. 5 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780375705243
- ISBN-13: 978-0375705243
- ASIN: 0375705244
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 227 g
- Average Customer Review: 238 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #188,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation Paperback – Feb 5 2002
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“Founding Brothers is a wonderful book, one of the best . . . on the Founders ever written. . . . Ellis has established himself as the Founders’ historian for our time.” —Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books
“Vivid and unforgettable . . . [an] enduring achievement.” —The Boston Globe
“A splendid book—humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Lively and illuminating . . . leaves the reader with a visceral sense of a formative era in American life.” —The New York Times
“Masterful. . . . Fascinating. . . . Ellis is an elegant stylist. . . . [He] captures the passion the founders brought to the revolutionary project . . . . [A] very fine book.” —Chicago Tribune
“Learned, exceedingly well-written, and perceptive.” —The Oregonian
“Lucid. . . . Ellis has such command of the subject matter that it feels fresh, particularly as he segues from psychological to political, even to physical analysis. . . . Ellis’s storytelling helps us more fully hear the Brothers’ voices.” —Business Week
“Splendid. . . . Revealing. . . . An extraordinary book. Its insightful conclusions rest on extensive research, and its author’s writing is vigorous and lucid.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
From the Inside Flap
In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award--winning author of "American Sphinx explores how a 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.
The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers-re-examined here as Founding Brothers-combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes-Hamilton and Burr's deadly duel, Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams' administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin's attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison's attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams' famous correspondence-Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation's history."
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The principal personae dramatae are Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John and Abigail Adams..
The first issue brought into focus is the feud between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Ellis does a good job at explaining the events, insults and motivations which led these two giants of our early political culture to their fatal "interview."
Retreating from Hamilton's final act, we find him as Secretary of the Treasury in his famous confrontation with James Madison over the assumption of the state debt and the location of the national capitol. This section of the book begins with the dinner hosted by Vice-President Thomas Jefferson at which he may have suggested the historic compromise to Hamilton and Madison. It continues through the surges and eddies of the political process to its ultimate consummation. Throughout it all, Washington remained both above and essential to the ultimate resolution.
The rise of party spirit during Washington's second term forms the backdrop to the third issue, which focuses on Washington's farewell to the nation that he had served so well and so long. The interplay between Washington and Adams and Jefferson and Madison seems a sad ending for the Father of our Country, but it was also an important part of his historic role in establishing the precedent of peaceful transfer of power.
The rise of the political parties through the twilight of the Revolutionary Generation provides the final issue to be presented. This is an era of shifting roles and partnerships. In the beginning we see Adams and Jefferson as collaborators, both at the Continental Congress and as diplomats in European capitols. During Washington's second term this collaboration fractured as Jefferson entered into a partnership with Madison to contest the direction of the country under the Washington-Hamilton-Adams administration. As Jefferson and Adams parted, Jefferson allied with James Madison and Adams partnered with his wife, Abigail. The reader is introduced to the idea that powerful First is a phenomenon as old as the Republic. These collaborations would continue through Adams' term a president with Jefferson leading the opposition from his position as vice-president. It is one of those intriguing ironies of history that Adams, in their old age correspondence, would renew his collaboration with Jefferson to define and explain this Brotherhood to history.
For anyone with a deep interest in understanding the assembly of our "Shining City On The Hill", "Founding Brothers" is a must!
We live in a time where the aging generation has been celebrated as 'the greatest generation', but for this title (and not meaning to take away anything of their achievement) they certain must acknowledge a rival, that being the generation of Americans who lived at the time of the Revolutionary War. Of course, this generation had a sense of greatness about it that made them conscious of what they were doing - George Washington deliberately lived and moved as if his every action would be the stuff of precedent; John Adams had his wife Abigail to begin saving his correspondence long before the outbreak of hostilities in the war.
Even with this sense about themselves, according to Ellis, 'Uncertainty, in fact, was the dominant mood at that moment' - the time when the Constitution was being drafted and ratified, there was no clear sense of what was meant by certain of the compromises, particularly the meaning of who 'the people' were in the legal and constitutional sense. If they weren't the federal government or the state governments, then just who were they?
Ellis identifies different possible ways of telling the early history of American nationhood, but most simply recapitulate the political debates of the time. Ellis sees these debates and early issues as setting the political stage for ongoing American development. He writes, 'the revolutionary generation found a way to contain the explosive energies of the debate in the form of an ongoing argumetn or dialogue that was eventually institutionalised and rendered safe by the creation of political parties.' The issues of the Revolutionary period were not solved by the Constitution and early government development, according to Ellis, but rather enshrined and codified, indeed, woven into the very fabric of the nation as ongoing (and, as Ellis points out, only broke out into warfare during the Civil War).
Ellis develops the narrative across six particular stories involving eight major characters, all of whom knew each other rather well. These figures are George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. These stories include the famous duel between Hamilton and Burr, a dinner party in which the location of the nation's capital city was decided, and George Washington's farewell address upon declining to run for a third term as president. He also recounts the on-again, off-again friendship and rivalry of Jefferson and Adams, up to the very point of Adams' death - his reported last words were about Jefferson, who died on the same day, in what seems like divinely inspired timing for both: July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the nation.
Ellis' writing is exciting and fun to read. It is very informative, being both good history and good storytelling. It is little wonder that it was made into a History channel series. This is a little gem.
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