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From a Duel to Reconciliation

  • Jul 1, 2002
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"Founding Brothers," begins with the most famous duel in American history, and ends with what may be the most famous reconciliation. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, ten-paces apart, level their pistols at each other, shots are fired, and one man is left standing with his reputation about to be demolished as surely as his opponent lay demolished on the banks of the Hudson. At the other end, two friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who, in the heat of politics, became bitter enemies, reconcile in their old age, and die within hours of each other on the day of the 50th anniversary of American independence. Between these book-ends, Washington, Franklin, Madison, and Abigail Adams, make their appearance as we watch the birth of a nation. "Founding Brothers," makes clear the primary task of our first leaders, and that was nationhood. All other questions, including the most burning issue of slavery, were secondary. Without the primacy of nationhood, nothing else could be accomplished, and these men knew full well the import of their actions. Part of their greatness was in acting for the ages. Whatever narrow interests they may have held, they knew they would ultimately be judged on accomplishing the first task. Abigail Adams, possibly the most literate woman of the time, is the only woman to figure in this history. She is portrayed as equal to her husband, wise and gracious in her own right.

Joseph J. Ellis has done a magnificent job of bringing us both the drama, and the intricate arguments that surrounded the issues the "brothers" dealt with. Reading this book has brought me an understanding of American democracy, then and now, and I recommend it to anyone who cares about why we are what we are.

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More Founding Brothers: The Revolut... reviews
review by . September 08, 2008
Ellis brings to well-crafted life the fragile nature of the American experiment in the first years after the revolution and the Constitution. He uses six short stories or incidents to frame this so-fragile balance between war and peace, Federalist and Republican, the very success or ignominious death of the American experiment:     --The Burr/Hamilton duel (in which Burr, the sitting VP shot and killed Hamilton.    --The compromise dinner (one of many clandestine …
review by . November 17, 2008
It looked a lot prettier in those Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull paintings. If there's an overall theme to Joseph Ellis's 2000 book "Founding Brothers", it's that the United States was tempered as much by internal conflict as by war with Great Britain.    Ellis's approach deals with the aftermath of the American Revolution, post-Constitution, in six drawn-out narratives exploring various facets of the often-feuding Founding Fathers. He begins with the most famous and deadly …
review by . July 22, 2006
This work sheds light on our Founding Fathers by discussing early  historical events in more detail. For instance, Benjamin Franklin  tried to force Congress to confront slavery- head on. Our early  lawmakers were at a loss to figure out how slaves would be integrated into the economy and the broader society once freed.  Alexander Hamilton foresaw a scenario; wherein, the federal  government would triumph over the states.Alternatively, the Union …
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In retrospect, it seems as if the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it? InFounding Brothers,Joseph J. Ellisreveals 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. ...

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ISBN-10: 0375705244
ISBN-13: 978-0375705243
Author: Joseph J. Ellis
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Vintage
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