An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic--John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.
During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation's history, the greatest statesmen of their generation--and perhaps any--came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton's deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison's secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's petition to end the "peculiar institution" of slavery--his last public act--and Madison's efforts to quash it; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams's difficult term as Washington's successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson's renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.
In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America's only truly indispensable figure.
Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional, but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics--then and now--and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.
New York Times Book Review - Michiko Kakutan
....a lively and illuminating, if somewhat arbitrary book that leaves the reader with a visceral sense of a formative era in American life.
New York Times Book Review - Benson Bobrick
A splendid book -- humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit. Even those familiar with 'the Revolutionary generation' will [find much] to captivate and enlarge their understanding of our nation's fledgling years.
An accomplished historian and biographer seeks nothing less than to frame the Framers, bringing into clear focus the personalities and human dynamic that shaped and defined the early republic.
... If there is a central theme that runs through the chapters, it concerns the fragility of the early years of the republic.... The question of slavery was so explosive that most Founding Fathers avoided discussing it at all. Ellis clearly admires the irascible John Adams. Perhaps surprisingly from the author of American Sphinx, however, the Founding Father who comes off least well here is Jefferson himself. Highly recommended.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Tyler Awful Over written,could be re-written in 40 pages, redundant and biased. I would not recommend to anyone.
Rated of 5
by ... Horrendous book I have read PLENTY of college level books that are sort of boring but I was still able to get through, but this that I'm reading for AP US cannot even be explained in words how terrible it is. The author basically just took every word and found the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Relle BoringBoringBoringBoringBoring THE worst book I have read. Excessively repetitive, unnecessarily long, and freakishly difficult to understand. Why do smart people want to look smarter?! My high school brother has a textbook that has the same material...only his book is more... Read More
Rated of 5
by Rose Founding Brothers This book is got to be the most awful book I have ever read. I would rather slit my wrists than read the rest of it and I am only on chapter two. Ellis rambles unnecessarily for several pages using bombastic language to finally get to his point in... Read More
Rated of 5
by notsmartenough I'm not 76 This book would be good if I knew big words.....but I don't. Also, I found it very repetitive and drawn out.
Rated of 5
by DougO Character Matters- Then and now! Highly recommend Founding Brothers, this is a great read. An honest and mature presentation of the challenges our Founding Fathers faced creating America after the Revolution. You will get to know the founding fathers as individuals, each with... Read More
Winner of BookBrowse's 2009 Nonfiction Book Award.
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of America's founding era, prize-winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic.
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