Joseph J. Ellis is the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College. Educated at the College of William and Mary and Yale University, he served as a captain in the army and taught at West Point before coming to Mount Holyoke in 1972. He was dean of the faculty there for ten years. Among his books are Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams and American Sphinx, which won the 1997 National Book Award.
This biography was last updated on 08/24/2011.
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A Conversation with Joseph Ellis author of Founding Brothers
What made you decide to follow your award winning biography of Thomas
Jefferson with Founding Brothers and what kind of research went into this
After I finished my last two books, on John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, I realized that I had read much of the correspondence produced by the founding generation. I did have to go through the Washington letters, and read the Burr correspondence, but otherwise I had pretty much started a new book on the entire group of founders without quite knowing what I was doing. And throughout those letters, they kept referring to each other as a "band of brothers." We think of them as Founding Fathers, but they saw themselves as a fraternity. I should add that my title fails to include the one sister in the group, Abigail Adams, whom I think was an equal partner in her husband's political career.
You open the book with the sentence, "No event in American history which was so improbable at the time has seemed so inevitable in retrospect as the American Revolution." How so?
We regard the success of the American Revolution as inevitable because we have lived so long as a nation, over two hundred years, with the ...
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