Joseph J. Ellis - Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

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Ellis' Founding Brothers: Read and Become a Master of Post-Revolution America

Jan 15, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:intriguing information, in-depth characterization, different viewpoints of issues are explained

Cons:no written connection to modern society, some dull parts

The Bottom Line: I would recommend Founding Brothers because the information that one learns while reading the novel is priceless.


As an American history buff, passing Founding Brothers in my local Barnes & Noble would surely yield my purchase of the book. The history of the United States is fascinating; for a country under 250 years old, it’s amazing to think that only a few generations have passed since George Washington walked down the streets of Philadelphia as a routine. Is it possible to believe that Manhattan was the site of a fatal duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton? I, for one, am truly fascinated by these small bits of information.

Founding Brothers is actually a novel about the “founding fathers” of our country. Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and of course - George Washington - are all portrayed and characterized throughout. Since Founding Brothers is non-fiction, I can say that I learned a great deal about the doings of the seven founding men of the beautiful United States of America.

The book is split into five unnamed chapters - each about 50 pages in length. Each chapter doesn’t speak about each and every person’s accomplishments; only those who were involved in the conflict at hand are actually spoken about. Not only are actions detailed to explain what exactly lead up to them, but the personalities of each person as well as their relationship to one another - whether or not they were political enemies yet friends on a personal level - and even physical feature explanations makes the book that much more interesting. While one may believe that the founding fathers of the United States did have some disagreements with one another, I’m sure that not many know about the backstabbing and killing that sometimes occurred. Did I catch your attention yet?

The plot isn’t written like a story with dialogue or opinion; instead, straight facts are given and train of thought of each character is accurately depicted (according to the sources used to write this book). The sheer differences between the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties are clearly expressed throughout; one can easily make out that Hamilton was a die-hard Federalist under Washington’s wing while Jefferson was a die-hard Anti-Federalist with level-headed support from Madison.

Hamilton’s idea for a national bank and Jefferson’s hard feelings about the proposal is explained in great detail - so much that it helps develop the notion that Federalists (mostly northerners) believed in a centralized government while Anti-Federalists (mostly southerners) believed in more states’ rights. The issue of the passing of Jay’s Treaty and its affect on the political scene is also relayed, as well as the early drafting and writing of Washington’s Farewell Address. Did you know that Washington planned on leaving office four years earlier than he originally did? And did you know that Alexander Hamilton wrote the profound Farewell Address - possibly one of the most influential documents in the history of the United States?

There are many more interesting hot-issue debates, and the opinions from both sides are clearly displayed. There is information concerning opinions and actions about foreign relations, federal authority, economics, slavery, debt, representation, and even personal lives. I found it most interesting to see that Abigail Adams - John Adams’ wife - was actually just as powerful, if not more powerful, than her husband during his presidency. The letters that she wrote to Thomas Jefferson following his traitor tactics to steal the presidency is possibly the most intriguing part of the book. (It’s true: the woman isn’t only the “other half” she’s the better half!)

While the information in the book is very detailed and is really quite impressive - in just so many pages I felt like I was a master concerning post-Revolutionary American politics - it would have been nice to maybe see a chapter connecting the views of the two political parties to modern-day Democrat and Republican views. While I’m certainly not oblivious of the fact that issues have changed and that so many parties have come and gone over the ages, it seems like the struggle between federal and states’ rights was a major issue then and it still is now.

Founding Brothers is a tough read - I’m not going to lie. At times I did find myself attempting to plow through the information; some of it was drab, and some of the vocabulary makes it seem as if I needed to be a Harvard graduate with a Doctorates in order to understand everything. Nevertheless, I did comprehend the bulk of the information and the way that it is divided up is possibly the most organized way to do it. In the end, I would certainly recommend Founding Brothers to anyone who loves American history; it’s intriguing to the last sentence.


Recommend this product? Yes

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