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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation Paperback – 4 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (4 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571212174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571212170
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Ellis has a penetrating mind and a light pen. -- The Times, 13 February 2002

This is a fine piece of historical analysis that can be read for pleasure - and how rare that is. -- Independent,13 February 2002

this short, engrossing, brilliantly coloured account. . . a work of deep scholarship successfully masquerading as popular history. -- Guardian, 2 March 2002

About the Author

Joseph Ellis is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Founding Brothers. His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the National Book Award in the United States. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife, Ellen, and their youngest son, Alex.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
THE MOST succinct version of the story might go like this: On the morning of July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were rowed across the Hudson River in separate boats to a secluded spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By lexo1941 on 12 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
The reader will have gathered by now that this book looks at some of the more illustrious American revolutionaries: Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, Burr and to a lesser extent, Franklin. One of the other reviewers calls it 'academic in tone', hardly a good description for what feels more like a professor knocking off a rather chatty essay in old-fashioned mainstream historical writing. Ellis has decidedly not come to bury the founders, although he appears to share the general low opinion of Aaron Burr, and he's interesting about Jefferson's remarkable capacity for self-deception.

As someone who knew very little about these figures, I was very surprised to learn about the depth and duration of some of the antagonisms between them. Everyday political discourse tends to conceal them behind a nimbus of reverence, and the rather stiff group portraits don't help. As a foreigner and an amateur student of US history, it was fascinating to read about the Adams-Jefferson split and subsequent reconciliation, or the power wielded by Abigail Adams during her husband's presidency, or the way that pretty much everyone seems to have hated Alexander Hamilton. The tenuous and uncertain nature of the first presidency, the way that most precedents had not yet been set, also comes across very clearly.

Having said that, I suppose I wanted this to be something that it's not - a comprehensive account of who all these men were, where they came from and how they came to believe what they believed. This reads more like a book written for people who already know the basic story.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Nov. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ellis' work provides a series of snapshots that reveal some of the personal and political relationships that characterized the members of the revolutionary generation in the United States. Focusing on a few significant events, such as the infamous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, Ellis illuminates each incident with enlightening context that, when combined into a unique anthology of revolutionary tales, provide an excellent introduction into the life of the nascent American republic and its early leaders. Well-written and gripping in its contents, Founding Brothers serves as an entertaining and informative work of early American history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hathor on 9 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
The author brings insight and clarity to both the individuality of the characters, and by so doing peels away at the layers of mythology that becloud our vision of them, and their brilliant leadership. But perhaps of greater value to us today, the author presents insight into the necessary processes required to bring together disparate groups of peoples with differing philosophies and religions toward building a United nation with tolerance and accommodating all differences. The genius and the force of their leadership at the foundation of the American experience of building itself as a nation cries out to be understood and appreciated by the leaders (and those who elect them) of the same nation today. The genius of the Founding Borthers stands in stark contrast to the glaring absence of qualities of leadership today. An appreciation of this foundation experience, as well as the Civil War experience, I think are basic to an understanding of the character of the American nation and its role in the world today.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sherry on 25 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Instead of trying to tell a sweeping account of the American Revolution and the early days of our Republic, Joseph Ellis took a different approach. Ellis decided to take a look at six different issues and events of the first decades of the United States. He did meticulous research on each of the issues and connected them to the larger context of American history, but the focus of each chapter was narrow enough so that we won't get lost in trying to figure out where everything fits in. Ellis attempts to take the myths and legends away from these early leaders and put them into a human context and a historical context. He succeeds at this. One thing to note, however, Ellis has a very academic style to his writing. While someone like David McCullough (also a Pulitzer Prize winner) weaves a story that flows and is fairly easy to read and move through, Ellis's academic prose makes for slower reading for comprehension.
The first chapter deals with the Hamilton-Burr duel. All I knew about this was from the "Got Milk" commercial several years ago. Ellis details the known facts about what happened and does some detective work to put together as best as possible what truly happened. This was a very interesting chapter to start the book with and set the stage for how Ellis would construct his chapters. He takes conflicting accounts (in this case, from the supporters of Burr and Hamilton) and weaves them together taking all the evidence in account and tries to make the story fit.
Other chapters deal with The Friendship of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, George Washington's Farewell Address, the rumor of a dinner which settled where the new Capitol would located, the Silence on the issue of slavery, and the collaborations of the Founders.
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