Book Review: Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis Essay

Book Review: Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis Essay

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In the book Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, the author relates the stories of six crucial historic events that manage to capture the flavor and fervor of the revolutionary generation and its great leaders. While each chapter or story can be read separately and completely understood, they do relate to a broader common theme. One of Ellis' main purposes in writing the book was to illustrate the early stages and tribulations of the American government and its system through his use of well blended stories. The idea that a republican government of this nature was completely unprecedented is emphasized through out the book. Ellis discusses the unique problems that the revolutionary generation experienced as a result of governing under the new concept of a democracy. These problems included- the interpretation of constitutional powers, the regulation of governmental power through checks and balances, the first presidential elections, the surprising emergence of political parties, states rights vs. federal authority, and the issue of slavery in a otherwise free society. Ellis dives even deeper into the subject by exposing the readers to true insight of the major players of the founding generation. The book attempts to capture the ideals of the early revolutionary generation leaders and their conflicting political viewpoints. The personalities of Hamilton, Burr, Adams, Washington, Madison, and Jefferson are presented in great detail. Ellis exposes the reality of the internal and partisan conflict endured by each of these figures in relation to each other. Ellis emphasizes that despite these difficult hurdles, the young American nation survived its early stages because of its great collection of charismatic leaders and their ability to ...


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...s not favor one founding brother over another. The book's sources seem to come from a wide variety of both primary documents and critical literature. Great quotations from each of the founding brothers are adequately and properly dispersed to create an illusion that the major players in the book are arguing their respective points. The quotations are so effective because they come directly from the American leaders themselves and are seamlessly blended with Ellis's additional commentary.
Unfortunately, by choosing to focus on only a few events, Ellis's book fails in that it lacks somewhat of a scope. The book also focuses on some of the founding brothers in much greater detail than others. While I come away with a wealth of knowledge about both Adams and Jefferson, I have less knowledge of Ben Franklin and Aaron Burr, as Ellis's focus is significantly less on them.

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