Review: Founding Brothers

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Founding Brothers is a rather problematic title for this collection of essays by Joseph Ellis, since his group of “brothers” includes Ben Franklin who was old enough to the father of the other well known members of the founding generation of America and also a strong cameo appearance by Abigail Adams. Despite this and the author's overtly neoconservative bias leanings, this remains a worthwhile read for both scholars and the more casual reader of history as well. The arm-chair historian will likely not notice the lapse in chronology in the chapters and will surely enjoy the flowing narrative as it relates a half dozen intimate tales from the lives of the most enshrined of this legendary generation. The author's twenty page preface details “The Generation”, which he asserts that despite current trends in scholarship, the real essence of the revolutionary era lies in the thoughts and deeds of this handful of Patriot elites, which had publicly pledged at great peril to their own lives and fortunes their undeniable support for the ideals of our founding documents. America's most famous (or infamous) duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is the backdrop for first chapter. This might lead one to think Ellis intends to move backward in time through the book, considering it occurred on July 11, 1804, however such is not the case as mentioned. Ellis does manage to present a fairly balanced view of the part played by both participants in the long war of words which finally led to the deadly showdown near Weehawken, New Jersey, providing an accounting of the historical scholarship on this well told chapter of our history. Chapter two describes “The Dinner”, hosted by Thomas Jefferson at his residence in New York City about June 20... ... middle of paper ... ...efferson through their correspondence in their waning years. Here again he reveals a human side of the two remaining giants of the founding era, asserting they set aside their differences because they recognized the importance history would place on them and their actions and they fretted in tandem over the widening rift in sectional politics in the Jacksonian era. Despite bouncing around the era a bit, the book flows well and the author's story telling easily keeps the reader turning pages. Though there is a strong bias to the patriotic elite, Ellis manages to keep in most respects a reasonably objective vantage point in the narrative and acknowledges that these Founding Brothers were indeed mere mortals, which fate or providence placed perfectly it seems. Works Cited Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Knopf, 2000. Print.

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