Title: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Date Published: October 17, 2000
In Joseph, J Elli’s book Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation, it concentrates on six moments of the new nation of America at its “development” stage. Throughout the book, Ellis presents the events as they occurred in history, how they occurred, the responses of the ideal figures of the Revolutionary era, and perhaps conclusions based on how those events occurred. These events are presented in six chapters, which include Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s deadly duel; the secret dinner at which the location of the capitol was determined; the issue of the most defining and central problem of slavery; Washington’s Farewell Address; the collaboration of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; and finally the renewed friendship between that collaboration. All of this is just plain history as it was, but in between the history, you get little snips of the author’s main idea.
What I thought to be Ellis’ main idea, I gathered mostly from his preface, The Generation. Here, he talks about the meaning of the Revolution and the improbability of the achievement of the republican legacy, and yet uncapable of it occurring. This view is expressed in the first sentence of the book, or preface, and he goes on to explain this improbability by saying how it was common sense that an island could not rule a continent, and presents arguments such as rebellions against imperial domination (British army and navy… “Constituted the most powerful military force in the world”) had never occurred, until now that is. Because of this improbability, Ellis’ purpose seems to be that of trying to get the reader to understand the real magnitude of such an unlikely occurrence in our history. You get that idea when he says, “These legacies are so familiar to us, we are so accustomed to taking their success for granted, that the era in which they were born cannot help but be remembered as a land of foregone conclusions.”(Ellis, 4) Moreover, “If hindsight enhances our appreciation for the solidity and stability of the republican legacy, it also blinds us to the truly stunning improbability of the achievement itself.” (Ellis, 5&6) And he goes on explaining throughout the whole preface, how to observe and perceive the occurrence of the American Revolution in all aspects, by using the opposing sides of near and far to fully be able to understand this important point in history.
Along the lines of trying to get the reader to fully understand what it took to create this new and independent nation, I find that Ellis concentrates on the distinct personalities of the vanguard figures of the revolutionary generation. Throughout the whole book, he delves into the private lives and distinct characteristics of Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison, behind their public personas. He says that, “First the