Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis

General Description (from
In retrospect, it seems as if the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it? In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis reveals that many of those truths we hold to be self-evident were actually fiercely contested in the early days of the republic.

Ellis focuses on six crucial moments in the life of the new nation, including a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation’s capital was determined–in exchange for support of Hamilton’s financial plan; Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing scholars today) over the meaning of the Revolution. In a fascinating chapter on the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at the end of their lives, Ellis points out the fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution most dear. Throughout the text, Ellis explains the personal, face-to-face nature of early American politics–and notes that the members of the revolutionary generation were conscious of the fact that they were establishing precedents on which future generations would rely.

In Founding Brothers, Ellis (whose American Sphinx won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1997) has written an elegant and engaging narrative, sure to become a classic. Highly recommended. –Sunny Delaney

Why the President Should Read This Book
Founding Brothers adds yet more information to our library regarding the founding of the United States. In it we learn more about the lives of six of the principle men whose thoughts and deeds shaped our nation, why they did what they did, and why they wrote what they wrote. We learn of their faults and foibles (in the case of Hamilton, his foibles led to his premature death in a duel), as well as their strengths, and their extraordinary vision of what they were building. To read this book is to gain yet more understanding of why our country is what it is, and how to preserve the best parts.