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Respectability: Polotics In Early America Essay

1785 words - 8 pages

In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis discusses how the relationships of the founding fathers shaped the United States, looking not only at what happened historically but the myths that have prevailed in modern times. I have few issues with this book one of which is that the narrative often jumps from one time and place to another, and while it provides the relevant information and keeps the reader’s attention, it can be hard to follow at times. In addition there are times were he explains the same incident more than once, which is distracting and unnecessary. Despite this Ellis supports his thesis well through stories of political and personal events between the founders, and clearly shows how it affected their treatment of each other. This shows why they fought and worked together the ways they did and why they left certain issues closed, and others open to later interpretation. I appreciate Ellis used journals, letters, newspapers and other public documents to see into the minds and lives of the founders, and the various quotes portray the depth of the founders’ feelings very well. Overall, while confusing at times, the book was engaging and displayed the Founding Fathers in a variety of lights adding to the books’ appeal.
Ellis Starts off his book with a request to the reader to consider the American Revolution not only as how we see it today, but how it would of looked to the founders, and what actually happened. He introduces you to some of the key figures in the founding of our country and the idea that some of the founders found the successful creation of the United States as inevitable conclusion. Ellis highlights some of the dangers of what the founders did along with the improbability of the “miracle at Philadelphia”. He then explains the lack of unity felt by the thirteen colonies due to lack of shared history, the new concept of “the people” and the difficulties between the Republicans and the Federalists. This last conflict is used to lead into the next chapter, which is centered on the duel of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
The duel is the only event not in chronological order, as Ellis states plainly in the book that it is there to get readers to stay and continue to read. I believe that this was an excellent choice on Ellis’ part as the introduction left me somewhat confused due to the time jumps, and more than a bit bored. Thus the mental imagery of these men rowing through the swamp to “the interview at Weehawken” is both colorful and captivating. The most interesting part of the chapter though is not the duel, but the later description of the mounting animosity between these two men and the missed opportunities to save Alexander Hamilton’s life. It also emphasized the importance of a good personal reputation at the dawn of our government. This is shown in the failing careers if the two duelers, not so much because of their politics but due to the negative reputations they gained with the public and their fellow...

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