Review: Founding Brothers

900 words - 4 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

There is a hint of less than blinding admiration of Jefferson on the author's part, in this account of the deal brokered between the states that placed the site for the nation's new capital on the banks of the Potomac in exchange for the South agreeing to Hamilton's plan for assumption, which he saw as crucial to rebuilding the fledgling country's shaky finances and stabilizing her credit with the world.
Chapter three relates “The Silence” on the great question left most ambiguously undecided by this idealized generation, that of slavery. It begins with the heated debate which arose when two petition were brought before the House by Quakers, representatives from New York and Pennsylvania, that called for the federal government to halt the African slave trade, the latter bearing the endorsing signature of Benjamin Franklin. Ellis expends a good deal of well placed energy on this section, flushing out the opposing views of the founders on the topic and highlighting the contradictions between the words and actions of many among this elite group.
Regaling us with the little known fact that “Washington's Farewell Address” was heralded as such originally by only a single New England newspaper, Ellis relays his vision of the monumental importance of George Washington to the success of both the revolution and the young republic, which he describes in terms of Washington being the nucleus which held both propositions together in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Ellis sees the great man's act of stepping down after two terms as president as among the most enduring proofs of his unequaled greatness and genuine belief in the democratic ideals of the...

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