read online pdf Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation By Joseph J. Ellis –

You would figure that the history of America s Revolutionary Era would be milked dry by now and the stories of its players a stale drama This book represents the effort of a professional historian to forge new insights by looking collectively at the so called Founding Fathers, stretching a metaphor for their alliances and conflicts as being emblematic of the very checks and balances that they built into the Constitution in 1787 Through a set of six lively essays, he probes the diverse personalities and substantive interactions among these figures in relationship to the major issues that arose in the decade after the new government was formed essentially the 1790s His focus is on Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton, with supplemental attention given to Madison, Burr, and Franklin Because they all knew each other and worked together in collaboration and strife over such a long time, Ellis adopts the phrase Founding Brothers for his title In his preface, Ellis points out that despite these white dudes being lionized and mythologized by so many for so long, each generation sees the launch of the nation a bit differently, with different implications for contemporary controversies according to who is looking A golden haze surrounds this period for many Americans, but as a contaminated radioactive cloud for those unhappy with what we have become and how we got here.The draw of this book for me is in the opportunity to understand personalities of these players on history s stage a bit better and to appreciate how their human strengths and flaws came into play in shaping the country s course As an effective way to clarify the impact of personality on amplifying political differences, Ellis kicks off his book by examining the pistol duel between Vice President Burr and Hamilton that ended in the senseless death of the latter I have had the pleasure of a satirical dose of the quirks and dark spots in Burr s character from reading Vidal s novel Burr I didn t realize how much Hamilton brought on the challenge from Burr by his campaign of continual gossip and insults of Burr in social situations I pictured Hamilton as an effete snob, but learned he came from humble roots Through prior readings I ve gotten to know and admire Adams, Washington, and Franklin, but for Jefferson and Hamilton what little I know makes me somewhat biased against them I came away with some fresh angles on the first three and for the latter two substantiallyabout what made them tick though little to make me love them any better Regardless of personal appeal or distaste, their alliances and conflicts moved the country through the bad patches.In a wonderful chapter called The Collaborators , Ellis compares and contrasts the early close collaboration between Adams and Jefferson, best seen in their teamwork on the Declaration of Independence, with that of Jefferson and Madison, a match of strategist with tactician that led to Jefferson beating Adams in his run for a second term In between, we get the falling out between Jefferson and Adams during their competition to replace Washington and the full bloom of Adams productive collaboration with his wife Abigail during his presidency I get a kick out of Ellis evocative language in the challenges to the friendship between Adams and Jefferson They were an incongruous pair, but everyone seemed to argue that history made them into a pair The incongruities leapt out for all to see Adams, the short, stout, candid to a fault New Englander Jefferson, the tall, slender, elegantly elusive Virginian Adams, the highly combustible., ever combative, mile a minute talker, whose favorite form of conversation was an argument Jefferson, the always cool and self contained enigma, who regarded debate and argument as violations of the natural harmonies he heard inside his own head The list could go on the Yankee and the Cavalier, the orator and the writer, the bulldog and the greyhound They were the odd couple of the American Revolution.For Washington and Adams, a strong central government was essential to achieve the nation s great opportunity to settle and harness the resources of a continent, negotiate beneficial trade agreements with other nations, and develop an adequate defense from threats Adams wrote of the need to retain a monarchical principle of power in the government to get things done as the only pragmatic way to achieve national cohesion over territories so much vaster the Greek city states that first developed a democracy For Jefferson and his prot g Madison, any conferral of substantial power at the federal level came to represent a revival of the kind of tyranny for which the revolution was waged When Hamilton and the group of Federalists began machinations to establish a national bank to facilitate economic growth, this pushed Jefferson s buttons evenas a betrayal of a revolution for individual rights and agrarian values and a return of power to a monied and largely urban elite, i.e a new aristocracy Thus, the all for one and one for all sense of unity that emerged when the Revolutionary War was on soon came to an end, and the age of vicious party politics began Forever after, party loyalty would threaten to belie the ideal that the elected government was to serve the entire populace Dirty tricks, smear campaigns, and fake news came out of the woodwork surprisingly early In the election to replace Washington, Jefferson is guilty of paying a scandalmonger to do a hatchet job on Adams character in the press and in a pamphlet, painting Adams as a hoary headed incendiary who was equally determined on war with France and on declaring himself president for life, with John Quincy lurking in the background as his successor When Jefferson s role was definitively revealed, Jefferson seemed genuinely surprised at the revelation, suggesting that for him the deepest secrets were not the ones he kept from his enemies but the ones he kept from himself Another choice quote Jefferson s nearly Herculean powers of self denial also helped keep the cause pure, at least in the privacy of his own mind elsewhere Ellis notes that Jefferson could probably pass a lie detector test denying each of his various duplicities After his narrow victory, Adams invited Jefferson into his cabinet, but party politics and ideology kept Jefferson from acceding to revival of their old collaborative spirit Adams had filled his cabinet with Hamilton and his followers, whose manipulations on behalf of their agenda disgusted Adams himself He resorted to using his wife Abigail as his effective cabinet of one for all important help with his deliberations The breach with Jefferson yawned even wider when Adams undermined Jefferson s longstanding goal of an alliance with France by forging a secret agreement with England to secure umbrella protections from their fleet in exchange for a favorable trade status for them More fuel for their personal conflict was added to the fire when Adams acceded to his wife s unfortunate push for the Aliens and Sedition Act to protect him from libelous attacks in the press When the law came to be used as a political weapon selectively against the Republican leaning press, the gloves really came off Only much later, after Jefferson s term and retirement, did the pair take up correspondence and slowly let go of their mutual sense of betrayal Their remarkable correspondence over many years until their deaths on the 50th anniversary of Independence Day reveals a return to true friendship and a great repository of their attempts to make sense of history Ellis coverage of the correspondence makes for a nice complement to the in depth treatment of the rapprochement in McCullough s wonderful biography John Adams Ironically, it was Adams that succeeded in achieving a parallel treaty with France to balance out the English one, though it came too late in his presidency to affect the election of Jefferson He had been trying to follow Washington s lead on navigating a path of neutrality with respect to the centuries old struggle between England and France for dominance of western Europe However, these was not a stable government to negotiate with for a long time, and the attempt by Tallyrand to extract a hefty bribe just to get to the table set progress back In turn, it was ironic that it was Jefferson who achieved the Louisiana Purchase and thereby unleashed true imperial spirit for taking over the continent And it was he that helped achieve the banning of the slave trade.With hindsight we can see the raw deal that was being set up for the future for blacks and Indians Mostly, the leaders at the time colluded in an active deferral in addressing the slavery issue Too hot to handle The southern colonies wouldn t have joined the Union if slavery was in the lineup for federal interference In an important chapter of this book, The Silence , it was disturbing to see how a simple petition to Congress by some early Quaker abolitionists in 1790 could reveal the terrible instability of the nation Endorsed by Franklin, it couldn t be ignored Their presentation of the contradiction between trafficking in human beings and the precept of all men are created equal was clear, as was their argument that is was the duty of Congress was to resolve it Despite the consensus buried in the Constitution that no law could be passed restricting the slave trade for 20 years, the Pennsylvania petitioners maintained that Congress could still do its constitutional duty of abolishing slavery under its general welfare clause that empowered them to take whatever action it deemed necessary and proper to Countenance the Restoration of Liberty for all Negroes That brought out plenty of tap dancing from the southern delegation about state rights and the practice being okay with God according to certain biblical passages With a few states making threats about seceding, the petition was ignored.In retrospect, it s easy to be forgiving that it would take some time to call the bluff of hard core states like South Carolina But Ellis takes a surprising tack by arguing that this point in time was near the end of the period when slavery could be abolished with limited impact The census for 1790 revealed exponential growth of the population of slaves similar to that of whites since 1776, reaching 700,000 out of nearly 4 million total non Indian population I was shocked that New York and New Jersey still had 33,000 With the added likelihood of new slave states being added to the Union, the door was closely quickly on the economic feasibility of a compensated emancipation from the federal coffers None of the Founding Fathers really countenanced a fully bi racial society All imagined shipping the massive number of freed slaves somewhere else, to some colony in Africa, South America, or to some place out West not too different from the mindset during Lincoln s presidency 75 years later Jefferson may have loved his slave Sally Hemings and had children by her, but he did not free her and did not conceive of blacks worthy of full citizenship In the case of his fellow Virginian, Washington, Ellis provides bits of evidence that he did imagine a fully integrated society Some quote shows he believed that low expectations of their capabilities arose from the outcomes of their environment and not intrinsic character Also, his will specified that after his wife also died that his Mt Vernon estate be sold and proceeds be used to support opportunities for his freed family slaves and their descendants over a few generations That Washington had an unusually egalitarian streak about the races is also suggested in his Letter to the Cherokee Nation , in which he encourages them to seek assimilation into white society as the only solution for all Indians given the inevitable settlement of all their lands by the unstoppable whites Washington acknowledged that he was asking a lot, that this path may seem may seem a little difficult to enter because it meant subduing their understandable urge to resist and sacrificing many of their most distinctive and cherished tribal values I appreciate Ellis summary Whatever moral deficiencies and cultural condescensions a modern day audience might find in Washington s advice, two salient points are clear First, it was in keeping with his relentless realism about the limited choices that history offered and, second, it projected Indians into the mix of people called Americans.I wonder if in this Age of Trump whether Ellis will feel obliged to change this view of this roller coaster of America s first decade terms of shrill accusatory rhetoric, flamboyant displays of ideological intransigence, intense personal rivalries, and hyperbolic claims of immanent catastrophe, it has no equal in American history. Informs Our Understanding Of American Politics Then And Now And Gives Us A New Perspective On The Unpredictable Forces That Shape HistoryAn Illuminating Study Of The Intertwined Lives Of The Founders Of The American Republic John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, And George WashingtonDuring The S, Which Ellis Calls The Most Decisive Decade In Our Nation S History, The Greatest Statesmen Of Their Generation And Perhaps Any Came Together To Define The New Republic And Direct Its Course For The Coming Centuries Ellis Focuses On Six Discrete Moments That Exemplify The Most Crucial Issues Facing The Fragile New Nation Burr And Hamilton S Deadly Duel, And What May Have Really Happened Hamilton, Jefferson, And Madison S Secret Dinner, During Which The Seat Of The Permanent Capital Was Determined In Exchange For Passage Of Hamilton S Financial Plan Franklin S Petition To End The Peculiar Institution Of Slavery His Last Public Act And Madison S Efforts To Quash It Washington S Precedent Setting Farewell Address, Announcing His Retirement From Public Office And Offering His Country Some Final Advice Adams S Difficult Term As Washington S Successor And His Alleged Scheme To Pass The Presidency On To His Son And Finally, Adams And Jefferson S Renewed Correspondence At The End Of Their Lives, In Which They Compared Their Different Views Of The Revolution And Its LegacyIn A Lively And Engaging Narrative, Ellis Recounts The Sometimes Collaborative, Sometimes Archly Antagonistic Interactions Between These Men, And Shows Us The Private Characters Behind The Public Personas Adams, The Ever Combative Iconoclast, Whose Closest Political Collaborator Was His Wife, Abigail Burr, Crafty, Smooth, And One Of The Most Despised Public Figures Of His Time Hamilton, Whose Audacious Manner And Deep Economic Savvy Masked His Humble Origins Jefferson, Renowned For His Eloquence, But So Reclusive And Taciturn That He Rarely Spoke Than A Few Sentences In Public Madison, Small, Sickly, And Paralyzingly Shy, Yet One Of The Most Effective Debaters Of His Generation And The Stiffly Formal Washington, The Ultimate Realist, Larger Than Life, And America S Only Truly Indispensable FigureEllis Argues That The Checks And Balances That Permitted The Infant American Republic To Endure Were Not Primarily Legal, Constitutional, Or Institutional, But Intensely Personal, Rooted In The Dynamic Interaction Of Leaders With Quite Different Visions And Values Revisiting The Old Fashioned Idea That Character Matters, Founding Brothers Informs Our Understanding Of American Politics Then And Now And Gives Us A New Perspective On The Unpredictable Forces That Shape History While reading the first part of this book, I wished Aaron Burr had shot me. And so while Hamilton and his followers could claim that the compromise permitted the core features of his financial plan to win approval, which in turn meant the institutionalization of fiscal reforms with centralizing implications that would prove very difficult to dislodge, the permanent residence of the capital on the Potomac institutionalized political values designed to carry the nation in a fundamentally different direction This is a sentence found on page 80 of Joseph J Ellis s Founding Brothers The Revolutionary Generation.Personally, I don t understand this sentence at all when I read it once, so lets dissect this sentence, shall we First phrase And so while Hamilton and his followers could claim that the compromise permitted the core features of his financial plan to win approval The main part of this sente I mean phrase is that the compromise permitted the core features of Hamilton s financial plan to win approval Who in the world of academia talks like this Anyway, this phrase pretty much boils down to, the compromise satisfied the main parts of Hamilton s financial plan Second phrase which in turn meant the institutionalization of fiscal reforms with centralizing implications that would prove very difficult to dislodge Okay This is a littledifficult So, if Hamilton approves this compromise that satisfies the main parts of his financial plan, it would result in the institutionalization of fiscal reforms , which I take to mean the government will havefinancial responsibilities This reform will have centralizing implications that would prove very difficult to dislodge, which I m guessing is a fancy way for saying that this will make the central governmentpowerful, which will be difficult to change in the future.Third phrase the permanent residence of the capital on the Potomac institutionalized political values designed to carry the nation in a fundamentally different direction Well, after reading this phrase 5 times over, I think it means that because the capital is permanently in Potomac, the nation is actually heading in the opposite direction that Hamilton s plan is.So after 10 minutes of dissection, this sentence is saying that While the compromise potentially satisfied the core of Hamilton s financial plan, which would placefinancial responsibilities on the government that would be difficult to repeal in the future, the fact that the capital was permanently in Potomac suggested that the nation was heading in a different direction Wow Even after simplifying the sentence and reducing the word count from 64 to 48 and the syllable count from 125 to 88, that is still one beast of a sentence Ellis s excessive, pretentious use of multi syllabic words shows that Ellis is married to his Thesaurus No one, not even scholars, talks like Ellis nor can understand Ellis One may be able to get a general sense of what is going on, but I m sure there are better, less painful ways to learn of these stories.After doing this sentence dissection for a deceptively short, grueling, uneventful, draining, brain mushing, incredibly taxing 248 pages, I have come away with a sure fire way to make me feel like my IQ is in the negative range and with a significantly higher vocabulary.Good luck, fellow readers. What an exciting book Ellis conducts you right into the political chaos of the early republic, when the revolutionary fraternity was splintering in feuds, faction and duels which are preferable to purges, terrors, and nights of long knives The very idea of a legitimate opposition did not yet exist in the political culture of the 1790s, and the evolution of political parties was proceeding in an environment that continued to regard the word party as an epithet In effect, the leadership of the revolutionary generation lacked a vocabulary adequate to describe the politics they were inventing Lacking a consensus on what the American Revolution had intended and what the Constitution had settled, Federalists and Republicans alike were afloat on a sea of mutual accusations and partisan interpretations The center could not hold because it did not exist.The old warhorse Washington had offered the semblance of a center but in his second term as president, Treasury Secretary Hamilton s fiscal plans and the brokering of a British skewed neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars pushed Washington s fellow Virginians Madison and Jefferson into the opposition Ellis argues that Washington s experience of the army as a social adhesive availed him of a visionary nationalism that non veterans like Madison and Jefferson simply could not comprehend Washington said of the war a century in the ordinary intercourse, would not have accomplished what seven years association in arms did Washington s remark echoes in the decision of President Taylor, another Virginian general, to admit California as a free state in 1850, an act seen as a class betrayal by other Southern slaveholders McPherson writes, Forty years in the army had given Old Rough and Ready a national rather than sectional perspective Washington s realistic valuation of the federal government as a social adhesive and the fiscal military organizer of the coming scramble west contrasted with Jefferson s dreamy attachment to a static, Encyclop die plate republic founded on the fancied commercial innocence of the American farmer just as Washington s foreign policy, which bet shrewdly on Britain as the superpower of the coming century, contrasted with Jefferson s romantic mist of Anglophobia, Francophily, and abiding faith in the Utopian promise of the French Revolution Note the sentimental hysteria, the Manichean bravado in what Jefferson wrote a friend about the Reign of Terror The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of that contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little blood My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed I would rather have seen half the earth desolated Were there but an Adam and Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than it is now He seems to reach across the years, and grasp Sartre and Louis Aragon by the hand In Ellis s portrayal, Jefferson s personality is one compartmentalized with a view to containing and denying to himself awareness of hisundignified ambitions and behavior And for the American slaveholder, the pricer of souls in the land of liberty, whatrequisite features than compartments and denial Beginning with the first political challenges to slavery in the 1790s to which Ellis devotes an absorbing chapter slaveholders defended the institution by calling it the sole check against race mixing Meanwhile, what was observed down on the plantation Rainbow harems, and broods of beige bastards This book is the first substantive thing I ve read on John Adams, and I like him Ellis writes that his was an iconoclastic and contrarian temperament that relished alienation a temperament destined to become a family pattern great grandson Henry would inherit a nervous brilliance mismatched to his, or any, time Adams correspondence is full of trenchant deconstructions of the mythic revolutionary narrative then solidifying in the public mind I like his historically informed, disabused, mercurial style his suspicion of the illusory equality that democracy seems to offer his wariness before the rigidity and abstraction of French Revolutionary ideology And though he, like all the Founders save Franklin, agreed to an official silence on slavery that powder keg nested in the foundations restless apprehensions gleam through This subject is vast and ominous More than fifty years has it attracted my thoughts and given me much anxiety A folio volume would not contain my lucubration on this subject And at the end of it, I should leave the reader and myself as much at a loss what to do with it, as at the beginning.I could easily trade The Education of Henry Adams, with its sour stylistic monotony, for that lucubratory folio Purely for his reputation in posterity, Alexander Hamilton was lucky to have been killed in that duel Aaron Burr thereby assumes the mantle of Dangerous Man, Cataline of the republic, and Hamilton s flirtations with Bonapartism fade into the background Hamilton undermined President Adams by manipulating his cabinet behind the scenes and while Adams pursued a peace treaty with the French, whose privateers had been seizing American ships in the West Indies, Hamilton was agitating for war Adams was following another of Washington s recommendations 20 years minimum of growth and consolidation before we tangle with a European power Hamilton was then Inspector General of the New Army, and planned, with the outbreak of war, to lead a chastising march through Jeffersonian Virginia, en route to seize Florida, Louisiana, and, evengrandiosely, Mexico and Peru Those are big dreams Hamilton wanted to do himself, and in one campaign, what would take Napoleon in a giving mood, Jefferson in a nation building mood, Zachary Taylor, Winfield Scott, Grant, Sherman, and six subsequent decades to accomplish Adams conclusion of a treaty with France abolished the prospect of such folly Ellis leaves one with so many images Abigail Adams overhears the ex president cursing his enemies as he works in the fields alongside the hired men James Callender, the scandalmongering pamphleteer Jefferson hired to smear Adams before the 1800 election, languishes, accused of libel, in a Richmond jail, where he hears rumors of Jefferson s slave mistress, rumors he publishes once he decides the payment for his hatchet job on Adams is inadequate Washington gallops along the Potomac, sighting the prospects of the capitol to bear his name James Madison, at the Constitutional Convention, confides to his diary the observation that the States were divided into different interests not by their difference of size, but principally from their having or not having slaves It did not lie between the large and small States it lay between the Northern and Southern. I picked this up in high school, trying to impress myself with how learned I could be I really wasn t prepared for how much I enjoyed this book I didn t think I was going to readthan a bit of it Instead, I read it cover to cover and did it in less than two weeks Which for a book about revolutionary war history is pretty unusual for me This book deserves all the awards it got It s impressively researched, fascinating, shows sides to these men that I never would have learned about otherwise It read like a novel to me Except it s true Which is SO MUCH BETTER If you have any interest at all in the time period or history in general, read it I promise you won t be disappointed Ellis gives us six insightful vignettes of leaders of the early American Republic The author reminds us that the founders did not know whether their creation would last They did know that it was historic, that it was fragile and that it was a bold experiment We have to judge them and their actions in that context, in light of what they knew not what has since come to be true The underlying theme is the dichotomy between the suspicion of central government and the need for a durable union for survival and prosperity The Federalists led by northerners Hamilton and Adams were for a strong unified America that would take its place in the world the Republicans led by Virginians Jefferson and Madison represented southerners who wanted minimal government that would not interfere with the states That compromise could be reached, that political vitriol could be overcome, and that a document as strong, flexible and enduring as the Constitution could be crafted was a great and not inevitable accomplishment.Ellis takes us into the minds of the founders to show us how the interplay of ideas and personalities actually worked, how history shaped the men and how in turn the men shaped history He starts with a story where compromise failed, where political infighting succumbed to the revolutionary era s code of honor, the duel Alexander Hamilton, past his prime and with his own reputation sullied, had vilified Aaron Burr for the past fifteen years Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel But rather than apologize Hamilton risked everything and lost his life against the self serving Burr, Jefferson s Vice President Hamilton would not repudiate what he stood for, a strong union Ellis focuses on trying to determine who shot first and whether they aimed to kill, but I wasfascinated by the strength of Hamilton s belief In the second story we learn where a compromise did work, one vital to the future of America The assumption of state debts into a national debt pushed by Hamilton and the Federalists was accepted by Republican Virginians Jefferson and Madison in trade for placing the nation s capital on the Potomac Each side felt it walked away with a victory While the Virginians gave in to Hamilton s vision of a commercially vibrant union despite their disdain for central economic authority, they felt their proximity to the new capital would give them greater influence with the new government At least this is the impression Jefferson gave Jefferson also realized as a former foreign minister that lack of a cohesive economic policy rendered America impotent in the eyes of Europe and left the southern plantations at the unbridled mercy of European banks The third story deals with the inability to deal with slavery Seen as an issue so divisive it would disassemble the republic, silence and obfuscation were employed to keep the subject at bay Madison was the master of doubletalk He seemed to support northerners belief that slavery was an evil that made a mockery of the Declaration of Independence, but Madison was only paying them lip service He made sure that no action was taken and that even discussion of slavery was considered out of bounds The Constitution itself was carefully crafted to make no direct mention of slavery In spite of this it allowed each slave to count as 3 5ths of a person and denied the federal government any right to prevent the importation of slaves for twenty years Northerners believed the emancipation of the slaves was inevitable thinking ultimately everyone would want to end such evil But in the south, slavery was seen as an economic necessity and any argument or ambiguity was appropriate to keep it Thus again a compromise, if only tacitly agreed to, was made to keep the union intact, but at what ultimate cost The fourth story is about George Washington s Farewell Address With his larger than life persona and reputation he was the one person who could cement the new republic together But his desire to centralize authority smacked too much of monarchy for many who had just fought against it With Washington retiring, the country was at risk of scattering into separate states Not surprisingly then, Washington s first point in his address was about the importance of national unity and the danger of single issue politics, a warning still relevant Washington sought to ensure peace with the Jay treaty aligning US interests with England While beneficial territorially and economically to America, opponents felt the U.S had succumbed to British power Why had we fought the revolution just to give our freedom back Jefferson was appalled Jefferson was a Francophile even approving of the French Revolution Jefferson took Robespierre, The Committee of Public Safety and heads rolling in the streets of Paris in stride It was Jefferson who later used the phrase entangling alliances sometimes mistakenly attributed to Washington Jefferson had first turned against Washington when Washington raised a militia to quell the Whiskey Rebellion Jefferson asked what right the federal government had to make these farmers pay a tax Jefferson began denigrating Washington behind his back, questioning his judgement and whether senility was setting in Washington was well aware of Jefferson s attacks when he with Hamilton s considerable help wrote the Farewell Address Washington thus took care to produce a well thought out statement Worried that future presidents might not be able to hold the country together, he proposed federal programs to strengthen the union a national university, national military academy, larger navy and even agricultural subsidies The underlying issue remains contentious to this day Is the federal government the friend or foe, the problem or the solution Nothing better symbolizes the acrimonious political division of the country between supporters of weak government and those of strong, than the split between Jefferson and Adams Their story is Ellis s fifth These friends and collaborators during the revolution became political enemies following Adams election as President Adams reached out to include Jefferson in his administration, but Jefferson refused, perhapsfrom political expediency than policy differences Jefferson following Madison s advice saw that any president following Washington was doomed to failure All the differences Washington s stature enabled him to keep at bay would now spill out into open hostility Jefferson with the help of Madison took every opportunity to undermine Adams, spreading rumor and innuendo Adams didn t help himself signing the deeply unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts at the urging of his closest advisor, wife Abigail Adams was also facing an arch enemy in his own party, Alexander Hamilton, who wanted to lead the New Army to take over America Despite all this, Adams for the most part acted prudently and displaying great fortitude struck a peace treaty with France Unfortunately, this came too late to help him in the 1800 election which he lost to Jefferson Adams and Jefferson would not communicate with each other for another 12 years.The sixth and final story is that of the Jefferson Adams correspondence that marked the beginning of reconciliation 12 years later It would continue for 13 years, written as much for posterity as for each other Adams isvisceral presenting his view of a contingent world subject to chance, good fortune in the case of the revolution but uncertainty for the country s future Jefferson is eloquent depicting the young nation s history as a natural flow of events leading to independence, freedom and a future of prosperity and hope They worked through their differences with Adams spilling out his frustrations and Jefferson putting them in perspective The one huge exception was the dispute that the nation had swept under the carpet slavery Even the blunt anti slavery Adams did not bring this up with Jefferson The smooth spoken slave owning Jefferson felt it a topic to be resolved by the next generation Of all their disagreements the one they avoided is the one that would tear the republic apart Incredibly, hundreds of miles apart, both died within hours of each other on the fiftieth anniversary of their signing of the Declaration of Independence Two disparate spirits tightly intertwined.Ellis takes us from a period when the nation was singular in purpose, when there were no political parties Then underneath Washington s unifying presidency, the first parties, the Federalists and Republicans, were forming Each party became a vociferous advocate for its view of the proper role of government As Jefferson wrote Adams, it was this way even before there was an America, The same political parties which now agitate the U.S have existed all thro time And in fact the terms of whig and tory belong to natural as well as civil history They denote the temper and constitution and mind of different individuals Today as Jefferson presciently saw, the same divisive politics are still the norm Exceptionally gifted, thoughtful leaders like Washington, Adams and Jefferson are not. I think giving this book five stars actually does a disservice to the author It deserves 20 Joesph Ellis work, Founding Brothers The Revolutionary Generation, is a wonderful narrative that immerses the reader in the minds of the founders of the United States of America, and explores the consequences of their actions or inactions.Ellis divides the book into six chapters, each revolving around a pivotal point in time, or around specific persons People mentioned, specifically George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Abigail Adams, his wife.This book isthan an autobiography of the foundation of the country Ellis dives into the relationships that these men, and woman, had with one another and explains, very well, why they were Founding Brothers It most certainly was a fraternity that built this country Think about it, they put their names to a document that went right into the face of King George III, and that meant certain death had they lost the war with the British Empire.I came away with the following insight after finishing the book Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr both got what was coming to them Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Munroe were vindictive curs Although Jefferson redeemed himself in 1812 John Adams, and,importantly, Abigail Adams, should be considered true American heroes Especially Abigail for all that she did for John, and the advancement of women.I highly recommend this book to everybody history buff or not. Thoughts soon. Ellis is a great storyteller who has much to say about the men and a few women, notably Abagail Adams who formed our country He focuses on six specific events that, he believes, crystallize and best exemplify the magnitude of the founding fathers work and their dramatic legacy Among his topics the Burr Hamilton duel, Washington s farewell address, the infamous dinner at Jefferson s house, Benjamin Franklin s poignant, end of life attempt to end the slave trade, John Adams turbulent presidency undermined at every turn by Madison and Jefferson , and the final reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson through correspondence The most moving chapter is the one on Benjamin Franklin He attempted to cajole the Constitutional Congress into ending the slave trade, if not slavery altogether, through a satirical pamphlet he published just three weeks before he died The southern states, of course, would have none of it They threatened to secede from the union unless the northern states agreed to drop the issue for at least 20 years The northern states consented, declaring that Congress did not have the right to infringe on any state s property rights Most of the northerners felt uncomfortable with slavery but, in their view, keeping the union intact took precedence very everything else, even human bondage It was a tragic missed opportunity and, as we all know, led to a horrific war 70 years later.I came away from this book with enhanced respect for Franklin what an incredible wit he had and Washington, and much less respect for Jefferson, who comes across as devious and something of a hypocrite.