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Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis: Report Essay

Joseph J. Ellis is a well-known historian. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the college of William and Mary, and his masters and Ph.D. at the University of Yale. Ellis is currently a full time professor of the Commonwealth at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

In addition to Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation Ellis has written many books and editorials. His books include; The New England Mind in Transition: Samuel Johnson of Connecticut (Yale University Press, 1983), School For Soldiers: West Point and the Profession of Arms (Oxford University Press, 1974), Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams (W.W Norton and Company, 1993), After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture (W.W. Norton & Company, 2002), and American Sphinx: The character of Thomas Jefferson (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1998), which won the 1997 National Book Award. Ellis also won the Pulitzer Prize for History for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. The subject of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation focuses on the lives of the Founding Fathers and how they affected America then, and today. Ellis’s thesis is that there has always been turmoil when it comes to states’ rights and the balance of power, but the American Revolution was ultimately successful due to the bonds between the founding brothers.

His motives for writing the book is to show why, “these events and achievements are historically significant because they shaped the subsequent history of the United States, including our own time” . Ellis uses many primary sources to support his claims in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. For instance, he uses many letters from the characters in the book. The book also includes many quotations from the founding brothers. Ellis also uses many secondary sources. He uses many biographies to help give evidence, including many biographies on each character in the book. Some of these biographies include; Alexander Hamilton by Broadus Mitchell, Aaron Burr by Milton Lomask, James Madison by Irving Brent, Benhamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren, and many more. The majority of reviewers for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation thought very highly of Ellis’s writing in this book. Many reviewers suggested for all audiences to read this book, including all levels of education. T.J. Shaeper, of St Bonaventure University in New York, stated that, “Ellis is deeply steeped in the literature, and his style is crisp and full of subtle ironies”.

Benson Bobrick of The New York Times, observed that, “this is a splendid book-human, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit. Even those familiar with the Revolutionary generation will, I would warrant find much in its pages to captivate and enlarge their understanding of our nations fledgling years” . H. M. Ward, from the University of Richmond, believes that, “the author succeeds in his aim to extract essential meaning from large-scale topics. The lively narrative reassesses the pivotal roles of the seven men and their intertwining relationships” . Gilbert Taylor generalized that “Ellis essays are angled, fascinating, and perfect” . These reviews all show how greatly reviewers feel Ellis did on this book. One author had a very interesting opinion about how Ellis saw the “Founding Brothers”. Benson Bobrick, of The New York Times, analyzed that, “as Ellis sees it, the founding brethren not only created the American Republic but held it together throughout the volatile and vulnerable early years by sustaining their presence until national habits and customs took root” 3.. This statement shows that, not only did Ellis view the founding fathers as the creators of the “American Republic”, but also as the backbone to America’s success in the years to follow.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation is a well written narrative about America’s founding fathers and the years that followed the Revolutionary War. Ellis’s book is appealing to anyone who is interested in learning about the roots of our founding brothers. The book is also well written in the aspect of not being long and drawn out into one big story. Instead, Ellis breaks the book down in to six stories that talk about different situations with American historical figures. Ellis uses more than one type of historical writing throughout the six stories. He uses social, economic and political types of history throughout this book. Overall Joseph J. Ellis showed the significant role the leaders played in the founding of our country. Each character that Ellis brings forth in a story had a great impact not only on America then, but also where America’s nation is concerned today. Ellis also shows the importance of knowing about the roots of the founding fathers of our nation. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation is not only informative, but also compelling in its stories to keep the reader intrigued.

Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2002.

Shaeper, T.J. a review of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. Library Journal (October 15, 2000).

Bobrick, Benson. “The Brethren,” a review of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. New York Times Book Review. (10 December 2000).

Ward, H.M. a review of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. Choice (February 1, 2001).

Taylor, Gilbert. a review of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. Booklist (October 15, 2000).

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