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Sunday, June 13, 2004
Ellis’ Founding Brothers

By Steven Taylor @ 7:22 pm

Speaking of Founding Brothers, the book on the revolutionary generation by Joseph Ellis, I recently completed the book and found it quite good and worthy of recommendation. Indeed, it has spurred me on to read some more biographies from that period.

Ellis’ book is quite readable and well researched—based mostly on the copious letter writing of the time. The book details the story of the Burr-Hamilton duel, the political compromise the lead to the placement of the nation’s capital on the Potomac, the political difficulty of the slavery question in the early congress, Washington’s farewell address, and the Adams-Jefferson political rivalry that led to a falling out and the resuscitation of their friendship.

Not only is an interesting portrayal of the characters themselves, but gives an intriguing flavor of the politics of the day.

The book won a Pulitzer prize and it quite readable.

I would note that if one is not aware, Professor Ellis is the historian who recently (2001) got in trouble for, say we say, embellishing his own past. I will admit that I had I made that connection before reading the book, that I might never have picked it up. After all, a historian who makes up things about himself tends to create some serious credibility problems. However, given the heavily footnoted nature of the book, and the fact that all of the attention that his work has received from other scholars puts my mind at ease on this issue. Plus, I was simply impressed by the book. Indeed, it is my intention to read his books on Jefferson, Adams and Washington (not yet out).

Indeed, it in my intention to read at least two or more biographies on each, as well as on at least Hamilton and Franklin.

More on the Joseph Ellis story here and here. The whole is rather remarkable, to be honest.

Click here to go to the main page.


  1. You are correct; that was an excellent book by Joseph Ellis (no relation). I read it last year when a friend loaned me a copy, and as I recall I posted my opinion on the old blog.

    Comment by Jay — Sunday, June 13, 2004 @ 7:47 pm

  2. I read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams and if you are intersted in reading about John Adams, I highly recommend it. It is a little long, but very thorough. While it is billed as a biography of Adams, McCullough does an incredible job of weaving in the bios of other people from that era, especially Jefferson and Franklin and their interaction with Adams. What I found very interting in reading McCullough’s book was how international diplomacy was conduted before the days of instant communication with phones and internet. It is quite remarkable.

    Comment by Dave Wissing — Sunday, June 13, 2004 @ 10:02 pm

  3. That one’s on my list. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, June 14, 2004 @ 6:18 am

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