Book Review: Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis Essay

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In the book Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, the author relates the stories of six crucial historic events that manage to capture the flavor and fervor of the revolutionary generation and its great leaders. While each chapter or story can be read separately and completely understood, they do relate to a broader common theme. One of Ellis' main purposes in writing the book was to illustrate the early stages and tribulations of the American government and its system through his use of well blended stories. The idea that a republican government of this nature was completely unprecedented is emphasized through out the book. Ellis discusses the unique problems that the revolutionary generation experienced as a result of governing under the…show more content…
The chapters are titled "The Generation", "The Duel", "The Dinner", "The Silence", "The Farewell", "The Collaborators" and "The Friendship". In "The Duel", the story of the legendary duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is related in its entirety. It was by far the most prominent deadly standoff between two men in history. Ellis relates the background and brief biographies of the two men involved in the duel. He also reveals the context for the duel, a culmination of political and personal jabs at Burrs character by Hamilton. In fact these jabs held a good deal of truth, and finally resulted in Burr challenging Hamilton. Both Hamilton and Burr went to the plains in Weehawken to conduct the duel in defense of their honor and characters. Historically, Hamilton is seen as a martyr in the duel and Burr seen as a treacherous murderer. This Hamiltonian viewpoint is dominant among historians because it is widely believed that Hamilton went into the duel not intending to fire a shot and that Burr fired the first shot. Ellis believes this version of the story to be wrong. He believes that Hamilton honored his bargain of not firing on Burr, wasting his first shot by firing it into the trees. Burr, thinking that Hamilton fired at him, shot and killed Hamilton with his shot. The second chapter, "The Dinner", relates a secret compromise between Hamilton and Madison in the venue of a dinner party hosted by Thomas Jefferson.
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