Respectability: Politics in Early America in Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis

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In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis discusses how the relationships of the founding fathers shaped the United States, looking not only at what happened historically but the myths that have prevailed in modern times. I have few issues with this book one of which is that the narrative often jumps from one time and place to another, and while it provides the relevant information and keeps the reader’s attention, it can be hard to follow at times. In addition there are times were he explains the same incident more than once, which is distracting and unnecessary. Despite this Ellis supports his thesis well through stories of political and personal events between the founders, and clearly shows how it affected their treatment of each other. …show more content…

I believe that this was an excellent choice on Ellis’ part as the introduction left me somewhat confused due to the time jumps, and more than a bit bored. Thus the mental imagery of these men rowing through the swamp to “the interview at Weehawken” is both colorful and captivating. The most interesting part of the chapter though is not the duel, but the later description of the mounting animosity between these two men and the missed opportunities to save Alexander Hamilton’s life. It also emphasized the importance of a good personal reputation at the dawn of our government. This is shown in the failing careers if the two duelers, not so much because of their politics but due to the negative reputations they gained with the public and their fellow politicians. This is especially emphasized by the slander against Burr for the death of Hamilton and the lack of liable laws to protect him and his reputation. This slander, as Ellis provides convincing evidence that Hamilton shot first and was thus neither innocent or a martyr, is now the enduring myth leading to questions of the legitimacy of some of the other stories of the founders. One example is the story of Thomas Jefferson’s dinner where he, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison supposedly solved the issue of the location of the capitol and the national debt.
The second chapter starts with this

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