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FOUNDING BROTHERS: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis. Nonfiction History. 2000. 248 pages, plus bibliographical references/index. Joseph Ellis details five discrete, behind the scenes events that greatly laid the early foundation of America after the Revolutionary War. Ellis discusses how these five events were monumental in the forming of America, but was done so in a not so Constitutional manner. The sixth, and final, chapter is devoted to the revival of John Adams’ and Thomas Jefferson’s friendship after they battled each other in the 1800 Presidential election.
     The Duel takes a look at the deadly duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Possible reasons and causes that led to the duel is penned. Was it all a miscommunication, or was it shear stubbornness that showed Hamilton to his grave. Ellis also contemplates what may have happened that fateful morning as stories differ from the few eyewitnesses.
     The Dinner gives an inside look at a secret dinner meeting between Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, during which the permanent capital was exchanged for the passage of Hamilton’s financial plan for the heavily in debt colonies.
     Benjamin Franklin’s petition to end slavery, his last public effort, is detailed in The Silence. This chapter reveals the cold response to Franklin’s effort, especially from James Madison, and the major reasons why slavery was not abolished at this time and why the Founding Fathers were reluctant to do anything about it.
     The Farewell is a look at George Washington’s farewell address, in which he offers the country some advice, and dissects the meaning of his words. As this was a tricky time in Washington’s life due to his age and health, great care was taken to deliver his message to the people of America.
     The Collaborators shows just how difficult it was for John Adams as Washington’s successor and all the backstabbing this man endured during his term. If you think politics today is a brutal game, wait till you read of the brutal tactics used during Adams’ four year term. Thomas Jefferson fans beware!
     The Friendship beautifully shows the rekindling of a heavily damaged friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson through years of correspondence. After being great friends and instrumental in the fight for independence from Britain, the men’s friendship exploded during Adams’ term as President, in which Jefferson was his Vice President. The absolutely harsh 1800 Presidential election between the two only threw fuel on the fire that all but incinerated the friendship. However, through letters discussing various topics, the men were able to become friends again later in life. This chapter also briefly discusses the odd timing of the death of both of these men.
     Being a huge fan of this era of history, it should come as no surprise that I absolutely and without a doubt loved this book. Not only is this book informative, it is written in an entertaining style that is easy to comprehend. Too often, authors of this material tend to write in a complicated and dry manner making the reading almost unbearable- to me anyway. Knowledge absorption is always easier if you actually enjoy what it is you're soaking up with your brain.
     Since I’ve been a Thomas Jefferson admirer since my elementary school days, The Collaborators really knocked me for a loop as it shed upon me how much of a complete jerk Jefferson was to his friend John Adams (a good friend of mine told me that the book John Adams by David McCullough goes into even more detail on this issue). I was shell-shocked after finishing this chapter.
     The Silence is a must read for all those who think the Founding Fathers are hypocrites for wanting freedom from England, but not allowing freedom to the slaves. Aside from being a totally different world back then; this chapter gives the major reasons why slavery was not abolished at this time. Believe it or not, the reasons make sense and you may rethink your thoughts on this issue.
     Although nothing is truly resolved or certain about the duel between Hamilton and Burr, The Duel does pose a lot to contemplate on a subject that is usually only briefly discussed in history class (if it’s even touched upon at all anymore). Hamilton may have been killed, but Burr’s political life was ruined after the duel. 
     The Dinner, albeit on the shady side of things, and The Farewell both offer great insightful reading on two very different topics. You’ll see how politics really hasn’t changed much in over 200 years with all the closed-door deal making in The Dinner. The Farewell had me wondering why the people of America didn’t listen more intensively to Washington’s foreign policy advice.
     The Friendship is a sweet story about the rekindling of once badly damaged bond between two men, but it’s a bit out of place in this book. Although the two main characters, Jefferson and Adams, of this chapter had major influence on the founding of this country, their letter writing to each other didn’t. Nonetheless, it’s a great read and the coincidences of both men’s deaths are most intriguing. – Denis Sheehan



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