History: Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis


The book Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis spans the personal and political lives of the individuals who were instrumental in setting the course for the United States of America. It focuses on various aspects, including the collaboration of the revolutionary generation, the issue of slavery at the time, the personal and political relationship of the founding brothers, and the consciousness that they had regarding the impact that their actions would have on the development of the nation. By focusing on these subjects, the author unveils various themes such as compromise, collaboration, and patriotism. It is vital to note the underlying revolutionary theme that the author seeks to convey to the readers, which cuts across all these aspects of the book.

Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis

The book focuses on the period after America obtained its independence from the British. This underscores the revolutionary theme in the book. Firstly, from independence, most activities are performed for the first time by the founding brothers. Here, the country is setting the systems of operation after attaining freedom from the British. Unlike the previous form of government assumed by the colonial government, these individuals sought to develop a successful government. The theme of revolution is implied in the ideologies that the founding brothers had. Whereas some, like Alexander Hamilton, believed in setting up a central government and were known as Federalists, others, such as Thomas Jefferson, were opposed to this idea.

In addition, the author establishes that the founding brothers understood that their duty was deeply entrenched in the successful birth of the nation. The battle for independence had set a pre-established mood in the country. The effects of the aftermath of the struggle were still lingering. This is highlighted by Ellis in that, after the defeat of the common enemy, disagreements and conflicts that had initially been set aside emerged (Ellis, 2002). Nevertheless, the brothers made a revolutionary decision to choose compromise over conflict. In the Compromise of 1790, compromise is noted where both Madison and Jefferson got their wish to have the capital in the South while getting his desire for the federal government to assume the state debt. Before the Compromise of 1790, it had seemed nearly impossible to bring harmony between these vastly contrasting ideas of the founding fathers. Compromise at this stage was not just necessary for the peaceful coexistence of the founding brothers, but it was critical to this infant nation’s successful growth and development.

Moreover, the choice of compromise is observed; there, the founding brothers chose to shelve the matter of slavery for a later date. Whereas this matter led to the continuation of slavery and brutality for numerous years that followed, it was critical for the development of the nation at the time. The difficulty in attaining a common decision regarding slavery was grounded on the fact that some founding brothers felt that slavery was critical to the continuation of the nation. At the time, Madison indicated that the abolition of slavery was counterproductive and impractical politically (Ellis, 2002). These differences threatened the cohesion of the founding brothers. Hence the viable alternative at the time was to avoid subjects that caused differences and focus on matters that would spur the nation into unity and prosperity.

Moreover, an aspect that the author underscores in this book is that of collaboration. These founding brothers likely understood that they were standing at a vital point in the history of the country. It is then that they often decided to set their differences and personal ambitions aside for the good of the nation. Collaboration was critical to their success and that of the nation as a whole. George Washington epitomizes this by the sheer act of resigning from the presidency after his first term. The author emphasizes the fact that by the time of his presidency, no one seemed best suited for the task than Washington. As highlighted in the book, he was so important that he was thought about as indispensable (Ellis, 2002). Nonetheless, he considered the nation’s progress and the need for participatory leadership in providing the opportunity for other individuals to contribute diverse ideas and leadership styles for the nation’s growth. Also, this decision indicated the level of patriotism that the founding brothers had for the nation at the time.


In conclusion, the author highlights different themes, such as compromise, collaboration, and revolution, which are brought out in the book. The author focuses on the decisions of the founding brothers to compromise on various personal ideas, proving their resolve for the nation’s success. Nonetheless, the author does not deeply examine the impact that the decision by the founding brothers to compromise on the issues they faced at the time, such as that of slavery, had on the citizens of the country. As much as compromise worked momentarily on the issue of slavery, it laid the foundation for the Civil War, which later emerged in the future.


Ellis, J. J. (2002). Founding brothers: The revolutionary generation. Vintage.

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