Founding Brothers

The Revolutionary Generation
Narrated by: Bob Walter
Length: 12 hrs and 31 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (536 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic - John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation's history, the greatest statesmen of their generation - and perhaps any - came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton's deadly duel and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison's secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's petition to end the "peculiar institution" of slavery - his last public act - and Madison's efforts to quash it; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams' difficult term as Washington's successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally Adams and Jefferson's renewed correspondence at the ends of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.

In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr - crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison - small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger than life, and America's only truly indispensable figure.

Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics - then and now - and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.

©2003 Joseph J. Ellis (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A splendid book - humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit." ( The New York Times Book Review)
"Lively and illuminating...leaves the reader with a visceral sense of a formative era in American life." ( The New York Times)
"Masterful.... Fascinating.... Ellis is an elegant stylist.... [He] captures the passion the founders brought to the revolutionary project.... [A] very fine book." ( Chicago Tribune)
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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Narrative of the Founding Fathers

Would you listen to Founding Brothers again? Why?

Yes, the stories and events Joseph Ellis choose were not only great for laying out the issues of the day but captivatingly shows the personalities of the individuals showcased. I'll definitely go back to listen to specific chapters in the near future. The only negative I have is it was a little more Jefferson centric than I would have liked but it’s not surprising given the time period this book focuses on.

Who was your favorite character and why?

G Wash, duh! While John Adams wasn't my favorite, I liked how this book talks about Adams. It does a good job pinpointing Adams’ legacy and doesn’t focus too much on his maligned presidency. His influence seems to be vastly underrated in present times.

4 people found this helpful

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Great!

Where does Founding Brothers rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 20.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I admire John Adams the most. His work ethic and political views resonate with me. He was earnest and outspoken and had a great vision for the future of the new Republic. With John Adams, there was no subterfuge, no hidden agenda.

Which character – as performed by Bob Walter – was your favorite?

Not really pertinent.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

While all the historical characters in this book have been portrayed on the screen in various films, this book as written isn't film material.

Any additional comments?

This was a great review of a short segment of our history and the real people who made that history happen. I learned many details that I had not previously known. I very much enjoyed listening to Founding Brothers. The narration was excellent, by the way.

3 people found this helpful

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Best book I have listened to for quite awhile!

This book was so enthralling that I felt as if I was actually living at the time and even through the lives of the revolutionary heroes as well as those that could be considered "villains" of the time. Masterly written, beautifully performed. It's words continue to linger in my mind and I am savoring them all.

5 people found this helpful

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Loved the duel story

The duel was probably the most interesting, as it is the least reviewed in detail. The other exchanges were almost all Jefferson/Adams, both of which have been described extensively on either side, but this managed to review both sides nearly simultaneously, which made it more enlightening than reading the separately

1 person found this helpful

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Well Enjoyed

After reading Hamilton I thought this would be a great follow up. I was right I enjoyed it very much, makes me want to read more about the founders and the birth of our nation.

1 person found this helpful

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Really insightful!

Good read. Goes by quick as you get see how all the founding fathers worked together during that time frame.

2 people found this helpful

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Fabulous Deep Dive!

This is a marvelous book! I learned so much. The author provides analysis of specific events in our history and even better, he does a deep dive into the backstory and psyche of the participants. Thoroughly entertaining and fascinating, beautifully written.

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Too much babbler

The author uses adjectives on top of adjectives. Some may find this a tapestry of history. But it gives me a head ache going in circles and never really make inferences the point.

I regret the purchase of this book!

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Best version of Adams and Jefferson Critique

Exhaustively researched, and professionally performed the masterful evaluation of characters, events and legacies each man left.

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Founding Brothers expose!

Reading again the minibiographies of these great men reminds us that they are normal human beings but had to rise to the occasion of the great. But deep inside they have the Same faults of the things that make us human they rose above it some better than others to create this great nation great story very interesting and detailed.