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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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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 of 4 people found this review 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 of 2 people found this review 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.

2 of 2 people found this review 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.

4 of 5 people found this review 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Intricately Woven Historical Scholarship

The richness of detail applied in this tightly constructed narrative on the events and motivations navigated by the key figures of the founding fathers of the US government is such that it is difficult to choose a convenient point to pause lstening without interrupting the flow. Each sentence follows intricately upon the next. Chapter breaks remain the best option. Events and differences perspectives on issues guide the narrative through an understanding of the key personalities.

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great short stories

great short stories about the forming and the debates of the United States of America

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  • 04-17-18

Enjoyed listening!

I read this book years ago. Being able to listen to it was wonderful! Great!

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outstanding!

I have a new appreciation for how slavery stressed the founders and the country to it's inevitable breaking point. Also, I have a new respect for Abigail Adams and the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

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Exceedingly Dry Biographies

My wife and I listened to about three hours of this on a long car trip, and it took us almost an hour to realize that what we thought was the author's scholarly introduction to the book (which we couldn't wait to get past and get on to "the good stuff") was actually the book itself. We kept with it, though, because the author says he would start with the Hamilton-Burr duel story because it was "very exciting" and would capture the listener's attention. Not. Not at all. And the narrator's dry reading was no help at all. This was not the terrific JOHN ADAMS by a long shot. We had to quit. . .