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Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment… George Washington

 

Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases...   John Adams

Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases… John Adams

There is history that rises to the level of Herodotus and Gibbon and then there is gossip adorned with facts and encumbered with opinions. It is so often the case that we come across the later that we are not only surprised to come across the former but we often have to reread it in order to savor its particular genius. This is such a book – it is a full and objective discussion of many of the ideas of our founding as well as an accurate placing of those ideas within the context of their times. There is little time for anguish and none for angst and any reservations that the author may have had about his subjects peccadilloes are kept mercifully private since they do not contribute to the story. These were the men who founded the republic that Lincoln destroyed – sometimes in harmony, often in the midst of a fracas, but never without a reasoned and complete examination of the facts and forces at work – and they are the men we must study in order to restore it.

Never do today what you can do tomorrow. Something may occur to make you regret your premature action... The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business... Aaron Burr

Never do today what you can do tomorrow. Something may occur to make you regret your premature action… The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business… Aaron Burr

Founding brothers : the revolutionary generation New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001 Joseph J. Ellis Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xi, 288 p.; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 249-278) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The U. S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself... They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety... Benjamin Franklin

The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself… They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety… Benjamin Franklin

An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republicJohn 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.

Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things... In the usual progress of things, the necessities of a nation in every stage of its existence will be found at least equal to its resources... A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing... Alexander Hamilton

Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things… In the usual progress of things, the necessities of a nation in every stage of its existence will be found at least equal to its resources… A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing… Alexander Hamilton

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’s 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 end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them... A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities... Thomas Jefferson

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them… A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities… Thomas Jefferson

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.

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government... It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood... James Madison

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government… It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood… James Madison

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.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master... Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth... Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God... George Washington

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master… Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth… Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God… George Washington

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