American Creation by Joseph J. Ellis
Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic

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Synopsis

From the first shots fired at Lexington to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, Joseph J. Ellis guides us through the decisive issues of the nation’s founding, and illuminates the emerging philosophies, shifting alliances, and personal and political foibles of our now iconic leaders–Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Adams. He casts an incisive eye on the founders’ achievements, arguing that the American Revolution was, paradoxically, an evolution–and that part of what made it so extraordinary was the gradual pace at which it occurred. He explains how the idea of a strong federal government was eventually embraced by the American people, and details the emergence of the two-party system, which stands as the founders’ most enduring legacy.

Ellis is equally incisive about their failures, and he makes clear how their inability to abolish slavery and to reach a just settlement with the Native Americans has played an equally important role in shaping our national character. With eloquence and insight, Ellis strips the mythic veneer of the revolutionary generation to reveal men both human and inspired, possessed of both brilliance and blindness. American Creation is an audiobook that delineates an era of flawed greatness, at a time when understanding our origins is more important than ever.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Joseph J. Ellis

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Joseph J. Ellis won the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the National Book Award. He is the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and their youngest son.
 
Published October 30, 2007 by Vintage. 304 pages
Genres: History, Biographies & Memoirs, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for American Creation

Kirkus Reviews

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Through these stories, each tied to a roughly specific moment in time (e.g., the Valley Forge winter, the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention), Ellis examines a well-known—but rarely better understood—cast of characters (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Paine, Franklin and others),...

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The New York Times

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Ellis’s “Founding Brothers,” I asked my Newsweek colleague Evan Thomas (himself then at work on a biography of John Paul Jones) to write an article for the magazine on what we called “Founders’ Chic.” Why, we wondered, were so many millennial Americans so intrigued by the stories of dead white me...

Nov 11 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

The New York Times

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That surprise acquisition also underscores the failure of the Revolutionary generation “to recognize the opportunity presented by the Purchase to revisit the Native American question so as to avoid removal,” Mr. Ellis writes, and its “unwillingness to use this extraordinary occasion to promote th...

Nov 27 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

The New York Times

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This series of meditations upon the triumphs and failures of the Revolutionary generation reminds us of the role that circumstance and luck played in shaping the nation’s fortune.

Nov 27 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

The New York Times

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Joseph Ellis argues that America’s founders favored evolution over revolution.

Nov 11 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

Publishers Weekly

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His romantic idealism, exemplified by his view of the American West as endlessly renewable, was consonant with future generations' political innocence, their youthful hopes and illusions, making our third president, in Ellis's shrewd psychological portrait, a progenitor of the American Dream.

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Book Reporter

Partly because the founders were unable to deal adequately with certain issues such as slavery and the Indian question, or with the proper balance between federal and states rights, Ellis contends, "The very purpose of government was subtly transformed from an ultimate arbiter to a framework for ...

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

Christian Science Monitor

[This review from the Monitor's archives originally ran on Nov. 13, 2007.] No modest man ever made it to the presidency, least of all the obsessively self-interested John Adams.

Jul 04 2010 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

USA Today

The author of Founding Brothers, American Sphinx and His Excellency is back with another intelligent book about the founders.

Nov 08 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

BookPage

During the 28-year period between the start of the War for Independence in 1775 and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, decisions were made, or avoided, that established the foundation for much that was to follow, for good or ill, in American history.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Academic fashion determines the way whole generations are educated, and since the '60s, as historian Joseph Ellis slyly remarks, a "hegemonic narrative" has prevailed within the academy, in which race, class, and gender are the privileged categories and the Founding Fathers of the American Republ...

Nov 09 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

PopMatters

It’s one thing to read a triumphal view of the American Revolution and the nation’s founding architects—as tend to get published each year right around holiday time—and quite another to come across passages like the following from Joseph Ellis’s American Creation, set in the summer of 1775 as the...

Dec 21 2007 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

Deseret News

In a Nutshell: Joseph Ellis is the most prolific historian of the Founding Fathers, and he writes in a way that can be appreciated by the educated nonhistorian.

Jan 06 2008 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

Historical Novel Society

Joseph Ellis is a well-known writer of popular histories, winner of both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, so I began American Creation with expectations.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Joseph Ellis is best known for his portrayals of the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson in the National Book Award–winning American Sphinx, George Washington in His Excellency: George Washington, and Jefferson, Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaro...

Jan 31 2008 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

California Literary Review

Both the seminal achievements and enduring failures of the American founding were now locked in place.” In the final analysis, Ellis suggests that perhaps the core question posed at the founding – and one which would soon greatly impact the slavery and Native American scenarios – was not whether ...

Jun 23 2008 | Read Full Review of American Creation: Triumphs a...

Down Range

American Creation by Joseph Ellis is a behind the scenes look at the sausage-making we call the American Revolution.

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