Founding Brothers


Joseph J. Ellis

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Founding Brothers can help.

Founding Brothers Characters

John Adams

John Adams was a key figure in the American Revolution who went on to be the second president of the United States. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, Adams attended Harvard and held a variety of jobs… read analysis of John Adams

George Washington

George Washington, for whom the nation’s capital was named, was a military hero during the Revolution and the first president of the United States. He was born in Virginia to a family of planters and… read analysis of George Washington

Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr was a politician from New Jersey who served as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president for one term. He had an antagonistic relationship with Alexander Hamilton, whom he blamed for his loss in… read analysis of Aaron Burr

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was the oldest member of the Founding Fathers. Aside from serving as a politician, Franklin was also an author, publisher, scientist, and activist. In the period that the book covers, Franklin was already… read analysis of Benjamin Franklin

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. He rose to prominence through his role in the Revolutionary War. The founder of the Federalist Party, Hamilton served… read analysis of Alexander Hamilton
Get the entire Founding Brothers LitChart as a printable PDF.
Founding Brothers PDF

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Founding Fathers and the author of the Declaration of Independence. He was Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War and went on to be the third president… read analysis of Thomas Jefferson

James Madison

James Madison was a member of the Founding Fathers and the fourth president of the United States, though the book does not cover his presidency. Madison was born into a wealthy slaveholding family in Virginia… read analysis of James Madison

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams was John Adams’ wife and John Quincy’s mother. Despite not having received a full education, she was intelligent and keenly interested in politics. While her husband was president, Abigail made sure… read analysis of Abigail Adams

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy was John Adams and Abigail Adams’ son. His father appointed him as Minister to Prussia during his presidency, despite the fact that John Quincy worried this would look nepotistic. It turned out… read analysis of John Quincy Adams

James Monroe

James Monroe was Thomas Jefferson’s “loyal […] disciple.” Like Jefferson, Monroe was a Virginian, and attempted to persuade Jefferson out of agreeing to the Compromise of 1790 on the grounds that it was not… read analysis of James Monroe

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush was an American political leader and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. During the period when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were not speaking, Rush had a prophetic dream… read analysis of Benjamin Rush
Minor Characters
William Van Ness
William Van Ness was Aaron Burr’s protégé. He attended the duel in which Alexander Hamilton was killed, and hurried Burr away after seeing that Hamilton was injured in order to protect Burr from legal trouble.
Nathaniel Pendleton
Nathaniel Pendleton was Alexander Hamilton’s “loyal associate,” who also attended the duel at which Aaron Burr killed Hamilton.
John Jay
John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States. He coauthored The Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
James Jackson
James Jackson was a representative from Georgia who gave a long proslavery speech in Congress after Quakers and members of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society delivered antislavery petitions in 1790.
William Loughton Smith
William Loughton Smith was another representative from Georgia who gave a proslavery speech in Congress in 1790.
Elbridge Gerry
Elbridge Gerry was a representative from Massachusetts who expressed sympathy with slaveholders during the debate on slavery in 1790.
Thomas Pinckney
Thomas Pinckney was a politician from South Carolina who came third in the first contested American presidential election. The possibility of losing to Pinckney infuriated John Adams, who called him a “nobody.”
Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and thereafter became the French Emperor. He sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803, doubling the size of the republic.