Founding Brothers


Joseph J. Ellis

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Themes and Colors
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Founding Brothers, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Conflict vs. Compromise

Founding Brothers, a nonfiction book by Joseph Ellis, emphasizes that the period following the American Revolution was defined by an extraordinary amount of conflict, from petty disputes to discord so serious that it threatened the very existence of the republic. Compromise was an extremely necessary—and extremely difficult—task for the leaders of the nation. Indeed, Ellis argues that one of the most extraordinary aspects of the leaders of this era was their ability to resolve…

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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration

Founding Brothers praises the Founding Fathers as seven truly extraordinary men who deserve the god-like reputation that they have gained in the public imagination. Author Joseph Ellis notes that while other historians have attempted to tell the story of the early American republic through minor figures or ordinary citizens, it is important to focus on the Founding Fathers themselves, because they are emblematic of the revolutionary moment and the nation that emerged as a result…

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The Personal vs. The Political

The title Founding Brothers foregrounds the relationships between the Founding Fathers, indicating that the Joseph Ellis’ nonfiction book will depict these relationships rather than simply focusing on the men as individuals. Founding Brothers highlights that these relationships were both personal and political, a fact that was true of rivalries as much as it was true of allegiances. Major rivalries were rarely the result of purely political disagreements, as personal issues were usually involved as well…

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Present vs. Hindsight

Early on in Founding Brothers, Ellis emphasizes that the events leading up to and following the American Revolution can, from our present-day position, seem like they were destined to happen. In hindsight, we know that the Revolution was ultimately a success, that the republic both survived and thrived, and that the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution continue to shape America today. However, all of this was unclear…

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Patriotism and American Values

In the final decades of the eighteenth century, the Founding Fathers made a radical assertion of American values through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, sending a message that had a profound impact on the world at large and resonated for many years to come. At the same time, Founding Brothers depicts a contradiction between this decisive assertion of American principles and a reality that was defined by confusion and conflict over what these…

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