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American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic
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American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  6,692 Ratings  ·  384 Reviews
National Bestseller

Acclaimed historian Joseph J. Ellis brings his unparalleled talents to this riveting account of the early years of the Republic.

The last quarter of the eighteenth century remains the most politically creative era in American history, when a dedicated group of men undertook a bold experiment in political ideals. It was a time of both triumphs and tragedie
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jul 02, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this little gem of a book, Joseph J. Ellis argues that one venerable interpretation of the founding of the United States, namely that it was a clash between “democracy” and “aristocracy,” is flawed. None of the Founders, even Jefferson, regarded democracy as a goal. All of the Founders were what we would call “elitists.” In fact, the term “democracy” was considered an epithet. The core question was rather how to create a viable nation-state. The clash was between those who favored a wholly so ...more
Mar 13, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
This book was very easy to read and really got me psyched up about the era of the American Revolution. The author simultaneously points out the genius as well as the personal ambitions/failings/quirks of the founders. It's refreshing to read an account of history that isn't putting a sugar coat on everything, but also isn't bashing our beloved founding fathers. This book prompted me to start reading Undaunted Courage, because he does a grat job pointing out the importance of the Louisiana Purcha ...more
Jason Palmer
So even though I’m not a 5th grade teacher any more, I can’t shake the early American history addiction. This book holds a nice sweeping portrayal of the founding years and ties a lot of things together. It makes me want to read more about Thomas Jefferson. There were many issues presented that were new to me such as the importance of the constant argument between states rights and federal power, and the impetus behind the Louisiana Purchase. I agree with most of what the author postulates in th ...more
Oct 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and found it to be refreshing, especially as a read during an major election. I feel a bit better about the constant partisan arguments, lies and exaggerations, posturing, etc. The debate is part of the point of how our democracy is set up and our beloved founding fathers engaged in the same partisan lies and exaggerations that parties engage in today. I'm not saying it's right--I'm only saying there is a bit of relief in knowing we've made it through before and we can ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some good bits to this book, and some things I learned, but the author took a loose theme -- triumphs and tragedies -- and shoved it down the reader's throat. The essay format works nicely, but only when it's not overdone.
Steven Peterson
Sep 18, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Ellis has already authored a number of very well received books on early American history: Founding Brothers, American Sphinx (focusing on Thomas Jefferson), and His Excellency (about George Washington). This book is yet another very nice contribution to our understanding of the period from the Declaration of Independence through the early 19th Century. The subtitle, perhaps, says a great detail about the content of this book: "Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic." Elli ...more
Jul 09, 2014 J.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Forward, Mr. Ellis relates a question he was asked: why do we have to choose between Bush and Kerry when 200 years ago they could choose from Adams and Jefferson? I love that question because it captures very well the feeling today that we're faced with less than perfect choices whereas the men who founded this nation are regarded essentially as "demigods." And while Ellis acknowledges his admiration and awe at what the Founding Fathers accomplished, he also realizes that they were just a ...more
Aug 11, 2010 Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was an interesting book in a lot of ways. First I will talk about the good stuff. The writing was superb and it flowed very well within the capters and was just well done. The author really chose topics for each chapter and talked about how the founding fathers really dealt with them, etc. For a history buff there was some great behind the scene things that were interesting to know. That I enjoyed it very much.

The one thing that sort of bothered me was that each chapter kind of felt like it
Jun 29, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be very educational and a quick read. So much gets glossed over in our education on the founding fathers, and you develop these unrealistic images of them. Its more fascinating to read about what they were really like and how things actually went down. I gained a much greater appreciation of the dilema of how to balance state power vs. federal power, especially when you're trying to overthrow a monarchy but you need to organize a united army. I never realized how close we we ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommendations
Ellis continues to prove why he's a master of early American non-fiction. Rather than try to write an epic account of the creation of our national government, he focuses on elucidating a few critical thematic threads that were sorely lacking in my education. I particularly enjoyed his account of the time at Valley Forge and his exploration of relations between the national government and Native Americans. Ellis's argument certainly owes a debt to Gordon S Wood's The American Revolution, in his d ...more
David Longo
Mar 14, 2015 David Longo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Ellis is a wonderful storyteller, plain and simple. "American Creation" serves as a sort of sequel to "Founding Brothers," Ellis' most popular book and greatest writing achievement. That is not to sell "American Creation" short, however. Exactly like in "Founding Brothers," this historical narrative is broken into several chapters, each telling a distinct story in U. S. history. The focus of "American Creation" occurs during Thomas Jeffrrson's presidency. His Louisiana Purchase and the re ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book and a high quality audio CD. I was somewhat concerned when I saw this book was being read by the same reader as American Lion: A Biography of President Andrew Jackson, a less rewarding experience than I was hoping for. Fortunately, this was not the case.

For starters, this was an unabridged audio recording, so every word Ellis put down (including chapter headings) was read. For another, Ellis' style is smooth and moves chronologically. About the only bad thing I could
Don Stanton
Dec 02, 2010 Don Stanton rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt one of the finest works i have ever read books on American history. I have read a lot.This book spends it time in the crucial phases of the developmental of out system of government from it's first days to past Monroe.
These men we giants and I doubt that there are few living in our political system that would even come close to what these men took on without spin-misters, corrupt media and days false adds.
Jeopardy Answer: John Adams. The question WHO was referred to as "as the A
Erik Graff
May 01, 2016 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This book consists of a series of linked essays regarding what the author sees as problematic, often misrepresented or misunderstood, events in the early history of America from about 1775 until the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Much of the author's arguments run contrary to the simple, idealized portrayals of these events and of the figures prominent in them that one reads in general surveys intended for students or the general public. Jefferson, for instance, is protrayed rather negatively as a ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Marcus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph J. Ellis

Joseph Ellis is fast becoming one of the leading history writers for mainstream America. I do not say this to belittle his work, but rather to praise it. Ellis is able to take the events and turn them into a comprehensive story. The purpose of this selection is to tell the story of the formative years of the American Republic. Each chapter discusses a specific event in American history. He then uses each
Jul 28, 2008 Clinton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of history
I read this to fill in a few of the considerable gaps in my knowledge of American history. I found Ellis readable and entertaining, especially his chapters on the Continental Army at Valley Forge and the Louisiana Purchase.

His portraits of Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Washington are compelling and complex.

Ellis sets out to present the founding generation as neither saints nor villains. He shows how the founding was the product of some brilliant individuals but also of the historical climate
Jul 06, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, american
Get up to speed on the establishment of the United States, the players, the factions, the pressures and the conflicts, especially if you intend to have an argument about the intentions of the framers. They fought and they compromised. It becomes evident that all sides if the debates were important in the formation of our political tradition, a hybrid system with authority spread out to the states as well as in the federal government. However, Ellis solemnly explains some of the failures of the p ...more
Nelson Rosario
Mar 27, 2016 Nelson Rosario rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memory
Did you know that at one point a newspaper owned by Benjamin Franklin ran an oped that President George Washington was just as bad as King George III? True story. One of many such stories in this book that add much needed illumination to who the Founders were, and what they were trying to achieve. This book covers key events from the founding era, and uses them to highlight the successes, and failures, of the founding of the US. I highly recommend this book, especially in today's climate where t ...more
Apr 19, 2008 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although difficult to enjoy at first due to the author's extremely intellectual and impressive use of the English language and quoted passages, when focused on specific topics in our nation's founding, like failed federal Indian policy/preservation and the origins of our two-party political system, this book was very enjoyable and interesting.
Mar 30, 2008 Russ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting tidbits about three areas of the early days of the Republic(Madison's thoughts on how the Constitution should be written, the handling of the "Indian" issue, and the Louisiana Purchase). Though well written the assembly of the subjects seemed kind of random. It's almost as if the author needed a few extra bucks so he threw this book together.
Dec 26, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you thought today's politics was dirty you really need to read this book. Ellis's observations shine a light on some of the origins of today's issues.
Jeremy Perron
Oct 16, 2013 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My very first history book review was on Ellis' His Excellency: George Washington, years later I am now reviewing another one of his books. American Creation focuses on six early episodes that were significant to the establishment of the Republic. Ellis' book discusses the significance of everything that went on in 1776, the winter at Valley Forge, the Constitutional Convention, the formation of the two-party system, and the Louisiana Purchase. This book is both easy to read and very informative ...more
Oct 25, 2016 Rhonnie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Probably more like a 2 1/2. I was really interested in the beginning and really into the last part about the Louisiana purchase. I don't know if it's the way my brain works when it comes to History or the way he writes but I wasn't grasping a lot of his inferences-I would prefer it to be more straight forward as opposed to assuming we already know a ton about the subject and players. He also clearly hates Jefferson which bugged me out because Hamilton or Adams or Washington or even Madison didn' ...more
Chase Metcalf
Nov 27, 2016 Chase Metcalf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent review of the period leading up to the Revolution and the aftermath out to the Louisiana purchase. Author tells an engaging story that seeks to highlight the most significant issues surrounding the founding of the Republic. Narrative revolves the key founding fathers (Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and Jefferson) and the issues that shaped the early Republic. A balanced narrative that acknowledges both the genius and failures of these critical men.
Mar 18, 2017 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned some interesting new things about the founding of our country and its first years as the Founding Fathers began working out what our government would really look like. However, it didn't hold my interest the way some other audiobooks have. Not sure whether this is the book's fault or the fault of my own interests.
Mar 20, 2017 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great stuff on the native Americans and the early leaders. otherwise, nothing special.
Mar 16, 2017 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
truly an interesting read, especially given the current political climate.
In Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis used a series of nonfictional 'stories' about the founding fathers of the United States to illustrate how their personal relationships with one another shaped the struggle for independence and later the creation of the Republic. In American Creation, he uses the same approach, a series of vignettes, to explore moments which defined the course that Republic would take. Most occur after the revolution is won, and demonstrate how differently the founders dreamed f ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the author Joseph Ellis, tackles two of the U.S.' darkest legacies - the leaving of slavery intact at the founding of the nation, and what he terms "the seeds of Indian extinction east of the Mississippi..." These are the tragedies referred to in the title.

The triumphs are equally astounding. "A former colony of Great Britain, generally regarded as a provincial and wholly peripheral outpost of Western Civilization, somehow managed to establish a set of ideas and institutions that,
Jun 12, 2014 Nina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A marvelous book, and well deserving of one of my rarely-dished-out 5 stars ratings. I’d been searching for a while for a layman’s ideological history of the Revolutionary era: what ideas shaped our founding, where they came from, and whether our revolution was particularly different from subsequent post-monarchical revolutions/post-colonial movements. This book was exactly what I’d hoped for, and then some. As another excellent review pointed out, the content is not necessarily new; rather, it’ ...more
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Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, is a nationally recognized scholar of American history from colonial times through the early decades of the Republic. The author of seven books, he is recipient of the National Book Award in Nonfiction for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson and the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. He lives in Massachusetts.
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“creation: “If I could not go to heaven but with a party,” proclaimed Thomas Jefferson, “I would not go there at all.”1” 0 likes
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