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

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  3,656 ratings  ·  310 reviews
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, H ...more
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Published October 30th 2007 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2007)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Don Stanton
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
Jul 28, 2008 Clinton rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Ellis is quite good so i was expecting more. More objectivity, more context, more back story. It was a select narrative of a handful of his favorite revolutionary stories i suppose. Much of it had that you-won't-believe-this tenor to perspectives that are well known. Stuff that stands out were things like him saying no on fought during the winter, hence Valley Forge being a time of suffering but no battle. But many battles were fought during the winter in the revolution and the subsequent Napole ...more
Whether your knowledge of the American Revolution comes from high school or college courses, you don't know anything yet! Ellis writes a very good book, detailed, well researched and readable.

The clear portraits he draws of the men involved is priceless. The women, who enabled them to sit around and talk for years on end, are equally well described. Most of these men made huge financial and personal sacrifices for the cause of Independence. Our Founding Fathers were rebels, with good cause, but
As the late Paul Harvey ended his segments with, “And now you know the rest of the story”.

I have always found the history and the back stories of the American Revolution to be fascinating. The problem with how this (and most history) is taught as the events were just a matter of “lining up the dominoes and knocking one down”. The reality is history is really a mass “web and maze” of people and events that someone how came together. Whether that was by design or default is what is up for debate.
Easily the worst book I have ever had to read for school.

The writing is dry and the passages are boring. While Ellis's use of language employed a variety of words and high level English skills, it turned me off and made the book difficult to understand. However, Ellis's work does the job of providing a detailed account on the founding of the country. He takes the reader through the critical events that led to the basis of America. These occurrences are then linked together to form a highly histo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
This book fills in a lot of gaps in the story of the creation of the United States. It describes the coming together of some of the most brilliant political minds ever assembled, and how they struggled with their republican values and the practical demands of the time. For example, Washington is forced to choose between feeding his starving army at Valley Forge by stealing food from local farmers, or respecting property rights and loosing the army which he needs to win freedom from Britain.
Steven Peterson
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
Admittedly, this might appeal to me more than it would to many readers as I was a history major, a perpetual student of American history and this period of time is my favorite era from American history. That being said, this book concentrates on a very few specific events during the years between 1775 and 1803 and elaborates on their place and significance in the overall realm of American history.

Those historical events include Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War, the debates over federal
***Dave Hill
(Original review:

Overall: Good
Writing: Good
Info: Good
Re-Listenability: Good
Audio: Good

Writing: The subtitle of the book is “Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic,” and Ellis sticks with that theme as he reviews various episodes in the early US — from the Revolutionary War to Louisiana Purchase — to recount unexpected triumphs that made the US an unexpectedly viable republic, and the unquestionable tragedies (dealing with Indians east of
Adam McCain

The book offers a rich history of our Nations birth. While injecting his own personal view that the founding fathers were noble selfless statesmen who portrayed a sense of boldness unprecedented in American history, he also writes that they were unable to abolish slavery or protect the rights of Native Americans and that this will forever be a blemish on their great adventure.

The book tends to be biased towards Washington and other Federalists while leaning against Jefferson and his aspiratio
Richard Kelly
This one was alright as far as bland history books go. Lots of good info delving deeper than the normal public school history lesson does. But the author has a deep slant towards the federalists. Seems odd since it is politics of over 200 years ago, but he paints a very negative picture of the early republicans.

The book is overly bland, but it is filled with opinions on top of the facts. So, it feels like a history book, but in reality it is also a political commentary on the early US.

For a bo
Jeremy Perron
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
After a bit into this book I was afraid it was going to dis on the reverence I tend to have towards our founding fathers. However, pointing out what they achieved and what they failed to accomplish is the proper prose of an honest snapshot of history.

It's fascinating to imagine what it was like to live during the 'Spirit of 76' and ponder on what I would have done at that time. The author does a great job of pointing out that looking back on those times and actually living it first hand are two
Ellis talks about wanting to address the dichotomy between views of the 'Founding Fathers' as ideologically pure saints on the one side, and racist, sexist, trivial little men who failed to address problems that should have been apparent to them on the other. He achieves this beautifully in a reader friendly style. As someone who has been alienated by the 'sainthood' view, Ellis raised my opinion of the founding leaders showing them to be pragmatic, hardworking lot who made compromises on issues ...more
Being on a "birth of our nation" reading crusade over the last year, I decided to add American Creation to the mix to help piece together events that occurred during the formation of the United States of America. This is my first experience with Joseph Ellis and I was quick to notice the level of detail involved in his writing. He is obviously very analytical and delivers his views of the subjects from a favorable, as well as a not so favorable, vantage point.

Some of the points Ellis makes in Am
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,
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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.
More about Joseph J. Ellis...
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation His Excellency: George Washington American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson First Family: Abigail and John Adams Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

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