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American Creation

Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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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 tragedies—all of which contributed to the shaping of our burgeoning nation. Ellis casts an incisive eye on the gradual pace of the American Revolution and the contributions of such luminaries as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, and brilliantly analyzes the failures of the founders to adequately solve the problems of slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. With accessible prose and stunning eloquence, Ellis delineates in American Creation an era of flawed greatness, at a time when understanding our origins is more important than ever.

 

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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 tragedies—all of which contributed to the shaping of our burgeoning nation. Ellis casts an incisive eye on the gradual pace of the American Revolution and the contributions of such luminaries as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, and brilliantly analyzes the failures of the founders to adequately solve the problems of slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. With accessible prose and stunning eloquence, Ellis delineates in American Creation an era of flawed greatness, at a time when understanding our origins is more important than ever.

 

Product Details
Paperback (304 pages)
Published: October 14, 2008
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780307276452
Other books byJoseph J. Ellis
  • Founding Brothers

    Founding Brothers
    The Revolutionary Generation
    In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation. The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly duel, Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams’ administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison’s attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation’s history.

    His Excellency

    His Excellency
    George Washington
    National Bestseller To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.   Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.

    American Sphinx

    American Sphinx
    The Character of Thomas Jefferson
    National Bestseller  For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight--and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests and tourists who made of his estate at Monticello a virtual hotel, as well as by more than one thousand letters per year, most from strangers, which he insisted on answering personally. In his twilight years Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished off by his auspicious death (on July 4, 1896); and in the subsequent seventeen decades of his celebrity--now verging, thanks to virulent revisionists and television documentaries, on notoriety--has been inflated beyond recognition of the original person. For the historian Joseph J. Ellis, the experience of writing about Jefferson was "as if a pathologist, just about to begin an autopsy, has discovered that the body on the operating table was still breathing." In American Sphinx, Ellis sifts the facts shrewdly from the legends and the rumors, treading a path between vilification and hero worship in order to formulate a plausible portrait of the man who still today "hover[s] over the political scene like one of those dirigibles cruising above a crowded football stadium, flashing words of inspiration to both teams." For, at the grass roots, Jefferson is no longer liberal or conservative, agrarian or industrialist, pro- or anti-slavery, privileged or populist. He is all things to all people. His own obliviousness to incompatible convictions within himself (which left him deaf to most forms of irony) has leaked out into the world at large--a world determined to idolize him despite his foibles. From Ellis we learn that Jefferson sang incessantly under his breath; that he delivered only two public speeches in eight years as president, while spending ten hours a day at his writing desk; that sometimes his political sensibilities collided with his domestic agenda, as when he ordered an expensive piano from London during a boycott (and pledged to "keep it in storage"). We see him relishing such projects as the nailery at Monticello that allowed him to interact with his slaves more palatably, as pseudo-employer to pseudo-employees. We grow convinced that he preferred to meet his lovers in the rarefied region of his mind rather than in the actual bedchamber. We watch him exhibiting both great depth and great shallowness, combining massive learning with extraordinary naïveté, piercing insights with self-deception on the grandest scale. We understand why we should neither beatify him nor consign him to the rubbish heap of history, though we are by no means required to stop loving him. He is Thomas Jefferson, after all--our very own sphinx.

    First Family

    First Family
    Abigail and John Adams
    In this rich and engrossing account, John and Abigail Adams come to life against the backdrop of the Republic’s tenuous early years.   Drawing on over 1,200 letters exchanged between the couple, Ellis tells a story both personal and panoramic. We learn about the many years Abigail and John spent apart as John’s political career sent him first to Philadelphia, then to Paris and Amsterdam; their relationship with their children; and Abigail’s role as John’s closest and most valued advisor. Exquisitely researched and beautifully written, First Family is both a revealing portrait of a marriage and a unique study of America’s early years.

Favorite QuotesFROM THIS BOOK
  • Chapter One: The Year If permitted the historical license to stretch the definition of a year, then the fifteenth months between the shots fired at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 and...

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  • “American republic began with physical and economic asset as well as a rich intellectual legacy of enlightened ideas.”

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  • The recent surge is the emphasis on flawed greatness, the coexistence of intellectual depth and personal shallowness, the role of contingency and sheer accident rather than divine...

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  • But the design of the political foundation was ingenious in its combination of stability and agility, most especially its prudent placement of an expanding liberal mandate at the start...

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