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American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic (2007)

von Joseph J. Ellis

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1,469299,560 (3.95)38
An ironic examination of the founding years of our country. Historian 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. He explains how the idea of a strong federal government, championed by Washington, was eventually embraced by the American people, the majority of whom had to be won over. And he details the emergence of the two-party system--then a political novelty--which today stands as the founders' most enduring legacy. But Ellis is equally incisive about their failures, making clear how their inability to abolish slavery and to reach a just settlement with the Native Americans has played an equally important role in shaping our national character. Ellis strips the mythic veneer of the revolutionary generation to reveal men possessed of both brilliance and blindness.--From publisher description.… (mehr)
Kürzlich hinzugefügt vonprivate Bibliothek, ZippyDaPinhead, bujeya, bbrumleve, MCHENVDEF, JRMANDRAGON, davidsimp, MBaseler
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I have no memory of reading this book. ( )
  Charles_R._Cowherd | Jul 10, 2021 |
The author spends a lot of time from the Presidency of Washington to Jefferson talking about the issues that helped form the government. Particularly issues related to Federalism verses states rights and autonomy and the issues of slavery and how the government dealt with the Indians. Very informative, but also very dry. It reads like a dusty old school textbook. Quite dry and slow. ( )
  Jeff_Simms | Jun 9, 2021 |
5673. American Creation Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic, by Joseph J. Ellis (read 1 Feb 2020) This book, published in 2007, is the fourth book by its author I have read. It, like the others by its author I have read is incisive and makes persuasive arguments for its accounts of selected events from 1776 to 1803. The triumphs include the Declaration of Independence, the overcoming of the bitter time at Valley Forge, and the Louisiana Purchase. The tragedies are the failure to deal with slavery in the creation of the republic and the treatment of the Indian tribes. Ellis has a sure hand in discussing the extremely interesting and significant situations he deals with. He recognizes the abilities and failings of Washington, Jefferson and other figures involved with the founding of the Republic. I read the book because the other books by Ellis I read (Founding Brothers [read 25 Apr 2001], American Sphinx [read 27 Dec 2002], and Passionate Sage [read 19 June 2010] were so well-written and consistently interesting and I found this book of similar high quality.. ( )
1 abstimmen Schmerguls | Feb 1, 2020 |
As one who is thoroughly fed up with our current political paralysis and small-minded partisanship, I have often wished our politicos shared a common passion for greatness as did the revolutionary generation. This book certainly dispels that notion.

In Founding Brothers Ellis focused on their deep bonds. In American Creation he looks through the opposite lens, describing their competitions and jealousies. In the process he reveals history and stories that will be new to many.

The revolutionaries are commonly faulted for not addressing the two biggest issues which even they recognized would surely put a blot on their legacy and the nation. Most agreed on the need to end slavery and develop a fair accommodation with the American Indian. Despite their agreement on the moral imperatives, however, they failed to avoid sacrificing them to pragmatic decisions as they went about creating the new nation state. This was a failure and in both instances led to exactly where they predicted, civil war and contentious expansion across the continent. Having said all that, it is hard to see how they could have solved the rubric successfully.

Ellis does a good job of giving us the backstories as to why that is the case. From Jefferson’s wager that Napoleon’s plan to occupy New Orleans would never come to fruition, to his and Washington’s belief that demography would in time accomplish what the fledgling nation could not in securing its future through expansion. The book is rich in these stories, bringing to light seldom heard of characters. The courting of Creek Nation chief McGillivray who (almost) always put the security of his nation first; how a slave leader prophesied the defeat of Napoleon’s army when it tried to subdue French slave colonies in the Caribbean, thus thwarting the plan to occupy New Orleans and leading to the Louisiana Purchase; the designs and strategies of France and Spain to leave America with a sliver of the east coast as they contested for the continent and its promise, and a host of other stories.

The stories the author highlights, including the Federalist / Republican divide, the irony of Jefferson's grand exercise of executive power in executing the Louisiana Purchase, and the tension between what the founders believed to be right and the compromises they made are instructive and illustrative of today's quandary. Nothing much has changed, so it seems, other than the time and issue of the moment. Politics is still politics, as they say.

As far as history telling goes this is a good read, but it does not equal Founding Brothers. In that volume Ellis simply told the story, in Creation there is an undertone of opinion and aloofness that does not serve well. But, it will be an enjoyable journey for the casual fan of history who wants to refresh his or her appreciation for the beginnings of the American story.
( )
1 abstimmen PCHcruzr | Oct 7, 2019 |
Excellent accounting of the period 1776 to 1803 which Ellis considers as the formative period of the American nation. ( )
  Waltersgn | Oct 27, 2017 |
 
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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 the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 can justifiably claim to be both the most consequential and strangest year in American history.
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“American republic began with physical and economic asset as well as a rich intellectual legacy of enlightened ideas.”
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 providence. The founding has at least become the topic in an adult conversation rather than a juvenile melodrama populated only by heroes or villains.
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An ironic examination of the founding years of our country. Historian 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. He explains how the idea of a strong federal government, championed by Washington, was eventually embraced by the American people, the majority of whom had to be won over. And he details the emergence of the two-party system--then a political novelty--which today stands as the founders' most enduring legacy. But Ellis is equally incisive about their failures, making clear how their inability to abolish slavery and to reach a just settlement with the Native Americans has played an equally important role in shaping our national character. Ellis strips the mythic veneer of the revolutionary generation to reveal men possessed of both brilliance and blindness.--From publisher description.

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