The chances of the United States of America surviving as a country were very slim during the revolutionary generation. After winning an almost impossible war it still seemed doubtful that our country would survive. But in the end the people who helped build our country pulled it off. So how did they do it? In the book Founding Brothers Joseph Ellis attempts to answer that question. He does this by giving four main reasons. First, the founding bothers had different personalities and opinions from each other which created multiple solutions to a problem.
Second, they all knew each other on a personal level so they were able to work things out face to face. Third, slavery was put aside by the founding brothers so they could focus on keeping the country alive. Finally, they didn’t hide the fact they knew they were going down in history. I felt that Ellis best supported his answers through three chapters. In the third chapter of the book titled “The Silence” Ellis talks about the issue of slavery and why it was important they put it aside. Ellis States “slavery was an explosive topic that must be removed from the political agenda” .
One of the main reasons he states this is because of the issue of the cost abolishing slaves would be. At the time it would have cost about 140 million dollars to do so and the federal budget was only 7 million dollars. Another big reason Ellis believes this was necessary was that “no model of a genuinely biracial society existed anywhere in the world at the time” . Even though it sounds awful, white people did not know what it was like to live with black people in a society on such a large scale.
One final reason that he gives is that if the founding brothers tried to eliminate slavery it would most likely cause civil war to break out. Even though civil war does eventually happen in the future because of this issue, the country was way too unstable to handle it during the revolutionary generation. Another thing that Ellis talks about in this chapter is the Three-Fifths Compromise. He calls it “the most important compromised reached at the Constitutional Convention” . Without the Founding Brothers ability to work things out face to face they would have never be able to get this done.
It was like there was a great understanding between the two sides despite there differences. A chapter that shows big differences between the Founding Bothers is chapter four titled “The Farewell”. In this chapter it talks about Jay’s Treaty and Jefferson’s opposition of it. Jefferson believed that the treaty was going against what the revolution was all about. He thought “France represented the brightness future prospects; England represented the dead hand of the past” . On the other hand, Washington and Hamilton believed that the treaty was necessary to happen with England to avoid war.
The argument between Jefferson and Washington over this had caused there friendship between each other to end. Even though Washington and Jefferson had different opinions about a lot of things both are considered to be Founding Brothers and great political leaders. This shows how important it was for the Founding Brothers to have political differences. This chapter also talks about Washington’s extreme popularity in the United States of America. Ellis states “Americans had been describing Washington as the Father of the Country since 1776” .
With this mass celebrity, Washington knew everything he did was going to go down in history. When it came to writing his “Farewell Address” Washington knew that everyone future and present would be looking at it. Ellis writes “Washington’s extraordinary reputation rested less on his prudent exercise of power than on his dramatic flair at surrendering it. ”  With Washington’s knowledge of his historic popularity it gave him the opportunity to point history in the direction he wanted it to go.
In the final chapter of the book titled “The Friendship” Ellis talks about Jefferson and Adams becoming friends again. Their friendship had ended because of them fighting over political differences. Jefferson believing that a smaller government is a better government and Adams believing a strong government is more effective. Both types of government were necessary to form the country we have today. But as Ellis states “The political rivalry had never eroded the personal respect between them.  This is one of the ways Adams and Jefferson’s break in their friendship had ended. The main reason they had become friends again is because of their ability to work things out face to face. They did this by writing letters to each other (Even though it was not exactly face to face it was still on a very personal level). Adams was so excited by their friendship when reading one of the letters,” he insisted that Jefferson’s letter be read aloud to his entire extended family at the breakfast table” .
Writing each other up until their death, which Ellis called “a case of two powerful personalities willing themselves to expire on schedule and according to script. ” , it seemed like Adams and Jefferson knew that each letter would be looked at throughout history. I feel that Ellis answers the question of how the Founding Brothers created our country very well. The evidence shows that different personalities, face to face interaction, setting slavery aside, and the knowledge of going down in history all played a contribution to the creation and survival of The United States of America.
The idea that I thought was the most interesting that Ellis talked about, was the idea of the revolutionary generation being a “historic drama” and the Founding Brothers being actors in it. This idea made me think of the Founding Brothers in a different a way; instead of thinking of them as just a bunch of people who are in history books, I think of them as characters in the greatest drama that was never written. Wyatt Sanders History 101 The Survival of a Country