American Creation

American Creation

Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic

Book - 2008 | First Vintage Books edition
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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.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2008, c2007
Edition: First Vintage Books edition
ISBN: 9780307276452
Branch Call Number: 973.3 E47a1
Characteristics: xi, 283 pages ; 21 cm


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Cdnbookworm Apr 04, 2013

This book looks at U.S. history from the early days of the revolution to the Louisiana Purchase, ranging from 1775 to 1803, and analyzes six different component actions. First he has an overview of the founding overall, the bigger picture and the reasoning for covering the period he does here. Then each chapter looks at an event or time period, at who the different players were and what actions they took, even at what we know about what they were thinking from their papers and conversations. Included here is a discussion of the significance of each of these.
The first chapter covers the first year of the revolution, really a little more than a year, as it is the time period from April 1775 when shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776. Here, you could really see how the actions of the British fed into the more radical plans of the revolutionaries, pushing them further towards a true revolt. The American petitions were not only not entertained by the British, but the British began to hire foreign mercenaries to quash the rebellion by their own people. Definitely not an action that would lead to a peaceful outcome.
The second chapter covers the first hard winter of the war, in which the British sat comfortably in the city, while the Americans sat in the rural breadbasket, freezing and starving. Ellis describes the poor planning on the American side, and the lessons they learned from this experience, as well as the complacency of the British and the mistake they made in not taking advantage of the situation.
The third chapter is entitled The Argument and covers the period from 1786 until 1788. This is really about the political beginnings, the struggle to define the political model for the United States. Washington and most of the officers in the Continental Army were nationalists, those who believed in a strong central government. The majority of people were confederationists who believed in state-centered government. Madison was the creative brains behind the nationalists. It came down to the Henry - Madison debate of 1788 where Patrick Henry's eloquence wasn't a match for Madison's convincing argument.
The fourth chapter is called The Treaty and deals with the issue of the Native Americans, setting the stage for the removal of the natives by sheer demography. Despite good intentions by Washington, the sheer volume of settlers pushing westward led to the failure of the legitimate rights of the Native Americans.
The fifth chapter deals with the creation of the two-party system with Jefferson and Madison defining the Republican opposition against Washington and Adams Federalists. It was interesting to see the opposition party reasoning that still exists now coming from Jefferson as he found himself taking actions later that he had earlier argued against when in opposition.
The last chapter is about the Louisiana Purchase and how it changed the plan of gradual westward expansion to a sudden jump of increased land as part of the nation. It is about squandered opportunities and precedent setting, and about the racial issues that still haunt the country today.
A very interesting look at an interesting country.

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