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Founding Brothers' Impact on America

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From the beginning of time man has looked up to their leaders. In ancient times they were viewed with a taste of divinity. From the God-emperors of Japan, to the divine-right kings of Europe, the people believed that their leaders where at the very least Gods chosen ruler, and at the most, God himself. The idea that leaders are just men is a relatively new idea. This is the opinion expressed in Joseph Ellis's book Founding Brothers. In the book, Ellis makes the claim that the Revolution generation was comprised of men, men that made history, maybe, but men never-the-less.

The backbone of Ellis's book is that the "founding brothers" were mortal. They were human. While they might seem like Zeus and the other Greek gods, they were still just men. They made mistakes. They were inherently flawed. This view is completely revolutionary in itself from the previous history of mankind. For centuries kings, queens, and emperors had been revered as the direct choice of God at the least. When they spoke, God was speaking through them. Their commands were unquestionable, and to be followed with absolute loyalty. After all, who would dare challenge the will of God? Ellis, however, takes the other approach. That these founding fathers were not super men; they may have raised to the occasion and changed history, however, they are still just men. The most prime example of the humanistic (a reference to the inherently flawed aspect of man, not the philosophical movement) nature of the founding brothers is the dual between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The tragic tale is that of two men who let their pride get the best of them. Neither one of them could stand to back down from the other. Neither one of them dared to take the easy way out and just apologize for their actions. Instead they allowed the sour feelings towards each other simmer and grow until blood was shed. They let their hate grow until it consumed them and one man's life was lost and the other was ruined. The clash of personalities is not limited to Hamilton and Burr. Adam and Jefferson have a historic clash that nearly separates these two Revolutionary War friends forever. These were two men that came together to pen the Declaration of Independence. They stood ready to hang side-by-side should the war go against them. And once their dream is realized and a new nation is formed, they turn on each other. Ignoring the fact that united, they have done the impossible, these two founding brothers each accuse the other of betraying what they fought to create. They let partisan politics become such a barrier between them that they couldn't even write letters to each other for some time, and relied on mediators and third parties to bridge the gap. Luckily this feud did not end in bloodshed, but rather in a reconciliation. But again we see not the qualities of a deity or superhero, but the qualities of a human in these founding brothers.

The flip side of Ellis's argument is that despite the fact that these were ordinary people, they managed to overcome their human inadequacies and change the course of history. The one founding brother that stands above the rest in this area is the legendary father-of-the-country himself, George Washington. Even in his own days, Washington was untouchable. Several people tried to move against him, and they found themselves at the end of their political life. Washington's fame, however, was well deserved. Washington was accomplishing the impossible, and none other than King George the III remarked that Washington was, "the greatest man in the world," (Ellis 130) At the end of the Revolutionary War, the army was prepared to appoint Washington an "American Caesar," (Ellis 130). Washington rejected in such dramatic and moving fashion, that not only did the plotters not turn on him, but they abandoned their plot altogether and once again put their faith in the great experiment that was the budding US government. Washington's greatness is better exemplified not by his sway over his soldiers, but by his integrity. The significance of Washington retiring is lost on many today, but in the time it was extremely significant. He knew that he was setting the precedent for the passage of power from one president to the next. He could have very easily continued to hold power until his death. There was no amendment restricting him to only two terms, and he had the popularity. However, Washington peacefully stepped down after a mere two terms



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