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Founding Brothers Cliff Notes

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Preface: The Generation

Some people thought that American independence was Manifest Destiny, '"'Tom Paine, for example, claimed that it was simply a matter of common sense that an island could not rule a continent.'"' But for the most part, triumph of the American revolution was improbable, and therefore it is a remarkable event in history. No one expected that Britain, the strongest country in the world would be defeated by the colonies, and that America"'"s Republic, a government uncommon in those monarchial days, would survive, yet it did.

It is only now in retrospect that the American Revolution seems inevitable. To the participants it seemed to be a long-shot. They were not expecting victory, always fearing execution for treason. Rightly so, too, since the British could have easily won the war if they had fought more forcefully in its earliest stages.

Once the Americans won, it was widely predicted that if America did survive, it would become a very strong nation due to its abundance of natural resources, space, and isolation. The short-term question, though, was whether or not it would survive. One of the biggest problems in its beginnings was in organizing a national government. The national government was what the Americans had escaped from. They knew though, that without a unifying entity, the country would not be able to live up to its full predicted potential.

The founding brothers wanted America to live to its potential so the minority who wanted a unified nation organized the Constitutional Convention in 1787 with the purpose of drafting a national scale constitution. The Constitutional Convention is often criticized for its secrecy, extra-legality, and the fact that its members were of the elite--hardly a good representation of the masses. Others, though, call it '"'the miracle of Philadelphia'"' for the fact that it accomplished the seemingly impossible goal of creating a union of states.

A few compromises were made during this convention: interest of small v. large states, federal v. state jurisdiction, and sectional slavery. Nevertheless, still a '"'work-in-progress'"' in 1789, the US had several things going for it. It was youthful, expansive, and the first President, George Washington, was unanimously chosen. The next decade would be the most important in the country"'"s history.

There are two ways to view events in this stage of history. The '"'pure-Republicanism'"' interpretation, or '"'the Jeffersonian interpretation'"'. The Republicanism view on history claims the revolution to be a liberation movement from everything British, and dislike the take-over of the Federalists (moneymen) in 1790 of which Hamilton was the Chief Culprit

The alternative interpretation views Washington, Adams, and Hamilton as the heirs to the revolutionary legacy and Jefferson as the chief culprit. This view is more collectivistic rather than individualistic.

The book will look at this time in history through several stories that show us the times. The stories will be of political leaders that include (in alphabetical order of course) Abigail and John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

There will be four common themes throughout these stories:

1) The achievements of the revolution were collective, only succeeding because of the balance of personalities involved.

2) All the politicians knew one another. The politics were vis-Ðo-vis and those involved could not avoid the personal interactions and the emotion

3) They took the most threatening issue off the agenda: slavery. Who knows, America may not have succeeded without it taken out.

4) The politicians knew that their actions were writing history and that they would be looked up to and read about in the future. They therefore kept to their best behaviors, and in a way were performing for those who live after them to look back on them. They were actors in a (to them) future soap-opera.

The novel will be chronological with one exception. The first story about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton is first for its fascinating story, and the fact that it is the only exception to the rest of the revolution ('"'the exception that proves the rule). It is the only time when violence and death were the resorts, instead of arguments

And so the story begins, '"'It is a hot summer morning in 1804...'"'

Chapter One: The Duel

Short version: On the morning of July 11, 1804 Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were rowed across the Hudson River in separate boats to a spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. Using the customs of the code duello, they exchanged pistols and shot at each other. Hamilton was hit in the side and died the next day. Burr was unhurt but his reputation suffered enough to make him wish he were.

The following will be a more comprehensive version of, '"'the interview at Weehawken'"', as it was called.

Colonel Aaron Burr, the vice president of the United States in 1804, left home on Wednesday July 11, 1804 for an '"'appointment with destiny'"'. He and William Van Ness, his devoted supporter sailed, toward the New Jersey Palisades.

Just north of Richmond Hill, in present-day Wall Street, (General) Hamilton was boarding a small boat with two oarsmen, his physician, Dr. David Hosack, and a devotee Nathaniel Pendleton.

The two men are opposites. One born poor became rich, the other born an aristocrat. Many things about the two are contrasting. It is noted that Hamilton had always striven to being the best and proving himself worthy. The day before, he shows his attitudes towards the duel by writing in his diary that he will throw away his first fire, and maybe his second to give Burr a chance to rethink the duel.

The duel was called an interview at the time because duels were illegal. They used elusive language to make sure no one could get in trouble legally. So the duel is known by many as '"'The Interview at Weehawken'"'.

Hamilton secretly did not follow by the rules of the already illegal duel. His gun



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