THE QUARTET by Joseph J. Ellis
Kirkus Star

THE QUARTET

Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A brilliant account of six years during which four Founding Fathers, “in disregard of public opinion, carried the American story in a new direction.”

In a virtuosic introduction, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Ellis (Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, 2013, etc.) maintains that Abraham Lincoln was wrong. In 1776—four score and seven years before 1863—our forefathers did not bring forth a new nation. American revolutionaries hated distant governments, taxes, armies and inconvenient laws. Their Colonial governments seemed fine. Ellis reminds us that the 1776 resolution declaring independence described 13 “free and independent states.” Adopting the Constitution in 1789 created the United States, but no mobs rampaged in its favor. In fact, writes the author, the “vast majority of citizens had no interest in American nationhood, indeed regarded the very idea of national government as irrelevant to their love lives.” Ellis delivers a convincing argument that it was a massive political transformation led by men with impeccable revolutionary credentials. The indispensable man was George Washington, whose miserable eight years begging support for the Revolutionary army convinced him that America needed a central government. Its intellectual mastermind, James Madison, not only marshaled historical arguments, but performed political legerdemain in setting the Constitutional Convention agenda, orchestrating the debates and promoting ratification. Less tactful but equally brilliant, Alexander Hamilton’s vision of American hegemony would provoke stubborn opposition, but during the 1780s, the people that mattered had no objection. An undeservedly neglected Founding Father (Thomas Jefferson became our first secretary of state only after he declined), John Jay was close to the others and a vigorous advocate of reform.

This is Ellis’ ninth consecutive history of the Revolutionary War era and yet another winner.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-385-35340-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015




BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF 2015:

NonfictionARDENNES 1944 by Antony Beevor
by Antony Beevor
NonfictionTHE CRIME AND THE SILENCE by Anna Bikont
by Anna Bikont
NonfictionTHE GAY REVOLUTION by Lillian Faderman
by Lillian Faderman
NonfictionDAYS OF RAGE by Bryan Burrough
by Bryan Burrough

OUR CRITICS' TAKES ON MORE BESTSELLERS

See full list >
Cover art for SWING TIME
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for THE DIABOLIC
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for SCRAPPY LITTLE NOBODY
VERDICT:
BORROW IT

MORE BY JOSEPH J. ELLIS

NonfictionFIRST FAMILY by Joseph J. Ellis
by Joseph J. Ellis
NonfictionAMERICAN CREATION by Joseph J. Ellis
by Joseph J. Ellis
FictionA FREE LIFE by Joseph J. Ellis
by Joseph J. Ellis

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionJAMES MADISON by Lynne Cheney
by Lynne Cheney
NonfictionA REVOLUTION IN COLOR by Jane Kamensky
by Jane Kamensky