Ellis dives into these evils and attendant blindness to what we see easily now. He is no apologist for the hypocrisy of Jefferson and interrogates every significant Framer’s culpability for the failures of the epoch. He does so, however, with awareness that they did not see or reason with the same powers we possess ... He also renders judgments, many of them surprising, of the events of 1773 through 1783 ... Most timely of all, though, is Ellis's thorough treatment of both Washington and Jefferson’s views of, and shame for, the enslavement of people ... Ellis is no apologist, but he is a chronicler of the entire revolution, its best aspirations, its worst contradictions and its ongoing dilemmas.
This seems like an appropriate time to read a good overview of the American Revolution, as a lesson in what happened and why it mattered. Unfortunately, Joseph J. Ellis’s The Cause is not that book ... When King George III declares the colonies to be in a state of rebellion and appoints as Secretary of the American Colonies hard-liner George Germain, who had called the colonists 'overindulged children,' Mr. Ellis ably conveys diverse reactions ... Yet, for most of its pages, The Cause is written in the ponderous self-referential style of a professor to whom students are required to listen. Clubby asides about professors Mr. Ellis has known seem of doubtful interest to any reader. Footnotes at the bottom of the page add tedious details ... The book reads as though it had been written for someone who hasn’t picked up a book or newspaper since 1976 ... The Cause combines the worst quality of popular history (not saying anything original) with the worst qualities of academic writing (it is dully written). Reading the book means slogging through cluttered and repetitive sentences ... By not using the lives of Joseph Brant, Mercy Otis Warren or William Lee to deepen the story of the American Revolution, Mr. Ellis is left presenting the shallow interpretation that the Revolution merely deferred including women and nonwhite men in political equality.
... masterly ... [Ellis] deftly foreshadows all the issues that would complicate America’s trajectory and ends with a historical cliffhanger: Would the Republic survive? It did, but only when the Constitution became the embodiment of The Cause.