In the Preface, Ellis establishes the basic conflict that the Founding Fathers faced. Because the colonies had little shared history, to centralize a government was to counteract the Revolutionary principles. The colonists had fought to break from a distant, dislocated control, and a government in New York City would have seemed totally alien to a Southern colony, another form of monarchy. The basic question of a central Constitution broke the nation into factions that threatened to cede the progress of the Revolution.
Collaboration, a key theme within the text, was crucial for the sake of progress. The Articles of Confederation (and later, the Constitution) were acts of extreme collaboration between all political factions. While leaders like Washington and Hamilton feared the strength of the states and the public, others like Jefferson feared the limit of individual liberties at the hands of government. Ellis's title, Founding Brothers, provides insight into his feelings. The divide between these men was as much as about personality as it was about politics, and the success of compromise was contingent on personal relationships. These men had known each other intimately for years and, as proven in the ramifications of the turbulent Adams/Jefferson friendship, the nature of these relationships deeply determined history's course.