"Larson's elegantly written dual biography reveals that the partnership of Franklin and Washington was indispensable to the success of the Revolution." —Gordon S. Wood
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian comes a masterful, first-of-its-kind dual biography of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, illuminating their partnership's enduring importance.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • One of Washington Post's "10 Books to Read in February" • One of USA Today’s “Must-Read Books" of Winter 2020 • One of Publishers Weekly's "Top Ten" Spring 2020 Memoirs/Biographies
Theirs was a three-decade-long bond that, more than any other pairing, would forge the United States. Vastly different men, Benjamin Franklin—an abolitionist freethinker from the urban north—and George Washington—a slaveholding general from the agrarian south—were the indispensable authors of American independence and the two key partners in the attempt to craft a more perfect union at the Constitutional Convention, held in Franklin’s Philadelphia and presided over by Washington. And yet their teamwork has been little remarked upon in the centuries since.
Illuminating Franklin and Washington’s relationship with striking new detail and energy, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Edward J. Larson shows that theirs was truly an intimate working friendship that amplified the talents of each for collective advancement of the American project.
During the French and Indian War, Franklin supplied the wagons for General Edward Braddock’s ill-fated assault on Fort Duquesne, and Washington buried the general’s body under the dirt road traveled by those retreating wagons. After long supporting British rule, both became key early proponents of independence. Rekindled during the Second Continental Congress in 1775, their friendship gained historical significance during the American Revolution, when Franklin led America’s diplomatic mission in Europe (securing money and an alliance with France) and Washington commanded the Continental Army. Victory required both of these efforts to succeed, and success, in turn, required their mutual coordination and cooperation. In the 1780s, the two sought to strengthen the union, leading to the framing and ratification of the Constitution, the founding document that bears their stamp.
Franklin and Washington—the two most revered figures in the early republic—staked their lives and fortunes on the American experiment in liberty and were committed to its preservation. Today the United States is the world’s great superpower, and yet we also wrestle with the government Franklin and Washington created more than two centuries ago—the power of the executive branch, the principle of checks and balances, the electoral college—as well as the wounds of their compromise over slavery. Now, as the founding institutions appear under new stress, it is time to understand their origins through the fresh lens of Larson’s Franklin & Washington, a major addition to the literature of the founding era.
About the Author
EDWARD J. LARSON received the Pulitzer Prize for History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. He is the co-author of Modern Library’s The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison and author of The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789, and A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800. He was an inaugural fellow at the National Library for the Study of George Washington. Larson is University Professor of History and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He travels widely as a media commentator, visiting instructor, and guest speaker.
“America has always been a team project, and its Founding co-captains are Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. But until now, curiously, there has not been a joint biography worthy of these two great Captains America. Edward J. Larson finally delivers just what we need: a crisp narrative crackling with great stories and deep insights. Equally fun and wise—a rare combination—Franklin & Washington is an indispensable book about our two indispensable Founding Fathers.”
— Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University, and author of America's Constitution: A Biography
"In 1790, John Adams joked that the history of the Revolution would eventually boil down to Washington and Franklin doing pretty much everything. This was not as much of a joke as Adams imagined: Edward J. Larson's elegantly written dual biography reveals that the partnership of Franklin and Washington was indispensable to the success of the Revolution."
— Gordon S. Wood, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Bancroft Prize, and author of Revolutionary Characters and Empire of Liberty
“Larson brings together the lives of these titans, showing how their backgrounds and joint interests made them ideal partners. … An inspired approach for considering the lives and legacies of these two founding fathers.”
— Booklist, STARRED Review
"Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Larson writes a dual biography of two founding fathers, shedding light on a special partnership and decades-long bond that made America possible."
— USA Today
"Larson laudably tries to counter the tendency of historians, especially biographers, to focus on individuals rather than teams...[A] well-written and interesting biographical narrative."
— Washington Post
"Larson presents a concise yet engaging narrative that illuminates how individuals can have as much impact on events as broader societal or economic forces."
— USA Today
“Larson lays down a pairing that has hitherto been neglected. ... An ambitious undertaking.”
— Wall Street Journal