In Franklin & Washington, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward J. Larson delivers a masterful, overdue joint biography of our two most legendary Founding Fathers. As Larson relates, Franklin and Washington, though divided by a 26-year age gap and vastly different life experiences, underwent a similarly dramatic transformation from loyal British colonists to American nationalists, and found a shared purpose in their efforts to prepare the United States for independence.
Though the two men are acknowledged as towering figures of the Revolutionary Era, historians have tended to overlook the crucial importance of their unusual friendship. Larson makes a persuasive case that neither one could have succeeded without the other. During the Revolutionary War, Washington could not have thrived on the battlefield without the diplomacy that Franklin was conducting in France and Franklin could not have achieved his diplomatic coups without Washington’s actions on the battlefield. For these efforts, Franklin has been hailed as America’s greatest diplomat and Washington as its greatest general, yet each knowingly relied on the other. Beyond this, Franklin played a key role at the Second Continental Congress in securing and supporting Washington as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. 12 years later, when Washington arrived in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention, he dined first with Franklin. Both men knew they needed the other to pull off the supreme act of unifying the states under a single Constitution.
In an enlightening and dramatic account of these two men’s intertwined lives, Larson takes readers from the French and Indian War, through the Revolution and Constitutional Convention, and concludes with their final encounter when, near death, Franklin forced the issue of slavery before the new republic’s first Congress. In this fascinating new window into the Revolutionary Era, Larson shines a new light on Franklin and Washington’s heroic deeds and mutual purpose.
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.
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