The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion explores the three-decade-long bond between the men that, more than any other pairing, would forge the United States.
Larson laudably tries to counter the tendency of historians, especially biographers, to focus on individuals rather than teams ... Larson has produced a book that is not as much a tale of teamwork and friendship but instead two well-written and interesting biographical narratives that occasionally intertwine ... [Washington and Franklin's] greatest difference was on slavery, and Larson confronts that issue with unflinching directness
Unfortunately, the author does not come up with..nuggets. Rather, what readers will find is a standard, some might say superficial retelling of his two subjects’ lives, with occasional commentary about similarities and differences that don’t really offer any new insights. Part of the author’s challenge is that Franklin and Washington rarely crossed each other’s paths ... Inexplicable factual errors mar an otherwise readable text, one of the strangest of which has to do with the Quebec Act. Overall, the book conveys a rushed to press kind of feeling, based on the assumption that marketing claims of originality would assure a wide readership ... No doubt many persons will enjoy reading this book. Still, whether the Revolution succeeded largely because of the occasional teamwork of Franklin and Washington remains unproven.
Larson lays down a pairing that has hitherto been neglected ... Mr. Larson has written a dual biography intended to highlight the overlap between his subjects. As their combined lives spanned almost the entire 18th century, this is an ambitious undertaking. Perhaps inevitably, given such a broad and hectic canvas, there are some minor glitches. The Redcoats who marched to disaster with Braddock, for example, were not the elite Coldstream Guards but the less glamorous and more expendable 44th and 48th Regiments. Likewise, specialists may be puzzled by the author’s habit of equating the American Revolution with the war of 1775-83, rather than extending it to include the decades of political upheaval that bracketed the fighting ... Yet Franklin & Washington does ample justice to its subjects’ achievements. Whatever the true nature of their partnership, there can be no doubt that both Founders provided an example of selfless and honorable service to their country.