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#251 Ben Franklin and George Washington: The Founding Partnership
June 13th, 2022 | E251

What I learned from reading Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership by Edward Larson.


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[0:59] Both men have been called The First American but they were friends first and never rivals.

[1:32] Leadership at this level is a rare quality and well-worth study.

[1:53] The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin. (Founders #62) and  Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. (Founders #115)

[3:53] He was bookish and inquisitive. Franklin quickly displayed a seemingly inexhaustible capability for hard work and was self-taught by reading.

[5:36] Franklin was convinced that acts mattered more than beliefs.

[6:06] Franklin advised fellow tradesmen. The way to wealth depends chiefly on two words: Industry and Frugality. Waste neither time nor money. Make the best use of both.

[7:06] The years roll around and the last one will come. When it does I would rather have it said he lived usefully than he died rich.

[8:25] He found electricity a curiosity and left it a science.

[8:50] When Franklin proposed the ideal prayer it was for “Wisdom that discovers my truest interests.”

[9:26] George Washington was a vigorous and active man, an early riser about his business all day. And by no means intellectually idle, he accumulated a library of 800 books. —Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle by Paul Johnson. (Founders #226)

[10:08] His (Washington) strategy was clear, intelligent, absolutely consistent, and maintained with an iron will from start to finish.

[16:09] The pictures that we primarily know them as: Washington on the $1 bill and Franklin on the $100 bill — Washington was 64 years old in that picture and Franklin was almost 80 — that is not what they look like at this point. Washington is an extremely young man (21 or 22 years old) and Franklin (48 years old) still has almost 40 years left of life.

[18:44] Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

[21:09] Think about this. Franklin is almost 50. He's already a successful entrepreneur, successful scientist, successful writer and now he focuses his talent on the most important project of his life. Something he will be working on in one form or another for the next 34 years —until he dies.

[24:28] Never underestimate your opponent. It’s all downside and no upside.

[26:39] You have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don't, you're going to lose. And that's as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you've got an edge. And you've got to play within your own circle of competence. —Charlie Munger

[27:58] Washington remained remarkably calm under fire.

[28:23] This is a great description of how lopsided this was: You might as well send a cow in pursuit of a rabbit. The Indians were accustomed to these woods.

[29:20] This is going to be  the most decorated military leader in early American history and so far everything we've seen from his early career is just one failure after another.

[32:00] Where Washington's regimen was chronically undermanned, Franklin’s was oversubscribed. They had precisely the same job—to secure the frontier.

[32:30] There's a lesson that both Franklin and Washington learned during this part that is going to eventually ripple throughout history: A final shared lesson carried weight. Despite the war's ultimate outcome, the British were beatable in New World combat. "This gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted Ideas of the Prowess of British soldiers was not well founded.” So it's like you have this reputation because you're this gigantic superpower, this world empire —and yet what we're seeing on the battlefield was like, oh, wait a minute —they're beatable.

[36:55] Understanding what people believe is pivotal to understanding why they do what they do.

[37:36] Washington’s view of the American Revolution: "Essentially, he saw the conflict as a struggle for power in which the colonists, if victorious, destroyed British pretensions of superiority and won control over half of a continent."

[40:17] We have taken up arms in defense of our Liberty, our property, our wives, and our children. We are determined to preserve them or die.

[43:02] Washington used the winter to reassess and revise his army structure and strategy because both were faulty.

[47:08] By soldiering on for one more year Washington's army, destitute and half naked, turned the world upside down. Imagine if they had quit before this point!

[51:50] When I look at this building, my dear sister, and compare it with that in which our good parents educated us, the difference strikes me with wonder. (A lot can change in one lifetime)

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