Benjamin Franklin and the American Enlightenment, Essay Example

Benjamin Franklin is not only considered the father of America’s Founding Father, but also one of the greatest philosophers of all times. His writings about democracy and politics are still valid to day. In the below review, the authors would like to examine the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, to reveal the most influential thoughts of the author that helped forming today’s America and the culture of the country.

            The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin

The original autobiography, written by Benjamin Franklin himself was published in London, in the year of 1793. However, the autobiography we know today was written by his son, William Franklin. The autobiography does not only reveal the motivations of the actions of Franklin, but provides the readers with a complete picture about the young society of America, he was raised in. (Beeman, 2002) He became internationally recognized as a self-made typical American man, although spending more than 27 years outside the country. The open-ended social culture, the acceptance of different views and cultures, as well as the famous experiments and scientific research Franklin published contributed towards the formation of the image we know today. The different types of experiences throughout the life of Franklin, the travels and various professions created the image of the “versatile and self-made” American.

            Enlightenment ideas that shaped America by Benjamin Franklin

One of the greatest moments in the life of Benjamin Franklin was when he broke up with England, after being accused of disloyalty. He became more revolutionary, and his ideas were shaped by the events, and he realized the importance of independence for a country, as well as a person. He wanted the new nation to be recognized internationally, and not treated any more as a colony. Although many people today think that Benjamin Franklin was a populist politician, and some authors believe that he was closer to today’s rock star image than a real politician’s, this is truly not the case. He was a statesman, and as such, his ideas were formed carefully, and the political motivations behind his actions were clear and well organized. In his ideology, he invented the term: “useful knowledge” and he created the practical type of knowledge that is still highly valued in America. (Beeman, 2002) Making a fortune as a businessman, starting up on his own, Benjamin Franklin did show an example for the nation, and he had the ability and charisma to be able to influence masses. His scientific experiments and research did convince the nation that one is able to do anything, if they are working hard and are interested in gaining knowledge.

            Multiple Disciplines

Although Benjamin Franklin was a self-made man, he did not restrict his knowledge on one field only, and he was interested in getting to know himself, the nature and languages, as well as cultures alike. Becoming a successful businessman, a self-made man, a philanthropist and a writer did require not only a high level of intelligence, but the motivation to seek knowledge. He was also one of the greatest scientists of his time, and as a politician, he signed the most important documents of the American revolutionary era. When the hierarchies around the world started to weaken, it came with a general acceptance of diversity in the society; an important idea behind enlightenment. Benjamin Franklin did question not only the rules of nature, but authorities, as well. He believed that people were equal, and there were higher, universal “natural laws” present in the world.

            Religious Issues

Franklin identified himself as a deist in his autobiography, which was a sign of breaking up with the colonial puritanism, and admitting the importance of general Biblical and natural laws, instead of religious institutions. His conceptions of personal faults, as well as his obsession with perfection were distancing his ideology from puritanism. He was a true opportunist, who, instead of thinking about ideas, finds solutions for practical problems. His books: Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion showed his practical approach to ethics and religion.  (Beeman, 2002) He lived by thirteen virtues, and preached them as well. He wrote his own prayers, and these were constructed around wisdom as knowledge; asking the Supreme God to allow the author to get the universal absolute knowledge and turn it to the good of mankind.

            Benjamin Franklin as a Statesman and Rockstar

Calling Benjamin Franklin a rock star (Hershey, 2002) might sound a little strange at first, however, his general acceptance, international reputation as a scientist, writer, philosopher and statesman does somehow make us think that it is the right approach. He is known as the first statesman and famous person who sent images for his admirers, portraits and tokens. He also got medallions created and sold. However, if the authors would like to compare today’s rock stars with Benjamin Franklin, it is evident that he was also a politician and a statesman. As politician campaigns are based on popularity today, and presidential elections are held in public, revealing family issues, secrets, even biographies and personal interest, the picture of an early rock star painted by some of the authors, based on biographic details is not without any standing. However, today’s Americans should not forget the message that this popularity sends them all: self-made men and politicians are seeking knowledge and wisdom, for the good of the masses, just like Benjamin Franklin did.


Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Online. Beeman, R. (2002) Benjamin Franklin and the American Enlightenment Online.

Hershey, C. (2002)  Benjamin Franklin. Portrait of the Statesman as a Rock Star. Online. Antiques & Fine Art