How did people react to Benjamin Franklin and his ideas?

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georgegs eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If by "people" you mean the American colonists, and British and French diplomats he associated with, the answer is that all responded differently to him as a person and all varied in their opinions of his ideas, too.  Franklin was a smart yet shrewd man who clearly recognized the new commercialism that infected the colonies in the late eighteenth century, so he shaped his writings around colonial needs (moral writings and economic issues). His wit also made him very popular as a diplomat (especially to the French) and his scientific observations on electricity (a special interest of Franklin's) won him acclaim in British academic circles. Franklin was also a self-educated man, so he could adapt well to communicating with educated people as well as common merchants and farmers in the colonies. His instinct for adaptability is what made him a wealthy businessman and effective diplomat.  Franklin's ideas were either reviled or praised based on the audience reading them.  His aphorisms, for example, in The Way to Wealth (1784) were wildly popular among colonists as were his writings of the fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Both played into colonial religious and commercial motives.  Franklin was also outspoken about "the mother country" (England). His views on the increasing alienation between the colonies and England made him popular at home, but less so in England. The French love him to this day, although many American scholars view him increasingly as an opportunist.

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