External Links for John Dickinson
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After 1769 John Dickinson was without peer in the pamphlet war for colonial rights, which the moderates preferred to a shooting war. He was not a "man of the people," but he shared with most American Whigs the aspiration for self-government. He was cautious but not an obstructionist.
A Biography of John Dickinson (1732-1808)
Dickinson has correctly been called the "Penman of the Revolution" by later historians. But his activities extended fortwo decades into the life of the new republic, years in which Dickinson's contributions were many.
John Dickinson Biography
(born Nov. 8, 1732, Talbot county, Md.—died Feb. 14, 1808, Wilmington, Del., U.S.) American statesman. He represented Pennsylvania at the 1765 Stamp Act Congress and drafted the Congress's declaration of rights and grievances. He won fame in 1767–68 as the author of the Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, which influenced opinion against the Townshend Acts. A delegate to the Continental Congress, he helped draft the Articles of Confederation. Hoping for conciliation with the British, he voted against the Declaration of Independence. As a Delaware delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he signed the U.S. Constitution and urged its adoption in a series of letters signed “Fabius.” He is sometimes called the “penman of the Revolution.”
John Dickinson is remembered as the "Penman of the Revolution," a tribute to his skillful advocacy of the patriot cause, but his gradual conversion to independence was slowed by a deep-seated conservatism.
Delaware Delegates to the Constitutional Convention: John Dickinson
Dickinson, "Penman of the Revolution," was born in 1732 at Crosiadore estate, near the village of Trappe in Talbot County, MD. He was the second son of Samuel Dickinson, the prosperous farmer, and his second wife, Mary (Cadwalader) Dickinson. In 1740 the family moved to Kent County near Dover, DE., where private tutors educated the youth. In 1750 he began to study law with John Moland in Philadelphia. In 1753 Dickinson went to England to continue his studies at London's Middle Temple. Four years later, he returned to Philadelphia and became a prominent lawyer there. In 1770 he married Mary Norris, daughter of a wealthy merchant. The couple had at least one daughter.
John Dickinson lived one of the most extraordinary political lives of all of the founding fathers. It is perhaps only because of his steadfast opposition to American independence that he is not celebrated with the likes of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin.
John Dickinson represented both Delaware and Pennsylvania at the founding of the republic. A man of the Enlightenment, he believed that government was a solemn social contract between the people and their sovereign. Like most colonial leaders, Dickinson considered himself an Englishman with all the ancient rights and privileges such citizenship conferred, and he was quick to oppose any abridgment of those rights by Parliament. But when others carried such opposition to the point of rebellion with the Declaration of Independence, Dickinson refused to sign.
John Dickinson's Draft of the Articles of Confederation, 12 July 1776
Transcript of John Dickinson's Draft of the Articles of Confederation, 12 July 1776
When, in Fathers of the Revolution, Philip Guedalla described the American War for Independence as “a sedate rebellion…founded on equity and quotations from Blackstone,” he may well have had John Dickinson in mind. Erudite and reserved, Dickinson had the respect but not the love of his contemporaries. It is helpful to keep in mind he was born the same year as George Washington and Joseph Haydn, two other deeply religious men of conservative temperaments and refined tastes.
The Political Writings of John Dickinson
Scanned version of the Political Writings of John Dickinson, in two volumes.
John Dickinson Correspondence (1776-1807)
Scanned versions of letters written by John Dickinson between 1776 and 1807 to prominent individuals in the Continental Army and in Delaware and Pennsylvania politics. Topics range from military and political matters to the newly established Dickinson College.
John Dickinson was an American Statesman and member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Continental Congress and Federal Constitutional Conventions. He wrote many published articles in the cause of freedom and was called "The Penman of the Revolution".
DICKINSON, John, (brother of Philemon Dickinson), a Delegate from Pennsylvania and from Delaware; born on his father's estate, “Crosiadore,” near Trappe, Talbot County, Md., November 8, 1732; moved with his parents in 1740 to Dover, Del., where he studied under a private teacher; studied law in Philadelphia and at the Middle Temple in London; was admitted to the bar in 1757 and commenced practice in Philadelphia; member of the Assembly of “Lower Counties,” as the State of Delaware was then called, in 1760; member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1762 and 1764; delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765; Member from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress 1774-1776 and from Delaware in 1779; brigadier general of Pennsylvania Militia; President of the State of Delaware in 1781; returned to Philadelphia and served as President of Pennsylvania 1782-1785; returned to Delaware; was a member of the Federal convention of 1787 which framed the Constitution and was one of the signers from Delaware; died in Wilmington, New Castle County, Del., on February 14, 1808; interment in Wilmington Friends Meetinghouse Burial Ground.
John Dickinson (1732-1808)
John Dickinson was born in Talbot County, Maryland the son of planter and merchant Samuel Dickinson and Mary Cadwalader. After his family moved to their property in Delaware, he was educated at home until age eighteen, when he began the study of law in the office of John Moland. After further legal study at the Middle Temple, the Inns of Court and Westminster, Dickinson opened a law office in Philadelphia in 1757.
Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer
One of those voices was that of John Dickenson. A preeminent Philadelphia lawyer, Dickenson was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1762 where he was active in protesting British policies. Attending the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, he advocated commercial retaliation. Dickenson's writings entitled Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer were published in newspapers in 1767 and 1768.