Dickinson, John, 1732-1808

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John Dickinson (November 13, 1732 [O.S. November 2, 1732] – February 14, 1808) was a Founding Father of the United States. A solicitor and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, he was known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, published individually in 1767 and 1768.

Born at his family's tobacco plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, Dickinson was educated at home by his parents and by recent immigrants employed for that purpose. At 18, he began studying law under John Moland in Philadelphia, later spending three years studying at the Middle Temple in London. In 1757, Dickinson was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar beginning his career as barrister and solicitor. In protest to the Townshend Acts, Dickinson published Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. First published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Dickinson's letters were re-printed by numerous other newspapers and became one of the most influential American political documents prior to the American Revolution.

Dickinson was one of the delegates from Pennsylvania to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776. In support of the cause, he continued to contribute declarations in the name of the Congress. Dickinson wrote the Olive Branch Petition as the Second Continental Congress' last attempt for peace with Britain (King George III did not even read the petition). When the Continental Congress began the debate on the Declaration of Independence on July 1, 1776, Dickinson reiterated his opposition to declaring independence at that time. Dickinson believed that Congress should complete the Articles of Confederation and secure a foreign alliance before issuing a declaration. Dickinson also objected to violence as a means for resolving the dispute. He abstained or absented himself from the votes on July 2 that declared independence and absented himself again from voting on the wording of the formal declaration on July 4. In the Pennsylvania militia, known as the Associators, Dickinson was given the rank of brigadier general and led 10,000 soldiers to Elizabeth, New Jersey, to protect that area against British attack from Staten Island.

Dickinson resigned his commission in December 1776 and went to stay at Poplar Hall in Kent County. While there he learned that his home on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia had been confiscated and converted into a hospital. He stayed at Poplar Hall for more than two years. The Delaware General Assembly tried to appoint him as their delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777, but he refused. In August 1777, he served as a private with the Kent County militia at Middletown under General Caesar Rodney to help delay General William Howe's march to Philadelphia. On January 18, 1779, Dickinson was appointed to be a delegate for Delaware to the Continental Congress. During this term he signed the Articles of Confederation, having in 1776 authored their first draft while serving in the Continental Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania. In October 1781, Dickinson was elected to represent Kent County in the State Senate, and shortly afterwards the Delaware General Assembly elected him the president of Delaware.

On October 10, 1782, Dickinson was elected to the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. On November 7, 1782, a joint ballot by the Council and the Pennsylvania General Assembly elected him as president of the council and thereby president of Pennsylvania. He was re-elected twice and served the constitutional maximum of three years; Dickinson would resign shortly before the natural conclusion of his third term. After his service in Pennsylvania, Dickinson returned to Delaware and lived in Wilmington. He was quickly appointed to represent Delaware at the Annapolis Convention where he served as its president. In 1787, Delaware sent him as one of its delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In 1791, Delaware convened a convention to revise its existing Constitution, which had been hastily drafted in 1776. Dickinson was elected president of this convention, and although he resigned the chair after most of the work was complete, he remained highly influential in the content of the final document.

Once more Dickinson was returned to the State Senate for the 1793 session but served for just one year before resigning because of his declining health. In his final years, he worked to further the abolition movement and donated a considerable amount of his wealth to the "relief of the unhappy". In 1801, Dickinson published two volumes of his collected works on politics. Dickinson died at Wilmington, Delaware, and was buried in the Friends Burial Ground there.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Printed document signed : Philadelphia, 1784 Dec. 31. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn United States Continental Congress Records, 1765-1825, (bulk 1774-1790) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Ford, Paul Leicester, 1865-1902. Paul Leicester Ford letters received, 1890-1891. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume 13, Miscellany, 1771-1832. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. ALS : Philadelphia, to Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, 1779 Sept. 18. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Parrish Family Papers, 1780-1966. Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
referencedIn Read, George, 1733-1798. Read family papers, 1568-1906 (bulk 1775-1906). Library of Congress
referencedIn Logan, Robert Restalrig,. Collection, 1671-1863. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn William Bradford, Jr. letter to John Dickinson, 1782 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Provincial delegates letters, 1754-1829. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn St. Clair, Arthur, 1734-1818. Papers, 1777-1804, 1882. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Read family. Manuscripts, 1716-1872. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Benjamin Rush correspondence, 1759-1813, 1759-1813 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph note signed, 1766 Aug. 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Papers, 1760-1772. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Promissory note : [s.d.]. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Logan, Deborah Norris, 1761-1839. Diaries, 1815-1839. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. [Document and letter, 1785-1787] / John Dickinson. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf John Dickinson papers, Bulk, 1753-1808, 1676-1885 Library company of Philadelphia
referencedIn Smyth, Frederick, 1732-1815. Papers, 1756-1816. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Warren-Adams papers, 1767-1822. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to Thomas Jefferson, 1784 Oct. 25. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827. Letterbooks, 1767-1827. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Letter, 1787 August 29, Paris, [France], to "the Editor of the Journal de Paris," n.p. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume III, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Logan family papers, Bulk, 1670-1872, 1638-1964 Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf John Dickinson papers, 1774-1788 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Logan, Maria Dickinson, 1857-1939,. Family papers, 1671-1890. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Read Family Papers, 1568-1906, (bulk 1775-1906) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Rush family papers, 1748-1876 Library company of Philadelphia
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Letter, 1775 April 4, Nail Hill, to Colonel Washington [n.p.]. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Rodney, C. A. (Caesar Augustus), 1772-1824. Rodney family papers, 1771-1824. Library of Congress
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866. Jared Sparks collection of American manuscripts, 1582-1843 Houghton Library
referencedIn Bringhurst family. Bringhurst family papers, 1782-1913. Historical Society of Delaware
referencedIn Duane family. Papers, 1770-1933. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Wilson, James, 1742-1798. Miscellaneous manuscripts, 1784-1890. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Howe, Robert, 1732-1786. Papers of Robert Howe, 1776-1783. Library of Congress
creatorOf Read, George, 1733-1798. ALS, 1766 July 28, to John Dickinson, Philadelphia, Pa. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887,. Autographs collection, 1682-1972. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786. Papers, 1777-1780 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Hall & Sellers shop book, 1767-1769, 1767-1769 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824. Papers of Charles Thomson, 1765-1888 (bulk 1765-1818). Library of Congress
referencedIn Richard Henry Lee Papers, 1763-1823 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph letter signed : In Council, to Thomas Smith, Esq. Continental Loan Officer, 1785 Apr. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. John Dickinson correspondence and order of payment, 1783-1787. Library of Congress
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library
creatorOf Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. Papers, 1766-1845. Duke University, Medical Center Library & Archives
creatorOf Harmar, Josiah, 1753-1813. Josiah Harmar papers, 1681-1937. William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Dorothy Merriman Schall papers, 1686-1897 Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
referencedIn Logan family. Papers, 1664-1871. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Ford, Paul Leicester, 1865-1902. Papers, 1891-1893. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866. Collection of documents concerning the American Revolution, 1740-1866 Houghton Library
referencedIn Read family. Papers, 1568-1906 (bulk 1775-1906). Library of Congress
referencedIn Gratz, Simon. Alphabetical collection, 1677-1910. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Nicholson, John, 1757-1800. Papers, 1772-1819 [microform]. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Rodney, Thomas, 1744-1811. Papers, [ca. 1784-1810?]. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Frederick Smyth papers, 1756-1816, 1756-1816 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Papers, [ca. 1950-1971], pertaining to John Dickinson, Circa 1950-1971 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. AMsS, 1770 November 17, Philadelphia. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn United States. Continental Congress. United States. Continental Congress records, 1765-1825 (bulk 1774-1790). Library of Congress
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph letter signed : Trenton, to General Hand, 1779 Feb. 18. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Gratz, Simon. Miscellaneous personal autographs, 1754-1824. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Ashmead, Jacob, Captain. Papers, 1698-1794. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Josiah Harmar papers 1681-1937 Harmar, Josiah papers William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Carson, Marian S.,. Marian S. Carson collection of manuscripts, 1656-1995 (bulk 1700-1876) Library of Congress
referencedIn De Coppet, Andre, 1892-1953,. Considerations on the present claims of the Americans : manuscript, [1774]. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Peale-Sellers family collection, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Marshall, Humphry, 1722-1801. Humphry Marshall Papers, 1721-1863 (bulk: 1760-1800). William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph note signed, 1767 May 13. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph letter signed : Wilmington, 1803 Nov. 8. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn South Carolina. General Assembly. Committee of Correspondence. Committee of Correspondence papers, 1765-1779. South Carolina Historical Society
referencedIn Bringhurst, James, d. 1810. Collection of Bringhurst Family Correspondence, 1780-1811. Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
referencedIn Marian S. Carson collection of manuscripts, 1656-1995, (bulk 1700-1876) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Charles Thomson Papers, 1765-1888, (bulk 1765-1818) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Rush, Benjamin, 1745-1813. Correspondence, 1759-1813. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Coxe family. Papers, 1638-1897 (inclusive), 1776-1879 (bulk). Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Autograph letter signed : Wilmington, 1803 Nov. 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Dunaway, Wayland Fuller, 1875-1956. Wayland F. Dunaway historical research collection, 1765-1928. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Affirmation of a decree of the Court of Admiralty of Pennsylvania : manuscript, 1785 Oct. 3. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume III, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Rodney, Caesar, 1728-1784. Correspondence, 1749-1823 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Charles Willson Peale letterbooks, 1767-1827, 1767-1827 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Griefen, Faith Adams, 1915-. Faith Adams Griefen Papers, 700-1988 (bulk 1800-1934). New England Historic Genealogical Society
referencedIn Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876 (bulk:1700-1800) New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Booth, James, 1753-1828. James Booth papers, 1794-1820. Historical Society of Delaware
creatorOf Morris, Robert, 1734-1806. LS, 1782 April 5 : Philadelphia, Office of Finance, to the Governor of the State of Delaware [John Dickinson]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Vaughan, John, 1755-1841. Papers, 1768 - ca. 1936 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. ALS : Philadelphia, to James Booth, 1784 July 10. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Loudoun. Papers, 1696-1939 (inclusive), 1760-1895 (bulk). Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Carson, Marian S.,. Marian S. Carson collection of manuscripts (continuation record), 1656-1995 (bulk 1700-1876) Library of Congress
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Document, signed, 1772 Apr. 18. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Hall and Sellers. Shop book, 1767-1769. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Rodney Family Papers, 1771-1824 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn McLane, Allan, 1746-1829. Papers, 1775-1821. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Rosenbach, A. S. W. (Abraham Simon Wolf), 1876-1952,. Signers of the Declaration of Independence autograph collection, 1756-1818. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Letter from John Dickinson, Wilmington, Delaware, to Dr. Benjamin Rush : autograph manuscript signed, 1788 August 4. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Autograph File, D, 1586-1975. Houghton Library
creatorOf Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Selected art related letters from Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Society Collection, 1760-1935. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Dickinson, Samuel, d. 1760. Will, 1759 Dec. 11, Kent County, Del. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Saint Clair, Arthur, 1736-1818. Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to John Dickinson, 1784 July 28. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Dickinson, John, 1732-1808. Affirmation of a decree of the Court of Admiralty of Pennsylvania : manuscript, 1785 Oct. 3. Texas Christian University
referencedIn St. Clair, Arthur, 1734-1818. Letter : to John Dickinson, [Philadelphia], 178[2?] Aug. 4. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Chew, Benjamin, 1722-1810. Estate papers, 1776-1904. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Rodney, Caesar, 1728-1784. Caesar Rodney correspondence, 1749-1823. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Powell, J. H. (John Harvey), 1914-1971,. Papers, [ca. 1950-1971], pertaining to John Dickinson. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Library. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. 1668-1983. American Philosophical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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sibling of Dickinson, Philemon, 1739-1809 person
childOf Dickinson, Samuel, d. 1760. person
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Dover DE US
Talbot County MD US
Wilmington DE US
London ENG GB
Philadelphia PA US
Subject
Land grants
Manuscripts, American
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
Real property
Quaker women
Statesmen
United States
United States
United States
Delaware
Delaware
Occupation
Governors
Lawyers
State Representative
Statesmen
Delegates, U.S. Continental Congress
Activity

Person

Birth 1732-11-08

Death 1808-02-14

Male

Americans,

Britons

English

Information

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