John Dickinson

John Dickinson (November 2 Jul./November 13Greg., 1732[note 1] – February 14, 1808), a Founding Father of the United States, was a solicitor and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, published individually in 1767 and 1768. As a member of the First Continental Congress, where he was a signee to the Continental Association, Dickinson drafted most of the 1774 Petition to the King, and then, as a member of the Second Continental Congress, wrote the 1775 Olive Branch Petition. When these two attempts to negotiate with King George III of Great Britain failed, Dickinson reworked Thomas Jefferson's language and wrote the final draft of the 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. When Congress then decided to seek independence from Great Britain, Dickinson served on the committee that wrote the Model Treaty, and then wrote the first draft of the 1776–1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

Dickinson later served as President of the 1786 Annapolis Convention, which called for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Dickinson attended the Convention as a delegate from Delaware.

He also wrote "The Liberty Song" in 1768, was a militia officer during the American Revolution, President of Delaware, President of Pennsylvania, and was among the wealthiest men in the British American colonies. Upon Dickinson's death, President Thomas Jefferson recognized him as being "Among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain whose 'name will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution.'"[1]

Together with his wife, Mary Norris Dickinson, he is the namesake of Dickinson College (originally John and Mary's College), as well as of the Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Delaware's Dickinson Complex. John Dickinson High School was opened/dedicated in 1959 as part of the public schools in northern Delaware.

John Dickinson
John Dickinson portrait
5th President of Pennsylvania
In office
November 7, 1782 – October 18, 1785
Vice PresidentJames Ewing
James Irvine
Charles Biddle
Preceded byWilliam Moore
Succeeded byBenjamin Franklin
President of Delaware
In office
November 13, 1781 – January 12, 1783
Preceded byCaesar Rodney
Succeeded byJohn Cook
Continental Congressman
from Delaware
In office
January 18, 1779 – February 10, 1781
Continental Congressman
from Pennsylvania
In office
August 2, 1774 – November 7, 1776
Personal details
BornNov 2 Jul./Nov 13Greg., 1732[note 1]
Talbot County, Province of Maryland, British America
DiedFebruary 14, 1808 (aged 75)
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
Resting placeFriends Burial Ground, Wilmington
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Mary (Polly) Norris
ResidenceKent County, Delaware
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wilmington, Delaware

Family history

Coat of Arms of John Dickinson
Coat of Arms of John Dickinson

Dickinson was born[note 1] at Croisadore, his family's tobacco plantation near the village of Trappe in Talbot County, Province of Maryland.[2] He was the great-grandson of Walter Dickinson who emigrated from England to Virginia in 1654 and, having joined the Society of Friends, came with several co-religionists to Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1659. There, with 400 acres (1.6 km2) on the banks of the Choptank River, Walter began a plantation, Croisadore, meaning "cross of gold." Walter also bought 800 acres (3.2 km2) on St. Jones Neck in what became Kent County, Delaware.[3]

Croisadore passed through Walter's son, William, to his grandson, Samuel, the father of John Dickinson. Each generation increased the landholdings, so that Samuel inherited 2,500 acres (1,000 ha) on five farms in three Maryland counties and over his lifetime increased that to 9,000 acres (3,600 ha). He also bought the Kent County property from his cousin and expanded it to about 3,000 acres (1,200 ha), stretching along the St. Jones River from Dover to the Delaware Bay. There he began another plantation and called it Poplar Hall. These plantations were large, profitable agricultural enterprises worked by slave labor, until 1777 when John Dickinson freed the enslaved of Poplar Hall.[4]

Samuel Dickinson first married Judith Troth (1689–1729) on April 11, 1710. They had nine children; William, Walter, Samuel, Elizabeth, Henry, Elizabeth "Betsy," Rebecca, and Rachel. The three eldest sons died of smallpox while in London seeking their education. Widowed, with two young children, Henry and Betsy, Samuel married Mary Cadwalader in 1731. She was the daughter of Martha Jones (granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Wynne) and the prominent Quaker John Cadwalader who was also grandfather of General John Cadwalader of Philadelphia. Their sons, John, Thomas, and Philemon were born in the next few years.

For three generations the Dickinson family had been members of the Third Haven Friends Meeting in Talbot County and the Cadwaladers were members of the Meeting in Philadelphia. But in 1739, John Dickinson's half-sister, Betsy, was married in an Anglican church to Charles Goldsborough in what was called a "disorderly marriage" by the Meeting. The couple would be the grandparents of Maryland governor Charles Goldsborough.

Leaving Croisadore to elder son Henry Dickinson, Samuel moved to Poplar Hall, where he had already taken a leading role in the community as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Kent County. The move also placed Mary nearer her Philadelphia relations.

Poplar Hall was situated on a now-straightened bend of the St. Jones River. There was plenty of activity delivering the necessities, and shipping the agricultural products produced. Much of this product was wheat that along with other wheat from the region, was milled into a "superfine" flour. Most people at this plantation were servants and slaves of the Dickinsons.

Early life and family

Dickinson was educated at home, by his parents and by recent immigrants employed for that purpose. Among them was the Presbyterian minister Francis Alison, who later established New London Academy in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[5] Most important was his tutor, William Killen, who became a lifelong friend and who later became Delaware’s first Chief Justice and Chancellor. Dickinson was precocious and energetic, and in spite of his love of Poplar Hall and his family, was drawn to Philadelphia.

At 18 he began studying the law under John Moland in Philadelphia. There he made friends with fellow students George Read and Samuel Wharton, among others. By 1753, John went to London for three years of study at the Middle Temple. He spent those years studying the works of Edward Coke and Francis Bacon at the Inns of Court, following in the footsteps of his lifelong friend, Pennsylvania Attorney General Benjamin Chew, and in 1757 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 argued that Parliament had the right to regulate commerce, but lacked the right to levy duties for revenue. Dickinson further warned that if the colonies acquiesced to the Townshend Acts, Parliament would lay further taxes on the colonies in the future.[6]

On July 19, 1770, Dickinson married Mary Norris, known as Polly, a prominent and well educated thirty-year-old woman in Philadelphia with a substantial holding of real estate and personal property (including a 1500 volume library, one of the largest in the colonies at the time) who had been operating her family's estate, Fair Hill, for a number of years by herself or with her sister. She was the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker, and Speaker of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Isaac Norris and Sarah Logan, the daughter of James Logan, both deceased.[7] She was also cousin to the Quaker poet Hannah Griffitts. Dickinson and Norris had five children, but only two survived to adulthood: Sarah Norris "Sally" Dickinson and Maria Mary Dickinson. Dickinson never formally joined the Quaker Meeting, because, as he explained, he believed in the "lawfulness of defensive war".[8] He and Norris were married in a civil ceremony.

In Philadelphia, he lived at his wife's property, Fair Hill, near Germantown, which they modernized through their combined wealth. Meanwhile, he built an elegant mansion on Chestnut Street but never lived there as it was confiscated and turned into a hospital during his 1776–77 absence in Delaware.[9] It then became the residence of the French ambassador and still later the home of his brother, Philemon Dickinson. Fair Hill was burned by the British during the Battle of Germantown. While in Philadelphia as State President, he lived at the confiscated mansion of Joseph Galloway at Sixth and Market Streets, now established as the State Presidential mansion.

Dickinson lived at Poplar Hall, for extended periods only in 1776–77 and 1781–82. In August 1781 it was sacked by Loyalists and was badly burned in 1804. This home is now owned by the State of Delaware and is open to the public.[10] After his service as President of Pennsylvania, he returned to live in Wilmington, Delaware in 1785 and built a mansion at the northwest corner of 8th and Market Streets.

Continental Congress

Dickinson was one of Pennsylvania delegates 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). But through it all, agreeing with New Castle County's George Read and many others in Philadelphia and the Lower Counties, Dickinson's object was reconciliation, not independence and revolution. He was a proud devotee of the British Constitution and felt the dispute was with Parliament only.

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. Dickinson understood the implications of his refusal to vote stating, "My conduct this day, I expect will give the finishing blow to my once too great and, my integrity considered, now too diminished popularity." Dickinson refused to sign the Declaration and since a proposal had been brought forth and carried that stated, "for our mutual security and protection," no man could remain in Congress without signing, Dickinson voluntarily left and joined the Pennsylvania militia. John Adams, a fierce advocate for independence and Dickinson's adversary on the floor of Congress, remarked, "Mr. Dickinson's alacrity and spirit certainly become his character and sets a fine example."[11]

Following the Declaration of Independence, Dickinson was given the rank of brigadier general in the Pennsylvania militia, known as the Associators. He led 10,000 soldiers to Elizabeth, New Jersey, to protect that area against British attack from Staten Island. But because of his unpopular opinion on independence, two junior officers were promoted above him.

Return to Poplar Hall

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, Delaware under General Caesar Rodney to help delay General William Howe's march to Philadelphia. In October 1777, Dickinson's friend, Thomas McKean, appointed him Brigadier General of the Delaware Militia, but again Dickinson declined the appointment. Shortly afterwards he learned that the British had burned down his and his wife's Fairhill property during the Battle of Germantown.

These years were not without accomplishment however. In 1777, Dickinson, Delaware's wealthiest farmer and largest slaveholder, decided to free his slaves. While Kent County was not a large slave-holding area, like farther south in Virginia, and even though Dickinson had only 37 slaves, this was an action of some considerable courage. Undoubtedly, the strongly abolitionist Quaker influences around them had their effect, and the action was all the easier because his farm had moved away from tobacco to the less labor-intensive crops like wheat and barley. Furthermore, manumission was a multi-year process and many of the workers remained obligated to service for a considerable additional time.

Dickinson was the only founding father to free his slaves in the period between 1776 and 1786.[12] Benjamin Franklin had freed his slaves by 1770.

Drafting of the Articles of Confederation

Dickinson prepared the first draft of the Articles of Confederation in 1776, after others had ratified the Declaration of Independence over his objection that it would lead to violence, and to follow through on his view that the colonies would need a governing document to survive war against them.

At the time he chaired the committee charged with drafting the Articles Dickinson was serving in the Continental Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania. The Articles he drafted are based around a concept of "person", not "man" as was used in the Declaration of Independence, although they do refer to "men" in the context of armies.[13]

President of Delaware

Dickinson as President of Delaware

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 August 1781, while still a delegate in Philadelphia he learned that Poplar Hall had been severely damaged by a Loyalist raid. Dickinson returned to the property to investigate the damage and once again stayed for several months.

While there, 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. The General Assembly's vote was nearly unanimous, the only dissenting vote having been cast by Dickinson himself.[14] Dickinson took office on November 13, 1781 and served until November 7, 1782. Beginning his term with a "Proclamation against Vice and Immorality," he sought ways to bring an end to the disorder of the days of the Revolution. It was a popular position and enhanced his reputation both in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Dickinson then successfully challenged the Delaware General Assembly to address lagging militia enlistments and to properly fund the state’s assessment to the Confederation government. And recognizing the delicate negotiations then underway to end the American Revolution, Dickinson secured the Assembly's continued endorsement of the French alliance, with no agreement on a separate peace treaty with Great Britain. He also introduced the first census.

However, as before, the lure of Pennsylvania politics was too great. 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. But he did not actually resign as State President of Delaware. Even though Pennsylvania and Delaware had shared the same governor until very recently, attitudes had changed, and many in Delaware were upset at seemingly being cast aside so readily, particularly after the Philadelphia newspapers began criticizing the state for allowing the practice of multiple and non resident office holding. Dickinson’s constitutional successor, John Cook, was considered too weak in his support of the Revolution, and it was not until January 12, 1783, when Cook called for a new election to choose a replacement, that Dickinson formally resigned.

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while President)
Year Assembly Senate Majority Speaker House Majority Speaker
1781/82 6th non-partisan Thomas Collins non-partisan Simon Kollock
1782/83 7th non-partisan Thomas Collins non-partisan Nicholas Van Dyke

President of Pennsylvania

When the American Revolution began, Dickinson fairly represented the center of Pennsylvania politics. The old Proprietary and Popular parties divided equally in thirds over the issue of independence, as Loyalists, Moderate Whigs who later became Federalists, and Radicals or Constitutionalists. The old Pennsylvania General Assembly was dominated by the Loyalists and Moderates and, like Dickinson, did little to support the burgeoning Revolution or independence, except protest. The Radicals took matters into their own hands, using irregular means to write the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, which by law excluded from the franchise anyone who would not swear loyalty to the document or the Christian Holy Trinity. In this way all Loyalists, Moderate Whigs, and Quakers were kept out of government. This peremptory action seemed appropriate to many during the crises of 1777 and 1778, but less so in the later years of the Revolution, and the Moderate Whigs gradually became the majority.

Dickinson's election to the Supreme Executive Council was the beginning of a counterrevolution against the Constitutionalists. He was elected President of Pennsylvania on November 7, 1782, garnering 41 votes to James Potter's 32. As president he presided over the intentionally weak executive authority of the state, and was its chief officer, but always required the agreement of a majority to act. He was re-elected twice and served the constitutional maximum of three years; his election on November 6, 1783 was unanimous. On November 6, 1784 he defeated John Neville, who also lost the election for Vice-President the same day. Working with only the smallest of majorities in the General Assembly in his first two years and with the Constitutionalists in the majority in his last year, all issues were contentious. At first he endured withering attacks from his opponents for his alleged failure to fully support the new government in large and small ways. He responded ably and survived the attacks. He managed to settle quickly the old boundary dispute with Virginia in southwestern Pennsylvania, but was never able to satisfactorily disentangle disputed titles in the Wyoming Valley resulting from prior claims of Connecticut to those lands. An exhausted Dickinson left office October 18, 1785. On that day a special election was held in which Benjamin Franklin was unanimously elected to serve the ten days left in Dickinson's term.

Perhaps the most significant decision of his term was his patient, peaceful management of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783. This was a violent protest of Pennsylvania veterans who marched on the Continental Congress demanding their pay before being discharged from the army. Somewhat sympathizing with their case, Dickinson refused Congress's request to bring full military action against them, causing Congress to vote to remove themselves to Princeton, New Jersey. And when the new Congress agreed to return in 1790, it was to be for only 10 years, until a permanent capital was found elsewhere.

Pennsylvania General Assembly
(sessions while President)
Year Assembly Majority Speaker
1782/83 7th Republican Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg
1783/84 8th Republican George Gray
1784/85 9th Constitutional John Bubenheim Bayard

John and Mary's College

In 1784, Dickinson and Mary Norris Dickinson bequeathed much of their combined library to John and Mary's College, named in their honor by its founder Benjamin Rush and later renamed Dickinson College.[15][16][17] The Dickinsons also donated 500 acres (2 km²) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, land originally inherited and managed by Mary Norris, to the new college.

United States Constitution

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States
The Signing of the Constitution of the United States.

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, along with Gunning Bedford, Jr., Richard Bassett, George Read, and Jacob Broom. There, he supported the effort to create a strong central government but only after the Great Compromise assured that each state, regardless of size, would have an equal vote in the future United States Senate. As he had done with the Articles, he also carefully drafted it with the term "Person" rather than "Man" as was used in the Declaration of Independence. He prepared initial drafts of the First Amendment. Following the Convention he promoted the resulting Constitution in a series of nine essays, written under the pen name Fabius.

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. Major changes included the establishment of a separate Chancery Court and the expansion of the franchise to include all taxpayers, except blacks and women. Dickinson remained neutral in an attempt to include a prohibition of slavery in the document, believing the General Assembly was the proper place to decide that issue. The new Constitution was approved June 12, 1792. Dickinson himself had freed his slaves conditionally in 1776 and fully by 1787.

Once more Dickinson was returned to the State Senate for the 1793 session, but served for just one year before resigning due to 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.

Death and legacy

Official nameJohn Dickinson (1732-1808)
CriteriaAmerican Revolution, Government & Politics 18th Century, Military
DesignatedSeptember 23, 2001
LocationMontgomery Ave. at Haverford Ave., Narberth
Marker TextStatesman, author. In influential writings, 1765-74, argued against British policies. Later, as a member, Continental Congress, 1774-76, favored conciliation and opposed the Declaration of Independence; nonetheless, served the patriot cause as colonel, 1st Philadelphia Battalion. President, Pa. Supreme Executive Council, 1782-85. Delegate, U.S. Constitutional Convention, 1787; a strong supporter of the Constitution. Deeded land to Merion Meeting, 1801-04.

Dickinson died at Wilmington, Delaware and was buried in the Friends Burial Ground.[18]

In an original copy of a letter discovered November 2009 from Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Bringhurst, caretaker of Dickinson in his later years, Jefferson responded to news of Dickinson's death: "A more estimable man, or truer patriot, could not have left us. Among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain, he continued to the last the orthodox advocate of the true principles of our new government and his name will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution."[1][19]

He shares with Thomas McKean the distinction of serving as Chief Executive of both Delaware and Pennsylvania after the Declaration of Independence. Dickinson College and Dickinson School of Law (now of the Pennsylvania State University), separate institutions each operating a campus located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on land inherited and managed by his wife Mary Norris, were named for them. Dickinson College was originally named "John and Mary's College" but was renamed to avoid an implication of royalty by confusion with "William and Mary." And along with his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, Dickinson also authored The Liberty Song.

Dickinson Street in Madison, Wisconsin is named in his honor,[20] as is John Dickinson High School in Milltown, Delaware, and Dickinson Hall at the University of Delaware.


Delaware elections were held October 1 and members of the General Assembly took office on October 20 or the following weekday. The State Legislative Council was created in 1776 and its Legislative Councilmen had a three-year term. Beginning in 1792 it was renamed the State Senate. State Assemblymen had a one-year term. The whole General Assembly chose the State President for a three-year term.

Pennsylvania elections were held in October as well. Assemblymen had a one-year term. The Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council was created in 1776, and counsellors were popularly elected for three-year terms. A joint ballot of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Council chose the president from among the twelve counsellors for a one-year term. Both assemblies chose the Continental Congressmen for a one-year term as well as the delegates to the U.S. Constitution Convention.

Public Offices
Office State Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Assemblyman Lower Counties Legislature New Castle October 20, 1759 October 20, 1760
Assemblyman Lower Counties Legislature New Castle October 20, 1760 October 20, 1761
Assemblyman Pennsylvania Legislature Philadelphia October 1762 October 1763
Assemblyman Pennsylvania Legislature Philadelphia October 1763 October 1764
Delegate Pennsylvania Legislature New York October 7, 1765 October 19, 1765 Stamp Act Congress
Delegate Pennsylvania Legislature Philadelphia August 2, 1774 October 26, 1774 Continental Congress
Delegate Pennsylvania Legislature Philadelphia March 16, 1775 October 21, 1775 Continental Congress
Delegate Pennsylvania Legislature Philadelphia October 21, 1775 November 7, 1776 Continental Congress
Delegate Delaware Legislature Philadelphia January 18, 1779 December 22, 1779 Continental Congress
Delegate Delaware Legislature Philadelphia December 22, 1779 February 10, 1781 Continental Congress
Councilman Delaware Legislature Dover October 20, 1781 November 13, 1781
State President Delaware Executive Dover November 13, 1781 November 7, 1782 Executive Council
State President Pennsylvania Executive Philadelphia November 4, 1782 October 18, 1785
Delegate Delaware Convention Philadelphia May 14, 1787 September 17, 1787 U.S. Constitution
Delegate Delaware Convention Dover November 29, 1791 June 12, 1792 State Constitution
State Senator Delaware Legislature Dover January 6, 1793 January 6, 1794
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1781/82 6th State House non-partisan Caesar Rodney Kent at-large
1793 17th State Senate Republican Joshua Clayton New Castle at-large

In popular culture

Dickinson is a prominent character in the musical drama 1776, billed third after the parts of Adams and Franklin. He was originally portrayed on stage by Paul Hecht, and in the 1972 film adaptation by Donald Madden. Michael Cumpsty portrayed him in the 1997 revival. His portrayal in this musical differs substantially from reality: instead of abstaining from voting and debating, he acts as John Adams' primary antagonist in the debates over independence, to the point where the two men come to blows. His motivation in the musical is to convince the delegates to come to peace terms with Britain, rather than to seek reforms through civil disobedience and other nonviolent measures and for the colonies to mature before seeking independence. Also his wife Mary Norris does not appear in the musical at all, despite being present in Philadelphia at the time, whereas Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson are heavily depicted, despite being in Boston and Virginia, respectively, at the time.

In Part II of the 2008 HBO series John Adams, based on the book by David McCullough, the part of Dickinson is played by Zeljko Ivanek.

As portrayed in the 2015 miniseries Sons of Liberty Dickinson is shown continually speaking out against prematurely fighting the British and voting on the idea of a Declaration of Independence. He suggests a request first be made from the Continental Congress to the King of England, in the form of the Olive Branch Petition. The program gives no indication that Dickinson would author the petition. As the Congress votes on independence, the miniseries portrays Dickinson getting up and leaving the room without explanation, and no summary was given of his overall contributions to the American Revolution or what would become of him later.

Dickinson was honored with a brief mention in season 7, episode 4 of South Park, "I'm a Little Bit Country".


  1. ^ a b c Various sources indicate a birth date of November 8, November 12 or November 13, but his most recent biographer, Flower, offers November 2 without dispute.


  1. ^ a b "UD Library discovers Thomas Jefferson letter". University of Delaware. December 3, 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  2. ^ National Archives and Records Administration: "America's Founding Fathers: Delegates to the Constitutional Convention."
  3. ^ The Duke of York Record 1646–1679, Printed by order of the General Assembly of the State of Delaware, 1899
  4. ^ "John Dickinson: timeline". January 5, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "History - University of Delaware". Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Middlekauff, Robert (2005). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789. Oxford University Press. pp. 161–162.
  7. ^ Stillé, Charles Janeway, The Life and Times of John Dickinson. 1732–1808 (Philadelphia, 1891).
  8. ^ Flower, Milton Embick (1983). John Dickinson: Conservative Revolutionary. University of Virginia Press. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-8139-0966-0.
  9. ^ Ferling, John (2011). Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press. p. 132. ISBN 9781608193974.
  10. ^ John Dickinson Plantation. State of Delaware, Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Accessed 2017-01-06.
  11. ^ Smith 1962, p. 285.
  12. ^ Calvert, Jane E. "John Dickinson Writings Project". University of Kentucky: The John Dickinson Writings Project. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  13. ^ "Journals of the Continental Congress – Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union; July 12, 1776". The Avalon Project of Yale Law School. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  14. ^ Bushman, Claudia L.; Hancock, Harold Bell; Homsey, Elizabeth Moyne (1988). Proceedings of the House of Assembly of the Delaware State, 1781–1792, and of the Constitutional Convention of 1792. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-87413-309-7. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  15. ^ McKenney, Janice E. (2012). Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Signers.
  16. ^ "The Books of Isaac Norris at Dickinson College". The Dickinson Electronic Initiative in the Liberal Arts. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  17. ^ Butterfield, L.H. (1948). Benjamin Rush and the Beginning of John and Mary's College Over the Susquehanna. Oxford Journals: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. p. 427.
  18. ^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. p. 217. ISBN 0-19-503186-5
  19. ^ "Student finds letter 'a link to Jefferson'". December 8, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  20. ^ "Odd Wisconsin Archives". March 29, 2006. Retrieved September 12, 2012.


  • Calvert, Jane E. (July 2007). "Liberty Without Tumult: Understanding the Politics of John Dickinson". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. CXXXI (3): 233–62.
  • —— (2008). Quaker Constitutionalism and the Political Thought of John Dickinson. Cambridge, England, and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company.
  • Flower, Milton E. (1983). John Dickinson – Conservative Revolutionary. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0-8139-0966-X.
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press.
  • —— (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin.
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775–1815. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University.
  • —— (2004). Philadelawareans. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-87413-872-8.

External links

More information
Political offices
Preceded by
Caesar Rodney
President of Delaware
Succeeded by
John Cook
Preceded by
William Moore
President of Pennsylvania
November 7, 1782 – October 18, 1785
Succeeded by
Benjamin Franklin
Croxley Green

Croxley Green is a village and large suburb of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, and a civil parish in England. Located on the A412 between Watford to the northeast and Rickmansworth to the southwest, it is approximately 20 miles (32 km) northwest of central London.

Croxley Green has changed considerably in the years since John Dickinson built paper mills in the area. The area has grown into a semi-urban community, thanks to Croxley tube station on the Metropolitan line providing connections to London's West End at Baker Street and stations through to the City at Aldgate.

The population at the 2011 Census was 12,562.

Declaration of Independence (Trumbull)

Declaration of Independence is a 12-by-18-foot (3.7 by 5.5 m) oil-on-canvas painting by American John Trumbull depicting the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress. It was based on a much smaller version of the same scene, presently held by the Yale University Art Gallery.

Trumbull painted many of the figures in the picture from life, and visited Independence Hall to depict the chamber where the Second Continental Congress met. The oil-on-canvas work was commissioned in 1817, purchased in 1819, and placed in the United States Capitol rotunda in 1826.

The painting is sometimes incorrectly described as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The painting shows the five-man drafting committee presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Congress, an event that took place on June 28, 1776, and not the signing of the document, which took place later.The painting shows 42 of the 56 signers of the Declaration; Trumbull originally intended to include all 56 signers but was unable to obtain likenesses for all of them. He also depicted several participants in the debate who did not sign the document, including John Dickinson, who declined to sign. Trumbull had no portrait of Benjamin Harrison V to work with, but his son Benjamin Harrison VI was said to resemble his father, so Trumbull painted him instead. As the Declaration was debated and signed over a period of time when membership in Congress changed, the men featured in the painting never were in the same room at the same time.

In the painting, Thomas Jefferson appears to be stepping on John Adams' foot, which many thought was supposed to symbolize their relationship as political enemies. However, upon closer examination of the painting, it can be seen that their feet are merely close together. This part of the image was correctly depicted on the two-dollar bill version.

Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms is a Resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 6, 1775, which explains why the Thirteen Colonies had taken up arms in what had become the American Revolutionary War. The final draft of the Declaration was written by John Dickinson, who incorporated language from an earlier draft by Thomas Jefferson.

Delaware Constitution of 1792

The Delaware Constitution of 1792 was the second governing document for Delaware state government. The Constitution was in effect from its adoption, on June 12, 1792, until it was replaced, on December 2, 1831, by a new Constitution.

Members of the Delaware Constitutional Convention of 1792. The Convention convened in 1792 and adjourned June 12, 1792.

Thomas Montgomery, President

Robert Armstrong

Andrew Barratt

Richard Bassett

John W. Batson

Isaac Beauchamp

John M. Clayton

Isaac Cooper

Robert Coram

John Dickinson

Benjamin Dill

Manlove Emerson

Robert Haughey

Kensey Johns

William Johnson

George Mitchell

Henry Molleston

George Monro

James Morris

Daniel Polk

Nicholas Ridgely

Edward Roche

Rhoads Shankland

Thomas White

First State National Historical Park

First State National Historical Park is a National Park Service unit which lies primarily in the state of Delaware but which extends partly into Pennsylvania in Chadds Ford. Initially created as First State National Monument by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013, the park was later redesignated as First State National Historical Park by Congress.

John Dickinson (inventor)

John Dickinson (29 March 1782 – 11 January 1869) invented a continuous mechanised papermaking process and founded the paper mills at Croxley Green, Apsley and Nash Mills in England, which evolved into John Dickinson Stationery Limited.

Dickinson built and lived at Abbots Hill, Nash Mills, on a hillside site looking down upon his mills in the valley bottom.

John Dickinson (rugby league)

John Dickinson (born 10 April 1934), also known by the nickname of "Todder", is an English professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1950s, and coached in the 1960s. He played at representative level for England, and at club level for St. Helens, Leigh and Rochdale Hornets, as a fullback, wing, centre, stand-off, or scrum-half, i.e. number 1, 2 or 5, 3 or 4, 6, or, 7, and coached at club level for the Pilkington Recs ARLFC.

John Dickinson High School

John Dickinson High School is a Comprehensive Four-Year High School located on a 67-acre (270,000 m2) campus near Wilmington, Delaware in New Castle County, Delaware. Overlooking Carousel Park, a Horse Farm as well as the HQ of the New Castle County Police: Mounted Patrol Division, located on 200+ Acres of Land, and also features Sweeping Meadows, Ponds and a Lake, Miles of Tranquil Walking Trails, and a one of a kind Bark Park. Built in Pike Creek, Delaware in 1959, the School takes its name from John Dickinson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a Colonial American Patriot, and a Key Writer During the American Revolutionary Period. One of seven high schools in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

John Dickinson House

The John Dickinson House, generally known as Poplar Hall, is located on the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, a property owned by the State of Delaware and open to the public as a museum by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and newly part of the First State National Historical Park. It was the boyhood home and sometime residence of the Founding Father and American revolutionary leader John Dickinson (1732-1808).

The main house is an Early Georgian mansion and was built on a 13,000-acre (5,300 ha) plantation in 1739/40 by Judge Samuel Dickinson, the father of John Dickinson. Wings were added in 1752 and 1754. The house faced a nearby bend of the St. Jones River which is no longer there as the river has been straightened. The original house suffered major damage during a British raid in August 1781 and was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1804. John Dickinson lived there for extended periods only in 1776/77 and 1781/82, although he kept up a keen interest in the property and often visited. Purchased by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in 1952, it was given to the State of Delaware and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

John Dickinson (1732–1808) was a lawyer and politician who spent most of the time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware. He was at various times a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of Delaware, and President of Pennsylvania. Among the wealthiest men in the American colonies, he became known as the Penman of the Revolution, for his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, where he eloquently argued the cause of American liberty. Although refusing to vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he supported the establishment of the new government during the American Revolution and afterward in many official capacities.

The John Dickinson Plantation is located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road, 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Dover, Delaware by Delaware Route 1, and .3 miles east on Kitts Hummock Road.

John Dickinson Stationery

John Dickinson Stationery Limited was a leading English stationery company founded in west Hertfordshire, that was later merged to form Dickinson Robinson Group. In the 19th century, the company pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making.

Lee Resolution

The Lee Resolution (also known as "The Resolution for Independence") was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 which declared the establishment of a new country of United Colonies as independent from the British Empire, creating what became the United States of America. News of this act was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action was the Declaration of Independence, approved two days later on July 4, 1776, which is celebrated as Independence Day.

The resolution is named for Richard Henry Lee of Virginia who proposed it to Congress after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President Edmund Pendleton. Lee's full resolution had three parts which were considered by Congress on June 7, 1776. Along with the independence issue, it also proposed to establish a plan for ensuing American foreign relations, and to prepare a plan of a confederation for the states to consider. Congress decided to address each of these three parts separately.

Some sources indicate that Lee used the language from the Virginia Convention's instructions almost verbatim. Voting was delayed for several weeks on the first part of the resolution while state support and legislative instruction for independence were consolidated, but the press of events forced the other less-discussed parts to proceed immediately. On June 10, Congress decided to form a committee to draft a declaration of independence in case the resolution should pass. On June 11, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston were appointed as the Committee of Five to accomplish this. That same day, Congress decided to establish two other committees to develop the resolution's last two parts. The following day, another committee of five (John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison V, and Robert Morris) was established to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers; a third committee was created, consisting of one member from each colony, to prepare a draft of a constitution for confederation of the states.

The committee appointed to prepare a plan of treaties made its first report on July 18, largely in the writing of John Adams. A limited printing of the document was authorized, and it was reviewed and amended by Congress over the next five weeks. On August 27, the amended plan of treaties was referred back to the committee to develop instructions concerning the amendments, and Richard Henry Lee and James Wilson were added to the committee. Two days later, the committee was empowered to prepare further instructions and report back to Congress. The formal version of the plan of treaties was adopted on September 17. On September 24, Congress approved negotiating instructions for commissioners to obtain a treaty with France, based on the template provided in the plan of treaties; the next day, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson were elected commissioners to the court of France. Alliance with France was considered vital if the war with England was to be won and the newly declared country was to survive.

The committee drafting a plan of confederation was chaired by John Dickinson; they presented their initial results to Congress on July 12, 1776. Long debates followed on such issues as sovereignty, the exact powers to be given the confederate government, whether to have a judiciary, and voting procedures. The final draft of the Articles of Confederation was prepared during the summer of 1777 and approved by Congress for ratification by the individual states on November 15, 1777, after a year of debate. It continued in use from that time onward, although it was not ratified by all states until four years later on March 1, 1781.

Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania

Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania is a series of essays written by the Pennsylvania lawyer and legislator John Dickinson (1732–1808) and published under the name "A Farmer" from 1767 to 1768. The twelve letters were widely read and reprinted throughout the thirteen colonies and were important in uniting the colonists against the Townshend Acts. The success of his letters earned Dickinson considerable fame.While acknowledging the power of Parliament in matters concerning the whole British Empire, Dickinson argued that the colonies were sovereign in their internal affairs. He thus argued that taxes laid upon the colonies by Parliament for the purpose of raising revenue, rather than regulating trade, were unconstitutional.

In his letters, Dickinson foresees the possibility of future conflict between the colonies and Great Britain, but cautions against the use of violence until "the people are fully convinced":

If at length it becomes undoubted that an inveterate resolution is formed to annihilate the liberties of the governed, the English history affords frequent examples of resistance by force. What particular circumstances will in any future case justify such resistance can never be ascertained till they happen. Perhaps it may be allowable to say generally, that it never can be justifiable until the people are fully convinced that any further submission will be destructive to their happiness.

According to Mel Bradford, "The manner of Dickinson's twelve letters is well suited to their matter. In form they belong to the 'high' or 'sober' tradition of English political pamphleteering — as does Common Sense to its 'rough and ready' but popular counterpart." Bradford argued that the letters had antecedents in the writings of "Milton, Swift, Addison, and Burke," as well as the authors of Cato's Letters and the Roman statesman Cicero.


Liberty! The American Revolution is a six-hour documentary miniseries about the Revolutionary War, and the instigating factors, that brought about the United States' independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. It was first broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System in 1997.

The series consists of six hour-long episodes. Each episode is introduced by Forrest Sawyer and narrated by Edward Herrmann. Period photographs and location filming are intercut with stage and screen actors in appropriate period costume reading as figures of the time, including Campbell Scott (Thomas Jefferson), Philip Bosco (Benjamin Franklin), Victor Garber (John Dickinson), Alex Jennings (King George III), Roger Rees (Thomas Paine), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Joseph Plumb Martin), Terrence Mann (Gen. John Burgoyne), Colm Feore (Alexander Hamilton), Sebastian Roché (The Marquis de Lafayette), Donna Murphy (Abigail Adams), Austin Pendleton (Benjamin Rush) and Peter Donaldson (John Adams). Stephen Lang read the words of George Washington, but is not seen on camera.

British and American historians and authors, including Carol Berkin, Bernard Bailyn, Ron Hoffman, Claude-Anne Lopez, Pauline Maier, George C. Neumann, Richard Norton Smith, Gordon S. Wood (U.S.) and Jeremy Black, Colin Bonwick, John Keegan, and N.A.M. Rodger (U.K.) add historical background, explaining life and society of the time while interpreting events from the perspectives of the two sides of the conflict. Historical perspectives also include the status of black slaves and freemen, the participation of American Indians, and the strivings of American women as events progress.

List of National Historic Landmarks in Delaware

This is a List of National Historic Landmarks in Delaware. There are 14 National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) in Delaware.

Mary Norris Dickinson

Mary "Polly" Norris Dickinson (July 17, 1740 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – July 23, 1803 in Wilmington, Delaware) was an early American land and estate owner and manager. She is known for her ownership of one of the largest libraries in the American colonies, her participation in political thought of the time, and her presence in or near events of the Constitutional Convention, including her marriage to Founding Father John Dickinson, one of the early drafters of the Constitution and one of its signers on behalf of the colony of Delaware. They bequeathed much of their combined library to the first college founded in the new United States. The college was originally named "John and Mary's College", by Benjamin Rush, for Norris Dickinson and her husband and is now called Dickinson College.

Nash Mills

Nash Mills is a civil parish within Hemel Hempstead and Dacorum Borough Council on the northern side of the Grand Union Canal, formerly the River Gade, and in the southernmost corner of Hemel Hempstead. It takes its name from the mill owned by John Dickinson in the 19th century (Nash Mill).

Part of its area was reassigned in the 1980s from Three Rivers District Council & Abbots Langley Civil Parish. The borough council ward extends beyond the parish boundary.

Proclamation of Rebellion

The Proclamation of Rebellion, officially titled A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition, was the response of George III of Great Britain to the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill at the outset of the American Revolutionary War. Issued on August 23, 1775, it declared elements of the American colonies in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". It ordered officials of the British Empire "to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion". The Proclamation also encouraged subjects throughout the Empire, including those in Great Britain, to report anyone carrying on "traitorous correspondence" with the rebels, so that they could be punished.

The Proclamation was written before Colonial Secretary Lord Dartmouth had been given a copy of the Olive Branch Petition from the Continental Congress. Because the king refused to receive the petition, the Proclamation effectively served as an answer to it.On October 27, 1775, North's Cabinet expanded on the Proclamation in the Speech from the Throne read by the King at the opening of Parliament. The speech insisted that rebellion was being fomented by a "desperate conspiracy" of leaders whose claims of allegiance to the king were insincere; what the rebels really wanted, he said, was to create an "independent Empire". The speech indicated that the King intended to deal with the crisis with armed force, and was even considering "friendly offers of foreign assistance" to suppress the rebellion without pitting Briton against Briton. A pro-American minority in Parliament warned that the government was driving the colonists towards independence, something that many colonial leaders had insisted they did not desire.The Second Continental Congress issued a response to the Proclamation on December 6, saying that while they had always been loyal to the king, the British Parliament never had any legitimate claim to authority over them, because the colonies were not democratically represented. Congress argued that it was their duty to continue resisting Parliament's violations of the British Constitution, and that they would retaliate if any supporters in Great Britain were punished for "favouring, aiding, or abetting the cause of American liberty". Congress maintained that they still hoped to avoid the "calamities" of a "civil war".

The Proclamation and the Speech from the Throne undermined moderates in the Continental Congress such as John Dickinson, who had been arguing that the king would find a way to resolve the dispute between the colonies and Parliament. When it became clear that the king was not inclined to act as a conciliator, colonial attachment to the Empire was weakened, and a movement towards declaring independence became a reality, culminating in the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

River Gade

The River Gade is a river running almost entirely though Hertfordshire. It rises from a spring in the chalk of the Chiltern Hills at Dagnall, Buckinghamshire and flows through Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, then along the west side of Watford through Cassiobury Park. After passing Croxley Green it reaches Rickmansworth, where it joins the River Colne. For its whole course the Gade is unnavigable.

Its principal tributary is the River Bulbourne which joins it at Two Waters, just below Hemel Hempstead.

The river was once used to power water mills at Water End, Cassiobury Park and Two Waters as well as powering the John Dickinson paper mills at Apsley and Croxley.

It supported the farming of watercress at Cassiobury Park, Water End, the Water Gardens and Two Waters until water was diverted from the river in 1947 to supply the growing new town of Hemel Hempstead.

Below Hemel Hempstead it runs alongside and sometimes forms part of the Grand Union Canal.

The remains of a Roman villa were found at Gadebridge Park in Hemel Hempstead.

The Gade is one of the rivers referred to in the name of the Three Rivers district.

It is home to a wide range of biodiversity, including ducks and a range of insect life.

Shendish Manor

Shendish Manor is a country house at Apsley in Hertfordshire.

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