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Dickinson, John

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Dickinson, John

(1732–1808) Born November 8, 1732, on father’s estate Crosiadoré near Trappe, Talbot County, Maryland, son of Mary Cadwalader of Philadelphia and Samuel Dickinson of Talbot County, Maryland. Family moved to estate near Dover, Delaware, in 1740. Dickinson studied law in Philadelphia under John Moland in 1750. Went to the Middle Temple in London to continue his studies from 1753 to 1757. Admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania in 1757. Served in the Delaware state assembly 1760–61 and became speaker. Elected from Philadelphia to Pennsylvania State Assembly in 1762 and 1764. Supported the Proprietary party in Pennsylvania and opposed Franklin’s Royalist party; feared a royal charter granted by the British ministry would be worse than proprietary control. Defeated for reelection in 1764. Delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in New York in 1765, where he drafted the Declaration of Rights. Took James Wilson as law student in 1766. Wrote and published the influential series Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1767–68, in support of the colonial cause. Supported Non-Importation Agreements. Elected to Pennsylvania State Assembly in 1770, and served until 1776. In July 1770, he married Mary, daughter of Isaac Norris (wealthy merchant and leader of the Quaker party of Philadelphia). Was chairman of the Philadelphia committee of correspondence in 1774. Member of the First Continental Congress; served only one week in October 1774, during which time he wrote a petition to the king and the address to the people of Canada. Member of Second Continental Congress in 1775. Wrote second petition to the king, still hoping for reconciliation; also wrote a large part of the “Declaration of the Causes of taking up Arms.” Voted against separation from Great Britain and did not sign Declaration of Independence. As chairman of committee wrote June draft of the Articles of Confederation in July. Joined his militia regiment at Elizabethtown, but resigned when he was not reelected to the next Continental Congress. Resigned from Pennsylvania State Assembly in 1776. Elected to Continental Congress from Delaware in November 1776, but declined to serve. When the British Army advanced on Philadelphia, he left for his estate in Delaware. Took part in battle of Brandywine in September 1777. Elected to Continental Congress from Delaware in 1779 and took his seat but resigned that same year. President of state of Delaware 1782–83. President of the Pennsylvania executive council 1783–85. With Benjamin Rush, in 1783 helped found and endow Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, donating extensive library he had inherited from his father-in-law. Delegate from Delaware to the Annapolis Convention in 1786 and Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Wrote “Fabius” letters supporting ratification. Presided at the Delaware constitutional convention in 1792. Received LL.D. from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1796. Wrote further “Fabius” letters in 1797, supporting American alliance with France. Remained friendly to Jefferson. Published The Political Writings of John Dickinson in 1801. Died in Wilmington, Delaware, February 14, 1808.