John Dickinson

“Penman of the Revolution” and Early Leader of Colonial Resistance to British Oppression

Founding Father John Dickinson was an extremely powerful early leader of colonial resistance to British oppression, creating the foundation for the American Revolution.   

Dickinson was born on November 2, 1732 in Maryland.  A lawyer by trade, he attended the Stamp Act Congress and served in the First and Second Continental Congress.   Although he refused to sign the Declaration of Independence, he chaired the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation and  served as a militia officer during the Revolutionary War.  He served President of Delaware in 1781-1782 and President of Pennsylvania in 1782-1785 (he also served in each state’s legislature in the 1760s and 1770s). He later founded Dickinson College. 

Dickinson attended the Constitutional Convention on behalf of Delaware, and wrote extensively on behalf of its ratification under the penname Fabius.  His influence played a significant role in the ratification of the Constitution by Pennsylvania and Delaware. 

Most importantly, Dickinson was one of the early intellectual leaders of resistance to British oppression. Dubbed the “Penman of the Revolution,” he had a profound impact on the Founding Fathers when he authored the Declaration of Rights and Grievances (1765) of the Stamp Act Congress as well as the Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767-1768), which condemned British oppression in the years leading to up to the American Revolution.  With Thomas Jefferson, he co-authored the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775), which was adopted by the Second Continental Congress.  In the Declaration, the Congress approved military action in defense of the rights of the colonists.

He died on February 14, 1808.

Picture:  Charles Wilson Peale (1770), Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia.



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