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John Dickinson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. One of his works, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, earned him the moniker “Penman of the Revolution”. He ratified the United States Constitution even though he declined to sign the Declaration of Independence.
See the fact file below for more information on John Dickinson or you can download our 25-page John Dickinson worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
BACKGROUND AND PERSONAL LIFE
- John Dickinson was born in Talbot County, Maryland, to a wealthy Quaker family on November 13, 1732.
- His father was Samuel Dickinson, a prosperous landowner, merchant, and lawyer. In a tobacco-planting family, Samuel was the third generation. He continued to grow his already successful firm with slave labor. His mother was Mary (Cadwalader) Dickinson, Samuel’s second wife.
- The Dickinson family relocated to Kent County, close to Dover, Delaware, in 1740.
- John Dickinson and his brother, Philemon, enjoyed the lifestyle their father, who served as a Kent County Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and then a Justice of the Peace, provided for them.
- John was raised on the Kent County farm Jones Neck in the mid-18th century, where he learnt the family business.
- John started his official education with the assistance of tutors like William Killen, in addition to early instruction from his father. John’s efforts were focused on studying ancient languages, traditional scholars, philosophers, and scholarly writing by Killen, who later served as Delaware’s first chancellor. This education gave John a strong foundation that served as a valuable asset in his political career.
- John’s father arranged for him to study law in the Pennsylvania office of the King’s counsel, John Moland, in 1750. John aspired to study law in London like his father, despite his enviable situation.
- From 1753 to 1757, he attended the Middle Temple at the Inns of Court in London. He heard discussions on individual rights and Enlightenment philosophy while he was there. The encounter sharpened Dickinson’s understanding of the connection between politics and history and impacted the rest of his life.
- Upon his return to the colonies, he started a practice in Philadelphia. Dickinson saw his name in the legal community increase after moving back to Philadelphia in 1757 to practice law.
- John Dickinson married Mary (Polly) Norris on July 19, 1770. She was the daughter of Isaac Norris II, a prominent Quaker politician who served as speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and was also one of the colony’s most influential men.
- Through this union, John was able to solidify his ties to Philadelphia’s social and political circles and take ownership of a sizable amount of real estate in Pennsylvania.
- John was able to pursue a lengthy and distinguished political career because of the combined riches of the Dickinson and Norris families, which others could not do.
- John and Mary had two sons and three daughters. Only Sarah (Sally), born December 10, 1771, and Maria, born November 6, 1783, lived past adulthood.
CAREER AND CONTRIBUTIONS
- John Dickinson was chosen to represent Kent County in the Delaware Assembly, which met in the New Castle Court House in 1760.
- He was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1762 as a representative of Philadelphia.
- In 1764, Dickinson made his first stance on politics. He opposed Joseph Galloway and Benjamin Franklin‘s efforts to establish Pennsylvania as a royal colony.
- Although it cost him some of his popularity, he gained respect for his integrity by standing up for the proprietary governor against the Benjamin Franklin-led side. Nevertheless, he immediately lost his position in the legislature in 1764.
- The British government was heavily in debt following the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and started looking for new sources of income. The Stamp Act of 1765 was passed by Parliament and levied a direct tax on particular goods brought into the colonies. Dickinson served as the nominal head of the Stamp Act Congress and the main author of its Resolutions, which pleaded with the Crown to protect American rights and argued that taxes shouldn’t be levied without representation during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765.
- He wrote The Late Regulations Respecting the British Colonies on the Continent of America Considered, an influential pamphlet that pushed Americans to demand repeal of the act by exerting pressure on British businesspeople.
- He published several pamphlets, including An Address to the Committee of Correspondence in Barbados (1766) and The Late Occurrences in North America, and the Policy of Great Britain, considered (1766), in which he advocated for nonviolent forms of protest, such as civil disobedience.
- The Townshend Acts of 1767, which placed new tariffs on commodities brought to the colonies, were passed by Parliament despite the fact that it had already abolished the Stamp Act in 1766.
- Between 1767 and 1768, a collection of Dickinson’s newspaper pieces appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, entitled Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, where he used the pseudonym “Fabius”.
- The letters discouraged revolution in response to British abuses and encouraged nonviolent resistance to injustice. The letters, which urged careful opposition to British oppression, were reprinted in numerous colony newspapers.
- Benjamin Franklin first published these articles in London in 1768. Later, they were translated into French and printed in Paris.
- Because the Letters were so well-liked throughout the colonies, Dickinson was awarded an honorary LL.D from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) and earned public praise from a gathering in Boston.
- In response to the Townshend Duties in 1768, he vigorously supported non-importation and non-exportation agreements as a method of colonial resistance.
- In 1768, Dickinson wrote another piece for which he achieved fame. However, it wasn’t a brochure or a letter. “The Liberty Song”, which he composed to the well-known “Hearts of Oak”, became popular among the colonists and caused such a sensation that the British responded with a song to the same tune.
- Dickinson returned to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1771 and wrote a unanimously endorsed petition to the king. But by 1774, he had lost a significant portion of his following due to his continuous hostility to the use of force.
- He drafted the Declaration of the Causes of Taking Up Arms in the Second Continental Congress (1775–1776) when he was still a representative of Pennsylvania.
- Dickinson refused to vote for or sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776 because he believed the fledgling republic was not prepared for an open uprising against the most powerful empire on earth during the Second Continental Congress.
- Even though his new constituency had re-elected him to Congress after 1776, he declined to serve and withdrew from the Pennsylvania Assembly. He might have participated in the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania (September 11, 1777) as a private in a particular Delaware unit, but he did not engage in any additional action.
- Dickinson, who had earlier served as the chairman of the committee that had prepared the Articles of Confederation, came out of retirement to assume a seat in the Continental Congress (1779–1780), where he signed them.
- He was elected as the Supreme Executive Council of Delaware’s president in 1781. He returned to Philadelphia soon after and was selected as Pennsylvania’s president (1782-1785).
- Dickinson presided over the Annapolis Convention of 1786, convened to deliberate about rewriting the Articles of Confederation, and was a crucial figure in the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
- He penned the Fabius Letters in 1788, urging approval and answering concerns from individuals worried by the proposed Constitution.
- After the Constitutional Convention, Dickinson tried to step down from active politics, but the people of Delaware kept asking for his assistance. He briefly took over again as head of the Delaware Constitutional Convention in 1791–1792.
- He wrote various treatises supporting France’s cause and America’s social connections with that nation as a Democratic-Republican.
- He was an informal advisor to essential politicians up to his passing, including Pennsylvania Senator George Logan and President Thomas Jefferson.
- On February 14, 1808, John Dickinson passed away. He was buried in the Wilmington Friends Meeting cemetery.
John Dickinson Worksheets
This fantastic bundle includes everything you need to know about John Dickinson across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching kids about John Dickinson, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and known as the Penman of the Revolution.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
Below is a list of all the worksheets included in this document.
- John Dickinson Facts
- Quick Facts
- Word Search
- Let’s Get Inked!
- Dickinson’s Life
- Words to Remember
- Let’s Think About It
- Secret Message
- The Liberty Song
- Compass Points
- Let’s Read More!
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Link will appear as John Dickinson Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 30, 2022
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