John Dickinson of Crosiadore, the Patriot
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.

This is a woodcut of John Dickinson by Paul Revere (original was done in 1771)
[courtesy of the new York Public Library]

[This page is dedicated to Joseph Dickerson of Delaware]

John Dickinson (1732-1808) was one of America's founding fathers. He was born in Talbot County, Maryland on November 8, 1732 at his family's manor house called "Crosiadore." He moved with his family to Delaware, and married (1) Mary Norris (1740-1803) on July 19, 1770.

"John Dickinson was convinced that a limited monarchy was the best form of government but had decided regretfully that it was out of the question for America" (Andrist, 33)

John died on February 14, 1808 in Wilmington, Delaware. He was admitted to the bar in 1757 and practiced law in Philadelphia, PA. John Dickinson was a leading opponent of taxation imposed on the colonies by the British Parliament. Dickinson formulated the declaration of rights and grievances at the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. In 1767 he published Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, in which he argued against the duties imposed by the Townshend Acts. John served on a committee with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay. This particular committee was charged with composing a document in justification of raising and arming troops. Jefferson penned the first draft, the others refined it, and on July 6, 1777, the Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms was passed by Congress.

John favored appeasing Great Britain and he drafted a letter to King George III advocating peaceful reconciliation: "We desire that the former harmony between Great Britain and these colonies may be restored ... procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies ... in pursuance of a happy and permanent reconciliation" (Phillips, Donald T., The Founding Fathers on Leadership). Dickinson nevertheless was a representative from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress (1774-1776).

Benjamin Franklin chaired a committee with Thomas Jefferson, John Dickinson, John Jay, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris, a five man secret Committee of Correspondence, which was specifically established for corresponding with friends in the rest of the world. During the first year in existence, the group concentrated mostly on securing funding and arms for the American forces. In July 1776, they commissioned Connecticut businessman, Silas Deane to travel to Paris and purchase military supplies from the French. It was Deane who was chiefly responsible for securing the first consignment of supplies to arrive the next spring. The group also appealed to Canada to join the American Union. A formal direct appeal was made in the mid 1775 and when the Articles of Confederation were drafted in 1776. John Dickinson drew up the first draft of the Articles. He believed in a strong central government. He represented Delaware in Congress in 1779. In 1781, he was elected president of the Supreme Executive Council of Delaware, and in 1782, he was on the Pennsylvania Council. He was the president of the Anapolis Convention in 1786 (Van Doren, 277).

On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was in its last day. The delegates assembled to ratify it. Nine of the thirteen states would have to approve it before the government could form. Of the original fifty-five (55) delegates to the convention only forty-one (41) remained. Most of the others had either left in protest or given excuses of family or business priorities. John Dickinson could not attend "because of illness." He did not sign the Declaration of Independence. However, he did fight in the American Revolution (in the militai), and afterwards represented Delaware at the Constitution Convention in 1787. When it was time to sign, the representatives arranged themselves according to state and geography, from north to south. New Hampshire signed first, Georgia signed last. Only three of the forty-one refused to endorse the document.

In a series of letters signed "Fabius," John Dickinson urged the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, which he was instrumental in framing. Dickinson also served as the first president of the board of trustees. In addition to Farmer's Letter, Dickinson also penned The Late Regulations Respecting the American Colonies, in 1765; Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great Britain Over the American Colonies (1774); and the first draft of the Articles of Confederation in 1776("John Dickinson,Encarta Encyclopedia. New York: Funk and Wagnell Corporation).

John Dickinson's father was Judge Samuel Dickinson (1689/90-1808). Samuel Dickinson was also born at "Crosiadore" in March 5, 1689/70. John's mother was Mary Cadwalader (1700-1776) of Philadelphia, PA.

John Dickinson's children were:

(1) Sarah (Sally) Norris Dickinson who was born on December 7, 1771 in Fairhill, Pennsylvania.
(2) Isaac Norris Dickinson was born in 1773 and died in July 1777.
(3) Mary Dickinson was born in May 7, 1774 in Fairhill, Pennsylvania; and died in 1775.
(4) John Dickinson was born in 1776 and died in 1777.
(5) Maria Mary Dickinson was born November 6, 1783 in Shuton, Philadelphia County. Maria married in April 28, 1808 to Albanus Charles Logan (1783-1854), and died February 10, 1851 in Kent, Delaware. She is the only child of the late Governor John Dickinson who lived to adulthood. John's brother Philemon Dickerson, Gen. was born on April 5, 1739 in "Croisadore," Talbott, Maryland and married Mary Cadwalader (his cousin) on July 14, 1767. Philemon died on February 4, 1809 in "Heritage" Trenton, New Jersey.

John Dickinson's Letter:

John Dickinson worked hard to avoid conflict with England. He was a conservative Lawyer from Pennsylvania. However, he made carefully reasoned statements on liberty and freedom in the colonies which helped to begin the final break from the mother country. This letter is in reference to the suspension of the New York legislature in 1766:

My Dear Countrymen,

I AM A FARMER, settled after a variety of fortunes, near the banks, of the Delaware, in the Province of Pennsylvania...

From infancy I was taught to love humanity and liberty. Inquiry and experience have since confirmed my reverence for the lessons then given me, by convincing me more fully of their truth and excellence. Benevolence towards mankind excites wishes for their welfare, and such wishes endear the means of fullfilling them. Those can be found in liberty alone, and therefore her sacred cause ought to be espoused by every man, on every occasion, to the utmost of his power: as a charitable but poor person does not withhold his mite, because he cannot relieve all the distresses of the miserable, so let not any honest man suppress his sentiments concerning freedom, however small their influence is likely to be. Perhaps he may "touch some wheel" that will have an effect greater than he experts.

These being my sentiments, I am encouraged to offer to you, my countrymen, my thoughts on some late transactions, that in my opinion are of the utmost importance to you. Conscious of my defects, I have waited some time, in expectation of seeing the subject treated by persons much better qualified for the task; but being therein dsappointed, and apprehensive that longer delays will be injurious, I venture at length to request the attention of the public, praying only for one thing -- that is that these lines may be read with the same zeal for happiness of British America, with which they were wrote.

With a good deal of surprise I have observed, that little notice has been taken of an act of parliament, as injurious in its principle to the liberties of these colonies, as the STAMP-ACT was. I mean the act for suspending the legislation of New York.

The assembly of that government complied with a former act of parliament requiring certain provisions to be made for the troops in America, in every particular, I think, except for the articles of salt, pepper, and vinegar. In my opinion they acted imprudently, considering all the circumstances, in not complying so far, as would have given satisfaction, as several colonies did: but my dislike of their conduct in that instance, has not blinded me so much, that I cannot plainly perceive, that they have been punished in a manner pernicious to American freedom, and justly alarming to all the colonies.

If the BRITISH PARLIAMENT has a legal authority to order, that we shall furnish a single article for the troops here, and to compel obedience to that order; they have the same right to order us to supply these troops with arms, cloaths, and every necessary, and to compel obedience to that order also; in short to lay any burdens they please upon us. What is this but taxing us at a certain sum, and leaving us to only the manner of raising it? How is this mode more tolerable than the STAMP ACT?... .............................John Dickinson

"Let us [colonists] behave like dutiful children who have received unmerited blows from a beloved parent ... where shall we find anothe Britain?"

...... from Letter from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768


Andrist (editor), Ralph K. The AMerican Heritage History of the Making of the Nation. New York: American Heritage Publishing Compnay, Inc.

Van Doren (editor), Charles. Webster's American Biographies. Springfield, MA>: G & C Merriam Publishers, 1975.

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This page is updated and designed by Maggie Sypniewski, BFA
Last updated on May 16, 2006