New Anthology Explores One of Delaware's Most Underrated Founding Fathers

Book editor John Sweeney praises John Dickinson as “an example of what a political leader should be.”

A new anthology of essays and lectures published by the Delaware Heritage Commission explores the life and career of John Dickinson, whose influential role as a colonial patriot and statesman of the early Republic earned him the nickname “Penman of the Revolution.”

“Delaware’s John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty” commemorates the 250th anniversary of the publication of Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies,” the first widely read treatise laying out the American cause for unity in resistance to British colonial oppression, published in the winter of 1767–68. The 186-page, hardcover volume explores Dickinson’s legacy through the writings of noted Dickinson scholars and eminent Delawareans, including a preface by Gov. John Carney.

“John Dickinson, in many ways, was the architect of what we now call the Delaware Way. He sought compromise, took nuanced political stances without regard to partisanship, and put his country over his political beliefs,” Carney writes. “I want to thank The Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, the Delaware Heritage Commission and my friend, John Sweeney, for putting together this book about one of the little-known giants of American history.”

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Says book editor John Sweeney: “Believe it or not, Delawareans often ask me, ‘Who was John Dickinson?’ Here was a Delawarean who fought slavery when people like Washington and Jefferson accepted it. Here was a man who demanded freedom of religion for all when other founding fathers were willing to impose their beliefs on others. Here was a man who led the fight to enshrine individual rights in the U.S. Constitution. And that’s only a small portion of what he did for us, for our freedom. Delawareans should not only know who he was; they should be proud of him, and they should point to him as an example of what a political leader should be.”

The publication features contributions from former Delaware governors J. Caleb Boggs, Charles L. Terry Jr. and Russell W. Peterson; former Delaware Supreme Court justices Randy J. Holland, Richard S. Rodney and James M. Tunnell, Jr.; historians Jane E. Calvert, Milton E. Flower, John A. Munroe, J.H. Powell, Frederick B. Tolles and Edwin Wolf II; Harold L. Rubendall, former president of Dickinson College; and Gloria Henry and Vertie Lee of the John Dickinson Plantation.

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“Delaware’s John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty” is currently available for sale at the John Dickinson Plantation, the Delaware Public Archives and on the ShopDelaware website.

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