John Dickinson, an American statesman, born in Maryland, Nov. 13, 1732, died in Wilmington, Delaware, Feb. 14, 1808. He studied law in Philadelphia, and subsequently at the Temple, London, and on returning to America practised with considerable success. Being elected to the Pennsylvania house of assembly in 1704, he evinced unusual capacities, and was a ready and energetic debater. At the same time he became known by his publications upon the attempts of the mother country to infringe the liberties of the colonies. In 1765 he was elected a deputy from Pennsylvania to the first colonial congress, and drafted the resolutions passed by that body. In 1768 he published his "Farmer's Letters to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies," which were republished in London with a preface by Benjamin Franklin, and subsequently in French in Paris. He was a member of the first continental congress in 1774, and of the state papers put forth by that body some of the most important, including the "Declaration to the Armies," the two petitions to the king, and the "Address to the States," were the production of his pen.
He, however, opposed the adoption of the declaration of independence, believing that the movement was premature, and that compromise was still practicable, and was one of the few members of congress who did not sign it. So unpopular did he become with his constituents for his course on this occasion, that for several years he was absent from the public councils, although in the interim he signified his devotion to the American cause by serving as a private soldier in Delaware. In 1779 he returned to congress as a member from Delaware, and wrote the "Address to the States" of May 26. He was subsequently president of the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania successively, and a member of the federal convention for framing a constitution. In 1788 appeared his "Fabius" letters, advocating the adoption of the new constitution. Another series over the same signature, on the relations of the United States with France, published in 1797, was his last work. His political writings were published in 2 vols. in 1801.