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Dedication of the State Historical Marker honouring John Dickinson

23 September 2001

I am grateful to Joe Dickerson for supplying this material. Should it be deemed to breach copyright, I will remove it from the web.

Dedication programme


John Dickinson, the temperate, thoughtful "Pennsylvania Farmer" of the Revolution and "Penman" of that conflict, was one of the earliest and strongest advocates of the rights of the American colonies. This London-trained lawyer played a crucial role in the ongoing crisis between England and the colonies by publishing in 1768 his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies which won international attention for his ideas in opposition to taxation without representation. He represented Philadelphia in the state legislature from 1762-64 and in 1770 was sent by Pennsylvania to the Stamp Act Congress at New York where he drafted the declaration of rights and grievances.

Subsequently he served in the First and Second Continental Congresses. According to Thomas Jefferson, Dickinson was the author of the "Olive Branch" … a second petition to King George from the Second Continental Congress, asking that he recall royal armies from America. It was sent in duplicate in two ships almost exactly one year before the Declaration... but to no avail. Because of Quaker values of his family, Dickinson was strongly committed to a peaceful solution of the argument with the Crown.

In spite of the sure knowledge that he would suffer for it, he did not sign the Declaration of Independence, as he steadfastly hoped to avoid war via reconciliation with Britain. Nevertheless, when the break with Britain came, he fought alongside Patriots in the War for Independence.

After the Revolution, he served both as "president" of Delaware and later as the head of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania (1782-1785). He took a leading part in framing the US Constitution, signed it, and his "Letters of Fabius" commended it to public approval.


He married Mary Norris of "Fairhill" in Philadelphia in 1770 and shortly after, Dickinson expanded his land holdings to include 240 acres that had once belonged to Dr. Edward Lanes, his maternal great-grandfather, son-in-law of Dr. Thomas Wynne. Dr. Jones had led the first Welsh Quaker settlers, in 1682, into the area now known as Lower Merion.

It was two acres of this former Edward Jones land that Dickinson deeded to Merion Friends in 1801 and 1804 to expand the burial ground and property. On this ground the caretaker's house was built in 1804 and the Activities Building in 1950. John Dickinson never lived in Lower Merion. He was born in Maryland, lived in Delaware and Philadelphia and is buried in the Friends burial ground, 4th and West Streets in Wilmington, Delaware. Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, chartered in 1783, was named in his honour.

"Moderation in everything is the Source of Happiness...too much writing...too much reading... too much idleness... too much loving... too much continence.. .too much law all equally throw us from the ballance (sic) of real pleasure. This has been said a thousand times. Always believed and practiced is still true."

John Dickinson to the people of Delaware


Historical plaque goes up in Merion

By Kathy O’Louglin
Special to Main Line Life – 19 September 2001

Sept. 23 is John Dickinson Day. But don't expect to see Dickinson. He died almost 200years ago.

You will see an historical marker honouring him that is being dedicated at the Merion Friends Meetinghouse on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Meetinghouse Lane Sunday September 23.

The programme, which includes a presentation by guest speaker Professor Edward Fersht on John Dickinson, a Conservative Revolutionary, will last from 3 to 5 p.m. and is open to the public.

Historically referred to as the Penman of the Revolution since he was the author of the original Articles of Confederation, Dickinson played a leading role in the resistance to the British taxes and military presence in the colonies, wrote the Declaration of the Causes of Taking up Arms and served in the patriot militia.

Co-chairman Mary Wood said the dedication of the historical marker commemorates Dickinson's gift of two acres to the Quakers of the Merion Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in 1801 and 1804. That portion of land was part of a 240-acre farm that Dickinson purchased in the 1770s and represented almost half of a plantation once owned by his great-grandfather, Dr Edward Jones. Jones was one of 17 Quaker families from Wales who were the first to settle in Narberth and Lower Merion.

At its September 10 meeting, Narberth Borough Council presented a proclamation declaring John Dickinson's Day to Victoria Donohue, one of the borough's most well-known historians.

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