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The Complete Writings and Selected Correspondence of John Dickinson

University of Delaware Press with Rutgers University Press
Volumes to date...

“This edition of the works of John Dickinson represents long overdue scholarly and critical attention to one of the truly pivotal figures in the early history of the United States. The significance of this project is very great, both for attention to Dickinson and for the quality of the edition itself. The introduction to this edition, which covers the critical years when Dickinson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania made him a much-noticed public figure, shows that he was much more than only a significant political thinker and controversial political actor. The range of additional venues or spheres in which he exerted his influence and which are illuminated by this critical edition of his works is astonishing.”

—Mark A. Noll, Regent College

“This edition, because of John Dickinson’s own life and because of the skill with which the edition is being prepared, would make a very important contribution to deepening knowledge for an extraordinary number of important subjects in colonial and early national American history.”

—Anonymous Reviewer

This inaugural volume contains a lengthy introduction describing Dickinson's life, his writings, and past attempts to publish his works, as well as an essay on the legal context of colonial Pennsylvania in which he worked. The bulk of the documents in this volume fall into two categories. First are his letters home to his Quaker parents during his legal training at London's Middle Temple from 1753 to 1757. Richly descriptive, these letters provide a view into Dickinson's personality and character in his early twenties, as he prepared to "defend the Innocent & Injurd" as a lawyer. They also show Dickinson discovering his identity as an American and the germination of the political theories that would animate his career as a statesman. The second category of documents are from the earliest days of his legal practice in Philadelphia. In addition to routine cases, he defended the Reverend William Smith against libel charges by the Pennsylvania Assembly, and he defended American merchants engaged in the flag-of-truce trade in the Admiralty Court. He applied all these experiences to his work on behalf of Americans during the controversy with Great Britain.

This volume begins with more of Dickinson's legal case notes, showing the variety of work he did for inhabitants of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties on Delaware (now the State of Delaware). His cases, frequently representing poor or otherwise disadvantaged clients, included all types ranging from mundane property disputes to murder. In 1759, he won election for the first time to the legislature of the Lower Counties, and in 1762 to the Pennsylvania Assembly, beginning over three decades of public service. Papers from these years include legislation he drafted. Other interesting documents from these years include his first-known political essay on the constitutionality of the flag-of-truce trade, two common place books, a love song, and a poem published in the newspaper.

February 2024

This volume begins with more of Dickinson's legal case notes, showing the variety of work he did for inhabitants of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties on Delaware (now the State of Delaware). His cases, frequently representing poor or otherwise disadvantaged clients, included all types ranging from mundane property disputes to murder. In 1759, he won election for the first time to the legislature of the Lower Counties, and in 1762 to the Pennsylvania Assembly, beginning over three decades of public service. Papers from these years include legislation he drafted. Other interesting documents from these years include his first-known political essay on the constitutionality of the flag-of-truce trade, two common place books, a love song, and a poem published in the newspaper.

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