John Dickinson: The “Timid” Founder

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Blog Posting

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Online Library of Liberty


Continental Congress, John Dickinson, Townshend Acts


Did John Adams describe John Dickinson in 1774 as “very modest, delicate, and timid”? Adams, who previously met with Dickinson during the proceedings of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, was much more complimentary, saying, “Mr. Dickinson is a very modest Man, and very ingenious, as well as agreeable. He has an excellent Heart, and the Cause of his Country lies near it.” It seems that Adams became miffed when Dickinson was tasked to rewrite Adams’ “Petition to the King” and found that Dickinson had moderated Adams’s more aggressive language. Hence, he was “timid.”

John Dickinson was a great advocate but not a political theorist. The right man at the right time, he concretized the American position against Parliament, but when independence came, he timidly demurred and the time of his contribution to the American experiment soon passed.


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