• Calvert, Jane (PI)

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The John Dickinson Writings Project (JDP) is a documentary editing project that seeks to collect and publish everything Founding Father John Dickinson wrote on public affairs over the course of his life. Although Dickinson was among the most famous men of his day, because few people today have heard of him, a brief overview of his career may be helpful. John Dickinson (1732-1808), known today as the "Penman of the Revolution," contributed more writings to the American Founding than any other figure. He was the only major political figure active in America from the earliest days of the contest with Britain through the early Republic, holding more posts than perhaps any other including, but not limited to, being a member of the Stamp Act Congress (1765), both Continental Congresses (1774-76, 1779), colonel in the Pennsylvania militia (1776), private in the Delaware militia (1777), president of Delaware (1781-82) and Pennsylvania (1782-85), president of the Annapolis Convention (1786), member of the Constitutional Convention (1787), and president of the Delaware constitutional convention (1792). In these posts and as a private citizen, he produced around 470 published and unpublished public works spanning from the colonial to the Early Republican period. He is best known for his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767-1768), the first resounding and successful call for colonial unity to resist British oppression, but many of the country's first national documents were also the product of his pen, including the Stamp Act Resolutions (1765), America's first patriotic song, "The Liberty Song" (1768), the First Petition to the King (1774), the Bill of Rights and a List of Grievances (1774), Letter to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec (1774), the Olive Branch Petition (1775), the Declaration for Taking Up Arms (1775), and the first draft of the Articles of Confederation (1776). With his eloquent assertions of American rights and liberties, Dickinson became the country's first political hero and was seen at home and abroad as the spokesman for the American cause. It is impossible to understand the American Founding without reading Dickinson's works. The goal of the JDP, established in 2009, is to assemble for the first time the entire corpus of Dickinson's works on public affairs into an estimated three printed volumes, a Web-based digital version, freely accessible to both scholars and non-academics, and an abridged course reader for advanced high school and college classrooms. The print edition will be published by an academic press and will contain a full scholarly apparatus for contextualization and interpretation of the materials. The Web version will have expanded textual contents and the same apparatus as the printed volumes, with added features that will place it in the mainstream of digital scholarship. The course reader will have an apparatus suited for students and designed to facilitate discussion of the documents. For more on Dickinson and the JDP, please visit the Project information site: http://www.uky.edu/DickinsonWritingsProject/ We anticipate that The Complete Writings of John Dickinson will benefit scholars, students, and the public by providing a crucial new resource for understanding the American Founding period. In addition to offering easy access to the seminal state papers that form the legal and political bedrock for our nation, this edition will give readers insight into the mind of a great political thinker and actor who should be considered a model Founding Father. The central concern that motivated Dickinson throughout his life and works was ensuring that American rights and liberties would be preserved and protected by a virtuous and active citizenry. He was unique among the Founders for both encouraging Americas of all socio-economic backgrounds to understand and participate in political debates and for modeling disinterested citizenship himself. At a time when most political leaders disregarded ordinary Americans as competent political actors, Dickinson made a point of addressing the "lower sorts" of people to inform them about the momentous issues of the time, such as unjust British tax policy and the ratification of the Constitution. He insisted that "What concerns all should be considered by all," and it was "not only their right but their duty to declare" their sentiments. Believing that civil society functions well only when individuals are educated in civics and morality, he helped found several schools (some of which still function today) and encouraged religious observance. He also practiced what he preached; civic virtue and Christian morality informed his own actions. He was one of the few members of Congress to lead a battalion against the British, and the only one to enlist as a private in a militia. He was also the only major Founder to free his considerable number of slaves during his lifetime and write abolition legislation. In our present age, which has lost a sense of individual responsibility and the individual's responsibility to his community, Dickinson's works are a strong and unambiguous reminder of the principles upon which our nation was founded.
Effective start/end date12/9/1312/8/14


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