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Remembering the Penman of the Revolution
by Gary M. Galles 11/8/07

Though overlooked today, John Dickinson was among America’s most important founders--colonial legislator, member of the Stamp Act, Continental and Confederation Congresses, chief executive of both Delaware and Pennsylvania, and president of the 1786 Annapolis meeting that triggered the Constitutional Convention. William Pierce called him "one of the most important characters in the United States."

Dickinson was best known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” whose defense of America’s cause made him our first homegrown hero.  As we pass his November 2 birthday, reconsider his words that were pivotal in creating our liberty.

Gary M. Galles

Mr. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. [go to Galles index]

“Benevolence toward mankind excites wishes for their welfare…the means…can be found in liberty only, and therefore her sacred cause ought to be espoused by every man on every occasion, to the utmost of his power.”
“Each individual then must contribute such a share of his rights as is necessary for attaining that securitythat is essential to freedom…What does he lose by this submission?; the power of doing injuries to others—and the dread of suffering injuries from them. What does he gain...protection against injuries—a capacity of enjoying his undelegated rights to the best advantage—a repeal of his fears—and tranquility of mind.”

“For who are a free people? Not those, over whom government is reasonable and equitably exercised, but those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.”
“…our attachment to no nation upon earth should supplant our attachment to liberty.”
“The love of liberty is so natural to the human heart, that unfeeling tyrants think themselves obliged to accommodate their schemes…to the appearance of justice and reason…when the inestimable original is lost.”
“Liberty, perhaps, is never exposed to so much danger, as when the people believe there is the least; for it may be subverted, and yet they not think so.”
"Worthy is it of deep consideration by every friend of freedom that abuses that seem to be but trifles may be attended by fatal consequences."

“…the forms of liberty may be retained, when the substance is gone.”
“A perpetual jealousy, respecting liberty, is absolutely requisite in all free states…”
 “…every free state should incessantly watch, and instantly take alarm on any addition being made to the power exercised over them.”
“…we cannot be happy, without being free…we cannot be free, without being secure in our property…we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent, others may, as by right, take it away...”
“We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission…or resistance by force…We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.”
“…the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.”
“…in defense of the freedom that is our birthright…for the protection of our property...we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.”
“…you indeed deserve liberty who so well understand it, so passionately love it, so temperately enjoy it, and so wisely, bravely, and virtuously assert, maintain, and defend it.”

Modern Americans have heard little of John Dickinson, but both houses of Congress wore black armbands in mourning when he died.  He recognized that without liberty, “the loss of happiness then follows as a matter of course." And in substantial part due to his influence, the United States became first nation ever based in liberty.  At a time when that liberty is under assault from many directions, America needs to rediscover Dickinson’s devotion to it. CRO


copyright 2007 Gary M. Galles



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