Voices of dissent over Parliament’s growing authority upon the colonies in America were heard long before the colonists’ actual act of independence.
Though conciliatory in tone, his Letters made clear that Britain’s policies were wrong and deprived the colonies of their lawful rights. Ultimately, Letters from a Farmer urge united action on the part of the colonists.One of those voices was that of John Dickinson.
A preeminent Philadelphia lawyer, Dickinson was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1762 where he was active in protesting British policies. Attending the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, he advocated commercial retaliation. Dickinson’s writings entitled Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer were published in newspapers in 1767 and 1768.
The letter that appears here is the very first Letter in his series. It appears in the Boston Chronicle of December 21, 1767. As it happens, this is also the very first issue published by the Chronicle. While the actual year does not appear on the newspaper’s masthead, note “Vol. 1 and No. 1” at each of its sides.
Dickinson’s first Letter illustrates perfectly the author’s moderate and reasoned approach while at the same time recommending concerted action. Here Dickinson discusses Parliament’s suspension of the New York Assembly following the legislature’s refusal to comply with Britain’s recently-enacted Quartering Act.
Dickinson went on to become a member of the Continental Congress, agreeing to the necessity of armed resistance. Later he helped draft the Articles of Confederation, and was an active participant in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Dickinson wrote 13 letters in all, published as a pamphlet that went through at least ten editions. His Letters had a significant impact on political thought not only in America but also in England.