It was January 1740 when Samuel Dickinson, a wealthy Quaker tobacco planter and merchant of Talbot County, Maryland moved his family to the plantation on Jones Neck, southeast of Dover, Delaware. John Dickinson was seven years old at the time. Until his death in 1808, John Dickinson split time between this country plantation that he inherited from his father, and his city homes in Philadelphia and later, Wilmington. And throughout that time, he played a key role in the birth of a new nation-the United States of America. After John’s death in 1808, the plantation passed to his daughter and remained in the family until 1933. Then the property passed through a series of owners. In 1952, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Delaware purchased the mansion with 12 acres of land for $25,000. They presented the site to the State in Constitution Day ceremonies that year. The mansion opened as a museum in May 1956, after three and a half years of restoration.
John Dickinson was born in November, 1732 in Talbot County, Maryland. In 1740, John’s father, Samuel Dickinson moved his family to a plantation on Jones Neck, southeast of Dover, Delaware. Samuel Dickinson had come to Kent County, Delaware to accept a judgeship and to allow his wife, Mary Cadwalader Dickinson to be closer to her native Philadelphia. At the new plantation, which they called Poplar Hall, John was schooled by his parents and a series of tutors. In 1750, at age 18, John began reading law in Philadelphia and later went to London, England at Middle Temple, Inns of Court and Westminster. Returning home in 1757, he began law practice in Philadelphia. Active in the Pennsylvania Assembly, he attended the Stamp Act Congress where his suggested resolutions were adopted with few changes. His Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania written in 1767, brought him fame. As a result, Dickinson was called on for advice and inspiration in the years before the First Continental Congress. After leading a moderate position up to the Declaration of Independence, Dickinson realized that a separation from Britain was inevitable, but opposed the timing. John Dickinson abstained from the vote on the Declaration of Independence and his reputation suffered due to his action. However, John Dickinson became one of only two members of the Continental Congress to take up arms against the Crown.
In 1781, Delaware elected Dickinson to the Executive Council and President of Delaware the same year. The next year he was selected President of Pennsylvania. In 1786, John Dickinson chaired the Annapolis Convention that led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. John Dickinson attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Delaware. At the convention he opposed representation based solely on population. This would lead to the great compromise. The States would have equal representation in the Senate and representation based on population in the House of Representatives. John Dickinson supported and signed the U.S. Constitution. Shortly after Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution, Dickinson anonymously penned the Letters of Fabius. The Letters of Fabius explained and supported the Constitution and helped answer questions concerning the document.
John Dickinson died on February 14, 1808. Thomas Jefferson wrote upon learning of his death that “John Dickinson, a more estimable man, or truer patriot could not have left us.” John Dickinson was interred at the Wilmington Friends Meeting Burial Ground.