Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Christopher Grasso

Committee Members

Paul Mapp

Christopher Freiman


This thesis argues that John Dickinson’s political thought is best described as legal-minded. I define Dickinson as broadly “legal-minded,” with his use of statute-based arguments conveyed with oratorical skill, and his articulation of constitutional principles of natural rights and balanced government. Dickinson’s work during the period from 1764 to 1774 was concerned with deploying measured arguments and constitutional principles to convince American colonists to preserve their rights against encroachments from Great Britain. Using the letters he wrote to his parents while studying law at the Middle Temple in London in the 1750s, and various public writing and speeches from the period between 1764 and 1774, this thesis demonstrates that the robust intellectual thought that drove Dickinson’s complicated politics emanated from his understanding of British law. The epilogue briefly explores the period from 1776 to 1803, when he drafted the Articles of Confederation, an alternate Pennsylvania constitution, and argued in support of the U.S. Constitution.