The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson


The first biography of John Dickinson in a half century

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The Cost of Liberty offers a sorely needed reassessment of a great patriot and misunderstood Founding Father, John Dickinson.

Author William Murchison brings to life one of the most influential figures of the entire Founding period, a principled man whose gifts as writer, speaker, and philosopher only Jefferson came near to matching. In the ­process, Murchison destroys the caricature of ­Dickinson that has emerged from such popular treatments as HBO’s John Adams ­miniseries.

Today Dickinson is remembered mostly for his reluctance to sign the Declaration of Independence. But that reluctance, Murchison shows, had nothing to do with a lack of patriotism. In fact, Dickinson immediately took up arms to serve the colonial cause—something only one signer of the Declaration did. But he stood on principle to oppose the Declaration even when he knew it would deal the “finishing blow” to his once-great reputation.

Dubbed the “penman of the Revolution,” Dickinson was not just a scribe but also a shaper of mighty events. Author of the landmark essays Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, delegate to the Continental Congress, key ­figure behind the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, president of both Pennsylvania and Delaware: Dickinson was, as one esteemed ­historian aptly put it, “the most underrated of all the Founders.”

This lively biography gives a great Founder his long-overdue measure of honor. It also broadens our understanding of the Founding period, challenging many modern assumptions about the events of 1776 and 1787.

Hardcover: 252 pages
Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (September 15, 2013)