Early American History Seminar: Jane Calvert, St. Mary's College of Maryland

Thursday, December 15, 2005

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Early American History and Culture Seminar

“ ‘The Political Rock of Our Salvation’: The U.S. Constitution According to John Dickinson
Jane Calvert, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
This paper examines the constitutional thought of John Dickinson during the creation of the U.S. Constitution. It argues that not only was he a much more important figure than most historians have recognized, he brought to the deliberations a distinctly Quaker understanding of the processes, functions, and purposes of political deliberation, constitution-making, and the structures of goverment. As a Quaker politician (though not a Quaker) Dickinson was the only Framer who advocated ideas and practices that were neither Unitarian nor reformed Calivinist, and he brought his religion into the debate more explicitly than most. His Quaker views show us not only the origins of what some historians have called his “innovative” contributions to American constitutionalism, but also, insofar as the nation has departed from or forgotten his theories, an alternative model for how to imagine the democratic processes that animate the country.