The Macksey Journal


John Dickinson is well noted as an influential writer of the American Revolution, particularly in his series of twelve letters known as the Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. While previous scholarship has noted the significant effect these widely circulated letters had upon the colonies and has further explored the purpose for the pseudonym “Farmer,” it has overlooked one major feature of the writings: the inclusion of a Latin quotation at the end of each letter, pulled from various Roman authors. Though the classics at that time were often employed in pamphlet writing to invoke a sense of kinship with the political ideology of the Roman Republic, particularly through the use of classical pseudonyms, Dickinson’s choice to forgo the pseudonym in place of excerpts of Roman literature speaks to the unique purpose he had in mind when employing them. This paper not only traces the origin of each quotation but also examines their relevance to the twelve letters, arguing that each passage is meant to succinctly articulate and augment the arguments made, while simultaneously building the larger theme of history—especially Roman history—as a source of wisdom.