Quaker Constitutionalism and the Political Thought of John Dickinson

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $79.00
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 31%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (9) from $79.00   
  • New (5) from $81.99   
  • Used (4) from $79.00   


In the late-seventeenth century, Quakers originated a unique strain of constitutionalism, based on their theology and ecclesiology, which emphasized constitutional perpetuity and radical change through popular peaceful protest. While Whigs could imagine no other means of drastic constitutional reform except revolution, Quakers denied this as a legitimate option to governmental abuse of authority and advocated instead civil disobedience. This theory of a perpetual yet amendable constitution and its concomitant idea of popular sovereignty are things that most scholars believe did not exist until the American Founding. The most notable advocate of this theory was Founding Father John Dickinson, champion of American rights, but not revolution. His thought and action have been misunderstood until now, when they are placed within the Quaker tradition. This theory of Quaker constitutionalism can be traced in a clear and direct line from early Quakers through Dickinson to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In exploring Dickinson, Quaker theology, Revolutionary political thought, and the relationships between them, Calvert has invited us into fresh territory, and she has done so with graceful style.” —Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Journal of Law & Religion

“Jane E. Calvert’s book is the culmination, to date, of that collective effort [to take Quakers seriously], the keystone in an arch of scholarly writings that opens the way to a thoughtful and stimulating reconsideration of Quakerism. …This is a scholarly accomplishment of note and it will, I hope, generate some restating of revolutionary history.” —Alan Tully, American Historical Review

"The volume is well organized, leading the reader progressively through sections on Quakerism in general..." -Stuart B. Jennings, Church History

"In a provocative monograph, historian Jane E. Calvert puts the Quakers and John Dickinson back into the story of America's constitutional founding and American political history writ large." -Kyle G. Yolk, Journal of the Early Republic

“Calvert’s reassessment of John Dickinson’s role in the revolutionary and founding era of the United States is so much more than another ‘founding father’ biography. It is instead one of the most thorough treatments of American Quakerism in general and Quaker politics and resistance in particular. …[H]er book is essential reading to anyone interested in American reform in general, as well as the history of civil disobedience theories.” —Beverly C. Tomek, Pennsylvania History

“In a clearly argued and well researched thesis, Professor Calvert contributes greatly to the discussion [of Quaker reform] by compiling a synthesis of previous research and her own unique findings. The conclusions, though clearly developed, are not without controversy, but any future discussion will have to address many of the issues she had clearly articulated and for that we can only be grateful.” —Stuart B. Jennings, Church History

“In a provocative monograph, historian Jane E. Calvert puts the Quakers and John Dickinson back into the story of America’s constitutional founding and American political history writ large. Challenging readers to shelve preconceptions of Quakers as apolitical quietists, Calvert convincingly shows Quakers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries pioneering a then unique tradition of constitutional thought and political action….[C]onstitutional and political historians should join scholars of Quakers and colonial and revolutionary Pennsylvania in wrestling with Calvert’s bold claims about the Quaker influence on American popular sovereignty.” —Kyle G. Volk, Journal of the Early Republic

“Jane E. Calvert’s study is narrow and deep, showing the relationship between religion and politics within an examination of Pennsylvania Quakers and their intellectual influence on Founder John Dickinson.” —Ellen Holmes Pearson, William and Mary Quarterly

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521884365
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2008
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane E. Calvert received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2003 and is currently assistant professor of history at the University of Kentucky. Her articles and reviews have been published in History of Political Thought, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, History Compass, Annali di storia dell'esegesi, Quaker Religious Thought, Journal of Religion, Quaker History, and Pennsylvania History. She has also received fellowships and grants from the University of Chicago (1996–99, 1999, 2001, 2002); Haverford College (2000); the Library Company of Philadelphia/Historical Society of Pennsylvania (2002); the Newberry Library (2005); the National Endowment for the Humanities (2005); the American Philosophical Society (2006); the Huntington Library (2006); Association for Documentary Editing (2006); and the David Library of the American Revolution (2007).
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Introduction; Part I. Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice, c.1652–1763: 1. Bureaucratic libertines: the origins of Quaker constitutionalism and civil dissent; 2. A sacred institution: the Quaker theory of a civil constitution; 3. 'Dissenters in our own country': constituting a Quaker government in Pennsylvania; 4. Civil unity and 'seeds of dissention' in the golden age of Quaker theocracy; 5. The fruits of Quaker dissent: political schism and the rise of John Dickinson; Part II. The Political Quakerism of John Dickinson, 1763–89: 6. Turbulent but pacific: 'Dickinsonian politics' in the American revolution; 7. 'The worthy against the licentious': the critical period in Pennsylvania; 8. 'The political rock of our salvation': The US Constitution according to John Dickinson; Epilogue: the persistence of Quaker constitutionalism, 1789–1963; Bibliography; Index.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)