“Dickinson was, in truth,” writes William Murchison,
as much philosopher as writer, a man to whom God had imparted the gifts not merely of expression but also of examination and reflection. Among the large fraternity active in the cause of independence, he gave place, intellectually, to no one.
That being indisputably the case, Dickinson’s inclusion in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Lives of the Founders (really, Lives of the Forgotten Founders) can be explained only by his refusal to affix his signature to the Declaration of Independence, which he had done much to bring about. This admirable biography, just the third on Dickinson written in the 206 years since his death in 1808, gives us a clearer vision of the “Founders” as “conservers.”
Murchison writes, “Balance—‘an animated moderation’ [a phrase from Dickinson’s Letters of Fabius]—was the vital ingredient in the constitutional recipe.” Used here in the Aristotelian and Burkean sense, Murchison’s (correct) view of Dickinson’s entire career is that “recklessness in behavior never commended itself to an advocate of prudence.” Dickinson was, Murchison believes (following and agreeing with his fellow Texans M.E. Bradford and Forrest McDonald), an “American Burke”: