Samuel Dick Goes Off in an Extraordinary Manner
Samuel Dick was a Physician and Military Surgeon during the Revolutionary War.
Dick was elected to the New Jersey Assembly and served in the Continental Congress.
In 1784, he was one of several men who left the Confederation Congress hastily as he had become fed up with the lack of ability to govern.
Today’s article is similar to one I wrote last November about Jonathan Blanchard because they were both involved in leaving Congress. It is also an important turning point in American History, so I thought it was worth revisiting.
The Congress of the States
During the time between sessions of the Congress of the Confederation, a smaller body was organized to keep the wheels of government moving.
This body was known as the Congress of the States and was made up of one delegate from each State in the Union.
In the summer of 1784, less than a year after the Treaty of Paris was signed, the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were already beginning to show.
This is when Samuel Dick packed up and rode home to New Jersey.
Before the Revolutionary War, Samuel Dick was a successful Physician.
Already a member of the New Jersey Militia, Dick joined the Continental Army when hostilities broke out. He served as a military surgeon during the Evacuation of Canada.
By 1777, Samuel left the army to serve in the New Jersey State Assembly. Additionally, he was chosen as a Customs Collector.
In 1784 Dick was sent to represent his State at the Confederation Congress.
While in Congress, governing had hit a standstill.
The Congress was barely able to get delegates from the necessary nine States needed to do any business. Additionally, when they did have nine States represented, they could not actually get anything done without unanimous consent. Since there were never representatives on hand from all thirteen States, governing became impossible.
Moreover, the Congress of the States (the temporary body mentioned above), only seemed to propose changing locations. The motion would be voted on and turned down, repeatedly.
Attending Congress had clearly become a waste of time.
Samuel Dick decided to leave, making what John Sullivan called ‘an extraordinary manner.’
To be fair, Samuel was not the only one to make an ‘extraordinary’ exit in mid-August of 1784. Francis Dana and Jonathan Blanchard had left earlier that morning. Dick just happened to ruin the quorum.
Many people were not happy with their decision, however. James Madison and Jacob Read both wrote to colleagues about their disappointment. Others, like John Sullivan, were a bit more understanding.
Effects on the Government
Dicks’s evacuation of Congress demonstrated a major problem with the Articles of Confederation. Namely, that just a few men could leave the Capitol and completely halt the government.
However, his leaving showed that there were bigger issues with the Articles. The main detraction was that the government had no way of forcing its delegates to show up.
Ever since the Revolutionary War had ended, few people found it necessary to attend their sessions of Congress. This meant that the Federal government was, in actuality, not a government at all.
It was in response to Samuel Dick’s departure that many Founders began debating way by which to make the United States government into a more respectable body. It would not be long before a group of men convened in Philadelphia to produce a new Constitution.
Do you want to learn about other obscure Founders from New Jersey?
Great! Try one of these stories:
Want to read my favorite book about the Constitution?
Since Samuel Dick does not have a biography, I figured this is a good opportunity to recommend one of the best books on the US Constitution.
Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same) .