Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DICKINS, John, clergyman, born in London, England, 24 August 1747; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 September 1798. He received a good education, partly at Eton, and came to this country before the Revolution. He united with the Methodist Church in Virginia in 1774, and in 1776 preached there as an evangelist, was admitted into the itinerant ministry in 1777, and labored in North Carolina. In 1780 he suggested to his intimate friend, Bishop Asbury, the plan of Cokesbury College, New Abingdon, Maryland, the first Methodist academic institution in this country. He was in New York City in 1783'5 and 1786'9, and in 1789 removed to Philadelphia, where he published a Methodist hymnbook, printing a large part of it with his own hands. Shortly afterward the conference assumed the publication, and appointed him book steward, and in this office he founded the Methodist book concern. He issued the "'Arminian Magazine" in Philadelphia in 1789'90, and the "Methodist Magazine" from 1797 till his death. Mr. Dickins was the first American preacher to receive Thomas Coke and approve his scheme for organizing the Methodist denomination. He was a member of the "Christmas conference" of 1784, and suggested the name "Methodist Episcopal Church," which it adopted. During the yellow fever epidemics of 1793, 1797, and 1798, he remained at his post in Philadelphia, and in the last year fell a victim to the disease. Mr. Dickins was a powerful preacher and one of the best scholars of his Church at the time of his ministry. A sermon in his memory was delivered by the Rev. Ezekiel Cooper and afterward published (Philadelphia, 1799). See also John Atkinson's " Centennial History of American Methodism" (New York, 1884).His son, Asbury, secretary of the U S. senate, born in North Carolina, 29 July 1780 ; died in Washington, 23 October 1861, passed his early life in Philadelphia, and afterward spent several years in Europe. In 1801 he was associated with Joseph Dennie in founding the "Port Folio" at Philadelphia. He was a clerk in the treasury department under Secretary Crawford from 1816 till 1833, and while there composed and read Secretary Crawford's successful vindication of himself against the charges preferred by Ninian Edwards, then minister to Mexico. He was chief clerk of the state department in 1833'6, and became secretary of the United States senate in 1836, an office that he retained until 1861. He published an oration on Washington (Philadelphia. 1800; New York. 1825).
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