Forgotten Founding Fathers: Caesar Rodney

Caesar Rodney: Defender of Delaware

Caesar Rodney (1728-1784) of Delaware was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and Second Continental Congress and later served as president of Delaware.

Caesar Rodney: Defender of Delaware

Caesar Rodney (1728-1784) of Delaware was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and Second Continental Congress and later served as president of Delaware.

Rodney's career started as a lawyer and sheriff, and he also served as a captain for the British in the French and Indian War. In 1765, he was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and became leader of Delaware's Committee of Correspondence. Like most who opposed Parliament's taxes, Rodney remained loyal to the King and Britain at this time but was annoyed by Parliament's increased infringements on the colonists' liberty: "If our fellow-subjects of Great Britain, who derive no authority from us, who cannot in our humble opinion represent us, and to whom we will not yield in loyalty and affection to your majesty, can at their will and pleasure, of right, give and grant away our property; if they enforce an implicit obedience to every order or act of theirs for that purpose, and deprive all, or any of the assemblies on this continent, of the power of legislation, for differing with them in opinion in matters which intimately affect their rights and interests, and every thing that is dear and valuable to Englishmen, we cannot imagine a case more miserable; we cannot think that we shall have even the shadow of liberty left."

Rodney was speaker of the Assembly of the Lower Counties, of Kent, Sussex and New Castle (which Delaware was referred to before achieving independent statehood from Pennsylvania) when it declared on June 15, 1775, a month after Lexington and Concord, that all relationships with Great Britain and the King be severed. Rodney later wrote, "No one was either Tory or Whig; it was either dependence or independence." Because of his military experience, Rodney was named brigadier general of Delaware's militia.

Rodney is best known for his 80-mile ride on horseback in a thunderstorm on the night of July 1, 1776, from Dover to Philadelphia so he could break the tie between Delaware's two delegates, Thomas McKean and George Read, over ratifying the Declaration of Independence; McKean supported it, and Read did not. Rodney's tiebreaking vote ensured Delaware's support of the declaration. He supposedly said casting his vote, "As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my own judgment concurs with them. I vote for independence."

American losses at Brandywine and Philadelphia, as well as growing Tory sentiment in Delaware, helped Rodney get elected president of Delaware in 1778 because of his military experience and popularity among state politicians. He was able to settle most of the tension in the state when he left office three years later due to poor health.

Several schools and buildings in Delaware are named for Rodney, and the Delaware Statehood Quarter features Rodney on horseback, a tribute to his critical and difficult ride to the Second Continental Congress.

To see the whole series, click "Forgotten Founding Fathers"!

Tags: forgotten founding fathers, founding fathers, revolution (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Re: Forgotten Founding Fathers: Caesar Rodney

If you've ever seen the musical 1776, you won't forget him.

by Anthony de Jesus 2006-07-03 01:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgotten Founding Fathers: Caesar Rodney

That's what someone on Kos said. Glad to hear good ol' Caesar hasn't been forgotten!

by mkfox 2006-07-03 11:06AM | 0 recs

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