That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish!
Caesar Rodney (1728-1784),
best known for his heroic ride for independence in 1776, played an active and important role in Delaware politics for over twenty-five years. A wealthy gentleman farmer from Kent County, he held many political and governmental offices beginning in 1755.
He was first elected to the Delaware Assembly in 1758 and served
continuously from 1761 to 1776, except for 1771. He was elected speaker of
the Assembly in 1769, 1773, 1774, and 1775.
He took a leading role in events leading up to the American Revolution,
always promoting the rights of American colonists against British
policies. In 1765 he served as one of Delaware’s delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York.
In the summer of 1774, as speaker of the Assembly, Rodney took the
extra-legal step of calling the Assembly into special session.
At that session, he was elected one of Delaware’s delegates to
the First Continental Congress.
He was later elected to the Second Continental Congress.
Rodney’s belief in the American position, combined with England’s increasingly hard-line stance,
led him to believe that independence was the only answer for the American colonies.
In all of this, Rodney and the others involved were taking a great risk, for they did not know whether they would succeed.
Rodney’s heroic ride came on the night of July 1-2, 1776.
After the resolution for independence was introduced in Congress in June, Rodney returned home to Dover.
When fellow delegate Thomas McKean learned that a vote on independence was about to take place, he sent an express messenger to Rodney. Rodney’s presence was vital. In the Continental Congress each colony had one vote based on the votes of its individual delegates. Delaware had two other representatives. Thomas McKean would vote for independence, George Read would vote against it. Those votes would cancel each other out, leaving Delaware without a vote unless Caesar Rodney was present to vote for independence.
Rodney received McKean’s message on the evening of July 1, he left Dover immediately for Philadelphia. It is not known whether he rode a horse or took a carriage, the exact route he took, or how long the journey lasted.
Rodney arrived in Philadelphia on the afternoon of July 2, just in time cast his vote. Because of Caesar Rodney’s heroic ride, Delaware voted for independence in 1776.
After this, Caesar Rodney was briefly out of political power.
In March 1778 he was elected president (governor) of Delaware.
He held that post until November 1781.
After that, he lived quietly until his death.