On this day in 1784, Delaware Patriot Caesar Rodney dies.
Rodney is best remembered for his overnight ride from Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to cast the deciding vote for the Declaration of Independence in the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The image of Rodney on horseback riding for Philadelphia appears on the Delaware quarter, issued in 1999.
Rodney hailed from Kent County, one of the three lower counties of Pennsylvania that came to make up the state of Delaware on June 15, 1775, when the counties declared their independence from Britain and Pennsylvania. Rodney trained as a lawyer, but ran his family’s farm from age 17 to 27, following his father’s death. In 1755, he entered the political realm as sheriff of Kent County, followed by positions as register of wills, recorder of deeds, clerk of the Orphan’s Court and justice of the peace.
Although most Anglican residents of Kent County were strong supporters of British “Court Party” politics, Rodney sided with the predominately Scotch-Irish Presbyterian “Country Party” politicians of New Castle County and developed a lifelong allegiance with Thomas McKean against Court Party leaders John Dickinson and George Read. It was McKean who joined Rodney in the push to create a separate state of Delaware, and McKean issued the urgent summons for Rodney to ride to Philadelphia in order to negate Read’s vote against independence. Because Rodney did not represent the Loyalist inclinations rampant in Kent County, he promptly lost his seat in Congress after his vote became known to his constituency.
As the realities of war descended upon the people of Delaware following the occupation of Wilmington, they repented and not only sent Rodney back to the Continental Congress in October 1777, but also elected him as the president of Delaware the following March.