Monday, April 16, 2012

Caesar Rodney

Those of you living in Delaware are, no doubt, well aware of Caesar Rodney and his contribution to our country.  If not for Rodney's sacrifice, we might not be living in the United States of America. 

Caesar Rodney began his life of public service at the age of 22 when he was commissioned as High Sheriff of Kent County Delaware.  His duties grew over the next few years to include registrar of wills, recorder of deeds, clerk of the orphans court, and justice of the peace.  By age 30 he was elected as representative in the colonial legislature, a position he held for some 20 years.

He was a delegate to the Continental congress along with two other Delaware delegates.  These men knew the Declaration of Independence would have to be ratified by all thirteen colonies.  The other two Delaware delegates were deadlocked in disagreement and Caesar Rodney, was not in Philadelphia at the time.  He was traveling around Delaware gaining support for the Declaration and preparing the people of Delaware for a new government. 

Rodney had booked passage on a ship for England to have surgery for a deadly form of skin cancer on his face, when he received word that he was needed in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence.  He missed the surgery in order to sign the Declaration and rode hard through inclement weather to reach Philadelphia in time.   When Rodney signed, the other two delegates agreed to sign the Declaration, making it unanimous.

In 1778, he was elected as President of the State of Delaware, This was a three year term which he served at the same time he was Major-General of the Delaware Militia.  Delaware had a record of meeting or exceeding their quota of troops and provisions throughout the Revolutionary War.  The Continental Army operated on scant supplies for much of the war, but thanks to Caesar Rodney, Delaware did its part. 

Rodney saw his colony through the war at the cost of personal neglect.   He was elected to the National Congress in 1892, but was forced to decline the position for health reasons.  He continued to serve as Speaker of the House of the Upper Delaware Assembly until his death in office in 1784.     

Caesar Rodney is commemorated on the Delaware State coin, riding his horse to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence.