Rodney, 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.
The heroic ride for which Rodney is best known took place 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.
received McKean’s message on the evening of July 1. He left Dover
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.
Caesar Rodney never married. There is no portrait of him.