Caesar Rodney, A Truly Dandy Yankee Doodle

* The following writing came from a report I did many years ago titled “Caesar Rodney, A Truly Dandy Yankee Doodle”, about an obscure signer of the Declaration of Independence. Please excuse the length and any grammatical or formatting errors. I transferred it from hard copy using OCR software. *

Chapter 1 Family History and Early Life

Caesar Rodney's family history shows both English and Italian ancestors.

William Rodney was the grandfather of a signer of the Declaration of Independence named Caesar Rodney. William came to America in the early 1680's (probably about 1681) and settled in beautiful, lush, Kent county Delaware (near Dover) along the clear, blue waters of the Delaware River. In 1704 he became the speaker of the assembly for his area. He built up a considerably large plantation estate during his lifetime that was inherited by his son, Caesar. Caesar Rodney (father of the signer) married Elizabeth Crawford, the daughter of a minister named Reverend Thomas Crawford. Together they had a total eight children, the first of which was another Caesar Rodney. Caesar was born on October 2, 1728 in the family farm at about 11 P.M.

Caesar Rodney's Sr. died when he was only 16 and young Caesar was put under the guardianship of Nicholas Ridgley, the clerk of the peace in Kent County. Because he was the eldest son he mostly stayed home and helped his mother manage the family plantation. I am sure he also helped raise his seven other younger siblings as well. Young Caesar's guardian seems to have been the one that led him into public life. His Influence as a mentor certainly affected Caesar's attitude toward life and possibly the British.

Chapter 2 Education and Profession

Caesar Rodney never was a very well educated man. There are no records at all of him doing any advanced learning at a university or college. Without a doubt his parents were his first teachers and it is known that his Mother gave him a nice home schooling in their prosperous and well cultivated home. His parents may have very well sent him to the local parsons school where he could have learned his religion but until he was 14 years old he was sent to no formal school. It was when he was 14 that his parents sent him to Latin school in Philadelphia.

Nicholas Ridgely, the man I mentioned before, became Caesar Rodney's Guardian when his father died. As clerk of the peace in Kent County, Ridgely led young Caesar into public life. Caesar started out by being commissioned High Sheriff of Kent County in 1755 when he was only twenty- seven. For the next 29 years of his life Caesar Rodney was almost never without some public office or trust.

After being High Sheriff Caesar Rodney was elected to the office of Register of Wills then to Deputy Recorder of Deeds and then to Recorder Of Deeds]. Every so often he was also elected to the office of Clerk of the Orphans Court, Clerk of the Peace, or Justice of the Peace. The Delawarean patriot began his military career in 1756 during the beginning of the French and Indian War. He joined up with Colonel John Vining's and was named the official Captain of the Dover Hundred Company. However, his Company was never called into battle. Caesar Rodney achieved the rank of Brigadier General while serving In the Delaware militia during the Revolutionary War. At the same time he got this rank he was also serving as judge of the state's admiralty court. In early 1777 Rodney was named commander of the post at Trenton and forwarded troops to Morristown as fast as they came. Returning from Trenton, Caesar was named Major General of the Delaware Militia. This was the highest rank He attained. He served with this rank until March 31, 1778.

Because at that time the colonies were not united, anyone who would be called a Governor today would be called a President then. Caesar Rodney was "President" of Delaware from March 31, 1778 to November 6, 1781. He was the fourth President of Delaware and the first one to come from Kent County.

In 1758 at the age of thirty Rodney was elected as a delegate to the colonial legislature in New Castle. He served continuously for fifteen years at this post with the exception of the year 1771. For 4 of those years he was the official speaker

In 1765 Rodney was elected to the Stamp Act congress along with Thomas McKean. The two of them along with George Read were selected to create an address to the king. Later in that same year he was a Delaware delegate to the first and second Continental Congress along with McLean and Read. In 1766 he was name to the supreme court of Delaware and in the same year became a member of the Delaware Assembly. He served in the Assembly until the end of 1776 and for a lot of that time he was the speaker of that body. He was speaker when he tried unsuccessfully to stop the importation of slaves into Delaware. He was the speaker when in June of 1776 Delaware declared its independence from the British.

Chapter 3 A man, a ride, A VOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE!

In June of the year 1776 Caesar Rodney found that he needed to be in two places at once. On the 22 of that month Rodney had heard news of a threatened loyalist uprising and had hurried to Sussex County. Those stinking Tories were holding up Delaware's consent for Independence! Returning home he received an "express" message carried by a messenger on horseback. The message was from Thomas McKean who was in Philadelphia and it urged him to come immediately so as to vote for independence. Thomas was for it but George Read another delegate was against it and Rodney's vote was needed to break the tie. Caesar had hardly twelve hours to get there and vote or else there would be no free America.

It was rainy and steamy hot that early July 2 morning. Caesar Rodney supposedly received the message sometime late at night and started off at once. At the time Rodney was suffering from severe asthma and had a large, cancerous growth on his face. Plus, he was old. It was an eighty mile ride on horseback along forest sided dirt road most of which had turned to mud, he also had to clamor over rickety old bridges and storm across wet cobblestone streets in towns. The wind howling on his back, Caesar pushed onward. Before ten in the morning horrible rainstorms developed pouring down water from the darkened sky. Caesar rode on through Duck Creek, Blackbird, and Cantwell’s Bridge, past MoDonough mansion, St. George's, Red Lion, Tybouts Castle and on to New Castle. On through Wllmington he rode, then through Marcus Hook and Upland. Finally the grateful Caesar arrived in Philadelphia.

Rodney arrived during the afternoon of July second and came just in time to catch the last few minutes of the debate. Caesar was tired, wet, and covered with mud, but cleanliness is not a thing we judge the signers of the Declaration of Independence by and of course, he was there indeed by some work of god and was able to vote and a low free America to stand. We are not sure what Rodney said while he voted but he is supposed to have openly declared the following:

" 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."

Chapter 4 His Family and Daily Life

Caesar Rodney was never married therefore had no children. He lived in a place called "Popular Grove" which no longer stands. Popular grove was in the area of Moore's lake and was in Dover, Delaware. Caesar was a very busy man. In a typical day for him he might have three appointments and discuss many issues. To truly understand Mr. Rodney you need to imagine his world. All the streets were cobblestone and almost all of the roads were just dirt ruts and turned to mud in the rain. The basic forms of transportation were either on horseback or occasionally in a carriage. Caesar needed to get all over his area to get to meetings, which put a lot of strain on him because travel by horse was so slow. In a day he might check on his plantation and also vote on an issue he brought up himself. Sometimes for many days he would stay at one place for a specific reason, like voting for Independence for instance. Mr. Rodney suffered from a cancerous growth on his face that sucked away his energy and sometimes kept him from breathing. As he called it "that horrid and most obstinate disorder" seriously affected his health in his later years with the help of a serious case of asthma. He once wrote, " The doctor must conquer the cancer or the cancer will conquer me.... my constitution requires rest and my wish is to indulge it".

Chapter 5 A Great Man Dies

On June 26, 1784 at approximately seven 'o clock P.M. Caesar Rodney died on his farm. He was buried on his farm on June 28 of that year, but his grave went without a marker for over 100 years. In 1885 the chief justice of the time placed a small slab over his grave. In 1889 his remains were moved to Christ's church in Dover and a monument was erected. It is possible that the remains moved were actually those of a relative.

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