Brigadier General Caesar Rodney commanded the Delaware militia during the American Revolution. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence who would go on to be President of Delaware from December, 1777, to November, 1781.
Like Paul Revere, Caesar Rodney is famous for a midnight ride. Rodney’s ride ended up at the doorstep of Independence Hall where he cast the decisive Delaware vote for Independence. On June 30, a motion for Independence had been put forward with nine colonies voting for independence, two voting against, New York abstaining while the Delaware delegates had split their vote. Delaware delegate Thomas McKean was in favor of independence, while George Read voted against. Rodney, also a delegate from Delaware was absent during this vote. While there was technically enough support to carry the motion, the Continental Congress didn’t want to go forward and declare independence without unanimous support. His famous ride of 80 miles at night and during a thunderstorm helped to change the course of history.
Rodney had been away from Congress because of his role as a Brigadier General in the Delaware militia. He was forced back to Delaware to squelch a Loyalist riot. When Rodney got word that his vote for independence was desperately needed in Congress, Rodney rode all night through a thunderstorm. He covered 80 miles and arrived at Independence Hall’s doorstep in time to cast his decisive vote. Years later Thomas McKean remembered meeting Rodney at the door “in his boots and spurs.” Rodney’s vote decided the matter. Delaware was going to war.
John Adams described Rodney as “…the oddest looking man in the world; he is tall, thin and slender as a reed, pale; his face is not bigger than a large apple, yet there is sense and fire, spirit, wit and humor in this countenance.” It was not an appearance to quicken the heart of a woman, however, and it is said that Rodney remained a bachelor because Molly Vining, the woman he loved, married a rector — and soon after died. Caesar Rodney died a few months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the official end of the American Revolution. He lived to see his dream of a new and free country come to fruition.
“Now one was either Tory or Whig; it was either dependence or independence.”