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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The "Midnight Ride Of ... Caesar Rodney" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Trying to remember how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, "Paul Revere's Ride" went.  Remember how it started?  Listen, my children, and you shall hear, Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.  Yeah, that's how it goes.  Well, I guess we could change some of the words and dates and still have an American hero the subject of the poem.  
Caesar Rodney, United States Patriot
For, you see, a patriot by the name of Caesar Rodney did much the same as Paul Revere did years ago.  Never heard of Caesar Rodney?  Me neither, until someone sent me an email with a story attached  about Mr. Rodney.  Caesar was born on his father's farm near Dover, Delaware in October of 1728.  Eventually he was commissioned High Sheriff of Kent County, Delaware at the age of twenty-two.  Eight years later he was elected a representative in the colonial legislature at Newcastle and then, after that position was dissolved in 1776, as a representative to the Upper House of the State of Delaware.  
Statue in Wilmington, Deleware
He was a member of the Stamp Act Congress, a member of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence, a military leader in the militia and a delegate to the Continental Congress from formation until 1777 when he was elected President of the State of Delaware.  Through much of this his health was a big issue.  He suffered from asthma as well as from a cancerous growth on his face for which he never attained proper treatment.  His colony's health was more important to him than his own it seemed.  Just like Paul Revere, Ceasar Rodney would make a famous midnight ride that would lead to our nation's independence.  His famous ride wasn't as famous and as impressive as Paul Revere's ride, but it was still as dramatic and important in the history of the United States.  
1999 Delaware Quarter
On July 1, 1776 government delegates reconvened in Philadel- phia's Indepen- dence Hall to endorse Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Indepen- dence.  Mr. Rodney, due to his health, was not in attendance, thinking the other two delegates from Delaware would vote to endorse it.  One of the Delaware delegates changed his mind and voted against it, leaving what should have been a three man delegation, tied 1-1.  Since Congress wanted to have a unanimous decision from all the states, they decided to schedule a second and final vote the next day.  
Another view of the statue at sunset. Photographer unknown.
Thomas McKean, the one Delaware delegate who voted for the declaration, immed- iately dispatched a courier to fetch Rodney so they would have a 2-1 vote.  At midnight Rodney, ill with cancer, embarked on his 80-mile journey to Philadelphia.  Now, at this point I have found varying descriptions of how Caesar Rodney made his way to Philadelphia.  One version tells of him riding his horse while others, including a version told by his brother, tell of his journey by horse and carriage.  
Another statue of Caesar Rodney.
The trip took over 14 hours in heavy rain, crossing no less than 15 waterways by bridge, ferry or ford.  He made it in time and on the afternoon of July 2, exhausted and sick, broke the tie and preserved the unanimous march toward independence, ending in the signing of Jefferson's declaration.  Thirty years later, Thomas McKean would describe how Caesar Rodney, who became president of Delaware before dying at the age of 56 in 1784, stood that day in Independence Hall and cast his vote, declaring:  As I believe the voice of my constituents and all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence and my own judgment concurs with them, I vote for independence.  Caesar Rodney was a real patriot who is depicted, incorrectly, riding a horse in front of Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware.  Not only is the depiction incorrect, but the date on the statue is incorrect.  Makes you wonder if the date of Paul Revere's ride on his statue in Boston is correct.  Anyway, you now know of the two midnight rides that made history.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

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