The Midnight Ride of Caesar Rodney
Caesar Rodney is a name seldom heard outside of his home State of Delaware.
He was, however, the most important person to arrive at the Pennsylvania State House to vote for the Declaration of Independence. Not because of who he was, but because of when he arrived.
This is the most important midnight ride of the American Revolutions...sorry Paul Revere.
July 1, 1776
Caesar Rodney was working to build Patriot support in his home state of Delaware when he received word a vote was being taken the next day.
Delaware’s two delegates in Philadelphia were split: Thomas McKean for, George Read against. Rodney was the deciding vote.
Caesar Rodney knew his country depended on him. He had to arrive in Philadelphia by morning.
Rodney rode hard through the night. The hot summer air gave way to a violent thunderstorm.
Adding to the arduousness of his journey, Caesar’s sight was hindered by green scarf he wore over half of his face. He’d developed a cancerous tumor which hindered his site. The sash was to hide his affliction.
Rodney traveled 80 miles that night. Through darkness. Through storm.
July 2, 1776
The Continental Congress called their meeting to order.
The vote on the floor? Declaring independence.
They began in the North.
The doors open.
Caesar Rodney enters the room, sleepless and dirty. He walks to Delaware’s table at the center of the room and sits down.
The voting continues.
When Delaware is called upon, Rodney votes for independence.
The resolution passes.
America is born.
While Rodney’s journey is a great show of dedication to the Patriot Cause, it actually carries quite a bit of importance to the vote itself.
Many of the Southern States (and specifically, South Carolina) were still hesitant to separate from Great Britain. After all, they were committing high treason. They would need the vote to be unanimous, and Rodney’s presence made that possible.
Additionally, the leaders of the Continental Congress knew that a united show of force was necessary to win the country respect in the eyes of the people and of foreign nations. Rodney, having made the vote unanimous, gave those leaders (John Adams and Benjamin Franklin) the confederated whole they needed.
Caesar Rodney would go on to be President (Governor) of Delaware for three years. At the same time, he was in charge of the entire State’s militia.
While Rodney lived to see his country win the American Revolution, he would succumb to the cancer just eight years after his midnight ride.
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If you'd like to learn more about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, I recommend 'Signing Their Lives Away.' It is full of short, fun biographies of the men who signed America's Founding Document. The link below takes you to Amazon where your purchase will support this site at no additional cost.