Caesar Rodney, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Dover, Delaware, in 1730. He had English ancestry as his grandfather emigrated from England soon after William Penn and the Quakers settled in Pennsylvania in 1681. The grandfather spent a short period of time in Philadelphia and then settled on a plantation in Kent County on the Delaware River. Due to his activity and popularity, he held many honorable and distinctive offices in the county. He had several sons, but only his youngest son, Caesar, survived. Caesar married the daughter of a respected clergyman; he preferred a more quiet life and chose to concentrate on domestic life and training his children. Their oldest son was named Caesar after his father and is the subject of this post.
Caesar inherited the family estate upon the death of his father as well as the considerable family respect. He began his public service sometime before 1762 when he is mentioned in the records of the Delaware Legislature.
Rodney was boldly opposed to the provisions of the Stamp Act. He was so open and bold in his thoughts and words that he was selected as one of three delegates to the "Stamp Act Congress" held in New York in 1765. He was elected as a member of the Delaware Assembly in 1769 and was chosen as Speaker of that body. He remained in the position of Speaker until 1774 as well as chairman of the corresponding committee. He was elected as a Delaware delegate to the General Congress in August 1774 and was seated on September 5. The three delegates from Delaware - Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean and George Read - were very active and devoted to the cause of liberty. Caesar was a member of a committee assigned to write a Declaration of Rights; he also gave a speech about the colonists' causes for complaints.
Caesar was again elected as a delegate in 1775; while serving in Congress he was appointed as the Brigadier General for Delaware. Even though the new appointment brought heavy additional responsibilities, he continued to serve well in Congress. Whether he was at home or in Congress, he was working hard for the public good. He was at home during the closing arguments about the proposed Declaration of Independence in 1776 when McKean sent for him to return to Congress; McKean was anxious to have Caesar there to help carry the Delaware vote for independence. Caesar arrived just in time for the vote for independence and to sign the document.
The people of Delaware called for a convention in the fall of 1776 to write a State Constitution as well as to elect delegates to the next General Congress. Due to the numbers of Tory members at the convention, neither Rodney nor McKean was re-elected. Rodney was not deterred and used his additional time and efforts in writing correspondence as well as to care for his private affairs.
After Colonel Haslet of General Rodney's brigade was killed in 1777 in the battle of Princeton, General Rodney started for Philadelphia. He received orders to stay in Princeton where he spent two months recruiting more soldiers.
Soon after he returned home, Caesar received an appointment to the Supreme Court, but he declined the offer in order to lead a more active life in the military. After serving in several military operations, he was again elected to the General Congress. He declined to serve in the Congress due to great political agitation in his home state. He was elected as President of Delaware and performed the heavy duties of that office for four years.
Rodney had cancer in his cheek from the time of his youth that only became worse from the stress of his public duties. He felt that he was wasting away and retired from public life. He died in the fifty-third year of his life in early 1783.
Facts are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 133-136.
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