The Horse Ride That Changed|
the Course of American History
I feel it is safe to say that most Americans over the age of 12 have at least heard of the famous ride that Patriot Paul Revere took in April 1775 to announce the British are coming. History has made him a hero of the American Revolution. However, there was another Patriot in Colonial times that made a ride even more heroic. Caesar Rodney made this ride on July 1-2, 1776.
Caesar Rodney took a leading role in events leading up to the American Revolution, always promoting the rights of American colonists against British policies. In 1765 he served as one of Delawares delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York. In the summer of 1774, as speaker of the Assembly, Rodney took the extra-legal step of calling the Assembly into special session. At that session, he was elected one of Delawares delegates to the First Continental Congress. He was later elected to the Second Continental Congress.
Rodneys belief in the American position, combined with Englands increasingly hard-line stance, led him to believe that independence was the only answer for the American colonies. In all of this, Rodney and the others involved were taking a great risk, for they did not know whether they would succeed. A vote was taken the morning of July 1 if the colonies should declare independence from British control. South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it, Delaware's delegates were evenly divided, while New York abstained. Edward Rutledge, a delegate from South Carolina, "then requested the determination might be put off to the next day." After this vote, Thomas McKean sent by express courier a message to Rodney requesting his immediate presence to break the vote. In the Continental Congress each colony had one vote based on the votes of its individual delegates. Delaware had two other representatives. Thomas McKean would vote for independence, George Read would vote against it. Those votes would cancel each other out, leaving Delaware without a vote unless Caesar Rodney was present to vote for independence.
Rodney received McKeans message on the evening of July 1. Although he was sick from
a cancerous affliction which deformed one side of his face and his physician advised
Rodney that he was on his death bed, he left Dover immediately. Suffering from his
illness, he nevertheless got up from his death bed and dressed himself. Then he
mounted a horse, dashing away in the mud and rain and rode the 80 miles through a
storm and arrived just in time for the calling of the Delaware vote. He voted yes.
Once Delaware voted yes, Pennsylvania and South Carolina changed their minds and voted yes. New York followed the next day and voted yes. This made it unanimous. If Caesar Rodney had not made the ride and thus able to cast a vote, who knows how long it would have been - if ever - before the new colonies gained their independence from Great Britain.
After the ride, Caesar Rodney';s health improved but he was briefly out of political power. In March 1778 he was elected president (governor) of Delaware. He held that post until November 1781. After that, he lived quietly until his death in 1784.