In many situations it comes down to one person to save the day. The American Revolution is no exception. Whether it’s a midnight ride to cast a tie breaking vote or personally funding troops with needed equipment, one’s character and work ethic will show through the centuries. One such influential, yet unsung patriot was Caesar Rodney.
Caesar Rodney was born near Dover, Delaware on October 7, 1728. Throughout his life he held many positions as a public servant including solider, general, and judge, sheriff, and captain in the militia, he was a member of the first and second continental congresses, committee of correspondence, stamp act congress, council of safety, and Delaware’s supreme court, he signed the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, and helped draft the Articles of Confederation. He was also governor of Delaware. Any one of these positions could have been a full-time job. Caesar Rodney is said to have held, at one point or another, almost every significant public office. His dedication and unwavering work ethic is a great example to us all.
Caesar Rodney would have already made his mark on America, but his greatest legacy was his midnight ride for independence. In June of 1776, the discussion of independence was well under way. The decision had to be unanimous, but Delaware was divided on the issue. Thomas McKean was for independence and George Read was against it, that left the deciding vote up to Rodney who was at the time in Delaware dealing with the militia and his frail health. After receiving word from McKean on July 1st, he traveled over 80 miles to Philadelphia, through terrible thunderstorms. The trip could have easily been fatal for Rodney due to his severe asthma and cancer. Thankfully, he arrived at independence hall just in time to cast his vote for independence. If it wasn’t for Caesar Rodney the declaration wouldn’t have been accepted at that meeting. If our independence wasn’t declared at that point, it is fair to ask if it ever would have been.
How much easier would it have been for him to have stayed in Delaware and miss the vote? Or for him to say they don’t need me, they’ll figure it out. If he had even waited till the morning to leave he would have missed the vote by a day and we could be paying the consequences 242 years later. But, instead without regard to personal health and safety he put his country, our country, first.
Rodney had suffered from disfiguring facial cancer and severe asthma. The cancer could have been removed in England, but because he had devoted his life to the new nation, they would have sooner removed his head than removed the cancer. Sadly, he never saw the end of the war for which he sacrificed so much. Caesar Rodney died in June, 1782.
Rodney was able to make a huge impact on Delaware and this country despite many obstacles. Like Thomas Jefferson said, “nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Maybe that is one of the problems today - people have the wrong mental attitude. They think that society owes them everything when in fact it owes us nothing. We have to work to make a living, we have to work to get ahead, and we have to work to preserve our freedoms.
Charles A. Goodrich wrote in his 1831 book, The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration, "It would be unnecessary, were it in our power, to add anything further on the character of Mr. Rodney. He was… a man of great integrity, and of pure patriotic feeling. He delighted, when necessary, to sacrifice his private interests for the public good…” That is what we need today, men to who’s character we have nothing to add. But, somehow today Caesar Rodney is remembered only on a few memorials in Delaware, on the 1999 Delaware quarter, and in the minds of a few patriotic people - which of course includes all of us.
We have no idea what this country will be like 242 years from now and what our effect will be. But in this country, we have the privilege to exercise our vote and so influence history. All it takes is one vote to make the difference. One of the lessens men like Caesar Rodney leave us is to do everything we do, no matter what it is, whole heartedly. In our home, in our job, and in our protection of the American way, our character, and our perseverance will show. What we do today in our stand for freedom may end up making the difference between our greatgrandchildren being Americans or citizens of some new nation. After all, freedom is only ever one generation from being lost. Let our generation do everything we can to preserve it.