Rodney, Caesar Augustus (1772-1824) Attorney-General: Caesar Augustus Rodney was born in Dover, Delaware, on January 4, 1772. After graduating from what became the University of Pennsylvania in 1789, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1793. He established a practice in Wilmington, Delaware; and was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Democratic-Republican. Serving from 1803 to 1805, he was on the Ways and Means Committee, and was one of the managers of the impeachment of Judge Samuel Chase. President Jefferson appointed Rodney US Attorney-General in 1807, a position he held until his resignation in 1811. In the War of 1812, Rodney commanded a rifle corps in Wilmington, which later changed to a light artillery company. A member of the Delaware Committee of Safety; he ran unsuccessfully for Congress, but was elected to the state Senate in 1815. President Monroe sent Rodney to South America in 1817, as one of the commissioners to investigate and report on the appropriateness of the US' recognizing the independence of the former Spanish colonies. Upon his return, Rodney strongly advocated the recognition of those nations; and, in 1819, published "Reports on the Present State of the United Provinces of South America" with John Graham. In 1820, Rodney returned to the US House of Representatives; and became US Senator in 1822, Delaware's first Democratic-Republican Senator. He remained in the Senate until 1823, when he was appointed Minister to the United Provinces of La Plata. Rodney died on June 10, 1824, in Buenos Aires, in what became Argentina.
Caesar Augustus RODNEY, Congress, DE (1772-1824)
RODNEY Caesar Augustus , a Representative and a Senator from Delaware born in Dover, Del., January 4, 1772 completed preparatory studies and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1789 studied law admitted to the bar and began practice in Wilmington, Del., in 1793 member, State house of representatives 1796-1802 elected as a Democratic Republican to the Eighth Congress (March 4, 1803-March 3, 1805) was not a candidate for renomination in 1804 one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in January 1804 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against John Pickering, judge of the United States District Court for New Hampshire, and in December of the same year against Samuel Chase, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Attorney General of the United States in the Cabinet of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1807-1811, when he resigned served in the War of 1812 member of the Delaware Committee of Safety in 1813 member, State senate 1815-1816 was sent to South America by President James Monroe as one of the commissioners to investigate and report on the propriety of recognizing the independence of the Spanish-American Republics elected to the Seventeenth Congress and served from March 4, 1821, to January 24, 1822, when he resigned elected as a Democratic Republican to the United States Senate and served from January 24, 1822, to January 29, 1823, when he resigned appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Argentina in 1823, and served until his death in Buenos Aires, June 10, 1824 interment in British Cemetery, Victoria district reinterred, 1923, in British Cemetery, Charcarita district, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From John Adams to Caesar Augustus Rodney, 26 September 1818
I thank you for Permission to publish your former Letter.
In that Letter you allude to original Letters from Mr Otis which you have Seen, and which do him honour.
I dare not ask for those Original Letters, because If I possessed them myself, I would not part with them.
But if you will favour me with Copies you will greatly oblige me. I would hesitate at no Price for them.
I can never recollect the Character and History of Mr Otis, without a tenderness of Sentiment, that all my Stoical Phylosphy cannot conquer. One must have lived with him to have known him.
I wish, Sir, that I lived near you and that I could converse with you every day. You have lately travelled in the Country the most interesting as far as I know, in the World. I gaze with Awe and reverence on South America. And I have gazed for forty years. That all America will be torn from the Domination of Europe I have never doubted: but what will be the Effects and Consequences? Aye! theres the Rub. My Maxim is all Such Cases of incomprehensible difficulty, has always been “Stand Still and See, the Salvation of the Lord.”!
A free Government in South America would produce Revolutions in Religion and Government over the whole Globe: But what an hundred Despotisms would produce who can foresee? I am Sir your much obliged Friend
Attorney General: Caesar Augustus Rodney
Caesar Augustus Rodney was born in Dover, Delaware, on January 4, 1772. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1789, he studied law under Thomas B. McKean in Philadelphia and was admitted to the bar in 1793. He practiced law in Wilmington and New Castle for the next few years.
In 1796 he entered the Delaware House of Representatives. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1803 to 1805. A staunch supporter of Thomas Jefferson, he became his Attorney General on January 20, 1807, and continued in that post in Madison's administration. He resigned on December 5, 1811. During the War of 1812, he commanded a company of volunteers in defense of Baltimore. From 1821 to 1822 he was again a Representative in Congress from Delaware, and from 1822 to 1823 served as United States Senator. Rodney was appointed United States Minister to the Argentine Republic in 1823, where he died on June 10, 1824. He was buried in an English churchyard in Buenos Aires.
The artist was a native of Mercer, Pennsylvania. He travelled in France and England and spent eight years in Italy studying the "Old Masters." He is best known for his landscapes, specifically panoramas of Italy. Most of his life, however, was spent in Philadelphia. The portrait of Attorney General Rodney was painted, after an original by Bass Otis in 1870.
Caesar Augustus Rodney was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1772, the nephew of Caesar Rodney. In 1793, Rodney became a lawyer, and he served in the State House of Representatives from 1797 to 1802 and in the US House of Representatives from 1803 to 1805. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson named Rodney his Attorney General, serving until the end of Jefferson's term. However, he resigned in 1811 after being passed over for a US Supreme Court nomination, and he fought in the War of 1812. He returned to the US Congress as a US Senator from 1822 to 1823, and he died in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1824 while serving as ambassador.
Caesar Rodney was born in October 7, 1728 on his family's farm, "Byfield", on St. Jones Neck in East Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. Caesar was the eldest son of eight children of Caesar and Elizabeth Crawford Rodney and grandson of William Rodney. William Rodney emigrated to the American colonies in 1681–82, along with William Penn,  and was Speaker of the Colonial Assembly of the Delaware Counties in 1704.   Rodney's mother was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Crawford, Anglican rector of Christ Church at Dover.  Among the Rodney family ancestors were the prominent Adelmare family in Treviso, Italy,  as attested by genealogy studies.  Byfield was an 800-acre (320 ha) prosperous farm, worked by slaves. With the addition of other adjacent properties, the Rodneys were, by the standards of the day, wealthy members of the local gentry. The plantation grew to 1,000 acres, and was worked by 200 slaves (number disputed need verifiable source) At Rodney's death, he owned 15 slaves, which he freed on varying schedules due to age (source: Public Archives picture of Caesar Rodney's will) it earned sufficient income from the sale of wheat and barley to the Philadelphia and West Indies market to provide enough cash and leisure to allow members of the family to participate in the social and political life of Kent County. 
At the age of 17 and upon the death of his father in 1746, Caesar's guardianship was entrusted to Nicholas Ridgely by the Delaware Orphan's Court. 
Caesar was educated when he was 13 or 14 years old. He attended The Latin School, part of the Academy and the College of Philadelphia (now known as University of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  until his father's death.   Caesar was the only one of the Rodney children to receive anything approaching a formal education. 
Caesar was tormented throughout his life by asthma, and his adult years were plagued by a facial cancer. He experienced expensive, painful, and futile medical treatments on the cancer.  Caesar wore a green scarf to hide his disfigured face.  He died from the disease after eight years. 
Thomas Rodney described his brother at this time as having a "great fund of wit and humor of the pleasing kind, so that his conversation was always bright and strong and conducted by wisdom. "  He always lived a bachelor, was generally esteemed and was indeed very popular. We know he professed his love and affection for several Delaware ladies at various times, but was never a successful suitor.  Accordingly, he easily moved into the political world formerly occupied by his father and guardian. At age twenty-seven in 1755, he was elected Sheriff of Kent County and served the maximum three years allowed.  This was a powerful and financially rewarding position, in that it supervised elections and chose the grand jurors who set the county tax rate. After serving his three years, he was appointed to a series of positions including Register of Wills, Recorder of Deeds, Clerk of the Orphan's Court, Justice of the Peace, and judge in the lower courts. During the French and Indian War, he was commissioned captain of the Dover Hundred company in Col. John Vining's regiment of the Delaware militia.  They never saw active service. From 1769 through 1777, he was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Lower Counties.
Eighteenth-century Delaware was politically divided into loose factions known as the "Court Party" and the "Country Party."  The majority Court Party was generally Anglican, strongest in Kent and Sussex Counties, worked well with the colonial Proprietary government, and was in favor of reconciliation with the British government. The minority Country Party was largely Ulster-Scot, centered in New Castle County, and quickly advocated independence from the British. In spite of being members of the Anglican, Kent County gentry, Rodney and his brother, Thomas Rodney, increasingly aligned themselves with the Country Party, a distinct minority in Kent County.  As such, he generally worked in partnership with Thomas McKean from New Castle County and in opposition to George Read.
Rodney joined Thomas McKean as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and was a leader of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence.  He began his service in the Assembly of Delaware in the 1761/62 session and continued in office through the 1775/76 session. Several times he served as Speaker, including the momentous day of June 15, 1776 when "with Rodney in the chair and Thomas McKean leading the debate on the floor," the Assembly of Delaware voted to sever all ties with the British Parliament and King. 
Meanwhile, Rodney served in the Continental Congress along with Thomas McKean and George Read from 1774 through 1776.  Rodney was in Dover tending to Loyalist activity in Sussex County when he received word from Thomas McKean that he and Read were deadlocked on the vote for independence. To break the deadlock, Rodney rode 70 miles through a thunderstorm on the night of July 1, 1776, arriving in Philadelphia "in his boots and spurs" on July 2, just as the voting was beginning.  He voted with McKean and thereby allowed Delaware to join eleven other states in voting in favor of the resolution of independence. The wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved two days later Rodney signed it on August 2. Backlash in Delaware led to Rodney's electoral defeat in Kent County for a seat in the upcoming Delaware Constitutional Convention and the new Delaware General Assembly.  
John Haslet was perhaps the best soldier Delaware had to offer, and the next best soldier, his good friend Caesar Rodney. Upon learning about the death of Haslet at the Battle of Princeton, Rodney rushed to the Continental Army to try to fill his place. Haslet was succeeded as colonel by David Hall as Washington returned Rodney home to be Delaware's wartime governor and major-general of Delaware militia. The regiment Haslet had built remained among the finest in the Continental Army until it was virtually destroyed at the Battle of Camden in 1780.  Rodney, as major-general of the Delaware militia, protected the state from British military intrusions and controlled continued loyalist activity, particularly in Sussex County, site of the 1780 Black Camp Rebellion. The insurrectionists were mainly from Cedar Creek and Slaughter Neck Hundred, and their headquarters were in a swamp about six miles (10 km) north of Georgetown. Their leaders, Bartholomew Banynum (Banum) and William Dutton, had about 400 men formed in "Associations" or militia companies. An investigator reported the causes as follows: 'Some of these ignorant people were for opposing all law, others for establishing what they called the King's Laws – and others for opposing the payment of taxes – but generally seem to have believed that all to the southward of Chesapeake Bay had laid down their arms and submitted to the King's Laws – and that they should very easy make Sussex County do the same. 
Militia from Kent County dispersed the insurrectionists. Some were sent off to serve in the Continental Army, and thirty-seven were indicted for treason in the State Supreme Court. Eight were ordered to be hanged "by the neck but not till you be dead, for then your bowels must be taken out and burnt before your face, then your head must be severed from your body, and your body divided into four Quarters, and these must be at the disposal of the Supreme Authority in the State." This was the customary sentence for treason however, all the participants were pardoned by the General Assembly on November 4, 1780. 
Amidst the catastrophic events following the Battle of Brandywine, and the British occupation of Wilmington and Philadelphia, a new General Assembly was elected in October 1777. First, it promptly put Rodney and Thomas McKean back into the Continental Congress. Then, with State President John McKinly in captivity, and President George Read completely exhausted, they elected Rodney as President of Delaware on March 31, 1778. The office did not have the authority of a modern Governor in the United States, so Rodney's success came from his popularity with the General Assembly, where the real authority lay, and from the loyalty of the Delaware militia, which was the only means of enforcing that authority.
Meanwhile, Rodney scoured the state for money, supplies and soldiers to support the national war effort. Delaware Continentals had fought well in many battles from the Battle of Long Island to the Battle of Monmouth, but in 1780 the army suffered its worst defeat at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina. The regiment was nearly destroyed and the remnant was so reduced it could only fight with a Maryland regiment for the remainder of the war. Rodney had done much to stabilize the situation, but his health was worsening and he resigned his office on November 6, 1781, just after the conclusive Battle of Yorktown.
Rodney was elected by the Delaware General Assembly to the United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation in 1782 and 1783 but was unable to attend because of ill health. However, two years after leaving the State Presidency he was elected to the 1783/84 session of the Legislative Council and, as a final gesture of respect, the Council selected him to be their Speaker. His health was now in rapid decline and even though the Legislative Council met at his home for a short time, he died before the session ended. His body is buried at an unmarked grave on his beloved farm, "Poplar Grove" (known as "Byfield" today). While there is a marker that appears to be a gravestone for Caesar Rodney at Christ Episcopal Church, this is merely a monument. Many sources cite that he is buried there, however, most Delaware historians believe that the remains of one of Rodney's unidentified relatives is buried there instead.  Rodney actually is buried in an unmarked grave in his family's unmarked plot on their former 800-acre farm east of Dover Air Force Base. 
|Delaware General Assembly |
(sessions while President)
|Year||Assembly||Senate Majority||Speaker||House Majority||Speaker|
|1777/78||2nd||Non-partisan||George Read||Non-partisan||Samuel West|
|1778/79||3rd||Non-partisan||Thomas Collins||Non-partisan||Simon Kollock|
|1779/80||4th||Non-partisan||John Clowes||Non-partisan||Simon Kollock|
|1780/81||5th||Non-partisan||John Clowes||Non-partisan||Simon Kollock|
Elections were held October 1 and members of the General Assembly took office on October 20 or the following weekday. The State Legislative Council was created in 1776 and its Legislative Councilmen had a three-year term. State Assemblymen had a one-year term. The whole General Assembly chose the Continental Congressmen for a one-year term and the State President for a three-year term. The county sheriff also had a three-year term. Associate Justices of the state Supreme Court were also selected by the General Assembly for the life of the person appointed.
Bibliography / Further Reading
Carlton, Henry Fisk. Caesar Rodney's Ride. Edited by Claire T. Zyve. New York City: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University .
Frank, William and Harold Hancock. "Caesar Rodney's Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary: An Evaluation." Delaware History 18 (Fall-Winter 1976): 63-76.
Melchiore, Susan McCarthy. Caesar Rodney: American Patriot. . Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.
Rodney, Caesar. Letters To and From Caesar Rodney, 1756-1784. Edited by George Ryden. 1933. Reprint, New York: DaCapo Press, 1970.
[Ryden, George Herbert]. Biographical sketches of Caesar Rodney (the signer) Thomas Rodney and Caesar A. Rodney. [Dover, Del.: N.p., 1943].
Scott, Jane. A Gentleman as Well as a Whig: Caesar Rodney and the American Revolution. National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Delaware. Newark: University of Delaware Press London: Associated University Presses, 2000.
High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00922 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Quincy Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 26 September 1818 Pagination: 1 p. 26 x 20 cm.
re: revolutions in South America, mentions memories of James Otis. Rodney had just returned from South America
Quincy Sept. 26 1818
I thank you for Permission to publish your former Letter.
In that Letter you allude to original Letters from Mr. Otis which
you have Seen, and which do him honour.
I dare not ask for those Original Letters, because If I possessed them myself, I would not part with them,
But if you will favour me with Copies you will greatly oblige me. I would hesitate at no Price for them.
I can never recollect the Character and History of Mr. Otis, Without a tenderness of Sentiment, that all my Stoical Phylosphy cannot conquer. One must have lived with him to have known him.
I wish, Sir, that I lived near you and that I could converse with you every day. You have lately travelled in the Country the most interesting as far as I know, in the World. I gaze with Awe and reverence on South America. And I have gazed for forty years. That all America will be torn from the Domination of Europe I have never doubted: but what will be the Effects and Consequences? Aye! theres the Rub. My Maxim in all Such Cases of incomprehensible difficulty, has always been "Stand Still and See, the Salvation of the Lord"!
A free Government in South America would produce Revolutions in Religion and Government over the whole Globe: But what an hundred Despotisms would produce who can foresee? I am Sir your much obliged Friend.
C. A. Rodney Esq.
Caesar Who? The Founding Father You've Probably Never Heard Of
He was a founding father, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an American hero𠅋ut most have probably not heard of Caesar Rodney or his dramatic 18-hour midnight horseback ride to Philadelphia to cast a critical, deciding vote in favor of separating from Great Britain.
One reason most may not know the Delaware delegate’s name could have to do with his face. Rodney suffered from a facial deformity, likely caused by a cancer, that he obscured with a green scarf or handkerchief. This could explain why there are very few portraits of Rodney𠅌ontributing to his lack of notoriety.
Despite his obscurity, Rodney played a critical role during the second Continental Congress meeting in 1776 at what is now Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Initially, Delaware’s two attending delegates were split in their votes of whether to declare independence from Great Britain, with George Read against separating, and Thomas McKean in favor. According to Jonathan S. Russ, a historian at the University of Delaware, Rodney was home tending to his own business affairs and the state militia when he received word of the tie vote.
“He then famously rode 80 miles toward Philadelphia, through a thunderstorm, entered into the convention and broke that deadlock, casting his vote in favor of Delaware declaring its independence from Great Britain with the other colonies,” Russ says.
Delegates Thomas McKeen and Caesar Rodney arriving at Independence Hall to vote for independence. (Credit: Herbert Orth/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Leigh Rifenburg, chief curator for the Delaware Historical Society, says Rodney was exhausted and ill, but his breaking of the tie was crucial, placing the colony firmly on the side of independence. spite the risks, all three delegates later signed the Declaration of Independence. Paul Revere’s ride is better known, but Rodney’s ride had the greater impact on the future of the colonies that would become free and independent states.”
A planter by trade, Rodney was an enslaver and held about 200 people on his plantation at the time of his death. His vote made the Congress’s decision to declare independence unanimous. laware was not a place of great political grandstanding at the time,” Russ says. “If anything, Rodney was pragmatic for a man of his day and felt that he had long been involved in Delaware governance and that the time had come for independence.”
Rodney, who served as an assemblyman, delegate and state president, was also a critical part of the supply effort for the American Revolution cause, getting supplies up and down the peninsula, according to Mike DiPaolo, executive director of the Lewes Historical Society in Lewes, Delaware. “We often forget about the logistical elements in war he may not have led people into battle but he kept them fed,” he says.
Rodney could not be characterized as a particularly fiery patriot in the way that John Adams, Richard Henry Lee and others were, but Rifenburg notes that Rodney worked quietly and steadily on the ground for the cause of independence. “He held countless public offices, served as Brigadier General of the Delaware Militia and often paid for troop supplies from his own pocket when they were not supplied by Congress,” she says. “He kept up an active correspondence with George Washington, whose letters reflect a great deal of respect for Rodney and his work.”
Statue of Caesar Rodney on his steed, created in 1922 by James Edward Kelly, in Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware. In June 2020, during national protests over racial injustice, the statue was removed and placed in storage. (Credit: M.Torres/Getty Images)
John Adams, according to the nonprofit Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, once described Rodney (who never married) as “…the oddest looking man in the world he is tall, thin and slender as a reed, pale his face is not bigger than a large apple, yet there is sense and fire, spirit, wit and humor in this countenance.”
Rodney, Russo says, tried to cover the facial mass as well as possible, 𠇋ut in so doing drew just as much attention to himself.” Among the most prominent representations of Rodney is a monument of the founding father on horseback that resides in Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware. Made more than a century after his 1784 death, the likeness was used on the 1999 Delaware state quarter.
𠇊nd, of course, everyone asked, ‘Why did Delaware put Paul Revere on its quarter?’” DiPaolo says. “There’s obviously a big disconnect—when there’s no representations of you and you come from a small state, despite the magnitude of what you did, sometimes it’s easy for your story to be lost amongst the larger players.”
In June 2020, during widespread protests over racial injustice, Wilmington, Delaware Rodney&aposs statue was removed and placed in storage. "We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be," Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a news release, "but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize,”
Rodney returned to the United State where he was elected to his second term in the House of Representatives…nearly twenty years after his first!
After serving just one year in the House, he was chosen for the United States Senate.
Again, Caesar only spent one year in this position. He resigned after President James Monroe appointed him as the first United States Minister to Argentina.
Unfortunately, Rodney passed away shortly after arriving in Argentina. He was buried, and remains, there, far away from the home he knew for most of his life.
If you would like to read about more Founders who were sent on diplomatic missions to often overlooked locations, check out my articles on Ralph Izard, Joel Barlow and Francis Dana.
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