State of Delaware

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Delaware in the American Revolution

American Revolution
Like the other middle colonies, the Lower Counties on the Delaware initially lacked much enthusiasm for a break with Great Britain. They had a good relationship with the Proprietary government, and generally were allowed more independence of action in their Colonial Assembly than other colonies. Nevertheless, there was strong objection to the seemingly arbitrary measures of Parliament, and it was well understood that the territory's very existence as a separate entity depended upon its keeping step with its powerful neighbors, especially Pennsylvania.

So it was that New Castle lawyer Thomas McKean denounced the Stamp Act in the strongest terms, and Kent County native John Dickinson, became the "Penman of the Revolution." Anticipating the Declaration of Independence, patriot leaders Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney convinced the Colonial Assembly to declare itself separated from British and Pennsylvania rule on June 15, 1776, but the person best representing Delaware's majority, George Read, could not bring himself to vote for a Declaration of Independence. Only the dramatic overnight ride of Caesar Rodney gave the delegation the votes needed to cast Delaware's vote for Independence. Once the Declaration was adopted, however, Read signed the document.

Initially led by John Haslet, Delaware provided one of the premier regiments in the Continental Army, known as the "Delaware Blues" and nicknamed the "Blue Hen Chickens." In August 1777 General Sir William Howe led a British army through Delaware on his way to a victory at the Battle of Brandywine and capture of the city of Philadelphia. The only real engagement on Delaware soil was fought on September 3, 1777, at Cooch's Bridge in New Castle County. It is believed to be the first time that the Stars and Stripes was flown in battle.

Following the Battle of Brandywine, Wilmington was occupied by the British, and State President John McKinly was taken prisoner. The British remained in control of the Delaware River for much of the rest of the war, disrupting commerce and providing encouragement to an active Loyalist portion of the population, particularly in Sussex County. Only the repeated military activities of State President Caesar Rodney was able to control them.

Following the American Revolution, statesmen from Delaware were among the leading proponents of a strong central United States government with equal representation for each state. Once the Connecticut Compromise was reached—creating a U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives—the leaders in Delaware were able to easily secure ratification of the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787, making Delaware the first state to do so.

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