A BOYHOOD HAUNT OF CAESAR RODNEY, THE SIGNER
On the Green in Dover, Delaware, is one of the most striking houses of the quaint old townthe Ridgely house. The date of its erection is not certain, but it is an interesting fact that on one of the bricks is the date 1728. Originally there were but two rooms in the house; subsequent enlargements have been so harmonious that one who sees the place from the Green must pause to admire. Admiration turns to delight when the interior of the house is examined. The old-fashioned garden at the rear intensifies delight.
Dr. Charles Greenburg Ridgely became owner of the property in 1769. The house was a gift from his father, Nicholas Ridgely. The second of the wives who lived here with Dr. Ridgely was Ann, the daughter of Squire William Moore of Moore Hall, near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, whose determined advocacy of armed preparation for defence against a threatened Indian attack once aroused the indignation of the Pennsylvania Assembly, most of whose members were Friends.
The Ridgely house was famous throughout Delaware as the resort of patriots. Dr. Ridgely was six times a member of the Provincial Assembly, and was also an active member of the Constitutional Convention of Delaware in 1776.
During the days when patriotic feelings were beginning to run high, Caesar Rodney, the ward of Dr. Ridgely’s father, was often an inmate of the Ridgely house. Caesar was born near Dover in 1728. At Dover he received most of his education. Some twenty years after the little town saw so much of him he became famous because of his vital service to the Colonies, as a member of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. ” He was the most active, and was by odds the leading man in the State in espousing the American cause,” Henry C. Conrad once said to the Sons of Delaware. In the course of his address Mr. Conrad told the thrilling story of Caesar Rodney’s most spectacular service.
On July 1, 1776, when the vote was taken in the Committee of the Whole of the Continental Congress as to the framing and proclaiming of the Declaration of Independence, ten of the thirteen Colonies voted yes.
” Pennsylvania had seven delegates, four of whom were opposed to it, and three in favor of it. Delaware had two members present, McKean and Read. Rodney was absent. McKean was in favor of, and Read against the Declaration. McKean, appreciating that it was most important, for the sentiment it would create, that the Declaration of Independence should be proclaimed by the unanimous vote of the thirteen Colonies, sent for Rodney, who was at that time at one of his farms near Dover. Rodney came post-haste, and he arrived just in time to save the day, and cast the vote of Delaware in favor of the Declaration.
McKean, writing of the event years afterward to Caesar A. Rodney, a nephew of Caesar Rodney, said :
” I sent an express, at my own private expense, for your honored uncle, the remaining member from Delaware, whom I met at the State House door, in his boots and spurs, as the members were assembling. After a friendly salutation, without a word in the business, we went into the hall of Congress together, and found we were among the latest. Proceedings immediately commenced, and after a few minutes the great question was put. When the vote of Delaware was called, your uncle arose and said : ‘ As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, and my own judgment coincides with theirs, I vote for independence.’ ”
Since Pennsylvania also voted in favor of the Declaration, it was adopted unanimously.
Caesar Rodney was Governor of Delaware from 1778 to 1781. On April 8, 1784, the State Council, of which he was presiding officer, met at his house near Dover, because he was too ill to go to Dover. Less than three months later he died.
A monument marks his last resting-place in Christ Episcopal churchyard in Dover.