Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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RODNEY, Caesar, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Dover, Delaware, 7 October, 1728; died there, 29 June, 1784. An oil family manuscript says: "It hath been a constant tradition that we came into England with Maud, the empress, from foreign parts; and that for service done by Rodney, in her wars against King Stephen, the usurper, she gave them land within this kingdom." A painted monument in the village of Rodney-Stoke, Somerset County, bears the arms of this family. His grandfather, William Rodney (1652-1708), came from Bristol, England, to Philadelphia soon after William Penn had settled Pennsylvania, located at Lewes on the Delaware, where in 1689 he was elected sheriff of Sussex county, and removed to Dover, Kent County, Delaware, where he held local offices. In 1698-'9 he was a member of the assembly and again in 1700-'4, serving as speaker in the last year, when he was made justice of the peace. In 1698-'9 he was a member of William Penn's council, and in 1707 was appointed justice of New Castle. Caesar inherited a large estate from his father, Caesar (1707-'45). In 1755-'8 he was high sheriff of Kent county, and at the expiration of his term he was made a justice of the peace and judge of all the lower courts In 1756 he was a captain in the county militia. In 1759 he was a superintendent for the printing of £27,000 of Delaware currency, and commissioner for the support of a company raised for the French and Indian war. In 1762-'3 he represented Kent county in the assembly, was recorder in 1764, and justice of the peace in 1764-'6. In 1765 he was sent as a delegate to the stamp act congress at New York, and on the repeal of that act he was one of three commissioners that were appointed by the legislature of Delaware to frame an address of thanks to the king. In 1766 he was made register of bills, and in 1767, when the tea-act was proposed by the British parliament, the Delaware assembly appointed him, with Thomas McKean and George Read, to formulate a second address to tile king, in which armed resistance to tyranny was foreshadowed. In 1769 he was superintendent of the loan office, and from 1769 till 1773 was an associate justice. In 1770 he was clerk of the peace, and in 1770-'4 Dedimus potestatimus. In 1772 he was a commissioner to erect the statehouse and other public buildings in Dover. A bill having been introduced into the colonial assembly for the better regulation of slaves, Mr. Rodney warmly supported a motion that the bill be so amended as to prohibit the importation of slaves into the province. The amendment was negatived by only two votes. When fresh aggressions of the British ministry disappointed the expectations of the colonists, Mr. Rodney and his former colleagues were assigned the task of presenting the complaints of the freemen of Delaware to the sovereign. These pacific measures failing to secure a redress of grievances, the colonies entered into a correspondence regarding their common defence. Mr. Rodney became chairman of the committee of safety of Delaware, and in 1774, meetings of the people having been held at New Castle and Dover to demand the assembling of a convention, he issued a call as speaker of the assembly for the representatives of the people to meet at New Castle on 1 August He was chosen chairman of the convention, and was elected a delegate to the Continental congress, in which he was a member of the general committee to make a statement of the rights and grievances of the colonists. In March, 1775, he was again elected to congress after the assembly, by a unanimous vote, had approved of his action, and that of his colleagues, at the 1st congress. In May he was appointed a colonel, and in September he became brigadier-general, of Delaware militia. In 1776 he was alternately in his seat in congress, and at work in Delaware, stimulating the patriots and repressing the royalists. When the question of independence was introduced in congress, Mr. Rodney, having obtained leave of absence, went through the southern part of Delaware preparing the people for a change of government. His colleagues, Thomas McKean and George Read, were divided on the question, and the former, knowing Rodney to be favorable to the declaration, urged him by special message to hasten his return. He did so, and by great exertion arrived just in season for the final discussion. His affirmative vote secured the consent of the Delaware delegation to the measure, and thus effected that unanimity among the colonies that was so essential to the cause of independence. The opposition of the royalists, who abounded in the lower counties, prevented his election the succeeding year; but as a member of the councils of safety and inspection he displayed great activity in collecting supplies for the troops of the state that were then with Washington in Morristown, New Jersey He went to Trenton, where Lord Stirling made him post commandant, and then to Morristown, but, by Washington's permission, he returned home in February, 1777. He refused the appointment as a judge of the supreme court, organized in February, 1777, and on 5 June, 1777, was chosen judge of admiralty, but retained his military office, suppressed an insurrection against the government in Sussex county, and when, in August, the British advanced into Delaware, he collected troops, and, by direction of General Washington, placed himself south of the main army to watch the movements of the British at the head of Elk river, Maryland, and, if possible, to cut them off from their fleet. During this period he was in correspondence with Gem Washington, with whom he had long been on terms of friendly intimacy. In September he became major-general of militia, and in December tie was again elected to congress ; but he did not take his seat, as in the mean time he had been elected president of Delaware, which office he held for four years, till January, 1782, when he declined re-election. He was then chosen to congress, and again in 1783, but did not take his seat. He had been suffering for many years from a cancer on the face, which ultimately caused his death. As a public man he displayed great integrity and elevation of character, and, though a firm Whig, never failed in the duties of humanity toward those that suffered for adhering to opinions that differed from his own.==His brother, Thomas, jurist, born in Sussex county, Delaware, 4 June, 1744 ; died in Rodney, Mississippi, 2 January, 1811, was a justice of the peace in 1770 and again in 1784, a member of the assembly in 1774 to elect delegates to the first Constitutional congress, and in 1775 a member of the council of safety. He was colonel of the Delaware militia and rendered important services to the Continental army during the Revolutionary war. In 1778 he was chief justice of Kent county court, in 1779 register of bills, and was a delegate from Delaware to the Continental congress in 1781-'3 and in 1785-'7. In 1787 he was made speaker of the assembly, and in 1802 was appointed superintendent of the Kent county almshouse and Dedimus potestatimus. He was appointed in 1803 United States judge for the territory of Mississippi, and became a land-owner in Jefferson county, where the town of Rodney was named in his honor.--Thomas's son, Caesar Augustus, statesman, born in Dover, Delaware, 4 January, 1772; died in Buenos Ayres, South America, 10 June, 1824, was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1789, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1793, and practised at Wilmington, Delaware He was elected to congress from Delaware as a Democrat, serving from 17 October, 1803, till 3 March, 1805, was a member of the committee of ways and means, and one of the managers in the impeachment of Judge Samuel Chase. In 1807 he was appointed by President Jefferson attorney-general of the United States, which place he resigned in 1811. During the war with Great Britain in 1812 he commanded a rifle corps in Wilmington which was afterward changed to a light artillery company. which did good service on the frontiers of Canada, In 1813 he was a member of the Delaware committee of safety. He was defeated for congress and in 1815 was state senator from New Castle county. In 1817 he was sent to South America by President Monroe as one of the commissioners to investigate and report upon the propriety of recognizing the independence of the Spanish-American republics, which course he strongly advocated on his return to Washington. In 1820 he was re-elected to congress, and in 1822 he became a member of the United States senate, being the first Democrat that had a seat in that body from Delaware. He served till 27 January, 1823, when he was appointed minister to the United provinces of La Plata. With John Graham he published "Reports on the Present State of the United Provinces of South America" (London, 1819).
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