Hail Caesar (Rodney)! An American Hero
When Congressman Michael Castle (R-Delaware) introduced the bill which would become Public Law 105-124 he could little imagine that approximately 147 million of his fellow Americans would take an active interest in the project. The State Quarters Program was authorized in 1997 and the first commemorative coin made its debut in 1999. The design for the reverse of each coin was carefully selected to honor a person, event, place or symbol which would best represent each state, and each new quarter was released in order of their admission to the United States.
Most Americans can readily identify the reverse image for Illinois (Abraham Lincoln), South Dakota (Mount Rushmore), Alabama (Helen Keller), North Carolina (Wright Brothers first flight) or Arizona (Grand Canyon), but some of our fellow citizens may struggle to identify the significance of the images for other coins including Utah ( golden spike completing the first transcontinental railroad) and Hawaii (King Kamehameha).
The first state quarter to be released was that of Delaware. Now, without looking, how many of us know who or what is depicted on the reverse of the Delaware quarter?
Sadly too few of us know who the man on the reverse of the Delaware quarter is. Caesar Rodney had a long and distinguished career in public service and was one of the strongest supporters of American Independence. Rodney had served in many capacities in colonial Delaware ranging from Kent County Sheriff to Justice of the Peace and eventually Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Lower Counties of Delaware. During the French and Indian War, Rodney served as a Captain in the Delaware militia.
In 1774, Caesar Rodney was selected to represent Delaware in the Continental Congress. At 46 years of age, Rodney looked much older. The lean and tired looking patriot had been battling skin cancer for a number of years and it left his face scared and pock-marked, but Caesar Rodney was a tireless representative and a leading voice in the Congress. When not in session, Rodney returned home to raise money and supplies for the Continental Army, lead the Delaware militia and promote the cause of Independence in countless town hall meetings and less formal gatherings.
On the morning of July 2nd, 1776 an exhausted, mud spattered man who was once described by John Adams as "the oddest looking man in the world," took his place in the Continental Congress to help serve the cause of Independence. The previous day Brigadier General Caesar Rodney was in Delaware leading the Colony's militia in suppressing a loyalist uprising when he received a message from fellow delegate Thomas McKean that the roll call on Virginia's Resolution on Independence would take place the following day.
The issue of Independence was still very much in question when Caesar Rodney was informed of the pending vote. Rodney's fellow delegates from Delaware Thomas McKean and George Reid were deadlocked on the issue and without his vote their colony would not vote in support of Independence. As one of the first and most vocal proponents of Independence in the Second Continental Congress, General Rodney knew full well the importance of a unanimous vote and he wasted no time as he raced back to Philadelphia. Complicating the difficult 80 mile journey through Delaware and Pennsylvania was a fierce thunderstorm, but Caesar Rodney pressed on, stopping only to change horses.
Caesar Rodney joined his fellow representatives in the Second Continental Congress in time to cast his vote for American Independence on July 2, 1776. In the difficult years to come, Rodney continued to serve in congress and to lead troops in battle until November 1781 when the ravages of disease forced him to resign. Despite his failing health, Rodney served in the United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation and was a prominent member of our early government until his death on June 26, 1784. Like many of our Founding Fathers Caesar Rodney was willing to risk everything in the cause of freedom and Independence, let us remember all of our American heroes and strive to be worthy of their sacrifice.