In 1999 the U.S. Mint launched a series of quarters honoring the fifty states. The back of the Delaware quarter, the first in the series, features a man in a tri-corner hat on a galloping horse. The rider is Caesar Rodney, one of Delaware’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Rodney was a well-to-do planter who had served in Delaware’s legislature, led protests against the Stamp Tax, and organized Patriot militia before being elected to the Continental Congress. Despite such activity, he was a man of poor health. He suffered from asthma as well as skin cancer that had left his face so disfigured, he often hid one side of it behind a green silk scarf. Yet as John Adams noted, there was “fire, spirit, wit, and humor in his countenance.” Rodney was in Delaware on the evening of July 1, 1776, when he received an urgent message from Philadelphia. Congress was ready to vote on the issue of independence. Of the two other Delaware delegates, one favored and one opposed a break with England, so Rodney’s vote would decide which way the colony would go – if he could get there in time.
He rode through the night, in thunder and rain, to cover the 80 miles to Philadelphia. The next day, just as Congress prepared to vote, the delegates heard hoofbeats on cobblestones, and a mud-spattered Rodney strode into the hall, still wearing his spurs, exhausted but ready to break the tie in his state’s delegation by voting for independence.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress made the momentous decision to break from England: “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Two days later, it adopted the Declaration of Independence.