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Prosperity of Delaware


Fenwick island Delaware
Fenwick island Delaware

The three counties prospered during the 18th century. Farming was the main occupation, but many people also engaged in fishing and in small manufacturing enterprises such as the making of barrels and household goods. Flour mills, leather tanneries, and other small plants were established in northern Delaware along streams that provided abundant waterpower. Shipbuilding flourished at Wilmington and in many other towns. Grain, lumber, dairy products, and other foodstuffs were exported to the Southern colonies, the West Indies, and Europe.

In 1774 the Delaware assembly sent its members George Read, Caesar Rodney, and Thomas McKean, three of the colony’s most prominent citizens, as delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

This was a conference of 12 of the British North American colonies to discuss means of resisting the so-called Intolerable Acts, a set of punitive measures applied against the colonies by Great Britain. The same delegates were sent to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, which 13 colonies attended. McKean and Read were present at the Continental Congress in July 1776, when that body was asked to vote on the Declaration of Independence, severing the 13 colonies’ relation with Great Britain. Read opposed the declaration, believing there was not yet enough popular support for independence. Both McKean and Rodney supported it, but Rodney was in Delaware at the time. Summoned by a messenger from McKean, Rodney rode all night on horseback, 129 km (80 mi) through lightning and rain, from Dover to Philadelphia to break the tie between Read and McKean and cast Delaware’s vote in favor of independence.

Eventually Read came to agree, and all three Delaware delegates signed the declaration. In the same year delegates from the three Delaware counties convened at New Castle to organize a state government. Delaware, which had been an unofficial name along with Lower Counties or The Three Counties, was made official. A constitution was adopted, and John McKinly was elected Delaware’s first president, as the governor was then called. He took office in 1777. Between 1777 and 1793, when Joshua Clayton became the state’s first governor under a new constitution, Delaware had ten presidents.

Many from Delaware enlisted for military service against the British in the American Revolution (1775-1783), and the Delaware regiment had an excellent reputation. Only one skirmish of that war was fought on Delaware soil; it occurred in September 1777 at Cooch’s Bridge, near the village of Newark. A detachment of soldiers from the Continental Army of General George Washington, which was camped near Wilmington, clashed with advance units of a British force advancing northeast from Maryland to Philadelphia. The British later defeated Washington’s troops on September 11 at the Battle of the Brandywine, at Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the Delaware border. British forces then crossed into Delaware and made a surprise raid on Wilmington, where they captured President McKinly. The British left Wilmington after a month, but a fleet of British warships controlled the coast until June 1778, keeping the river open to British shipping. During this time the capital was moved from New Castle to Dover because it was thought safer to be out of range of the British naval cannon. In McKinly’s absence, McKean and then Read served as acting presidents, and then Rodney was elected to succeed McKinly in 1778. Even after the British fleet left in 1778, one warship remained on guard at Cape Henlopen and British sympathizers, protected by it, raided Delaware farms. "Delaware" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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