Portrait from J. Thomas Scharf's History of Delaware
Caesar Rodney (October 7, 1728 – June 26, 1784), was an American lawyer and politician from St. Jones Neck, in Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, east of Dover. He was an officer of the Delaware militia during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Continental Congressman from Delaware, and President of Delaware during most of the American Revolution.
Rodney was born October 7, 1728 at Byfield, his family's farm on St. Jones Neck, in Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. Byfield is just north of John Dickinson's mansion, Poplar Hall. He was the son of Caesar and Mary Crawford Rodney, and grandson of William Rodney, who came to America in the 1680s and had been Speaker of the Colonial Assembly of the Lower Counties in 1704. Among the Rodney family ancestors were the prominent Adelmare family in Treviso, Italy. His mother was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Crawford, the Anglican rector of Christ Church at Dover. Byfield was an 800 acre (3.2 km²) farm, worked by a small number of slaves. With the addition of other adjacent properties, the Rodney's were, by the standards of the day, wealthy members of the local gentry. Sufficient income was earned from the sale of wheat and barley to the Philadelphia and West Indies market to provide enough cash and leisure to allow members of the family to participate in the social and political life of Kent County.
Caesar Rodney was first educated at home, but later attended the Latin School in Philadelphia. Rodney's father died in 1745, when he was 17 years old, and the younger Rodney was placed under the guardianship of Nicholas Ridgely, Clerk of the Peace in Kent County. As the eldest son, he ran the family farm for 10 years before entering politics. His mother remarried and had two additional children, but she died in 1763. Subsequently, Caesar was the primary provider for his younger brothers and sisters, and was especially close to his brother, Thomas Rodney, and half sister, Sally Wilson, who kept house for him. He never married. According to tradition, he courted Mary (Polly) Vining, aunt of later U.S. Senator John M. Vining. However, she married the Rev. Charles Inglis, the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Dover, where the family attended church.