Thomas Collins (governor)
|President of Delaware|
October 28, 1786 – March 29, 1789
|Preceded by||Nicholas Van Dyke|
|Succeeded by||Jehu Davis|
|Died||March 29, 1789
Thomas Collins (1732 – March 29, 1789) was an American planter and politician from Smyrna, in Kent County, Delaware. He was an officer of the Delaware militia during the American Revolution, and served in the Delaware General Assembly and as President of Delaware.
Early life and family
Collins was born in Duck Creek, now Smyrna, Delaware, married Sarah, and had four children, William, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah. His sister was the wife of former Governor John Cook. Collins was trained in the law, but never practiced, and must have had considerable wealth available to him as he purchased several large tracts of land in the Duck Creek area early in life. They lived first at Gloster on the south side of Dawson's Branch and after 1771 at Belmont Hall, now on U.S. Highway 13, south of Smyrna. They were members of St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
Collins began his military career during the American Revolution as Lieutenant Colonel in Caesar Rodney's Upper Kent militia and within a year was a Brigadier General of the Delaware Militia. Collins served with General George Washington in New Jersey in 1777, but returned home to contend with loyalist uprisings in Sussex County. He was probably involved in the efforts to block General William Howe on his march from the Elk River, but there is no evidence that he was at the actual Battle of Brandywine.
Professional and political career
Collins served as Sheriff of Kent County from 1764 until 1767, and was a member of the Colonial Assembly in five of the nine annual sessions during the period from the 1767/68 session through the 1775/76 session. He was a member of the Delaware Constitutional Convention of 1776 and was elected to two terms in the Legislative Council beginning with the 1776/77 session and continuing through the 1782/83 session, serving as the Speaker in the 1778/79 session and in the 1781/82 session. In 1782 he became a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. The Delaware General Assembly unanimously elected him State President in 1786 and he served from October 28, 1786 until his death on March 29, 1789. It was during his term of office that Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787.
|Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while President)
|Year||Assembly||Senate Majority||Speaker||House Majority||Speaker|
|1786/87||11th||non-partisan||George Craighead||non-partisan||John Cook|
|1787/88||12th||non-partisan||Thomas McDonough||non-partisan||Thomas Rodney|
|1788/89||13th||non-partisan||George Mitchell||non-partisan||Jehu Davis|
Death and legacy
Collins died at Duck Creek, now Smyrna. He was buried in the Collins Family Cemetery, but his remains were later moved into the St. Peter's Episcopal Church Cemetery at Smyrna. He was the first State President to die in office.
The Thomas Collins state office building on U.S. Highway 13 in Dover is named in his honor.
Elections were held October 1 and members of the General Assembly took office on October 20 or the following weekday. State Legislative Councilmen had a three-year term and State Assemblymen had a one-year term. The whole General Assembly chose the State President for a three-year term. The county sheriff also had a three-year term. Judges of the Courts of Common Pleas were also selected by the General Assembly for the life of the person appointed.
|Office||Type||Location||Began office||Ended office||notes|
|Assemblyman||Legislature||New Castle||October 20, 1767||October 21, 1768|
|Assemblyman||Legislature||New Castle||October 21, 1768||October 20, 1769|
|Assemblyman||Legislature||New Castle||October 21, 1769||October 20, 1770|
|Assemblyman||Legislature||New Castle||October 21, 1772||October 20, 1773|
|Assemblyman||Legislature||New Castle||October 21, 1775||June 15, 1776|
|Delegate||Convention||Dover||August 27, 1776||September 20, 1776||State Constitution|
|Councilman||Legislature||New Castle||October 20, 1776||October 20, 1779|
|Councilman||Legislature||Dover||October 20, 1779||October 20, 1782|
|Judge||Judiciary||Dover||1782||1786||Court of Common Pleas|
|State President||Executive||Dover||October 28, 1786||March 29, 1789|
|Delaware General Assembly service|
|1776/77||1st||State Council||non-partisan||John McKinly||Kent at-large|
|1777/78||2nd||State Council||non-partisan||George Read||Kent at-large|
|1778/79||3rd||State Council||non-partisan||Caesar Rodney||Speaker||Kent at-large|
|1779/80||4th||State Council||non-partisan||Caesar Rodney||Kent at-large|
|1780/81||5th||State Council||non-partisan||Caesar Rodney||Speaker||Kent at-large|
|1781/82||6th||State Council||non-partisan||John Dickinson||Speaker||Kent at-large|
- Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company.
- Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press.
- Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, DE: Roger A. Martin.
- Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University.
- Racino, John W. (1980). Biographical Directory of American and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789. Westport, CT: Meckler Books. ISBN 0-930466-00-4.
- Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co.
- Ward, Christopher L. (1941). Delaware Continentals, 1776-1783. Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware. ISBN 0-924117-21-4.
- Wilson, Emerson. (1969). Forgotten Heroes of Delaware. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Deltos Publishing Company.
- Hall of Governors Portrait Gallery, Portrait courtesy of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Dover.
Places with more information
- Delaware Historical Society; website; 505 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801; (302) 655-7161
- University of Delaware; Library website; 181 South College Avenue, Newark, Delaware 19717; (302) 831-2965