Thomas Rodney

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Thomas Rodney
Chief Justice of Mississippi
In office
August 1, 1803 – January 2, 1811
Associate Justice
Delaware Supreme Court
In office
December 17, 1802 – August 1, 1803
Continental Congressman
from Delaware
In office
November 4, 1785 – February 3, 1787
In office
April 8, 1784 – October 26, 1784
In office
February 10, 1781 – February 2, 1782
Personal details
Born(1744-06-04)June 4, 1744
Kent County, Delaware Colony
DiedJanuary 2, 1811(1811-01-02) (aged 66)
Natchez, Mississippi
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Residence(s)Dover, Delaware

Thomas "Tommy" Rodney (June 4, 1744 – January 2, 1811) was an American lawyer and politician from Jones Neck in St. Jones Hundred, Kent County, Delaware and Natchez, Mississippi. He was a Continental Congressman from Delaware, and a member of the Democratic-Republican Party who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, and as federal judge for the Mississippi Territory. He was the younger brother of Caesar Rodney, Revolutionary President of Delaware.

Family and early life[edit]

Rodney was born June 4, 1744 at Byfield, his family's farm at Jones Neck, in Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. It 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. His mother was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Crawford, Anglican priest at Dover. Byfield was an 800-acre (3.2 km2) farm where the work was done by enslaved people, and with the addition of other adjacent properties, the Rodneys 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. Rodney's father died in 1745, when he was an infant and his much older brother, Caesar Rodney became much involved in his rearing and education.

Political career[edit]

Rodney was very active in local politics, as well as the broader range of those elements affecting Delaware as whole. As early as 1770 he was a Justice of the Peace for Kent County and through the years he held many other local offices. He was a Colonel in the county's militia, and was involved in a number of actions during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1774 Thomas was a delegate to the state convention that elected his brother Caesar to be their delegate to the Continental Congress. Caesar went on to sign the Declaration of Independence. Meanwhile, Thomas was named to the state's Committee of Safety. Thomas in turn was sent as a delegate to the Congress in 1781 and 1782. He was elected to the Congress annually from 1785 to 1787, but attended sessions only in 1786. Through these same years Thomas was also a member in Delaware's state Assembly, and served as its Speaker of the House in 1787.

On December 17, 1802 Rodney became an associate justice of Delaware's Supreme Court. He would serve only until August 1803. He resigned since President Jefferson appointed him as the chief justice for the Mississippi Territory. He bought land in what was then Jefferson County, Mississippi and moved to Natchez to assume his new duties as the senior federal judge for the Mississippi Territory from 1803 to 1811.

Death and legacy[edit]

Thomas Rodney died January 2, 1811, at Natchez, Mississippi. The community of Rodney, in Jefferson County, Mississippi is named in his honor. His son, Caesar A. Rodney, served as the U.S. representative from Delaware, U.S. senator from Delaware, U.S. attorney general and U.S. minister to Argentina.

Public offices[edit]

At this time Delaware elections were held the first of October. Members of the House of Assembly took office on the twentieth day of October for a term of one year. Seven Assemblymen were elected, at large, from each county. The General Assembly chose the Continental Congressmen for a term of one year.

Office Type Location Elected Took Office Left Office notes
Kent County Courts Judiciary New Castle 1770 Justice of the Peace
State House Legislature Dover October 1, 1781 October 20, 1781 October 20, 1782
Continental Congress Legislature Philadelphia February 10, 1781 February 10, 1781 February 2, 1782
Continental Congress Legislature Annapolis April 8, 1784 April 8, 1784 June 3, 1784 never attended
Continental Congress Legislature New York November 4, 1785 November 7, 1785 November 3, 1786
State House Legislature Dover October 1, 1786 October 20, 1786 October 20, 1787
Continental Congress Legislature New York October 27, 1786 November 6, 1786 October 30, 1787 never attended
State House Legislature Dover October 1, 1787 October 20, 1787 October 20, 1788 Speaker
U.S. Judge Judiciary Natchez 1803 1811 Mississippi Territory


  • Barthelmas, D.G. (1977). The Signers of the Declaration of Independence: A Biographical and Genealogical Record. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press.
  • Coleman, John M. (1984). Thomas McKean, Forgotten Leader of the Revolution. Rockaway, NJ: American Faculty Press. ISBN 0-912834-07-2.
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, DE: Roger A. Martin.
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  • Munroe, John A. (2004). The Philadelawareans. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-87413-872-8.
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University.
  • Rowe, G.S. (1984). Thomas McKean, The Shaping of an American Republicanism. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press. ISBN 0-87081-100-2.
  • Scott, Jane Harrington (2000). A Gentleman as Well as a Whig. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-87413-700-4.
  • Ward, Christopher L. (1941). The Delaware Continentals, 1776-1783. Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware. ISBN 0-924117-21-4.

External links[edit]

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