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with powder and ball. He did not nor did any of the Signers of the Declaration originally contemplate a dissolution of the ties that bound the Colonies to the mother country. They could not believe until the death” forced the truth upon them-that ministers would commit political suicide. This done, as Americans are proverbial for humanity and decency the compound felo de se was interred with a calm dignified solemnity.
Mr. Read and his coadjutors understood the rights secured by Magna Charta and the Constitution of England and knew that those rights were trampled upon by the hirelings of the crown. To vindicate them was his firm resolve. He knew and weighed well the superior physical powers of the oppressors but he believed the majesty of eternal justice and the kind aid of Heaven would be vouchsafed to sustain the patriots in their struggle to sustain their inalienable rights. He believed the project of taxation without representation to pamper royal corruption to be so heinous that the scheme would be crushed by the blighting curse of an offended Deity. Nor did he err in his reasonable conclusions. That curse came with the force of a sweeping avalanche-British power was annihilated in America.
On the 17th of August 1769 he published an appeal to his constituents, calling upon them to resist the encroachments of tyranny. Its language was bold and forcible, portraying in colors deep and strong their rights and wrongs, pointing out the path of duty so plain that a tory need not have erred therein. This talismanic production sealed the fate of British power in patriotic Delaware-small in size but a giant in action. The hirelings of the crown saw the writing upon many walls and were suddenly attacked with a Belshazzar tremor and found no balance in America to restore an equilibrium.
Mr. Read sanctioned the various non-importation resolutions passed by his own and other Colonies. This was the first measure adopted to negative the designs of ministers by refraining from the use of all taxa. ble articles whether of luxuries or daily consumption. Had the colonists not presented so bold a front at the onset the non-importation resolutions would have probably been paralyzed by an Act of Parlia. ment compelling them to use the taxable articles in quantities so large that the accruing revenue would have enabled the cabinet to revel in profligacy.
He was chairman of the committee of twelve appointed by the people of Newcastle on the 29th of June 1771 to obtain subscriptions for the Boston sufferers, then writhing under the lash of the infamous Port Bill passed by Parliament for the purpose of chastising the refractory “rebels” of that patriotic city. In February following he had the exquisite pleasure of remitting nine hundred dollars to them. The receipt was eloquently acknowledged by Samuel Adams who was one of his faithful correspondents.
Mr. Read was a member of the Congress of 1774 and continued a member during the Revolution. He was also President of the Convention that formed the first Constitution of Delaware in 1776. He was a member of the Delaware Assembly for twelve years in succession and a portion of that time Vice President of the state. In the autumn of 1777 President M'Kinley fell into the hands of the enemy which compelled Mr. Read to leave Congress for a season and perform the duties of Chief Magistrate of his state. On his way home with his family he was compelled to pass through Jersey. In crossing the Delaware from Salem his boat was discovered by those on board the British fleet then lying just below. An armed barge was sent in pursuit. Mr. Rcad's boat stuck in the mud and was soon overtaken. By effacing the marks upon his baggage before he was boarded and having with him his wife and children he convinced those from the fleet he was a country gentleman on his way to his farm and solicited their assistance to put him and his family on shore. They cheerfully complied with his request and landed him and his precious charge safely on the Delaware side of the river. The open frankness and calmness of himself and lady saved them from the horrors of a prison-ship and probably him from an exhibition upon the yard-arm of a man of war.
The duties of Chief Magistrate of his state were very imposing at that time. Internal dissensions were to be reconciled an intercourse by many of the inhabitants with the British fleet to be broken up-ways and means for his own and the general government to be provided and some plan devised to procure the release of the President. A conquering foe was flushed with victory in all directions. In the midst of all these perils he stood firmly at the helm and outrode every storm. He proved equal to every emergency and added fresh lustre to his growing fame.
When the Declaration of Independence was under discussion he be. lieved the measure premature but when adopted he cheerfully placed his name on this monument of fame. In 1779 ill health compelled him to retire from the public arena for a year when he again resumed his legislative duties. In 1782 he was appointed a judge of appeals in the Court of Admiralty. In 1785 he was one of the commissioners to settle the boundary line between New York and Massachusetts. The next year he was a delegate to the convention of states convened at Annapolis to regulate the Commerce of the Union. In 1787 he was one of that talented convention that framed the Federal Constitution. He was a Senator in the first Congress convened under that Constitution and served six years. He was Chief Justice of Delaware from 1793 to the time of his death. Upon the Bench he had few equals and no superior. In all these responsible stations he acquitted himself nobly and did honor to his country and the cause of rational freedom.
The person of Mr. Read was above the middle size, well formed with a commanding and agreeable deportment. He was scrupulously honest, rigidly just. When he arrived at his majority he assigned his portion of the paternal estate to his brothers, deeming the expenses of his education equivalent to his share. He was systematic even in the smallest concerns of life. He abhorred vice of every kind. He enjoyed good health in his old age up to the autumn of 1798 when, after a sudden and short illness, he closed his eyes on terrestrial scenes and resigned his spirit into the hands of the wise Disposer of all events.
As a civilian, statesman, magistrate, patriot, philanthropist, gentleman, husband, father, citizen and public benefactor-George Read was a model worthy of all admiration and the exactest imitation. All who imitate his noble career will go for the UNION forever.
GENEALOGY was once a kind of titular idol held in great veneration. The biographer made it his first stepping-stone-one of the main pillars of his superstructure. In countries where the iron sceptre of monarchy is still swayed-where titles of honor create lineal dignity without regard to merit-where blood is analyzed by political chemistry and all the precipitants are rejected but the carbonate of noble and royal pedigree-where the crown descends upon a non compos mentis incumbent with the same certainty that it reaches a man of good intellectgenealogy is still measurably the criterion by which to determine the importance and weight of character. As light and intelligence shed their benignant rays upon mankind the deference paid to this titular phantom will be diminished. Where rational liberty reigns triumphant merit alone creates dignity. The man is measured by his actions-not by the purple fluid in his veins or conduct of his relations. In our free country genealogy is a matter of curiosity-not of veneration. The son of a coal cracker or cobbler can rise to the highest station within the gift of the people by the force of talent and merit. I am aware that the
aristocracy of wealth is a noxious weed that spreads its deleterious branches through our cities and large towns but not yet so widely and luxuriant as to prevent merit and genius from acquiring a rapid and healthful growth. In times of danger and peril its power will be lessened in the same ratio that these increase. In an atmosphere purely republican it withers and dies.
But few families in these United States can trace their ancestors so far back as the Rodneys of Delaware. They came into England with the Norman queen Maud [Matilda] in 1141 and were among the bravest military chieftains who led in the Norman conquest. At all subsequent periods they were prominent in directing the destinies of Britain. To those who are conversant with the history of the various periods of public commotion in that kingdom-the name of Sir Walter de Rodney is familiar, with many others of the same lineag
They were able in council and war. They were conspicuous in the civil, military and naval departments and received the highest honors that could be awarded to their rank by kings and queens. They were marked for magnanimity and liberal views.
Under the auspices of William Penn William Rodney came to Philadelphia who was a branch of this ancient family. He was the son of William Rodney of England and settled in Kent, Delaware. His mother, Alice, was the daughter of Sir Thomas Cæsar a wealthy English merchant. William Rodney left one son, Cæsar, who was the father of the subject of this biographette. This son was born at Dover, Kent county, Delaware in 1730. He received a good education and inherited a large real estate from his father. He possessed a strong and penetrating mind, firmness of purpose, decision of character, an abundant share of keen wit and good humor, a large stock of experimental intelligence and practical knowledge with discretion to know how, when and where to bring these important qualities into action. With endowments like these Mr. Rodney spread his canvass to the popular breeze and commenced his voyage of public life. His cabin stores were purely republican and liberal in quantity.
In 1758 he became high sheriff of his native county and discharged his duties in a manner that gained for him the confidence and esteem of the citizens generally. At the expiration of his term he was appointed a Justice of the Peace and a judge of the lower courts. In October 1762 he took his seat in the Legislature at Newcastle and became an active and influential member. He was one of the committee that prepared the answer to the
message of the governor and was on other important committees. At the close of the session he was put in possession of the great seal to be affixed to the laws that had been passed at that term.
When the rights of the Colonies were infringed by assumptions of arrogated power on the part of mother Britain, Mr. Rodney was among the first who took a bold stand in favor of justice. He was a member of the Congress that convened at New York in 1765 to remonstrate against the Stamp Act and other threatened innovations upon the privileges of the Colonies that had been long enjoyed and were guarantied by the social compact between the king of Great Britain and his “dutiful and most loyal subjects in America.” After the Stamp Act was repealed Messrs. Rodney, M'Kean and Read were appointed a committee to prepare an address to the king expressive of the joy produced throughout the Colony by this event. It is substantially the same as those prepared by the other Colonies and shows clearly the feelings of loyalty that pervaded the people at that time. The following is the body of the address.
* We cannot help glorying in being the subjects of a king that has made the preservation of the civil and religious rights of his people and the established constitution the foundation and constant rule of government and the safety, ease and prosperity of his people his chiefest careof a king whose mild and equal administration is sensibly felt and enjoyed in the remotest part of his dominions. The clouds which lately hung over America are dissipated. Our complaints have been heard and our grievances redressed-trade and commerce again flourish. Our hearts are animated with the warmest wishes for the prosperity of the mother country for which our affection is unbounded and your faithful subjects here are transported with joy and gratitude. Such are the blessings we may justly expect will ever attend the measures of your Majesty pursuing steadily the united and true interests of all your people throughout your wide extended empire assisted with the advice and support of a British Parliament and a virtuous and wise ministry. We most humbly beseech your Majesty graciously to accept the strongest assurances that having the justest sense of the many favors we have received from your royal benevolence during the course of your majesty's reign and how much of our present happiness is owing to your paternal love and care for your people. We will at all times most cheerfully contribute to your majesty's service to the utmost of our abilities when your royal requisitions, as heretofore, shall be made known-that your majesty will always find such returns of duty and gratitude from us as the best of kings may expect from the most loyal subjects and that we will demonstrate to all the world that the support of your majesty's government and the honor