Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7th is unique in Delaware

People all over the country know December 7th as "A day that will live in infamy" but for Delaware, today is a day that is both bitter and sweet. 154 years before Japan launched a surprise attack against the Hawaiian Naval base at Pearl Harbor which brought America fully into WWII, Delaware became the first state to ratify a revolutionary new concept of Federalism and create the first true representative republic in more than a thousand years. Delaware got it's nickname on this day and "The First State" was born on December 7th, 1787.

Delaware was quite prominent in colonial times despite it's small size and the youth of the colony. Delaware had been part of Pennsylvania up until only a few years before Americans declared their independence from Britain.  Delaware had been known as "The Lower Counties" since 1682 when the Duke of York passed his ownership to William Penn in an effort to ensure that Maryland did not gain the territory. By 1704 the colony of Pennsylvania had grown so large that "The Lower Counties" were impeding political decisions.  At that time the "Lower Counties" and Pennsylvania decided to meet separately and while Penn retained control of the Governor of the territory (which was also the Pennsylvania Governor, FYI: John Dickinson was a native of Kent County Delaware) the legislature was free to make its own decisions.  A dispute over colonial boundaries and the desire of the "Lower Counties" to govern themselves was settled by the people of Delaware on June 15th, 1776 when the General Assembly was convinced by Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney to vote for independence from Britain and Pennsylvania at the same time!  The rest of the colonies would follow Delaware's lead 2 weeks later when they voted in Philadelphia on July 2nd to adopt the "Declaration of Independence".

Delaware would later contribute one of the premier regiments in the Continental Army.  They were called the "Delaware Blues" and nicknamed the "Blue Hen Chickens" because their tenacity matched that of the gamecocks that the soldiers used in off duty cock fights.  The regiment survived nearly the entire Revolution and fought in almost every battle.  Also, the Battle of Cooch's Bridge (the only Revolutionary War battle fought in Delaware) is believed to be the first time that the Stars and Stripes was flown in battle.

After the Revolutionary War, John Dickinson served as Delaware's first President and signed the Articles of Confederation as a representative from Delaware.  Later, Dickinson was pressed into service by Delaware once again to join  Gunning Bedford, Jr., Richard Bassett, George Read, and Jacob Broom in Annapolis at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Dickinson fought to ensure that every state, regardless of size, had a equal vote in the new government.  The Great Compromise (also known as the Connecticuit Compromise) assured Dickinson's desire and the ratification of the Constitution by the Delaware legislature.  Dickinson then supported a strong central government and he even wrote a series of 9 essays under the pen name Fabius supporting the new government.

Thus Delaware was born.  154 years later, the Japanese would strike a deep blow at Pearl Harbor and Dec. 7th would become Pearl Harbor Day in remembrance of the thousands of sailors, airmen and Marines who lost their lives on that day.  Still, in Delaware the date is remembered as "Delaware Day" or "Ratification Day" which makes Delaware able to celebrate the formation of of the United States of America on the same day that they commemorate the deaths of those who defended the nation.

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