Delaware is a state in the United States. It was one of the 13 original states. On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
Introduction to Delaware - Video
Delaware is divided into three counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Historically, industrialized New Castle County has contrasted with the other two counties, which have been predominantly agricultural areas. Today more than two-thirds of the population live in New Castle County, the northernmost county, in and around Wilmington, the state’s only large city. Dover, in Kent County in the center of the state, is Delaware’s capital.
Delaware borders the estuary of the Delaware River, which is considered to be the state’s principal river. In northern Delaware, rivers flowing into the Delaware River include the Christina and its tributary, Brandywine Creek, which join to form Wilmington’s harbor. Other rivers flowing into Delaware Bay include the Appoquinimink, Smyrna, and Saint Jones rivers in central Delaware, and the Mispillion River, which enters the bay in southern Delaware. The Nanticoke and its tributary, Broad Creek, are the principal rivers in southwestern Delaware and flow westward across Maryland into Chesapeake Bay.
Delaware River valley was inhabited by a group of Native Americans, who called themselves the 'Lenni Lenape' (meaning “original people”), for atleast 12000 years before the arrival of European settlers. Henry Hudson is often credited with discovering Delaware Bay in 1609. The following year, Captain Samuel Argall, an English explorer, gave the name Cape De la Warr to a point of land on the western shore in honor of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De la Warr, the governor of the English colony of Virginia. In 1624 the Dutch West India Company, set up the colony of Nieuw Nederland (New Netherland), which claimed the Delaware Valley, the Hudson River Valley, and the land between them. A group of merchants bought the land between Bombay Hook and Cape Henlopen and in 1631 built Swanendael, the first European settlement in Delaware, on the site of present-day Lewes. Within a year the settlement was destroyed, and the settlers were killed by Native Americans. Peter Minuit, the former director-general of New Netherland, led the Swedish expedition that established the first permanent settlement in Delaware. In March 1638 the expedition built a fortified trading post on the site of present-day Wilmington. It was named Fort Christina in honor of the queen of Sweden. Minuit secured a deed from the Native Americans for the land extending north from Bombay Hook to the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River at what is now Philadelphia. The territory was named New Sweden. Over the next 17 years more than a dozen expeditions arrived in New Sweden, bringing Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch settlers, as well as livestock, grain, and tools. Additional land was bought on both sides of the Delaware River. During the administration of Governor Johan Björnsson Printz (1643-1653), new forts, houses, mills, and wharves were built, tobacco was planted, and trade with the Native Americans was encouraged. In 1656 the Dutch West India Company, in financial difficulties, sold Fort Casimir and the land between the Christina River and Bombay Hook to the city of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. A settlement named New Amstel grew up at Fort Casimir and was made the capital of the area. By 1663 Amsterdam had acquired all the land from Delaware Bay to the Schuylkill River. The English, who competed with the Dutch for trade and colonies in North America, fought a series of three wars with them between 1652 and 1674. In 1664 the English captured all of New Netherland and the Dutch possessions in the Delaware Valley. This began the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which concluded in 1667 with the English in possession. Delaware was annexed by the English duke of York and for 18 years was governed as part of his colony of New York (which had been New Netherland). The Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish settlers who pledged allegiance to the English king were allowed to keep their lands and property. Settlers from England and from the English colonies of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York settled in Delaware, and the colony grew rapidly. In 1682 William Penn, the founder of the adjoining Pennsylvania colony, petitioned for a direct outlet to the ocean. The duke of York deeded to Penn all the land within a radius of 19 km (12 mi) of New Castle and south to Cape Henlopen. The area included most of what is now Delaware. The transfer was bitterly contested by Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, who also claimed the land along the Delaware River for his Maryland colony. An English court denied Lord Baltimore’s claim, but the dispute over the Maryland-Delaware boundary was not finally settled until 1769. In December 1682 the three Delaware counties, which Penn called the Lower Counties, were formally united with Pennsylvania. They were governed by a general assembly. Delaware and Pennsylvania each had the same number of representatives to the assembly. Penn concluded a peace treaty that year with the Delaware nation. There were no further clashes between the Delaware and the whites until the French and Indian War (1754-1763), when some of the Delaware sided with France, some sided with Great Britain, and some stayed neutral. By that time, however, the Delaware were moving west ahead of white settlement, and most of them lived in Ohio. Today they live in widely scattered groups in Oklahoma and Ontario, Canada. A small remnant of the Nanticoke still lives in Warwick, Sussex County, where they maintain a community center. The people of Delaware resented being controlled by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, the religious body that dominated Philadelphia, and they feared the rapid economic growth of Pennsylvania. They also resented Penn’s failure to provide sufficient protection against raids by Lord Baltimore’s agents and by pirates who terrorized the settlements along the shore. Finally, quarrels over representation of the lower counties led to the establishment of a separate assembly for Delaware. It held its first meeting in New Castle in 1704. From that time the Delaware assembly made the laws for the three counties, which became in effect a separate colony under the governor of Pennsylvania. Through their own assembly the people of Delaware provided for the development of their colony. In 1774 the Delaware assembly sent its members George Read, Caesar Rodney, and Thomas McKean, three of the colony’s most prominent citizens, as delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. This was a conference of 12 of the British North American colonies to discuss means of resisting the so-called Intolerable Acts, a set of punitive measures applied against the colonies by Great Britain. The same delegates were sent to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, which 13 colonies attended. McKean and Read were present at the Continental Congress in July 1776, when that body was asked to vote on the Declaration of Independence, severing the 13 colonies’ relation with Great Britain. Read opposed the declaration, believing there was not yet enough popular support for independence. Both McKean and Rodney supported it, but Rodney was in Delaware at the time. Summoned by a messenger from McKean, Rodney rode all night on horseback, 129 km (80 mi) through lightning and rain, from Dover to Philadelphia to break the tie between Read and McKean and cast Delaware’s vote in favor of independence. Eventually Read came to agree, and all three Delaware delegates signed the declaration. In the same year delegates from the three Delaware counties convened at New Castle to organize a state government. Delaware, which had been an unofficial name along with Lower Counties or The Three Counties, was made official. A constitution was adopted, and John McKinly was elected Delaware’s first president, as the governor was then called. He took office in 1777. Between 1777 and 1793, when Joshua Clayton became the state’s first governor under a new constitution, Delaware had ten presidents. Many from Delaware enlisted for military service against the British in the American Revolution (1775-1783), and the Delaware regiment had an excellent reputation. Only one skirmish of that war was fought on Delaware soil; it occurred in September 1777 at Cooch’s Bridge, near the village of Newark. A detachment of soldiers from the Continental Army of General George Washington, which was camped near Wilmington, clashed with advance units of a British force advancing northeast from Maryland to Philadelphia. The British later defeated Washington’s troops on September 11 at the Battle of the Brandywine, at Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the Delaware border. British forces then crossed into Delaware and made a surprise raid on Wilmington, where they captured President McKinly. The British left Wilmington after a month, but a fleet of British warships controlled the coast until June 1778, keeping the river open to British shipping. During this time the capital was moved from New Castle to Dover because it was thought safer to be out of range of the British naval cannon. In McKinly’s absence, McKean and then Read served as acting presidents, and then Rodney was elected to succeed McKinly in 1778. Even after the British fleet left in 1778, one warship remained on guard at Cape Henlopen and British sympathizers, protected by it, raided Delaware farms. When the revolution had been won, Delaware’s representatives actively supported the movement for a strong national government for the United States. In 1786, Delaware was one of five states represented at the Annapolis Convention, which recommended to Congress that another meeting of all the states be called to strengthen the federal charter, the Articles of Confederation. Congress responded by calling the Constitutional Convention, held the next year at Philadelphia; Delaware sent a delegation of five, led by John Dickinson and George Read. Dickinson was instrumental in framing the Constitution of the United States and, when it was submitted to the states for approval, he wrote a series of newspaper articles under the pen name Fabius, in which he forcefully urged its adoption. Delaware speedily called a state convention at Dover in December 1787 and voted unanimously for adoption. Delaware led all the other states in adopting the Constitution, thereby earning its nickname, the First State. In 1790, when the first federal census was taken, Delaware had a total population of 59,096, including almost 4,000 free blacks and 9,000 black slaves. At that time the state’s population was evenly distributed among the three counties. The state was predominantly agricultural, but industry was already developing in the north, particularly in the Wilmington area. In the 1790s, following the invention of new flour milling machinery by Delawarean Oliver Evans, the mills along Brandywine Creek near Wilmington were the country’s leading source of flour. In 1795, Delaware’s first cotton mill was established near Wilmington, and in 1802, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, a French immigrant, established a gunpowder mill. His firm, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, supplied nearly all the military explosives used by the United States in its wars and evolved into one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturing firms. In the early 19th century, trade was encouraged by the development of new transportation links. Toll roads, or turnpikes, were built to connect farming areas to the commercial town of Wilmington. Steamboats began to replace sailing ships on the Delaware River in the 1810s, and the completion in 1829 of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, gave an additional stimulus to shipping. Delaware’s first steam-driven railroad went into operation in 1832. The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, which was completed in 1838, gave the state its first through rail service. Except for a brief period before and during the War of 1812, when British ships threatened the Delaware shore, oceangoing vessels plied regularly between port towns along the Delaware River, principally Wilmington and New Castle, and the ports of other coastal states, as well as ports in Europe and the West Indies. A second constitution, adopted in 1792, established Delaware’s basic framework of government. It provided for a governor to be elected by popular vote, although for many years voting was restricted to men who were free, white, and had paid their taxes. Representation in the state legislature was apportioned equally among the three counties. However, New Castle County grew far more rapidly than the two southern counties. By the middle of the 19th century about 45 percent of the state’s total population of more than 91,000 lived in New Castle County, with one-third of those concentrated in the Wilmington area. A new state constitution was adopted in 1831, but the changes it made affected principally the judiciary and not the legislature. Despite the shift in the balance of population, the new document made no change in the representation formula. The southern counties dominated both houses of the legislature. In the years between the revolution and the War of 1812 the dominant political party in Delaware was the Federalist Party, which was pro-British and supported a highly centralized form of national government. Even after the War of 1812, in which the British invaded the United States, the party kept its strength in Delaware although it was defeated in almost every other state. Indeed, Delaware was the last Federalist state. In the 1820s most Delaware voters turned to the new National Republican Party, which adopted many Federalist policies, including a protective tariff and support of a strong national government. In the 1830s and 1840s most Delawareans backed the Whig Party, which evolved from the National Republicans. However, when the Whig Party was split by reform issues such as abolition and prohibition, the majority of Delaware voters, along with most Southern Whigs, switched their support to the Democratic Party. Slavery was one of the most important issues in national politics in the first half of the 19th century. Politicians of the Northern states pressed to end it, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Politicians of the cotton-growing Southern states felt that slavery was necessary to their agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the country economically. By the 1850s the South had become a minority section, and its leaders viewed the actions of Congress, which they no longer controlled, with growing concern. The North demanded for its industrial growth a protective tariff, federal subsidies for shipping and internal improvements, and a sound banking and currency system. The West looked to Congress for free homesteads and federal aid for its roads and waterways. The South, however, regarded such measures as discriminatory, favoring Northern commercial interests, and it found the rise of antislavery agitation in the North intolerable. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. The state of South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other slavery states followed in quick succession, and in February 1861 they formed a confederacy, the Confederate States of America. Delaware was a slaveholding border state with many Confederate sympathizers; Lincoln did not carry the state in 1860. However, Delaware had more economic ties with the North than with the South; by 1860 fewer than 2000 of the almost 22,000 blacks in the state were slaves, and most Delawareans opposed the extension of slavery. There was never any movement in Delaware to secede from the Union, and it remained loyal during the American Civil War (1861-1865) that followed the secessions. More than 13,000 Delawareans, nearly one-tenth of the state’s population, served in the Union Army, and several hundred fought for the Confederacy. Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, was garrisoned by Union Army soldiers and served as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war. In 1861 Lincoln proposed that Delaware’s slaves be freed and the owners compensated. That proposal failed, partly because of party politics on the part of the Delaware Democrats, and in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed the slaves with no compensation. The Democrats controlled the legislature throughout the war and repeatedly railed at the Republicans as the party that had started the war and was going to make blacks equal to whites. In the 1864 presidential election Lincoln again failed to carry Delaware, one of only three states that preferred his opponent, General George B. McClellan. In 1897 the state’s present constitution was adopted. It provided for the revision of the legislative and judicial systems, including reapportionment of the state legislature. Under the terms of the new constitution, New Castle County was given increased representation in the legislature, but the combined vote of the other two counties continued to control the legislature, and Wilmington’s representation actually decreased.
Largest city: Wilmington
State Nickname: The First State
Delaware Motto: Liberty and Independence
State bird: Delaware Blue Hen
State flower: peach blossom
State tree: American Holly
State Wild Animal: Grey Fox
State Fish: Weakfish
State butterfly: Eastern tiger swallowtail
State Seal (Coat of arms)
Delaware became 1st state on
Median Household Income (2015 est.)
Governor: Jack Markell (Democrat)
Current Delaware time
Area of Delaware
Highest point: Ebright Azimuth