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ernor and Commander-in-Chief of the Counties,” &c., in 1773. The last act to which he gave his official approval, passed October 28, 1775, was a supplement to “An act for the more effectual ascertaining and fixing the limits of the several counties within this government, and for remedying some inconveniences that may arise by the late establishment of the boundaries and divisional lines between the same and Maryland.
The Colonial government ended with the Declaration of Independence by the Congress of the United States, on the fourth of July, 1776, and with remarkable promptitude a Convention was called and a State government organized under a Constitution entitled “The Constitution or System of Government, agreed to and resolved upon by the Representatives in full Convention of the Delaware State, formerly styled the Government of the Counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, upon Delaware, the said Representatives being chosen by the Freemen of the said State for that express purpose.” This instrument bears date the 20th of September, 1776, and the first election for members of the General Assembly was held on the 21st of October following, in the court-houses in the several counties. The first session of the new legislature met at “ New Castle-on-Delaware,” October 28, 1776.
The Council of Delaware, the minutes of whose proceedings, from 1776 to 1792, are contained in the following pages, was a part of the legislative body of the State, corresponding to what is now called the Senate. It was organized under the Constitution of 1776, and continued in existence until the Constitution of 1792 went into operation. It was composed of nine members, three from each county, who were required to be freeholders and twenty-five years of age, and were elected by the people in such manner that one-third of the Council was elected every year. The other branch was called the House of Assembly, containing seven members from each county, elected annually. The Legislature was known as the General Assembly of Delaware. A President, or Chief Magis. trate, was chosen on joint ballot by both houses, and in case of his death, inabil. ity, or absence from the State, the Speaker of the Council exercised the powers of President until a new appointment by the General Assembly.
A Privy Council, of four members, was chosen by ballot, two by each House, whose duties appear to have been to advise with the President in relation to
embodying the militia, calling special meetings of the General Assembly, in making appointments to certain offices, and in filling vacancies in others until a new election.
Some few omissions will be observed in the printed pages, which could not be supplied with accuracy, owing to the accidental mutilation of the original manuscript journal, but enough has been preserved intact to form a record of historical value.
John McKinly was the first President chosen for the prescribed term of three years, from Feburary, 1777, but his administration was cut short by his capture by the. British, at Wilmington, at the close of the battle of Brandywine, on the 11th of September, in the same year. On March 30, 1778, it is recorded, that, “Whereas his Excellency John McKinly, our worthy President, taken by the enemy in September last, still remains a prisoner, with little prospect of exchange shortly, and the Speaker of Council, who acts as Vice-President, requesting to be relieved from the duties of that office," etc., thereupon the two houses, on the next day, by joint ballot, elected Cæsar Rodney for the full term of three years. He was succeeded by John Dickinson, on November 13, 1781, who continued in office until his election as President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Governor Dickinson, as we learn from his valedictory to the legislature, had designed before this to remove his family to Wilmington and make that place his permanent residence. This purpose was afterwards carried out. He resided in Wilmington during the latter years of his life, and on his death was interred in the burial ground attached to the Friends' Meeting House, at the corner of 4th and Washington streets. The Vice-President filled the office until February Ist, 1783, when Nicholas Vandyke was elected, who served a full term, and was succeeded by Thomas Collins, on whose death, Joshua Clayton was elected, and he was the last President or Governor under the Constitution of 1776.
Among the many interesting subjects and measures brought before the Council, not the least important were the joint resolutions in relation to the calling of a Convention to ratify the Constitution of the United States, which were adopted, November 10, 1787. An election for Delegates to the Convention was ordered for Monday, the 26th of the same month, and the Convention was to assemble at Dover, on the Monday following. As a fact of history, the Convention was held, and ratified the Constitution, without a dissenting voice, on the 7th of December, but the journals of the Convention have been lost, and we have no further record of its proceedings than that the ratification was duly certified to Congress. One of the joint resolutions, just mentioned, requests the particular attention of the Convention to "the proposition submitted to the General Assembly, by petition from divers of the freemen resident in the upper part of this State, of ceding to the United States a district within the State for the seat of the Government of the United States, and for the exclusive legislation of Congress.”
On October 25, 1788, George Read and Richard Bassett were elected to represent the State in the Senate of the United States. They were the first Senators from Delaware.
If the limits of this note permitted a more detailed reference to the many matters of historical interest contained in the “ Minutes," it would be a pleasing task to make mention of some incidents connected with the progress of the Revolutionary War, the recruiting of troops, furnishing supplies, etc.; of the wise and judi. cious legislation of those early days, and of the reputation and ability of the men who served in our state and national governments. It will be observed by the most casual reader that, in the orderly conduct of business, in the careful deliberation given to every measure, in provident care for a most uncertain future, in the dignified tone and scholarly style of their public papers, and in the prompt and efficient discharge of official duty, the legislators of 1776-92, will bear a favorable comparison with any of later times, either in or out of the State.