Why Is Delaware Known as the First State?

Delaware is known as the First State because it was the first colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
Delaware distinguished itself as a state two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
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  • Written By: Dorothy Bland
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Delaware is known as the first state in the United States because it was the first of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution that formed the U.S. government. Prior to this unification, the 13 colonies were all under British rule. Feeling that they were being denied basic rights and freedoms by the British Empire, the colonies banded together and declared independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution. Eventually, the colonies would come together to form a strong national government through ratifying of the United States Constitution.

Delaware's history, however, stretches back much father than its position as the first state. The first Europeans to settle the region where the Dutch, in 1631 they set up a trading post in the area, within a year, however, the original settlers where dead from conflict with local Indian tribes. In 1638, the Swedes successfully established Fort Christina, the first permanent settlement in Delaware. The Dutch settled in the Delaware Valley again in 1651, establishing New Castle and eventually capturing Fort Christina. After changing hands a few more times, the settlement came under permanent English control in 1674.


The factors leading up to the American Revolutionary War and Delaware's eventual position as the first state where varied. Colonist may have been resentful of their lack of representation in British parliament as well as the taxes opposed without their consent. Although Delaware had a large and vocal community of individuals who remained loyal to Great Britain, the colony voted for independence. On July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence to severe ties with Great Britain. Two months later, Delaware officially established itself as a state and separated its government from neighboring Pennsylvania.

Though small, the first state supplied nearly 4,000 soldiers to the American Revolutionary War. To keep themselves entertained, these soldiers often enjoyed cockfighting with Blue Hens. A breed of chickens noted for the ferocity they displayed when fighting. The term would later be adopted as a nickname for the soldiers, and overtime Delaware was dubbed the "Blue Hen State."

While still at war, the 13 states originally adopted the Articles of Confederation, a system of government with the states being the primary authority and a subordinate central government in place. After the war, Delaware was struggling with an economic depression and debt. High taxes placed on goods imported from other states and overuse of farming land were also considered significant problems. Some citizens believed that a stronger national government was needed to regulate prices and defend the states coastline from attack.

In 1787, state representatives were sent to a convention to discuss changes to the Articles of Confederation, however, discussions soon focused on creating a stronger national government. After drafting the United States Constitution, the document was sent out to all states and voted on by individual citizens. In Delaware, special state conventions where held to determine who would get to vote. Thirty men were chosen with 10 each representing Delaware's three counties. After deliberating, they unanimously voted in favor of the constitution and lead Delaware to its historical seat as the first state.

The date on which Delaware ratified the United States Constitution is included on the Delaware state flag. Delaware's flag features a buff colored diamond centered on a colonial blue background, colors thought to represent the uniform worn by General George Washington. At the flags interior, an American Revolutionary War soldier and a Colonial farmer are depicted, while the ribbon banner on the flag reads "Liberty and Independence," the states motto. "First State" became Delaware's official state nickname in 2002.


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