The Real Reason Delaware Separated From Pennsylvania

It's hard to imagine, but Delaware didn't exist as a separate colony during early American history. The area passed through many hands in the beginning, from the Swedes to the Dutch to the British (with a brief return to the Dutch in 1673) (via Britannica). The Duke of York treated the land as a part of the colony of New York until he gave it to William Penn, the proprietor of the Pennsylvania colony. This move gave Penn access to the ocean, which was important for trade. 

Penn's colony basically then was made up of two distinct entities: the Upper Counties of Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia, and the Lower Counties on the Delaware, of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex (via History). Penn tried to unite the people of the three Upper Counties and the newly added Lower Counties, according to the Delaware General Assembly. But his efforts failed, as neither side was interested in joining forces. Penn eventually admitted defeat, and each set of counties was allowed to create its own legislature of elected officials. The Delaware counties held their first meeting of their independent government in 1704. But even with their separate political body, these counties still remained part of Pennsylvania, as both of the Upper and Lower Counties shared the same governor. It would take a revolution for Delaware to become its own entity.

Delaware wanted freedom from both England and Pennsylvania

Delaware finally broke free from Pennsylvania during the American Revolution. Drawing inspiration from America's battle to be independent from England, the people of Delaware sought to be liberated from the Penn family and Pennsylvania (via Delaware Online). Representatives from the Lower Counties of Pennsylvania gathered in New Castle on June 15, 1776, and voted to create "The Delaware State," making themselves separate from King George III, England, and Pennsylvania. This day in Delaware history is remembered as "Separation Day" and "Delaware's Birthday."

Nearly two weeks later, at the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, the representatives of the 13 colonies had their vote for independence. On July 4, 1776, two of three members of the Delaware delegation championed America's decision to end English rule. One delegate, Caesar Rodney, rode all night from Dover to Philadelphia to break the tie between the two other Delaware representatives (via History). Delaware made history again in 1787 when it became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution (via Delaware General Assembly).