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Most Prominent Politicians From Each State (I): Delaware


Now that I’m writing at a site with something I understand is called “readership,” I thought I might revisit a few older ideas of mine from time to time. I hope nobody minds.

Last year, I started compiling lists of the most prominent politicians in the history of each state. I didn’t finish, but I thought it would be fun to repost the states I had gotten through and then go on to finish the project up. We can have discussions of people I left out. Feel free to tell me how stupid I am, etc. I really like stupid lists. And I like remembering obscure political figures.

For some states, I’ll have as many as 10 people. For others, significantly less.

A note: some people can be argued for multiple states. I’m going to just choose the state I think best. And my definition of politician is basically an elected official, sometimes an appointed official in the Cabinet, or a Supreme Court justice. I define politician how I want to, but tell me if you disagree.

Delaware has an incredibly pathetic list of politicians. This probably reflects its historical marginality as a state. Really, the leader of this list should be whoever thought of milking the entire east coast by charging insane toll rates for the 5 miles of I-95 that runs through the state.

If I have insulted any Delaware residents out there, don’t hate me forever.

Again, here’s an underwhelming list.

1. Joe Biden. It’s Biden by a landslide. In over 200 years as a state, Biden’s really the only national leader to come out of Delaware. No Delaware politician had ever reached a position of such universal respect. Even without becoming Vice-President, Biden wins.

2. William Roth. Yes, the creator of the Roth IRA is #2. Not to demean Roth, a respectable Republican who served as Senator from 1971 to 2001. Interestingly, Roth is actually a Northwesterner by birth. Raised in Helena, Montana, Roth is one of the most prominent graduates of my own alma mater, the University of Oregon. Roth didn’t even move to Delaware until he was 33 years old. But he quickly rose in Delaware politics, reaching the House in 1966 and then the Senate.

And now it gets really grim:

3. Thomas Bayard. Bayard was a Senator from 1869 until 1885, when Grover Cleveland named him Secretary of State. Bayard was a pro-Southern nominal Unionist during the Civil War and was arrested for resisting the breakup of a paramilitary group in the state supporting the South. But he did play an important role in convincing Delaware not to secede. He came in 2nd for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1880 (losing to Winfield Scott Hancock) and 1884 (losing to Cleveland). His most prominent act as Secretary of State was negotiating a fisheries treaty with Canada.

And a man who negotiated a late 19th century fisheries treaty is the 3rd most prominent politician from Delaware.

Other competitors:

By any rights, none. But given the fact that Bayard is #3, we might consider Caesar Rodney (Attorney General under Jefferson and the obscure man on the Delaware quarter), John Clayton (Secretary of State under Zachary Taylor), and that’s about it.

Though one might give Outerbridge Horsey props for one of the great names in American political history.

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