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Page 5

Thomas M'Kean

1734-1817


   In the life of Mr. Rodney, we have had occasion to remark that Mr. M'Kean and Mr. Read voted in opposition to each other, when the question of independence was put in committee of the whole, on the 1st of July. Delaware was thus divided. As it was improbable, in the estimation of Mr. M'Kean, that the views of Mr. Read would undergo a favourable change before the final question should be taken, he became exceedingly anxious that Mr. Rodney, who he knew was in favour of the declaration, should be present. At his private expense he dispatched an express into Delaware to acquaint Mr. Rodney with the delicate posture of affairs, and to urge him to hasten his return to Philadelphia. Fortunately, by an exertion which patriotism only could have prompted him to make, that gentleman arrived in Philadelphia, just as the members were entering the door of the state house, at the final discussion of the subject. Without even an opportunity of consulting Mr. M'Kean, on the momentous question before them, he entered the hall with his spurs on his boots. Scarcely had he taken his seat, before the report of the chairman of the committee of the whole was read, soon after which the great question was put. Mr. M'Kean and Mr. Rodney voted in favour on the part of Delaware, and thus contributed to that unanimity among the colonies, on this great subject, without which a declaration had been worse than in vain.
   At the time congress passed the declaration of independence, the situation of Washington and his army, in New-Jersey was exceedingly precarious. On the 5th of July, it was agreed by several public committees in Philadelphia, to dispatch all the associated militia of the state to the assistance of Washington, where they were to continue, until ten thousand men could be raised to relieve them. Mr. M'Kean was at this time colonel of a regiment of associated militia. A few days following the declaration of independence, he was on his way to Perth Amboy, in New-Jersey, .at the head of his battalion. In a letter, dated at head quarters, Perth Amboy, July 26th, 1776, he describes the narrow escape which he had in executing an order of the commander-in-chief, which required him to march his battalion into the town. Having put his troops in motion, under Lieutenant Colonel Dean, he mounted his horse, and proceeded to wait upon the general for more particular orders. At this time, the enemy's batteries were playing along the road which it was necessary for him to take. Amidst balls, which were flying in every direction around him, he proceeded to the general's head quarters. An order had just been issued to prevent the battalion from proceeding into the town. It became necessary, therefore, for him to follow them, in order to stop them. As he turned to execute the order, a horse at a short distance from him was shot through the neck by a cannon ball, and such was the incessant discharge from the enemy's batteries along the road, over which he passed, that it appeared impossible that he should escape. A merciful providence, however, protected him on his return. He executed his Order, and safely marched his troops to the camp.

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