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Delaware is a state of the United States. It is known as the "First State" because it was the first of the 13 colonies to ratify the United States Constitution, thus making it the first state in the union. Ratification occurred on December 7, 1787.




Europeans first settled in a Dutch trading post at "Zwaanendael" (or "Swaanendael," present-day Lewes (pronounced "Lewis")) in 1631. The area became "New Sweden" with a colony established by Swedes (led by Peter Minuit) around Fort Christina (now Wilmington) in 1638.


The name "Delaware" comes from the title of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, erstwhile governor of the colony of Virginia. The deed to the property that is now Delaware was granted to William Penn in 1682, by James, Duke of York (later, James II of England), and was part of the colony of Pennsylvania. In 1704 the "three lower counties" gained a separate legislature, and in 1710 a separate executive council.


However, Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore of Maryland claimed a competing grant to lands in the southern portion of Pennsylvania and most of Delaware. Thus raged over 100 years of litigation between William Penn and Baltimore, and, later, their heirs, in the High Court of Chancery in London. The legal battles were settled by the heirs agreeing to a survey—which resulted in the Mason-Dixon line, surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1763 and 1767. Part of the Line now forms the east–west boundary between Delaware and Maryland, and part of the north-south boundary between Pennsylvania and Delaware (this section, known as The Wedge was in dispute up till 1921), and some 80 of their original limestone markers remain. The remainder of the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware is formed by an arc known as The Twelve-Mile Circle. The north-south boundary between Delaware and Maryland is known as the Transpeninsular Line. Several towns on the borders between Delaware and Maryland are divided by these lines.


Delaware was one of the thirteen colonies which revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. After the Revolution began in 1776, the three counties became "The Delaware State," and in 1792 that entity adopted its first constitution, declaring itself to be the "State of Delaware." Its first governors went by the title of "President of the Delaware State."


The oldest black church in the country was chartered in Delaware by former-slave Peter Spencer in 1813 as the "Union Church of Africans," which is now the A.U.M.P. Church. The Big August Quarterly which began in 1814 is still celebrated and is the oldest such cultural festival in the country.


During the American Civil War, Delaware was a slave state that remained in the Union (Delaware voters voted not to secede on January 3, 1861). Delaware had been the first state to embrace the Union by ratifying the constitution, and would be the last to leave it, according to Delaware′s governor at the time. While most Delaware citizens that fought in the War served in the regiments the State answered Lincoln′s call to arms with, some did in fact serve in Delware companies on the Confederate side in Maryland and Virginia Regiments.


Two months before the end of the Civil War, however, Delaware voted on February 18, 1865 to reject the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution and so voted unsuccessfully to continue slavery beyond the Civil War. Delaware symbolicaly ratified the amendment on February 12, 1901—40 years after Lincoln′s Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery ended in Delaware only when the 13th Amendment took effect in December of 1865. Delaware also rejected the 14th amendment during the Reconstruction Era.


New Castle