Delaware Government


December 7, 1787

State Motto

Liberty and Independence

State Nickname

"The First State"
Delaware is known by this nickname due to the fact that on December 7, 1787, it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. “The First State” became the official State nickname on May 23, 2002 following a request by Mrs. Anabelle O'Malley's First Grade Class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.

Delaware Code Title 29 § 318

Other Nicknames

"The Diamond State"
Thomas Jefferson gave this nickname to Delaware, according to legend, because he described Delaware as a "jewel" among states due to its strategic location on the Eastern Seaboard.

"Blue Hen State"
This nickname was given to Delaware after the fighting Blue Hen Cocks that were carried with the Delaware Revolutionary War Soldiers for entertainment during Cockfights.

"Small Wonder"
This nickname was given to Delaware due to its size and the contributions it has made to our country as a whole and the beauty of Delaware.

State Capital

The town of New Castle, a port on the Delaware River, became the colonial capital of the "Three Lower Counties" (Delaware) in 1704. Under Pennsylvania's Deputy Governor John Evans, the assemblies of the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware separated though legislation enacted in both assemblies still required the Pennsylvania governor's signature. In November of 1704, four representatives from each county - New Castle, Kent, and Sussex met in the town and passed the colony's first two laws. One confirmed all laws previously enacted by the joint assembly of the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The second law changed the number of representatives from each county from four to six.

William Rodeney (as he spelled his name) of Kent County, grandfather of Caesar Rodney, served as the first-known speaker of the assembly. His grandson, Caesar, presided over the last colonial assembly in Delaware. The "Three Lower Counties" remained a part of Pennsylvania until 1776 when economic, cultural, and political differences fostered a permanent separation. The capital was moved from New Castle to Dover in 1777.

State Government

Delaware became a state on June 15, 1776, when the Delaware Assembly formally adopted a resolution declaring an end to Delaware’s status as a colony of Great Britain and establishing the three counties as an independent state under the authority of “the Government of the Counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex Upon Delaware.” After the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the Delaware Assembly called a special constitutional convention, which assembled at New Castle on August 27, 1776. On September 11, 1776, the convention enacted the Delaware Declaration of Rights, similar in style to the later U.S. Bill of Rights. On September 21, 1776, the convention enacted the first Delaware Constitution. That first constitution served the state for a period of some 16 years until Delaware’s second state constitution was enacted by another constitutional convention in 1792. Our third state constitution was enacted in 1831 and our fourth, and current, constitution was enacted in 1897. Today, Delaware has a cabinet form of government.

The General Assembly, Delaware's lawmaking body, is comprised of a State House of Representatives, whose 41 members are elected for two-year terms, and a State Senate, whose 21 members are elected for four-year terms. Half of the Senate seats are contested in each general election.

The State Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and four associate justices. All members are appointed by the governor, with confirmation by the Senate, for a term of 12 years.

State Colors

State Color - Colonial Blue State Color - Buff

"Colonial Blue" and "Buff"

State Flag

Delaware State Flag

Click to enlarge

Adopted on July 24, 1913, the state flag has a background of colonial blue surrounding a diamond of buff color in which the coat of arms of the state of Delaware is placed. Below the diamond are the words "December 7, 1787," indicating the day on which Delaware was the first state to ratify the federal Constitution. Because of this action, Delaware became the first state in the Union, and is, therefore, accorded the first position in such national events as presidential inaugurations. According to members of the original commission established to design the flag, the shades of buff and colonial blue represent those of the uniform of General George Washington as shown on a specific plate from an official U.S. Army publication.

Delaware Code Title 29 § 306

To be used only with permission.

Delaware Code Title 29 § 2306

State Seal

Delaware's Great Seal

Click to enlarge

The state seal was first adopted on January 17, 1777, and contains the coat of arms. It also bears the inscription around it "Great Seal of the State of Delaware" and the dates 1704, 1776 and 1787. Descriptions of the contents of the seal are as follows:

The Wheat Sheaf — was adapted from the Sussex County seal and signifies the agricultural vitality of Delaware.

The Ship — is a symbol of New Castle County's ship building industry and Delaware's extensive coastal commerce.

The Corn — is taken from the Kent County seal and also symbolizes the agricultural basis of Delaware's economy.

The Farmer — with the hoe represents the central role of farming to the state.

The Militiaman — with his musket recognizes the crucial role of the citizen-soldier to the maintenance of American liberties.

The Ox — represents the importance of animal husbandry to the state economy.

The Water — (above the Ox) stands for the Delaware River, the main stay of the state's commerce and transportation.

The Motto — was derived from the Order of Cincinnati, and approved in 1847.

The Dates — 1704, the year that Delaware established its General Assembly; 1776, the year that our independence from Great Britain was declared; and 1787, the year that Delaware became "the First State" by being the first colony to ratify the United States Constitution.

Delaware Code Title 29 § 301

To be used only with permission.

Delaware Code Title 29 § 2306

State Song: "Our Delaware"

The official state song consist of a poem "Our Delaware" containing three verses in honor of each county of the State, written by George B. Hynson; a fourth verse in praise of the State and pledging the loyalties of its citizens, written by Donn Devine; and a musical score composed specifically for the state song by Will M. S. Brown".

To view the text of the state song click on the following:

"Words to the Delaware State Song"


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