First Governor of Delaware
This is the only known likeness of Thomas Collins.
Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Collins helped make that happen.
- Thomas Collins was born into a wealthy (presumably English) family in 1732,
as a young man bought large tracts of land, around 1760
- Collins became active in local politics, he was
appointed as sheriff of Kent County (1764-1767) and then held many other elected county offices
- In 1776 he served on the Delaware Colony Constitution Committee.
From 1776 to 1782 he served in the Delaware State Assembly
- In 1776 it was too dangerous for the Assembly to meet in the capital, so Collins offered his home, Belmont Hall as a meeting place.
- During the revolutionary war Collins was appointed a Lt. Colonel in the Kent County Militia. He was later promoted to Brigadier General by George Washington. Collins maintained a militia brigade out of his own funds.
- Collins served under Washington in 1777 in New Jersey, but returned to Delaware and his own militia.
- In 1786 Collins was elected unanimously by the Delaware colonial Assembly to the be the 8th President of Delaware. He served until his death in 1789.
- The Federal Constitution was proposed in 1787 and Collins was active in gaining ratification.
Further information about Thomas Collins and his place in history can be found on his Wikipedia page.
The state assembly ratified the Constitution on December 7, 1787. Collins signed the certification of the Assembly’s action and Delaware officially became the first state to ratify the Constitution.
History tells us that ratification was not a forgone conclusion. There was fierce debate both for and against the proposed constitution. Delaware's quick acceptance of the document may have helped tip the debate toward ratification.
Unfortunately Collins was unable to fulfill his dream of seeing George Washington inaugurated president, Collins died March 29, 1789, a month before Washington’s first inauguration.
Belmont Hall, Collins estate, remained in family hands until it was sold to the state of Delaware in 1987.
The state used the house as a conference center until 2008. While it is still owned by the state, a local committee of volunteers now works with the state to preserve and promote the property for a variety of uses.
You can tour or even rent Belmont Hall for a special event. Information can be found here.
I am proud to say that Thomas Collins is at the root of my family tree!