The paradox of Daniel Dingee’s political ideology

Daniel Dingee, and many of his contemporaries of Sussex county, Kent and New Castle counties, Delaware came from a conservative background and not unlike their antecedents appreciated the principles of English law and liberties. [1] Dan Dingee, as he preferred to acknowledge himself when signing legal documents, fits the Loyalist profile: land owner, conservative farmer, engaged in commerce and respected within the communities of Sussex and Kent counties.[2]

However, categorising Dingee as a “confirmed Loyalist” [3], which a few of his direct ancestors propagate, does not consider his Quaker upbringing and the diversity of cultures and socio-political perspectives he experienced during his maritime career. Indeed, there are many different viewpoints on Daniel Dingee’s political inclinations. His son, Daniel Dingee’s descendants were given Patriotic status by the Daughters of the Revolution. Many current on-line genealogies rely on that narrative. Perhaps they blithely ignore the fact, that American prisoners on board the Roebuck, made allegations Dan Dingee sold livestock to the British, much like many residents of Sussex, Delaware, while international commerce was halted, during the Revolution. And, to top it off, all this occurred during his tenure as a member of Delaware’s upper house in 1776 when he took the Oath of Allegiance.

To be elected to the Upper House in 1776 was no mean feat. Timothy Wilson points that out in his Phd. thesis. At page 179 he says violence plagued the 1776 Delaware election and resurfaced in 1777. How then, to reconcile the difference between taking a British prisoner to safety in New York and his political status?

Is this the land Daniel Dingee never sold; “miles distant from the town of Lewis as the road goes round Dingees Grove or Touch me not and at the request of Captain Dingee who intermarried with the heir of the afsd James Fisher decd and by virtue of the afsd recited warrant I have surveyed and laid out the above said located marsh and hammock whose bounds and courses are as followeth. Is this where he and Samuel Fountain are buried?

[1] Alfred L. Brophy, “For the Preservation of the King’s Peace and Justice”: Community and English Law in Sussex County, Pennsylvania, 1682-1696, The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), Oxford University Press, 167: 168. “By giving residents the “power to make land grants, choose their own court officials and Justices and resolve political and social disputes themselves in their own way, in their own court”, William Penn’s settlers created a most harmonious society in Sussex, Delaware. “In the process, the members of the Sussex community learned-and expressed-English laws and liberties.”

[2] Susan Abadessa, “Some Observations on the Loyalist Experience: 1770-1780.” The Courier 13.2 (1976), 3.

[3] Asbury Park Press, Thursday 19 March 2020.

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