About Legislative Hall

In her 2003 tercentenary history of the Delaware General Assembly, Democracy in Delaware: The Story of the First State’s General Assembly, historian Carol E. Hoffecker noted that: 

"William Penn is the father of representative government in Delaware. In 1681 this idealistic English Quaker became proprietor of two colonies in America: Pennsylvania and the Three Lower Counties on Delaware. He tried to unite the two into one. In 1682 Penn called on the freedmen of both colonies to elect their neighbors most noted for “Sobriety, Wisdom, and Integrity” to attend a joint General Assembly. That Assembly’s inaugural meeting took place at Upland, now Chester, Pennsylvania, in December, 1682. To Penn’s intense regret, the representatives of his colonies refused to unite into one. Like a bad marriage, time only made their relationship worse.”

There followed a process whereby each colony was granted the right to have its own separate elected legislature, while both areas continued to operate under the same governor. Delaware’s separate legislative body met for the first time at the town of New Castle on May 22, 1704. Dr. Hoffecker notes that “it is difficult to imagine how Delaware could have emerged from the colonial period as an independent state had not that separation already taken place.”

In the ensuing 310 years, the Delaware General Assembly has continued to serve the citizens of Delaware through times of war and peace, through good times and bad. Since announcing its independence from Great Britain several weeks before enactment of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the General Assembly has functioned as the legislative body of “The Delaware State.” 11 years later, on December 7, 1787, the State of Delaware became the first state to ratify the newly enacted U.S. Constitution, thus earning the distinction by which it has been known ever since, that of “The First State.” The state capital was moved from New Castle to Dover during the American Revolution, amidst fears of British invasion.”

Today’s Delaware General Assembly carries on the proud tradition of constituent service and easy accessibility to the people which has sustained us for more than three centuries.