Not Julius Caesar, but Caesar Rodney of Delaware,
Rodney was a leading patriot in his colony, a member of the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, a formative member of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence, a military leader in the colonial militia, and a delegate to the Continental Congress from formation until 1777. The following year he was elected President of the State of Delaware for a three year term, a duty that he assumed even as he served as Major-General of the Delaware Militia. In this office he played a crucial part not only in the defense of his own colony but in support of Washington’s Continental Army, for Delaware had a record of meeting or exceeding its quotas for troops and provisions throughout the revolutionary conflict. Rodney’s health and strength flagged for a time. He suffered from asthma and from a cancerous growth on his face, for which he never attained proper treatment. He saw his colony through the war at the cost of personal neglect.
Rodney’s health “flagged for a time” understates the severity of his illnesses. I subscribe to Bill Bennett’s American Patriot’s Daily Almanac (you can subscribe at the link) and the other day the subject was Caesar Rodney’s Ride:
He suffered from asthma as well as skin cancer that had left his face so disfigured, he often hid one side of it behind a green silk scarf. Yet as John Adams noted, there was “fire, spirit, wit, and humor in his countenance.” Rodney was in Delaware on the evening of July 1, 1776, when he received an urgent message from Philadelphia. Congress was ready to vote on the issue of independence. Of the two other Delaware delegates, one favored and one opposed a break with England, so Rodney’s vote would decide which way the colony would go—if he could get there in time.
He rode through the night, in thunder and rain, to cover the 80 miles to Philadelphia. The next day, just as Congress prepared to vote, the delegates heard hoofbeats on cobblestones, and a mud-spattered Rodney strode into the hall, still wearing his spurs, exhausted but ready to break the tie in his state’s delegation by voting for independence.
The Continental Congress decided to break from England on July 2, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by men like Caesar Rodney, who pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”
Thank you, Caesar.
You can buy The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America and The Educated Child: A Parents Guide From Preschool Through Eighth Grade from Amazon; I also recommend The Book of Virtues, and Our Country’s Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People for reading to your children.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.