Do You Know About Cesar Rodney?


Did you know that one of our Founding Fathers, Cesar Rodney of Delaware, suffered from cancer?

Cancer struck Cesar Rodney, in 1774, when a growth appears on his nose.  He begins a ten-year battle with the disease and goes to Philadelphia to have a doctor remove the growth.  Often, he would have a scarf covering the side of his face, hiding the scars left from different operations. Some books state that cancer may have been discovered as early as 1766 but no matter when it was discovered, he never lost sight of the duties he felt he needed to do for his country. He would serve as a Brigadier and then Major General, use his own money to buy supplies for the troops and had his own midnight right to make it back to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration to make sure it was unanimous. Signing the Declaration would cost him his seat in the Delaware State Legislature.

Cancer would continue to plague him, and in 1781, he would go to Philadelphia for additional surgeries and treatments.  This lasted several months but upon his return to Dover, he slowly begins to lose strength.  He was re-appointed to the Continental Congress and the Delaware Assembly but was unable to serve due to his poor health.  He retires from office around 1783.

On June 24, 1783, Caesar Rodney succumbs to cancer, at his Byfield plantation, where he was buried.  He would later be reinterred at the Christ Episcopal Church in Dover, Delaware, in 1888.  It is not positive that the bones buried in the Christ Church cemetery are those of Rodney or another family member because positive identification could not be made.  In his will, he left most of his estate to his nephew, Caesar August Rodney, and makes provisions for the gradual emancipation of his 200 slaves.

Fun Fact:  There is no known portrait of Cesar Rodney and any drawing of him is based on descriptions left by others.