Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 15: Jacta est Alea ("The Die is Cast")

On June 15, 1776, Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant wrote to John Adams, “Jacta est Alea. We are passing the Rubicon & our Delegates in Congress on the first of July will vote plump.”

Paul H. Smith explained that Sergeant read too much into the New Jersey Provincial Congress’s June 14 resolution denouncing royalist governor, William Franklin, who called for a June 20 meeting of the Congress “in the name of the King of Great Britain.” Not until June 22 did the Provincial Congress authorize its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence. Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, vol. 4, page 224, note 1.

Crossing the Rubicon River with his army, Julius Caesar defied Roman law and supposedly made this allusion to a game of chance. While the American Revolutionaries hoped to found a republic, Caesar's militaristic actions threatened the Roman Republic, making Sergeant's reference seem ironic.
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