I am enclosing this snippet about the signers of the Declaration of Independence despite the fact that I do not have proper attribution to the people who originally researched it, wrote it, and published it. I beg their indulgence. I publish it here in their original intent to share the remarkable stories of these men and their sacrifice that something new and remarkable might be born. And I ask you to take at least a few minutes to consider the price of freedom, not only the price paid, but the price that must be paid by every generation if that freedom is to be preserved.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and were tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; One had two sons captured. Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to an ideal. What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; all were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty of such a treasonous act would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals and/or pro-British citizens and/or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates. Such were the stories and sacrifices of people who stood up for an American Ideal called feedom and who fought to defend that ideal in the American Revolution.
These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They gave you and me a free and independent America.
The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t. So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free!
I hope you will show your support by please sending this to as many people as you can. It’s time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a passé, and the Fourth of July is more than beer, picnics, and baseball games.
Thank you and God bless you.
Charles W. Schell (CWO2, CEC, USN / OIC, CBU-403)