03 July 2008
The First 4th of July
Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Four of the signers were captured by the British as traitors, and at least two tortured. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well-educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty 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 or soldiers looted the properties of Eillery, 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. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they 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 us a lot of what happened in the Revolutionary War. Our forefathers didn't just fight the British. They were British subjects at that time, and they fought their own government! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted...and we shouldn't.
So, let's take a few moments while enjoying our 4th of July holiday and silently appreciate these patriots and thank the God who moved them. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.
(*) I researched the above information the best I could; I feel confident that most is true or at least very close to the truth. I do not want to take away for the many Soldiers that have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today, just to highlight those brave men that started this great democracy experiment.