We would all do well to consider the high costs paid by so many for the freedoms we so often take for granted. Because of this, I thought I would post a piece today that reminds us of those costs. The original author is unknown. Numerous copies of this piece, in both longer and shorter versions, can readily be found online.
It has been around for a long time – indeed, copies of it exist in books that I had in my possession long before the advent of the internet. It asks and answers the simple question: “What Ever Happened to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence?” As it does, it provokes a thoughtful response from us with regard to how much we value our own current freedoms.
THE PRICE THEY PAID
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 tortured before they died. 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. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they? 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 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. Thomas Nelson quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. His own 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 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 you a lot of what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t just fight 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… We shouldn’t.
SO TAKE A COUPLE OF MINUTES TO REMEMBER THEIR SACRIFICE SO WE COULD ALL LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY!
(Now, as is so often the case, there are those who forever seem to delight in disputing the authenticity of such items. A couple of websites in particular question the information within this piece. Most anyone reasonably conversive in the World Wide Web should know immediately what popular web addresses I am referring to here.
Note, however, when you read such analyses, that the two best criticisms offered against this piece are that: (1) the sufferings of the actual signers of the Declaration of Independence as listed here are only partially true; and (2) many others suffered just as much as the actual signers themselves did.
Of course, neither of these criticisms in any way lessens either the intent or the impact of this thought-provoking piece: freedom can be a costly thing that takes courage to embrace. May we never forget that simple principle.)