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
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
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
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 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!