Living The Way

American Independence

The Declaration of Independence begins with the words, "When in the course of human events ..." and was signed by 56 men. Some famous names from our history are represented in the signatures, the name most associated with the Declaration being John Hancock, the first person to sign the document. The other signers were:

GEORGIA: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.

NORTH-CAROLINA: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.

SOUTH-CAROLINA: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton.

MARYLAND: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll.

VIRGINIA: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson

Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.

PENNSYLVANIA: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer,

James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross.

DELAWARE: Caesar Rodney, George Read.

NEW-YORK: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.

NEW-JERSEY: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark.

NEW-HAMPSHIRE: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton.

MASSACHUSETTS-BAY: Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.

RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE: C. Stephan Hopkins, William Ellery.

CONNECTICUT: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott.

Some of these names are well known in American history (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin), but have you ever wondered what happened to the other men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, while 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 opposing Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by search parties 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 opposing forces had taken over the Nelson home for their 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. His wife was jailed and died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled. 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 and 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."

So take a couple of minutes while enjoying your holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

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Following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers and men crooked.


Would you like to visit a web site that provides a
"User's Manual" to the Declaration of Independence?
The Claremont Institute provides just such a help at this site:

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